New England Trail: Hike 50 Challenge
As an avid hiker and lover of the outdoors, I often head to the breathtaking White Mountains of New Hampshire, Vermont’s Green Mountains, and the Adirondacks of New York for weekend trips. My goal for 2018, was to find and explore local trails that I could visit on weeknights after work. I know of popular hiking areas around the Holyoke Range but those tend to be crowded, and I am craving something new. Then I learned about the New England Trail, or NET.
The NET is one of eleven National Scenic Trails in America. It extends 215 miles from Long Island Sound in Connecticut north through Massachusetts to the New Hampshire border. Prior to the NET being granted federal designation as a National Scenic Trail in 2009, a 114-mile portion was known as the historic Metacomet Modnadnock (M&M Trail), and another 50-mile section was known as the Mattabesett Trail. At that time, these trails were over a half-century old and needed maintenance and care. With continued expansions of residential subdivisions and other development pressures, the trails were constantly being relocated and options for these relocations were decreasing.
The National Trails System Act was developed following a speech given by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1965 on the “Conservation and Preservation of Natural Beauty.” This act allowed for the creation and protection of American trails that celebrate outdoor adventure. The federal establishment of the NET in 2009 accomplished the National Trails System Act’s primary goal of protection for long-term trail viability.
In the past few years at OTO, I’ve participated in multiple conservation land acquisitions in western Massachusetts. For these projects, I review natural resource and endangered species files, assess environmental contaminants along proposed hiking and biking trails, and engage in discussions with MassDEP about planned recreational and conservation land use. I love what I do, and these projects hold a special place in my heart because I always enjoy my time on trails whether it be skiing, snowshoeing, backpacking, or just walking with my dog.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act. In celebration of this anniversary, I decided to participate in Appalachian Mountain Club’s NET Hike 50 Challenge, in which participants hike 50 miles of the NET throughout the next year. I’m already 24 miles into this challenge, and it has taken me to beautiful forests, riverside trails, waterfalls, caves, and quiet mountain tops. To my surprise, some of the prettiest trails I have discovered so far are located just out of earshot of main roads that I frequently travel. This motivates me to keep going. I can’t help but wonder what other hidden gems I will find along my way.
If you are interested in the Hike 50 Challenge but you aren’t sure if hiking all 50 miles is for you, that’s okay. There are many options that count towards your 50. Point-earning activities are listed at the NET website. These include joining guided hikes or scheduled events, volunteering, monetary donations, staying overnight in a shelter or cabin, bringing a friend to the trail, and so many more! (Although I do plan to hike all 50, I am gaining extra credit by sharing this blog on social media).