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Archive for the ‘The Reservoir’ Category

In the interest of sparing the Reader from excessive text, I have decided to break up Bassettville, as I call it, of The Quabbin Reservoir into three segments, thus creating a trilogy of entries.
Bassettville is located in the North Quabbin, accessed most easily via Gates 33 or 34, but can also be navigated to by going through Gate 35. This quarter consists of Bassett Pond, Bassett Hill, and Bassett Island. The latter, naturally, cannot be “accessed” since islands are off-limits, but can be either viewed from the western periphery of Bassettville or circumnavigated by boat. If you have read my entry on Gate 31, you will recall my mention of Bassett Island being the first forecourt of partition that compels you to choose on which bearing you will set in motion your voyage in order to get into the open water.
As there are several subsections of this precinct, there will be 3 entries, this first one focusing on the sunrise at Bassett Pond. On one particular journey to this location, Gate 33 was the choice starting point. It being April, the Deerflies were more plentiful than I have ever seen, with close to a dozen attacking all at once and not growing jaded as they sometimes do, but only increasing in number. The disincentive: wear a head net or find a way to stop moving, swatting, etc. as they seem to be attracted to motion.
The initial stride from the gate leads you down a short road called Blackinton Road (sometimes written Blackington) to an intersection. At this junction a left turn will bring you down Hagerville Road to Gate 34, a right brings you up and down a series of hills on the continuance of Hagerville Road, opening at Gate 31, and straight ahead will draw Bassett Pond to your left (which you can see from the intersection) and Bassett Hill to your right.
Sadly, Bassett Hill holds a fantastic amount of stratagem, chronicle, and ambiguity but doesn’t make for very pretty pictures. So although there are no pictures of it, I would counsel anyone to visit and see the obscure archetype of side roads, cellar holes, foundations, and fieldstone property boundaries. Until I map it myself and see it on paper, I won’t understand it. When you think you’re traveling on an old road, it then appears to be a driveway, then turns to a latent dead-end with driveways and property lines completely inconsistent with the normal infrastructure of how neighborhoods back then were put together.
However, a point past the intersection is the focus of this entry. Bassett Pond is one of a small number of places inside the Quabbin Reservoir where you can capture a decent-quality sunrise. There are several spots along the initial causeway and also a few spots by the hook before the canopy along the road that will serve as key locations for good sunrise photos.
I prefer The Hook because it most directly faces off with the sun, creating a black, silhouetted foreground of trees as well as a rich reflection of water. The ambient light is a strong gold. The jagged crown of the trees diversifies every sunrise, coalescing with the regular change of the sun throughout the seasons, making each one unique from the last.
When the sun ultimately rises over the treetops you can scan to the right, back to your shore, and see short, stabbing peninsulas that meander their way in and around the water, waxing and waning from left to right and begging the question: what’s over there?
The wildlife is minimal, although I have seen a Bald Eagle as shown in the treetops of one of the pictures below. But to say that insect life is profuse is the understatement of the Quabbin. Bassettville has not only your share of Deerflies, but also a number of less pesky macro-life that allows for some of the best close-ups you can get, should you have the time to seek it out.
The road delving into the woods leads to what will be Part II of The Bassettville Trilogy, highlighting Hackett’s Chimney.

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Bald Eagle at the top of the trees.

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Continuance of Blackinton Road, leading to the site of Hackett’s Lodge.

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The intersection of Blackinton and Hager Roads. Bassett Pond ahead and to the left.

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For a complete list of Bassettville maps, click the links below:

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Harvard Pond can be found on the northbound side of Route 122, south of Old New Salem Road, in the vicinity of the turn through the Women’s Federated State Forest that allows approach to Soapstone Hill in Petersham, Massachusetts.
Pulling in to Harvard Pond, on the edge of Harvard Forest, there is sufficient parking. A trail edges the west side, allowing an eminent encapsulation of the sun as it graces the horizon of the tree awning.
During your stay, just by the road, you can see beavers, ducks, and so many more that are a staple and commonplace sighting in and around the Quabbin Valley.
I’ll leave you to see the genuine beauty for yourself below. These photos are from just one of several spots that allow an examination of the pond, but perhaps the finest and most easily accessible for first light, and the island adds to the charm of the scene no matter what time of day.

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For view of maps related to this area, click on the links below:

