Tag Archives: Leominster

Testing the Crow Hills Cliffs


This is super out of order – it’s part of my series called “cleaning up my drafts folder”

Tuesday, 17-March-15

After seeing Quincy, I was a little curious about how the other climbing areas were doing… Daniel had said that he’d be checking out Rumney, so that really only left Crow Hill and Hammond Pond to be explored and the conditions figured out.

Hammond Pond… well, anyone who’s climbed there could tell you whether or not it was ready to climb.  Hammond isn’t really known for drying out quickly.  In fact, it’s known for staying soaking wet after a freaking sun shower in the middle of August.  So it was out.  And anyways, where’s the fun in taking a trip to somewhere that’s 20min away?

So I picked Mary up at her place, and we headed onto Route 2, in search of climbs.11081184_10101007214980010_5238343827672862060_n

Also – alpacas.  And their meat.

Mary is a bit of a foodie – not in the “let’s go out and eat at this crazy little ecclectic place!” sort of way, but in the “Come on over to my place and we can make cold vegan pig’s foot salad!” sort of way.  So when I floated the idea of driving out to Crow Hill, her stipulation was that we stop in at a farm in the area that she’d heard of: Kalon Farm, in this instance.  It’s on the way, and would take us off the boring highway, so I didn’t see a problem with it.

Honestly, it wasn’t super exciting… though I did appreciate the excuse to get off the highway and drive down the back roads for a bit.  The farm had the usual meats – nothing with alpacas at all, actually.  it all looked good enough, but the prices… yeah, not really viable for an unemployed guy, to say the least.

So, back onto the road we went.

Then, into a muddy parking lot (sorry, Mustang!) and up a trail.  The snow wasn’t too bad, but it was still quite deep – by stepping carefully we were able to make good time, but every so often a wrong step would send my foot down through the crust, and I’d be knee-deep on one side.  Yeah, the snow was easily 2 or 3 ft deep still, possibly even deeper, since that’s just how far I’d sink down.

But we made it up the trail and to the cliffs none the worse for wear, if a bit tired and wet-footed.   And that’s where we saw the ice.

Ice for days… the rotting dream of ice climbers everywhere… Well, sort of.  There was some impressive ice, definitely, but nothing as much as what you see in Rock and Ice’s ice climbing special.  Still, would have been fun to set up a top rope and take a pair of ice tools to, if the weather hadn’t been warm enough to rot most of the backing away.  As it was, the ice was gorgeous, and we spent more than a few minutes relaxing in the snow, watching the water drop off the stalagtites hanging from the cliff roof.

So the summary of the recon report could be read as “passable trails, and a few partially dry routes… but nothing viable for climbing as of yet.  At least another month required before climbing can start”,  Not the best news, but it’s something… and I’m sure this coming summer will see more than enough climbing on the old famous routes.

Weekend of 20-Sep-13 through 22-Sep-13 – Adventures in Camping


Weekend of 20-Sep-13 through 22-Sep-13 – Adventures in Camping

Friday, 20-Sep-13

  • Got home from work Friday night and started packing up for the weekend!  Plans had fluctuated a lot over the week, but the current path was to drive out to a campground that I’d stayed at before, hang out Friday night and Saturday morning, and then link up with Daniel and Co. at Crow Hill for a day of climbing.
  • Instead of packing and leaving though… I fell asleep.  It was a good sleep… though rather concerningly strange dreams were had.
  • Once I got mobile again I checked in with the campground to give them a heads-up that I’d be late, packed the car up, and hit the road.
  • After a quick stop at the grocery to grab food for the weekend, I was on my way down Route 2, with the top down and the music cranked.  It was a glorious drive – not a cloud in the sky, and it was just cold enough that I turned the heat on.
  • Arrived at the campground, and shot the breeze with the owner for a while.  He’s an interesting guy, who collects small mechanical devices in a gallery in the back of the office.  It’s huge, and has tons of very interesting little machines.
  • Don’t even bother setting up my tent, and instead just have a quick dinner around the fire.  Again – glorious.
  • Sleep out on the ground in my sleeping pad, directly under the stars.

