It was slightly chilly early this morning as I headed to the trailhead in Okemo State Forest, but it was really the perfect temperature for hiking. I’m in the middle of a very hectic autumn so a solo hike to catch the last of the foliage was just what I needed.
There were a couple of other vehicles at the Healdville Trail lot off of Station Road in Mount Holly, and another one pulled in just as I was putting my pack on. I hurried off to avoid hiking so close to a group but then felt like I had to hustle to put enough of a gap between us. I heated up quickly and de-layered on the run, until I finally felt like I had a good lead on the others and slowed to my regular pace.
The trail was very nice, a gradual but steady climb with occasional switchbacks. After a few miles, it leveled out as I started to follow the contour of the mountain.
There were one or two views as the trail started to get slightly rockier and steeper on the final ascent to the summit.
I got to the summit of Ludlow Mountain at 3343′ and its fire tower right as a large group was leaving. One last couple was heading down the fire tower as I was heading up it and I got to enjoy the top alone. I could see all around, the trees half in stick season and half with some late foliage hanging on.
A few kids showed up then. It turns out that you can drive to within a third of a mile of the tower so I was seeing a lot more people than I expected. I went back down to the base of the tower to sit and eat my lunch while the two young brothers started climbing up the tower (maybe ages 11 and 8). The older boy ran right up but the younger boy froze two flights up and then backed himself down the steps. His brother kept encouraging him so he tried again. I could hear him talking to himself on the way up: “This isn’t scary. You’re fine. You can do this. Climbing the tower isn’t scary. You’re good at this.” It warmed my heart to see this boy being brave and talking himself through his fear. After a few tries, and some more encouragement from his brother, he made it high enough to see over the trees, if not to the top of the tower.
Their parents and some other hikers showed up so I hit the trail to head back down the way I came, taking the time to inspect ruins of the forest ranger’s cabin I’d quickly passed by on my way in.
It was an easy walk down and the light was just beautiful through the leaves.