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In most cases you can conduct an internet search for any of the topics I’m discussing and find something previously written, researched, or romanticized. However, today’s offering is called Briggs Brook and you won’t find it anyplace except for here.
Nobody with whom I have spoken knows for sure how it got its name (although there is speculation) and 99% of people have never even heard of Briggs Brook. Flanked by the Pelham Lookout and Quabbin Overlook, it’s easy to park at Gate 15 or even the pullover just north of Gate 15 and wander through the woods to the Brook’s unassuming early development.
Briggs Brook appears to materialize out of thin air. This does not make it a unique Quabbin venue, but does make it ever more remarkable yet. Another consistent characteristic of Briggs Brook is that it commences so modestly that, unless you followed it, you would never know its genuine prospective. What starts off as a slow-moving watercourse, turns into a churning, sliding, cascading tumble.
Before Briggs hits the slopes, it passes through an old fieldstone partition where I suspect some sort of mill used to exist. The rocks are noticeably positioned with exactitude, but follow a rather atypical archetype and structure, unlike anything I’ve ever seen in the Quabbin. That being said, let me also say that there are several fieldstone miscellany that flaunt inimitable layouts, and this is just another one of them. The breach in the wall looks like a potent surge of water pushed a large serving of what would otherwise be a fieldstone dam; tapered at the foot, wider toward the crown.
The palpable track is to go through this fissure in the stone hedge, but the better course is to remain on the trail, well above the falls. Just past the wall is a stimulating sight with a small annex of the east side of the wall moving southward.
The falls themselves, even with shallow water levels, are overwhelming. At the outset, it splits left and right around a large, fallen tree, as well as a tree still well rooted through the muck. This waterfall has everything to proffer: grand cascades, shooting rapids, spitting splashes, sideways-sloping currents, and so much more.
Immediately prior to the final grand fall, there is a large rock that matches much the same silhouette and facade of a fallen tree, landing analogous to the tide. Depending on the viewpoint, it is either clearly a large boulder or a fallen tree, complete with “hollowed trunk.”
Then, of course, there is the final fall. Normally I would say that the final fall is the most picturesque. However even as moving as the final falls are, they don’t unavoidably eclipse the rest of the cascade. It is, however, suggestive of The Falls at Bear’s Den. For those who’ve been there, you will know what I mean when you see the photo.
Looking back up the waterfall, the fieldstone walls and assorted, indiscriminate, speckled rocks imbedded in the ground appear to be a sequence of interloping boulders, but ones that add to the enterprising landscape of The Falls at Briggs Brook.
The walls adjacent to the falls also add to the scene being, more or less, completely sheltered in luxuriant, lime moss. Some rocks along the wall are clearly unadulterated fieldstone, wrought by the current of a once richer water level. The ground above, outwardly unhinged and being saturated with pine needles, leaves, and damp soil, offers extravagant views of the brook from above.
The rest of Briggs Brook is less imposing, all the way to the mouth at the Quabbin Reservoir. However, it does consist of a series of charming, minor falls, inborn dams fashioned by fallen trees and debris, and even one waterfall that serves as a microcosm of Niagara Falls. It’s worth the trip to say the least, but would, in all probability, be a better venue during periods of greater abundance in water levels.

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For a view of maps related to this site, click the links below:

