The Cold River forms in the Florida highlands, picks up a half-dozen tributaries and joins the Deerfield River near the entrance to Mohawk Trail State Park.
To work off your Thanksgiving dinner, whether virtual or actual, you might try following the portion of the Mahican-Mohawk Trail from South County Road to the Cold River, a 1.5-mile descent roughly paralleling Route 2, the Mohawk Trail automobile road, ending at the edge of the continent.
You can try it, because earlier this month a team from the Student Conservation Association (SCA), Berkshire Natural Resources Council and the Manice Education Center cut through numerous blowdowns to reopen a section battered by multiple storms. In September, the SCA reopened the similarly battered 1.5-mile section of the M-M Trail from South County Road to Wheeler Brook.
To get to the trailhead for both segments, follow Route 2 east from North Adams, around the Hairpin Turn, past summits Western, Whitcomb and Eastern, to a left turn on South County Road at Brown’s Garage. The parking area and kiosk are almost immediately on the right. A short walk through the woods leads to a trail junction. For Wheeler Brook, go straight. For Cold River, turn right, cross Route 2 carefully, step over the guardrail on the other side, looking for white blazes, with occasional yellow disks.
This trail segment begins by crossing two fine bridges SCA built a few years ago, as it did the rest of the trail. The trail runs parallel to Route 2 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. Case the area for the return trip, because this turn has fooled hikers in the past.
You now follow an old snowmobile trail through a hardwood forest. Soon you come across a decrepit snowmobile bridge, with a plank workaround. There are numerous small brooks, the rest crossed by log bridges. There is a somewhat surprising wiggle left, but you are now following a contour, more or less, surrounded by mossy areas.
With the leaves off the trees, you may still hear Route 2 traffic, left; and you begin to see that there is an open field upslope to the right. You cross a stone wall. The field becomes closer as you pass a marker for a state forest corner, well decorated with flagging. Now the forest becomes more evergreen, especially hemlocks. Some are quite large. Re-opening the trail here required heavy duty chainsawing.
You begin to bear downhill and then meet up with a wood road, which you follow left. Erosion has been hard at work. You can see SCA’s efforts to send the water off the road. You step over washouts. The Cold River, which you catch glimpses of to the left, can be raging. How much volume? How cold? If you type in “Cold River, MA,” the USGS will give you the real-time answer to both questions.
At the bottom of the hill you cross bog bridging, plunge into the woods and a come out at a handsome (informal) campsite, with a stone fire ring. The cables on the bank are what is left from a kind of hoist that transported snowmobiles over the river. The trail follows down the bank to the river and then picks up again on the other side.
You have reached your destination, however. Where you are standing, by the river, is the suture between proto-North America and Gondwana—that is, the place where the continents once drifted together, according to Williams College geoscientist Paul Karabinos. Previously that juncture was thought to be farther east, but he picks up two stones in the riverbed, one from here and one from the land mass that became Europe. The continents now continue to move apart.
Happy trails to you.