Saturday, 21-Sep-13

  • Get rolling, pack up my gear, and head out to meet everyone at the climbing spot.
  • They’re running late… so I’m in no rush.  Good.  Means that I can explore for a bit.  Which I do –
    • I find a cool little coffee shop and get a breakfast snack, along with a pumpkin-spice chai latte.  Yep.  Typical fall in New England.
    • Eat breakfast under a small little bridge that I find.  It’s calm and nice, though I guess it’s near a hiking trail, because I got “found” by a random dog running around in the woods.
    • From there I moved on, just driving around the back country roads.  It’s beautiful, and I was quite happy to drive slow and enjoy the relaxation.
    • I found out that one of the towns nearby was having its annual “yard-sale day”… every few houses there was a massive multi-family yard-sale… so I stopped in and picked up a few odds and ends that were missing from the house.
  • Everyone finally arrives, so we start with the climbing
    • Time passes!
  • After climbing and dinner, head back to the campsite and sit down with the owners again.  Chat for a while, hearing about when he used to run a trucking company and telling him about my trips in New Zealand.
  • Head back to the campsite – the firewood I didn’t use last night is still there, waiting for me!  Woo!  Start up that fire!
  • As the fire’s burning, I head to the car and set up the tent this time – it’s been looking like rain all day, so I’m thinking this is a good idea.
  • Relax by the fire, have a drink, and zone out for an hour or two
  • Head to bed under the stars again.
  • And… I’m glad I set up the tent.  At some point it starts drizzling… and by the time I’m in the tent it’s full-on downpouring.  Continues through the night in epic fashion, and I learn the hard way that my tent isn’t completely waterproof… unfortunately.  Fortunately it’s only a small leak, so I sleep through it with only a sort-of wet sleeping bag to show

Sunday, 22-Sep-13

  • Up and at ‘em, say my goodbyes to the owners, and get on the road!
  • Nothing really to be said here – packing away a wet tent and sleeping bag is never fun, but sometimes it’s what needs to happen :/
  • Grab a “skillet breakfast” at a diner outside of town.  It’s excellent – potatoes, eggs, bacon and sausage with cheese melted over it.  Definitely something I’ll make again at home.
  • From there, move on to the Kayaking place, and then home for a relaxing Sunday evening

Camping and kayaking – Aug 17th and 18th


Friday, 17AUG12


Rain rain, go away,

come again another day,

Ben and friends all want to play…

Rain rain, go away.


Why does it always rain on Friday nights? I mean… I understand the physics of it – the particles from car exhaust slowly builds up over the week, and thus increases rain chance as the week goes on. But just because I know the science… can’t it just… not?

But unfortunately as I sat in the passengers side of Daniels car eating Doritos Locos Tacos (say it 5x fast) the science made sense. In fact… it main poundingly loud sense. The kinda sense that appears to be grape-size hail stones.

It was, incidentally. A “severe lightening and hail storm” warning had gone out around the region that we were in. The region that Mike was going to meet us in. The region that we were planning on camping and climbing in.

But, we persevered. We doggedly headed up to the campground, and moved to check into the site we’d called ahead about earlier in the day.

Checking in took a rather interesting turn when the camp owner showed us his awesome antiques collection though – not a small box, but instead an entire garage full of memorabilia – everything from an analog TV remote (which was wired to the TV and mounted on your recliner) to the original newspapers celebrating the end of World War II. It was honestly breathtaking, and we spent a rather inordinate amount of time exploring around and poking through some of the more esoteric collection pieces that he had.

After almost an hour of exploring though, we got a bit restless and moved on to our campsite. The rain had settled for a bit, but we set up as quickly as we could, since we could feel the drops starting up again almost as soon as we stepped out of the cars. Thankfully all of our tents went up quick, and soon enough I had a rather cheery fire roaring away in the little fire pit in the middle of the campsite. We even pulled out some rope and strung a tarp over the fire, so we could chill out around it out of the rain.

And chill we did.