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The Quabbin Reservoir encompasses 38.6 square miles of space, holds 412.24 billion gallons of water, spans approximately 18 miles at its greatest length, and has an average depth of 51 feet with a max depth of 150 feet. It is fed by a sizeable number of small streams from the neighboring high grounds but yields its greatest flow from the 3 branches of the Swift River. It has 3,500 acres of land divided prejudicially among 60 islands, and Quabbin boasts an 11,000-acre cape as well as 118 miles of shoreline, 181 miles including all the islands.
The 20 major islands are Bassett, Moore, Snell, Hamilton, Nelson, Mt Russ, Mt L, Leveau, Mt Zion, Carrick, Stevens, Southworth, Chapman, Curtis Hill, Parker Hill, Den Hill, Walker Hill, Mt Pomeroy, Mt Lizzie, and Little Quabbin Hill. There are also approximately 40 other islands with either no name to speak of or names that few have heard of. All of them, plus Prescott Peninsula, are off-limits to public traffic.
When launching from Gate 31, just over half of your seaborne travel is bordered on the west by the Peninsula, while the remainder is covered by the New Salem Watershed. With all these apparent constraints, it may seem as though a day on the water is better spent fishing than admiring intrinsic magnificence. However, even the most passionate fishermen among us who have spent a minute of their time on these waters will acknowledge that the landscape is so dynamic that every new spot –every turn around a corner- flushes individual bearing by creating a feeling anew of where you are. That is to say that even though you’re in the same waters, every time you stop the boat, it feels like you’ve landed in a brand new world; a world with unambiguous magnificence, but exceedingly diverse settings.
From the north, originating in Fishing Area 2, you are first faced with a diversion generated by Bassett Island, which will impel you to go left or right. Either direction is equally gorgeous, but the south (left) course takes you on a more direct route to the open water whereas the north (right) course is for those who have more time to meander around the upper lagoons. Every time I have launched, I have always gone north on the way out, but the inbound route varies depending on need, at least for me. I particularly enjoy departing to the north because most people will do so and then curve south to hit the open water. However, once around the horn on Bassett Island, I enjoy snaking back west and north through the various crevices the upper Quabbin has to offer. In one instance, around a short series of turns, there is one island that shines like an angel walking on water when the sun strikes it at sunrise. New Salem’s Watershed is the milieu, which is fronted by beautiful, ominous pines tiered higher with the backset elevation, and the forefront water itself looks like glass and blurs the peaceful reflection of the trees when there’s a placid wind.
When you depart these winding water crevices and head south, you find yourself in the strait flanked by Bassett Island and the low ground at the base of [North] Rattlesnake Hill. One old road in this particular spot (as well as dozens more throughout) enters the water, tapering off under the scourge of the deluge as a reminder of a time and a place once inhabited and alive with traffic, commerce, and population. It is through this strait that you can also experience Mountain Laurels bursting away from the coast in an overtly outcropped posture over the water. One such place is so alive with this delicate blossom that they appear to own the tiny peninsula upon which they rest.
Further south, as you now approach the imposing [North] Rattlesnake Hill summit, you will encounter the Achilles heel of the Quabbin Valley; that one imperfection that plagues yet every living and non-living entity on the planet –an ugly side! Throughout the Quabbin there is a panduit where high-tension wires run. This wedge is driven from the southwest Vermont border with New York, to southeast near Millbury, Massachusetts, just south a slightly east of Worcester. It affects Quabbin views only momentarily as you pass under it between the upper northwest to the upper eastern portions. The best advice I can offer is to ignore it like every other nuisance until it goes away or until you have moved past it. As you pass under it on boat, you can look down the chute toward the rest of Quabbin’s ostentatious exquisiteness.
Now that we’ve passed that unsightliness, look right (west) and you will be viewing the steep slopes of [North] Rattlesnake Hill. It’s tremendously difficult to see through any of the thick, Quabbin vegetation no matter where you are, but usually there are ruptures in the bulk that allow enticing peeks into the heart of the Quabbin loin.
Go further south and look left (east), you’ll see Moore Island. Look north, Gays Hill. Look right, (west) Pittman Hill. Wildlife abounds yet again in Quabbin. Bald eagles, loons, Mallard ducks, even a father-son team claiming to have seen a bobcat on the shore, and so many more –all in one day! As you circle the horn on Pittman Hill and loop back to the north, you can see floating refuges for the loons, placed by the DCR that I have warmly come to refer to as loony bins. When you power the boat off, you can hear their cries, as well as the lamentation from local coyotes on the mainland among other songs of the indigenous inhabitants. On one occasion there was one such loon family that consisted of a male and female. Initially I was perplexed as to why it was they were lingering as I circled in the boat, when normally they flee at first rudder! Soon it came to pass that I witnessed their raison d’être: they were harboring a loon-ling! A baby loon was in their hospice and as it was incapable of flight or evasion, mom & dad remained. Before leaving, I was able to snap an epic photo of mama-loon barking at me from a frontal angle.
Following the Pittman Hill shoreline will deliver you on a western bearing, with Snell Island now to your left, reinforced by a backdrop view of Hamilton Island just behind it. Moving north, now on the west side of Pittman Hill, there is a series of small islands through which you may twist and turn but be careful of shallow water. Even when at capacity, the Quabbin has numerous shallow locations that can cause damage to your motor. With all the spectacular scenes, it’s easy to become distracted. On one occasion I nearly ran over a giant boulder while observing a bald eagle in the vicinity of Pittman Hill.
Heading further north in this bay, you begin to see Rattlesnake Hill and Pittman Hill more as a combined peninsula, rather than a part of the watershed in New Salem. With both hills now to the east (right), you drift north a little further only to have what appears to be a ley on a hill staring back at you. Closer review reveals another sunken road to its side. One key indicator that you are bounding upon an old, sunken road is to see a dead tree being used as a blockade along the end of it. Such is also true at this location. Peering into the depths of the road under the canopy of trees, you notice the road going up a slight incline. If you were to go to Gate 29 in New Salem, you could follow the paved road all the way to the end, at this particular spot and see the inverse view. More of the land-based detail will be covered in my blog: Gate 29, which will have a number of very unique images of significant and baffling interest.
Finally, as you maneuver south around all the smaller islands and once again pass Snell & Hamilton Islands, you come upon Nelson Island, north and west of which is a large inlet bay; large enough to house its own, tiny island.
Beyond that is the grand finale of the New Salem watershed, marked by the mouth to Hop Brook. Several bays line this jagged coast, generating unique viewing terrain in every fissure. The mouth of Hop Brook itself is equally impressive, even when not full.
Looking south, you will now, at last, witness the open seas on Quabbin Waters. An unobstructed, uncorrupted, an unmoved piece of the planet that you can see all at once. The two enormous hulks sitting on the edges of your panorama are Mt L (left) and Mt Russ (right). Both appear to bear mirror inversions of one another with their lower hills facing the canal between them, while higher ground rests on the outer edges. Although this mainly sums up the landscape of Mt Russ, Mt L has vastly greater detail; nor should this limited description of Mt Russ be used to moderate its awesome presence and majesty. The channel serves as a gateway to the largest, flattest part of the waters, giving you a peek of untouchable lands in the restricted south waters on the horizon. However, before you’re tempted to crank the motor through the wide channel, I’d recommend a rightward course to Mt Russ first.
