The Plainfield-based Student Conservation Association (SCA), part of AmeriCorps and Massachusetts Service Alliance, has returned to the Cold River stretch of the Mohican-Mohawk hiking trail. A joint effort last November, with the Berkshire Natural Resources Council and the Manice Education Center, reopened the trail, which had been strewn with blowdowns. Now the task is to improve the treadway, including bog bridges.
The Cold River, which drains numerous ponds in Savoy, flows 12.6 miles until it joins the Deerfield River, just east of Mohawk Trail State Forest. Motorists heading east down Route 2 from the junction with South County Road in Drury, follow Manning Brook until it joins the Cold. Its valley includes many large and ancient trees.
The trail begins at a new parking area, just to the north of South County Road, off of Route 2 by Brown’s Garage. The trail makes a leisurely, then steeper descent to the banks of the Cold, for a 3-mile round trip. For some hikers it’s perverse to start out down and finish heading up, but variety is good.
This segment is in Florida State Forest, an entity that is generally included with Savoy Mountain State Forest on maps. From the trailhead, a brief walk leads to an intersection. For Wheeler Brook and Mohawk Trail State Forest, go straight, as the sign indicates. As yet there is no sign for your route. Turn right to cross Route 2 very carefully, follow the shoulder uphill a bit for an easier step over the guardrail at the white blazes. Cross a footbridge.
Cross another. SCA built these bridges 12 years ago as part of new trail construction. A sign gives you 1 1/2 miles to the Cold and 5 1/3 miles to Savoy Campground. SCA has smashed rock now to create stone chips to harden the surface of this wet area. The trail runs parallel to Route 2, beneath some large pines, until it bears right beside a fallen beech, and then bears left in an open area, just as you see the end of a stone wall. Check out this turn for the return trip, as it is tempting to go straight on the old snowmobile trail. You now take that route right, through hardwood forest that was open field not long ago.
Single or double log bridges, two new ones with handrails, get you across some rivulets. You pass the site of a former snowmobile bridge, from which the SCA has removed the rotten planking. You take a somewhat surprising wiggle left but are basically following a contour. Crossing an old stone wall, you enter more of an evergreen forest, large hemlocks and pines, with some old maples. You are beginning to get into the Cold River valley.
You begin to see open field through the trees up to the right. Those fields get closer to you after you pass an orange-painted state forest bound. You can see where many large, downed trees had to be cut to get you through. You begin to bear downhill and then meet up with an old woods road that descends steeply.
The SCA has tried, by water bars and ditches, to get the water off this steep, eroding road. Still, in places you have to step over washouts. You begin to catch glimpses of the Cold River through the trees.
At the bottom of the grade, bog bridging eases your way over a wet area. You reach a lovely, informal campsite with a fire ring under large evergreens. The tangle of cables near the bank are the remains of a device to lift snowmobiles across the river—the shores of which you visit by descending the bank. The Mohican-Mohawk Trail continues on the other side, but the river constitutes the end of this segment.
You can find the real-time discharge and temperature by goggling Cold River. In Tropical storm Irene, the Cold took out the bank underneath Route 2, not far from this remote site, in an undisputed demonstration of its power. The Cold, which flows through a boulder field, is a prime example of a wild, dynamic river, continually rearranging its course through gravel and cobbles. Each time you arrive at this spot, the river’s form will differ.
Happy trails to you.