Friday, August 16, 2013

Monoosnoc Trail End to End to End/Traverse Attempt, Leominster, MA 8/11/13

I have run or hiked sections of the Monoosnoc Trail in Leominster, MA many times, mostly as a continuation to a long run in Leominster State Forest. This time I was committed to running the entire trail end to end and back. The plan was to start on the Northern End right along Rt. 2 in Leominster and run it Southbound to where the maps said it would stop. I had read it was about 11 miles one way, which was questionable, and I prepared to start my run at 4:30am.

I arrived at the West Street parking area and the morning was cool which made for a good start to the run. The trail starts out with a decent climb up a dirt road to the Fitchburg water supply tower and the start of the hiking trail. Making my way through the rocky footing in the dark was slow as I kept looking up for the markers on the trees. The Monoosnoc is marked with blue circles as seen below.

Pretty soon I arrived at the first viewpoint overlooking the city of Leominster from a rock outcropping. The majority of the climbing occurs on the Northern section of the trail where it passes over North Monoosnoc then South Monoosnoc hill before descending down towards Haynes Reservoir.

Pre-Dawn on the way in and Daylight on the way out
View South from near the base of South Monoosnoc

Winding through the grass covered rock slabs, I made my way to the first road crossing at Elm Street. The trail markings are a little tough to see, but you take a right on Elm Street road and take a left at a gate about 1/4 to 1/2 of a mile down the hill bringing you to a grassy trail along the reservoir. There is some new singletrack trail that was recently cut in this area which made for some fun running as I made my way towards the next road crossing at Wachusett Street.

Grassy section approaching Wachusett Street
The section between the field above to Wachusett Street gets a little confusing, the markers look like they send you to the street then you are supposed to figure it out from there. I knew from running the trail in the past that you take a left on Wachusett Street and the trail was down the road on the right but there were no markers I could find to indicate the turn. I ended up turning at the gate on the right, another turn that is missing a marker, and made my way through the overgrown section to pick up the trail again as I worked my way toward the Fall Brook Reservoir. This section, although short, is probably the nicest singletrack section of the trail and it was fun running through some of the rocky sections as the sun came up.

Section of trail leading to Fall Brook Reservoir

Sunlight through trees

Fall Brook Reservoir as the sun rises
This is where the markers along the trail seem to disappear altogether. I knew to follow some of the trails that lead back to Sholan Farms only because I have been there in the past, but it seems that markers have been removed from the section between Fall Brook and Sholan Farms. Maybe I missed a re-routed section, but I couldn't find any obvious markers and the maps online still show the trail leading up into Sholan Farms' orchards so I traveled in that direction.

Looking back at the hill along Fall Brook Reservoir from Sholan Farms

As I approached Heywood Rd. the trail disappeared again. The maps show it traveling across the road and continuing on to Samoset School, but I could find no indication of this. After wandering around for about 15 minutes I decided that this was a good point to turn around and head back.

Sun rising from Heywood Road, looking out over Sterling, MA

This guy pulled me along the descent down the Sholan Farms section

Return to the grassy section
The run back was uneventful, although it went a little quicker in the daylight. I had a fun time finally running the trail from end to end, but was disappointed that it ended a little quicker than I had planned on. The nicest viewpoint on the trail overlooks Wachusett Mountain and is part of a short side trail spur near the top of South Monoosnoc Hill. It is worth this little sidetrip to sit and hang out on one of the benches and take in the view over Leominster State Forest to Mt. Wachusett.

View from South Monoosnoc

Rock slabs in the early morning light

Final descent down N. Monoosnoc to the car


Elevation profile, around 2,600' climbing for the whole distance
I will visit this trail again, there are many combinations that I can make with it along the several side trails that come off of it or join it up with Leominster State Forest. The run went well, 16.6 miles with 1/2 mile wandering and about 1/2 mile of a side trail in about 2hrs 45 minutes. Finished up my run around 7:15am or so and headed home for breakfast with the family. It always feels great to get a long run in and find out that my kids let my wife sleep in.

No comments:

Post a Comment