Without having done it myself, I might have never known that there were tiny avenues to the west of Mt Russ, separating the gorgeous island from Prescott Peninsula. Mt Russ itself really consists of 3 islands. One is so small that you could throw a rock right over it. Another is so large that it should be an island of its own name. The navigable waters between them all are beautiful in and of themselves, but the back view of where Mt Russ meets Prescott Peninsula is always peacefully trepidatious.
On most mornings in the summer, you can see this enchanting part of the waters at sunrise. Thick fog rises from the chasms of trees, ridges, and valleys to form pillars of smoke, reminiscent of tribal smoke-signals, as if to serve as a reminder of after whom the region is named.
Sunrise creates countless wonders on the waters of Quabbin. Blue clouds topped with searing light from a hidden sunrise, water and horizons turn black while the ambient light becomes a penetrating bronze. Portions of light shine on select slices of land like a heavenly glow on the purest of souls. Rays from the sun burst through cloud segment in a spectacular show of light seen from any range. Some light is so bright and so distorted by the curvature of the clouds that it actually makes the clouds look blurry!
Looking at Prescott Peninsula on a map, it can be seen as a microcosm of Italy. It’s shaped almost like a boot with a detached heel named Little Quabbin Hill Island. Toward the north end of Prescott, on the eastern side, there is a tumor of land that could otherwise resemble a holster on the back of someone’s leg, thus earning it the nickname, Holster. I mention this only for reference as you navigate this blog and the waters, should you decide to take the adventure for yourself.
For instance, just north of where Holster begins, you can see a sharp incline if you peer deep beyond the veil of trees, one of the sharpest along the peninsula’s east coast. Just south of Holster, tucked deep in Holster Bay, you can find the mouth to Egypt Brook, marked by an old utility line left behind after the flooding, I presume, based on the antiquated configuration of the runners at the top. Coming out from Holster Bay back into the waters, you find one of the most prominent sunken roads in all of the Quabbin. This gravel road is, as most are, blocked by a fallen tree. However what makes this road so special is the fact that, when the water is low, you can see its beginning on land and actually follow it into the water not only by the smooth, improved feature associated with roads, but also in the flush lining of the road in fieldstone. It has a sharp descent off of its side that, according to contemporary standards, would be unfit for travel. On a modern road you would most certainly have a guardrail of some sort to protect against this dangerous drop-off. The road continues south, out into the water and you can actually see the fork left that loops back around the base of that perilous drop-off.
Hugging the coast along Holster the whole way will keep you in New Salem waters, otherwise you’ll end up in Petersham. To the southeast of Holster are two islands: Curtis Hill & Mt Pomeroy, the latter being home to the highest point above sea level on any island in the Quabbin. The Southeast corner of Mt Pomeroy (which is inaccessible) reaches 935 feet above sea level and drops to 450-500 feet along its shore, providing quite a dramatic and steep slope. Approaching Mt Pomeroy, you will see a sudden rise out of the water of towering trees along the shore, which is also specific to this magical isle as most places at least have beaches with sand leading to a gradual incline. Mt Pomeroy, however, with its standoffish posture, essentially creates an uninviting and hostile stance as its shore stands poised on alert to stop intruders. Ironically, its unique landscape also causes it to be one of the most alluring and sought after gems among all the islands. But don’t be too quick to see it in its entirety! Mt Pomeroy marks the southern limit of the waters. You may travel a little further south along its west coast than on its east, but off-limits nonetheless!
Therefore, we must now head north and begin our return. First stop: Curtis Hill; that hill just north of Mt Pomeroy. Why would we stop here, you ask? Curtis Hill holds in its possession a fabled relic. Curtis Hill is the ONLY place in the entire Quabbin that is known to have any structural remnant of the pre-flooding era (I say “known to have” because I still do not know if that utility pole is from pre-flooding, I only assume it is because of its architectural design. I say, “structural remnant” because there are other remnants that you’ll read about later, but none that are actual building still standing).
This sole vestige of tangible history manifests itself in the form of a golf course clubhouse called, Dugmar Clubhouse. I’ll let you do all the Googling you feel compelled to do but, suffice it to say, this clubhouse was built by two crooked entrepreneurs from the Springfield area when they found out this region would be flooded, in order to capitalize on its value and earn a return on their investment; which they did in exponential fashion.
The clubhouse still stands because it met the criteria for buildings and structures that did not need to be torn down: it was not made of wood and was made of nothing but stone. It can be seen from the southeast corner of Curtis Hill and, as big as it is; as ornately endowed as it is in contrast to its surroundings, you would probably never see it unless you were looking for it.
From the clubhouse you can look southeast and see Baffle Dam. Going past Parker Hill on its south side and then east to the dam will, more or less, run you long the Southern Limit line. It’s here that you can see MWRA (Massachusetts Water Resource Authority) buildings and the dam used to operate the actual Aqueduct that sends all of this water to the supported communities in Boston, and several other municipalities east as well as west. The Baffle Dam conjoins Walker Hill Island to the largest island in the Quabbin: Mt Zion.
Mt Zion, like Prescott Peninsula, has steep slopes along its shores, but Mt Zion is significantly rockier than Prescott along its edge, and therefore this bald veneer gives the impression of a more dramatic cliff.
The majority of Mt Zion falls comfortably within the limits of Petersham, but the northern tip hugs the border with New Salem once again. The channel between Mt Zion and Mt L, to its north, is referred to as The Pass, and is also where the Petersham-New Salem line crosses. Wrapping around the north tip of Mt Zion, you can look left to Mt L and see it cleansed with green life throughout. There is one section that is almost completely bare on its northeastern slope. A patch of shaved fieldstone that offers a look at the innards of Mt L; a view of the underbelly of the natural forestation.
Shooting around the north side of Mt Zion reveals old property boundaries in typical, New England Fieldstone walls that are, yet again, partially submerged as they cross into the idyllic abyss. I even caught a turtle once, sunbathing on one of the rocks jetting out of the water.
Continuing your stroll, now around the east side of Mt Zion, you’ll see Leveau Island to your left. If you continue south, you would head toward Gate 43: Fishing Area 3 and Pottapaug Pond, which would require a lot more weaving in and around small islands. More of this will be covered in Gate 43: Fishing Area 3.
Turning north from Mt Zion and Leveau Island, however, will present a view from the water of the unadulterated best inborn outlook in the Quabbin: Soapstone Hill. The blog I write on this spot will not be long, but the content itself will be rich. Although Enfield Tower allows greater distances to be viewed, no sight is more beautiful in the entire Quabbin Reservoir than that which you see from the plateau of Soapstone Hill, located in North Dana.
One last point I’ll discuss from Gate 31’s launch is the stone wall at the base of Soapstone Hill. It’s much easier to get to via Gate 37, and will be discussed there as well, but the view of it from the water is much more surreal as it’s a frontal shot, rather than an above or down-view. It serves now as a buffer wall for the water, but was once part of a regularly traveled bridge in Dana.
Traversing the waters of Quabbin is perpetually filled with surprises and tantalizing aesthetic wonders. Tiny inlet bays the size of a 2-car driveway (and structured much the same as one, too), open straits not much wider than your boat but over 12-feet deep, separating mainland from island, disparaging sandbars and nameless islands that shed greater beauty than an entire orchard, linear features that could be a fallen tree or a cellar wall under the mud, and so much more. These are the treasures of the Quabbin waters. These are just a few of the countless reasons why one would want to spend a day on the open, vivacious waters of the Quabbin Reservoir.

