The Quabbin never ceases to offer something for everyone. I normally tend to stick to the short, flat hikes on as much paved road for strollers as I can so that my children can join me on my ventures. There’s seclusion, tourism, hills, water, aged relics, adventure, and even natural playgrounds –such as that which is found at Gate 41; an area my family and I have come to call Quabbin Quarry!
Quabbin Quarry got its name due to the abundance of gravel and sand and timber that get dumped in this area as some kind of work gets done in and around Quabbin. One of my favorite Comedians, Brian Regan, once said, “A kid can make a toy out of anything.” Though an Entertainer, his words bring insightful wisdom and truth. Here at Gate 41, nothing more than a dumping ground for landscape construction, has become one of my children’s favorite spots in the entire Quabbin Reservoir.
Gate 41 is located on Route 32A in Petersham. It is the last gate you will encounter before entering Hardwick if traveling south along this road. Likewise, if traveling north along Route 32A, once you pass Gate 42, you will enter Petersham from Hardwick and then almost immediately encounter Gate 41 on your left.
Gate 41 has sufficient parking considering I have never been there while someone else is there. However the parking lot could probably fit 4 or 5 cars safely and without interfering with one’s ability to enter or exit. This location also has its textbook unique attribute I like to offer in as many entries as I can by declaring that it is the shortest walk from where you park to where you will see water NOT considered to be Quabbin water. Gate 41 leads directly to Pottapaug Pond, (which is fed by the East Branch of The Swift River).
Walking through the gate allows an immediate view to the left of a wide, nearly stagnant stream that feeds into a bog; the road bending slightly to the left. This bog apparently belonged to someone who lived along this road and was self-employed by use of this bog as a fish-hatchery. In fact, the owner was the last remaining resident of what is now the Quabbin Reservoir after a bitter battle over his Property Rights and loss of his business income.
To the right side of the road is significant and obvious evidence of the residual home and hatchery where he once lived and worked, today littered with old beer bottles and other debris. The Compound, as I call it, is extensive. It even appears as though there was more than just one family living in the area. There are 3 separate sites within this short walk that are unique to others throughout the Quabbin.
First I encountered a standard cellar hole with trash in it, though slightly more trash than I would normally see, probably due to its close proximity to the parking area, but with the seclusion of a deeply entrenched location so as to not be seen from the main road. This first cellar hole was accompanied by a concrete wall, perpendicular to the cellar. It also had an old chimney probably once used in conjunction with a kitchen stove, but lying precariously low to the ground.
Another site, closer to the main road, is one of my favorite cellar holes. Seeing it from far away would not yield any of the normal indicators of a cellar hole. As most cellar holes are slightly elevated over their surrounding grounds as well as on some kind of high ground, this cellar hole is positioned slightly negative-flush of its surroundings and at the lower edge of a slight slope. This would not be considered the best location for a cellar due to drainage, but this cellar defies all conventional logic. It appears to be more of a well-preserved cache without its roof cover. In spite of its location toward the bottom of a slope, it is remarkably well preserved, as if water has had little or no effect on it ever.
The final site, located on the other side of the first one mentioned, furthest from the main road, is quite an extensive building. It might be the largest cellar hole I have seen yet in the entire Quabbin, which is not to say it is, in fact, the largest, but the largest I have seen out of the 100 or so that I have seen. This is obviously where the residing gentleman housed and worked in his hatchery, as extensive as it is, and judging by its general location to the end of the fishery across the street.
Beyond the hatchery is an open field to the right, the end of the bog to the left. Where the bog meets the culvert to the open field on the right is a persistent beaver dam that has been there for many years.
At this transparent overpass you may go straight to Pottapaug Pond, or fork right to the quarry, both within sight of this divergence. Recently, the straightaway to the water has been cleared, but prior to that it was blocked for some time by a fallen tree and other vegetative debris. Now it serves as a shaded walk to the water, generated by a thick canopy and leading to a fantastic view of Pottapaug Pond.
If you go right, there will be a small stream to the left heading into Pottapaug, and your frontal view will produce an image of magnificent proportions. Children and adults alike will be in awe of this massive sight; a cliff on a steep grade that is barely safe to climb on its face. My daughter did so when she was 10, but barely able by herself and she wasn’t tall enough to finish the job once at the top. The only reason it becomes impossible is because there is a 90˚ rise once you reach the top of the grade that is easily 5-6’ high. The unstable soil makes it unsafe to even try.
Walking through this pathway tempts you to shoot left onto the berm so you can capture a teasing sample of the water. Emerging from the crown of trees is “something else!” Something else –literally- almost every time you visit. Quabbin Quarry is one the most dynamic site in the Quabbin (another interesting fact)! Because of the deposit and retrieval cycles, it can look different every time you visit. One day there’s a pile of gravel as you enter, the next time you visit, there are 3 new, larger piles, while that one you saw the last time has completely vanished! It’s never-ending fun for kids because they love climbing these mammoth hills and although they can do so safely, I would never advocate for ANY child to do so and offer a disclaimer that parents should make their own responsible choices. Furthermore, BEWARE OF TICKS!
The one consistent landmark of this site is the large hill at your forward position upon entering; the one that’s probably too high and steep for most kids. You can, however, get to the top of it more safely if you traverse along the berm to the left and walk the ridge and around to the top.
Atop these ridges you may also catch glimpses of the water and the open field to the right of the road through which you entered Gate 41. If you manage to safely navigate on top of the mammoth hill, you can walk along its heightened path into the hilltop peninsula that juts out into Pottapaug, allowing a peripheral view of this pond through a dense pine forest.
For adults, this venue is maybe a ½ hour hike in and out if you stuck to roads and trails and didn’t want to stop to take pictures. You could spend all day if you wanted to pause for serene enjoyment or break brush to get to other spots in the immediate area, such as the trail to Gate 42 and southward. However the location itself is a lot more fun for kids 3+ (with careful parental supervision pertinent to exact age) than it is for adults to explore. Still, it’s a spot my kids ask about frequently, so this adult gives it 3-Stars!
Walking through Gate 41, the stagnant stream to the left.
The first cellar hole
Sadly, a common sight to many cellar holes in the Quabbin. These beer bottles are dated enough to safely say that they’ve been here for “decades.”
A linear wall stemming from the chimney in the next picture, forward of the first cellar hole
Chimney? Furnace chimney? I’ve never seen one like this.
The “Cache Cellar.” A very unique and well preserved cellar hole.
Close-up of the Cache Cellar.
An old tree. I’m a fan of Quabbin trees. Their condition is usually an indicator of how frequently visited a site is. They also offer some unique bends and shapes. I could dedicate an entire page to Quabbin trees.
The Hatchery, as seen from the road.
Left wall of The Hatchery, as seen from the driveway
The right wall of the Hatchery, as seen from the driveway
Open field to the right of the road
The bog to the left of the road before it forks
The fork. Straight is Pond 12, right is Quabbin Quarry
After turning right, look left to see this stream leading into Pond 12
Forward view shows the mammoth hill in Quabbin Quarry. Doesn’t look like much from here, but close-up is larger than life!
A view of the teasing pond beyond the berm
The Quarry as seen from the hill in the previous photo on the left
The ridge atop Mammoth Hill
A deeper look into the ridge