What better way to follow Rattlesnake Hill [North] than to do so with Rattlesnake Hill [South]! Gate 37 can be accessed from 3 chief points off of Route 122 in Petersham: The Monson Turnpike (Road), Birch Drive, and West Street/Road. Each of these avenues make their own matchless and charming exploit, in ways that only the town of Petersham can.
Gate 37 is just about as remote and austere as the Quabbin gets. Even the local residents stare with the unfamiliarity of having street company. You can almost hear a pin drop as you traverse over the tapered, rock-strewn, unpaved roads. At the end of The Monson Turnpike is an unpredictably spacious parking lot with that yellow hallmark of the Quabbin: a gate with the number “37” written on it.
The initial ascent into this ambit is actually a placid descent through a profuse patch of forest. In practically no time at all, you find yourself at your first node. From here, continuing west will take you to the pathways leading to Soapstone. Southward will take you to today’s destination, turning north will give you a glimpse of the lowest portion of the West Branch Fever Brook.
The intersection is not unerringly a direct convergence. The left will come before the bridge, and the right will come after it. Moving onto the overpass, you see a foretaste of the water. This tight channel is home to a cluster of pines that will tender an ambient green reflection any time of year.
The culvert that pours water into this canal comes from the north; the filtering point for the West Branch Fever. Go north via the right turn after the bridge and you will be able to cast your view downward to the right and see the torpid consortium that flushes in from just ahead. If you come down from the high road, you can inspect from the crests of fallen trees, which offer stunning vantage points for taking photos of the bog. It’s difficult to understand how something that is so apparently stagnant can be one of several sources that dispense into a basin the size of Quabbin. In my opinion, “Quabbin” should be added to the dictionary and thesaurus as definition and synonym for words like colossal, fastidious, and voluminous.
If you go back to the intersection and head south, you’ll find your way down a main road that skirts the water for only a very epigrammatic interlude. Eventually, with a southeasterly sloping course, you reach yet another segue through the East Quabbin Watershed. Inasmuch as Dana Town Common is a nucleus for the East Quabbin, Gate 37 serves as the northern crown of the veins that flow through these lands. This particular junction offers the main thoroughfare of the old Dugway Road; a sharp U-turn to the right brings you to a short road leading downhill to the water.
After not much of a lengthy hike, look right and you will begin to see Rattlesnake Hill [South] taking shape. Pick a spot and climb. Below I do have 2 relatively inspiring shots, but bear in mind that A) these are 2 of dozens taken from several locations on the summit, and B) it was wintertime, when overgrowth was not exactly overwhelming the scene. In one image you can contend that even with prime vegetation you would have an impressive view of the quagmire of the East Branch Fever Brook. To me, the more impressive views of this Quabbin wonder come further down the rivulet as you hit the cascades and output into the reservoir.
Which brings me to a rather incisive conclusion to this entry. Traveling equidistant of the drive from the intersection to the approximation of Rattlesnake South, you will begin to hear the rushing falls of the East Branch Fever Brook.
Move eastward through the brush, following narrow gaps between the trees, and you will be graced with a stone wall bracing against the burden of the bayou, and bucketing out into the first large waterfall, followed by a staggered succession of a rocky slope. Moving with the brook creates a need to opt between further high ground, or dropping off of a small crag to gain closer entry to the watercourse, where it eventually levels off to a miniscule undulation that is only slanted enough to permit the water to continue flowing into the reservoir.
Toward the concluding curve, you have to pull up the waiters and take a small leap through the waters. The other option is to backtrack and take the long way to the water, but it’s always more entertaining to take the adventurous route.
Finally you reach the end. I call it “The Lagoon,” as in the lagoon in Gilligan’s Island. The interesting facts surrounding this setting are that you won’t have much of a majestic view of the water, as The Lagoon is guarded by several undersized, unnamed islands. Secondly, there is an exceedingly subtle convergence of paths at this spot that allow you to further survey the east side of the East Branch Fever and follow the pathways further out in the East Quabbin.
Regrettably, on this trip, I didn’t have time to explore. The eastward trail will take you very far off-course and will ultimately bring you out closer to Gates 38 & 39, but at some point will also bring you back to Dugway Road where you can move west back to the main road that leads to the intersection.
I’ve never had a bad day in the Quabbin, and Gate 37 is certainly no omission of that rule.