Looney-Bin

You will see these refuges scattered throughout the north Quabbin

Lone Island

There are innumerable islands like this one in Quabbin

Mountain Laurel Peninsula

An outcropping of Mountain Laurels

Reflections

Standard reflection of sunshine in the Quabbin

Sandbar

A picturesque view of a sandbar not far from Mountain Laurel Peninsula

Looking North

Looking north, with Gays Hill on the horizon

The driveway

Located on the south end of Pittman Hill, this inlet resembles a Venetian driveway

Character Isle

This little beauty is no more than 10′ in diameter

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle near Pittman Hill, over the New Salem Watershed

Angry Loon

An angry mama-loon yells at me to get away from her baby

Loon Family

Shown here, you can see the loon-ling with mom and dad

Ley

An open ley at the base of Rattlesnake North

Gate 29: Dead End

Where the road at Gate 29 ends

Gate 29 Ley

A far out shot of the road to Gate 29, situated to the left of the Rattlesnake North ley

Pittman Bay

Looking south out of Pittman Hill’s bay

Minor Passage

Heading toward Prescott Peninsula, a small island skirts not far from the shore

Watershed Island

The inverse of the last photo, looking north

Mt Russ

Pictures like this have become a staple of the Quabbin Reservoir. The first major island you see when coming from the north.

Mt L & Mt Russ

Mt L (left) & Mt Russ (right) break to allow passage through the channel in between

Mt Russ Channel

If moving toward Mt Russ, you have access through its backside via this strait

Mt Russ Reflection

A beautiful reflection of a beautiful Quabbin island

South Russ

A rocky embankment casts itself in front of the view of where Mt Russ meets Prescott Peninsula

Utility Pole, Prescott Peninsula

This utility pole marks the location of the mouth of Egypt Brook on Prescott Peninsula

Egypt Brook

The mouth of Egypt Brook

Prominent Road

This is the prominent road, just south of Egypt Brook, that shows a dangerous drop off.

Sunny Day

A sunny day, looking north from the open waters.

MWRA Aqueduct

Buildings used to facilitate direction and flow of water through the aqueduct

The Pass

With Mt L to the left (north) and Mt Zion right (south), welcome to, “The Pass.”

Bald Spot

A bald spot on Mt L as you swing past its south side

Rockwalls

Old property boundaries on the north end of Mt Zion

Turtle

A sunbathing turtle on an old rock wall boundary

Baffle Dam

Look closely at the rocky wall…..Baffle Dam

Islands

Northeast corner of Mt Zion

Soapstone

Left and center of this picture, at the sloping hill in the distance, is the peak of Soapstone Hill

Soapstone Hill

Another angle of Soapstone

Rock Edge

At the base of Soapstone, this wall acts as a wall for the water. Formerly a bridge through Dana

Sunrise

Sunrise over Quabbin creates “smoke signals” of fog

Bronze smoke

Sunrise creates a bronze sky with more pillars of fog

Mt L, Russ Sunrise

Sunrise over Mt L & Mt Russ

Bronze Sky

Sunrise casts a bronze color over the water

Light Dawns

Light dawns on select portions of the Quabbin

Sunrise

Ray of Light

Sun rays burst through the clouds

The Shining

A large ball of fire struggles to get through cloud cover, blurring the edges

Sunrise

Mt Pomeroy

An image of Mt Pomeroy blasts the Quabbin with its wide array of colors

Mt Russ meets Prescott

Another, wide angle of Mt Russ meeting Prescott Peninsula

Birds

Birds prep for flight off a large stone island

Dugmar Clubhouse

The infamous Dugmar Clubhouse

Curtis Hill

Dugmar Clubhouse on Curtis Hill

Wildlife

Another Bald Eagle

Hop Brook Mouth

The mouth of Hop Brook in New Salem’s Watershed

QuabbinA Quabbin BayBeautiful Sunrise

Hop Brook

Walking in to Hop Brook’s last waterfall before the mouth empties into the Quabbin.

01.Full Unlabeled

02.Due Course

Route taken from the boat launch at Gate 31. Total distance traveled that day, 291,454.98 feet.

03.Boat

Looking closely, you can see Google Earth caught a glimpse of a boat zipping through the strait between Mt. Russ and Prescott Peninsula.

04.Reservoir Width

Widest stretch of interrupted water at 28,157.44 feet.

05.Length West Finger

Length of the West Finger measuring 61,657.79 feet.

Distance

06.Width West Finger

Widest stretch of the West Finger measuring 5,823.29 feet.

07.Leveau View

08.Launch & Island

Yellow arrow indicates Angel Island. Green arrow indicates boat launch.

09.Island Callout10.Island Callout11.Island Callout12.Island Callout13.Island Callout14.Island Callout

15.Length Launch-to-South Limit

Length of passable water measuring 51,844.92 feet from north to south.

16.Length Launch-to-Island

Length of 2,799.67 feet from boat launch to northernmost alcove.

17.Length Bassett Channel Wide

5,772.3 feet from power lines to open waters.

18.Length Bassett Channel19.Length Bassett-to-Prescott

20.Length Bassett Island

Length of Bassett Island measuring 4,308.79 feet.

21.Length Bassett-to-Prescott Inward

22.Length Snell

Snell Island total length measuring 2,381.76 feet.

23.Length Hamilton

Hamilton Island measuring a total length of 2,351.04 feet.

24.Length Nelson

Nelson Island measuring a total length of 1,809.88 feet.

25.Length Unlabeled

26.Length Prescott

Prescott Peninsula measure a total length of 55,446.25 feet.

27.Length Holster

28.Length L

Mt. L measuring a total length of 9,709.29 feet.

29.Length Leveau

Leveau Island measuring a total length of 3,966.52 feet.

30.Length Zion

Mt. Zion, the largest island in the reservoir, measures a mighty length of 29,115.25 feet.

31.Length Carrick32.Length Chapman

33.Length Soapstone

Ground distance of the length of Soapstone Hill’s peak to the water, measured at 1,709.29 feet.

34.Length Soapstone-to-The Pass

Distance between the peak of Soapstone Hill and The Pass measured at 9,746.27 feet.

35.Length The Pass

Width of The Pass measuring at 988.2 feet.

36.Length Curtis

37.Length Water-to-Dugmar

Measuring 177.05 feet from the water’s edge to Dugmar’s Clubhouse on Curtis Hill Island.

38.Length Parker39.Length Baffle Island40.Length Pomeroy41.Length Lizzie42.Length LQHI

28.Length Russ

Length of Mt. Russ measuring 4,346.74 feet.

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Pelham Lookout

The Pelham Lookout in Pelham, Massachusetts is the most visited site in the Quabbin. Not the most visited in the north, or the south or the east or the west –it is visited by more people in any one day than any other spot every day of every year…whether they realize it or not.
One concept that has always surprised me is that most people in Boston have no idea where their water comes from; most have never heard the word Quabbin. What’s more amazing than that is that since I moved to this area, I have met people who have lived here for 30 years and have never been to the Quabbin. Some of them live in my neighborhood, just 3 or 4 miles away from the nearest gate, and couldn’t even tell you how to get to any one of the dozens of gates. Therefore, one must deduct from these facts that there is a sizeable portion of the local population who have driven past Pelham Lookout and not even known that it is the Pelham Lookout or what it is they are looking at as they pass by.
Nevertheless, by virtue of being located on a major road (Route 202, the Daniel Shays Highway in Pelham, Massachusetts), it becomes the most visited site in the entire Quabbin Reservoir. Traffic is consistent throughout everyday as it is a major route along the West Quabbin that people use to travel to and from work, gain access to Amherst & Hadley where there are major shopping centers, as well as a number of other reasons. I would not be the least bit shocked to hear that thousands of people pass through this location every day.
Some people might argue that it’s not technically in the Quabbin, but many also don’t know that there is a portion of the Quabbin known as Off-Reservation, which falls just outside the 202 Corridor. Therefore, Pelham Lookout is, technically, within the bounds of the Quabbin Reservoir, which makes this the most visited Quabbin location.
Pulling over on the northbound side of the road allows anyone to easily enjoy the simple yet magnanimous sights of Pelham Lookout. The foreground creates a capitulation in the preponderance of your view, and above that tree line is a cluster of well-blended treetops that blur any distinction between the end of one hill and the start of another. Furthermore, there is only a tiny sliver of water viewable from this location, toward the south end of your scope.
It seems as though there is nothing to be offered by this location. However Pelham Lookout offers nature’s version of the impulse-buy. On your way to a completely unrelated event, you could stop and appreciate New England’s beauty. In the end this is yet another Quabbin location well worth seeing.

 

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Click on the links below to view PDF maps of this site:

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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.

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On a cold, January morning I woke up before sunrise, laced my hiking boots, grabbed my Quabbin Reservation Guide map, and threw my hat in the ring of Gate 29 Trekkers. What I did not pack: my camera. Some might be wondering why I didn’t just turn around and get it once I realized I forgot it. For starters, I didn’t forget it; it was supposed to be a hiking affair, not a photo shoot. But secondly, even as close as I live to Gate 29, it’s still about 4 miles from my home and I had walked there, not driven. By the time I realized the photogenic potential of this place, I was easily 5 or 6 miles from home. So, forlornly, the pictures below had to be dramatically enhanced and edited in order to advance the quality.

So, without further delay, pull out your Quabbin Reservation Guides or observe the posted maps below and follow along as I outline this day-long, onerous journey.

I left my home and then traveled south along the 202/122 corridor until they split at the flashing, yellow light. I pressed on until I got to Gate 29, directly across from Elm Street (Gate 29 being an extension of Elm Street itself) where the Swift River Valley Historical Society is located. On the map, Gate 29 begins as a trail, which I followed until I got to the main road, which is depicted as a solid, black line on the map (all lines posted below will be yellow). I followed the black line until it ends at the water, just west of Rattlesnake [North].

From there, I broke brush by moving east in between Rattlesnake Hill & Pittman Hill until I reached a wide path, observably a main road once upon a time. At the “T” I went south, wandering along the west side of Pittman Hill, again until I reached the water. Then I backtracked up Pittman and then down, awaiting the path that edges the east side of Rattlesnake Hill for as long as about the lower third. Then I climbed up the side of Rattlesnake, followed the ridgeline, and came back down on the east side again. From there, I followed the road back until I looped to the black line once again. It took an entire day, and I walked between 12-16 miles that day.

While inbound at Gate 29, you are greeted not quite instantly with a divide to the left. This would be the quickest path to get to Gate 30. Having already visited that destination, I continued straight. Further ahead, there is another split, which will take you back to Gate 30 as well, or go right to stay on course.

Walking along [what is now] the black line on the map, heading southward, you are traversing the southeast slope of Harris Hill. I have yet to navigate this mount, since there are absolutely no trails leading to it, but will likely spend another day exploring here, for which there will be an unreservedly separate entry. Incontestably, its unsullied isolation will turn out a quite remarkable and unadulterated storyline.

Along this main road, you can see all the customary staples of the Quabbin: cellar holes, swampy bogs, roadside washouts, etc. Almost half way into the expedition, you encounter an impressive junction. Going west takes you to a village formerly known as Millington, and heading east takes you, ultimately, to Fishing Area 2. Continuing south is the road to Rattlesnake and Pittman.

Emerging from the canopy, you will be accosted by those pesky high-tension power lines. At this point, it’s important not to presuppose that following the clearing along the power lines is the best route if your aim is to see Rattlesnake Hill [North]. The faster route to Rattlesnake is, in fact, to go left near this point, not at it. However, the clearing under the power lines, although tempting, is nothing more than a trap! I don’t even understand how 4×4 trucks can make it through this marshy muddle. Virtually every step you take has to be circumspectly plotted. It’s either ice, or mud, or a sinkhole, or rigid micro-cliffs (capable of twisting your ankle) created by tires cutting through the mud while wet and then freezing in the winter, or a puddle hidden by grassy overgrowth –all dependent on which season it is. No matter how you break it down, it will actually take you longer to cut through by the power lines than it would to move farther up the road and work your way back.

The good news is there’s a site not far from that location where you can see the foundation of the first location of Herrick’s Tavern before it burned down in 1912. There’s a large billboard commemorating, which falls right at a fork in the road. Should your plan be to visit Rattlesnake Hill, make a U-turn back to the left and it will bring you out to the other end of those power lines. Continue south, and you will follow my journey to Pittman Hill on this day.

Aside from the occasional, relatively inconsequential trail branching left or right, there is not much along the rest of this road until you get closer to the water, according to anything I’ve found. As you draw closer to the water though, you will feel the anticipation of completion and accomplishment as you begin to see shards of water breaching the trees off to the west. Eventually you see the end of the road. In fact, you see it as it sinks into the water. Whenever I see something like this, I experience a culmination of conflict to include eerie sedation and evocative unrest. Knowing this was once a road traveled by residents whose homes are likely something I passed by moments ago without notice; perhaps once where children played or where neighborhood conversations and gatherings took place. Now, it lends itself to no more than a post-apocalyptic remnant, threadbare and surmounted by nature as a direct result of a deficiency in human initiative.

From this spot, find a way to cut over to the east. There’s an old driveway just before the water on the left. Walking up this driveway will lead to an open meadow on a pitched hill that can be seen from the water. To the right appears to be a quarry of sorts, and although there is nothing placed in the quarry presently, there is an impressive vantage point from which you can take gorgeous photos of the water along the precipice at the top of the quarry zone. Turn 180˚ from that vista and you will see one of the best preserved wells remaining in the Quabbin. The well is actually capped with a concrete slab, but someone has angled it obliquely so you can see down into the well. Bring a flashlight and you can look down about 20 feet.

The rest of this journey can be summarily explained by discriminating between the positive features of Rattlesnake and Pittman. Manifestly speaking, Pittman Hill contains some of the strangest tree growth formations I have seen in one location, while Rattlesnake Hill provides defiant climbs and rewarding views.

In particular, I was so impressed with two trees on Pittman Hill that I named them: Brontosaurus Tree and Bowtie Tree. Brontosaurus Tree is, of course, wrought much like a Brontosaurus. The unintended beneficial corollary, in this case, of taking a picture with my phone is that the tree is actually a little blurred at its base, making it appear to be an actual dinosaur in motion! Bowtie Tree takes on a much more puzzling and unique contour. This tree began growing at about a 45˚ angle. About 2 feet up from its trunk, it makes an approximate 170˚ turn downward. 12 inches later, it begins bending back in an upward direction, causing a “U,” until it passes its own stump and shoots nearly 90˚ back to an upward trend. Even after having bore witness to Redwood Trees in California, this is, by and large, one of the strangest tree I have ever seen. Understanding that all plant life grows toward light, one must question what warped fragments of light were exposed to this mutant growth and in what capacity or with what intermittent frequency.

Maneuvering down Pittman Hill’s north side attempts to bring the traveler back to a reminder of civilization as you can see logging efforts with large cleared lots as you go. Reaching the path used on the way in, I headed north past the “T” so that I was now hiking along the east side of Rattlesnake Hill [North]. Consequently, this is the more attractive side. This is the side that most people see by taking the fork backwards from the site of the old Herrick’s Tavern.

Along this route, you travel on a road that is, at one point, within inches of Quabbin water, giving way to a partial view of Bassett Island. Just beyond this point is where the summit to Rattlesnake can be found.

The sight is initially overwhelming; awesome, to say the very least. There is one part of the rise to Rattlesnake that defies the foundations of physics; I call it The Flintstone Awning. It is merely a stone plate, roughly one foot thick and 25-30 feet long, that protrudes horizontally from the edge of the mountain by about 10 or 15 feet. It creates a rock crown above an easily navigable platform below, complete with tabled plateaus, making a perfect picnicking venue.

From the top, Rattlesnake doesn’t have quite the view as some places in the Quabbin, but it has less to do with a lack of elevation than it does with overgrowth and basic vegetation. Still, the view is well-worth the climb!

I would recommend not going back down the mountain the same way you went up. The climb can be vertical at times. However, from the perspective of exploration, returning the way you entered is only counter-intuitive to the doctrine of exploration! If there’s a different way out, you should take it.

On the return, you come out by the fork in the road near Herrick’s Tavern. En route, there are all the standard hallmarks of the Quabbin that I mentioned on the way in. One baffling section past the power lines is where there’s a property line by the road, but then another one inset from the road, as if there was once a stretch of eminent domain permanently etched as a boundary.

Gate 29 is easily a 12-hour adventure if you’re to see it all. Based on my several visits to this one location, it’s apparent to me that most people travel the length of the main part of the road and voyage possibly as far as Rattlesnake. Very few people actually climb the mountain, and even fewer journey past to see Pittman Hill. Ultimately, Gate 29 can be a meeting place for friends or strangers, or it can be a refuge to get away from all signs of civilization.

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Plateau at the end of Gate 29

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Pittman height

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Pittman length

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Rattlesnake height

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Rattlesnake length

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Gate 29 to plateau
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The sign marking the previous location of Herrick’s Tavern.

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A well preserved well!

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A look into the well.

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The view from the edge of the quarry’s cliff.

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Brontosaurus Tree

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Bowtie Tree

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From the summit of Rattlesnake Hill.

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The summit of Rattlesnake.

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Marked trees. Completely random. No apparent method to this madness.

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The Flintstone Awning

 

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