When we bought firewood from the campground, they said that they’d drop off “a bucket” at our site. When they said “A bucket” they literally meant a massive oil drum attached to a golf cart, full of firewood. Thus, we chilled out by a roaring fire, nearly hot enough to steam the rain away as soon as it landed nearby.

And because of this fire, we stayed up late into the night – Mike played guitar while Daniel and I filled the air with badly-sung lyrics, inane banter about politics, or some of the most entertaining relationship advice that I’ve ever heard.

Basically, it was the perfect night of camping with friends.


Saturday, 18AUG12


Screaming children.


Why are they screaming?

More importantly, why are the screaming in a campground, near me, when I am hung over? This is less than idea. In fact, this is non-ideal in the highest. Also, my sleeping pad is flat, and I’m on the ground. This is uncool.

The children? There was a playground next to our campsite.

The hangover? Yeah… fun night around the fire.

The sleeping pad? Same as the weekend at Rumney. Still had a hole in it.

The solution? Eggs and Coffee and Blueberries to start, and then a drive down to the nearest town to find a diner to eat a boatload of pancakes and bacon. Awww yus.

And that is exactly how our morning went.

I woke up, we ate breakfast and packed up camp, drove in and ate a second breakfast, and then headed out to find ourselves a place to kayak.

The original plan was to go climbing at Crow Hill, the reason why we were in Northern Mass in the first place, but thanks to the rain that was a rather obviously poor option. Crow Hill is awesome, but once it gets wet it tends to stay gross for a while… not really something I wanted to climb on, to be honest. But since climbing was out, kayaking was definitely in – the campground owners knew a solid place that would rent a kayak out to Daniel while Mike and I took his inflatable one (the Bogmaster 3000), and so we made a beeline over right as soon as breakfast was devoured.

Setting up took nearly no time at all, and soon enough we were on the river, starting a bit of exploring. And there was a lot to explore – the river was actually an old canal from when Leominster and Fitchburg were mill towns, and so the banks were cut with mule trails and cool old play-forts that the nearby kids had constructed from the tall trees overlooking the river.

Our first stop was to explore an amazing tree fort / rope swing setup over the river, and from there we hit a small sandbar (used by Daniel to ditch us when we were trying to run him aground), and even stopped in to explore an old railroad bridge.

The railroad bridge was actually a rather long stop-over, where we pulled the boats ashore and clambered around on the old tressles. It was rather somber, a reminder of the older lines that would run through the area, but also quite neat, especially to see the many jump-points that the areas hooligans had set up. There were at least three jump-points, but none of us had any desire to see how deep the water was underneath us… instead, we did a bit of exploring inland, where we stumbled upon a rather buccolic little New England farm before heading back to the boats to push onwards.

But the bridge was not in any way our last exploration stop – small tributaries let the Bogmaster 3000 live up to its name, and a rescue mission into the reeds at the edge of the canal led to Mike and I recovering two pool noodles. Two pool noodles that were immediately pressed into service as weaponry when we assaulted Daniels Kayak. They gave a strong account of themselves, though unfortunately one was kidnapped by Daniel and used to attack us right back.

The battle lasted for a ways down the river, but finally ended when Mike jumped overboard, with a scream of “Screw it I’m bored!” I quickly lashed our kayak to Daniels boat (much to his chagrin) and followed suit. We relaxed and let the current pull us down the river for a ways, before tying up to an overhanging branch to eat a quick lunch before heading back to the rental place.

And at the rental place… yeah. The trip had been slightly break-neck, since we needed to get Daniel’s kayak back before 6:30, and we didn’t want either of the cars to get locked inside as collateral. So Daniel was understandably tired when we arrived, and thus felt the need to stretch out a bit. Stretch out using the rental groups shed as a pull-up bar.

But unfortunately… the shed wasn’t designed to hold a grown man’s weight. Instead, it was designed to hold less. And so when Daniel pulled down… it came to him.

Yes, that’s right. Daniel single-handedly pulled the shed down on top of himself. No injuries were had, thankfully, but it took us a little while to rig up a remedy to hold the thing together before it collapsed. Again, an upside of having two Mechcanical Engineers on-site – Mike quickly set up a beam to hold the weight, and I lashed it together with some rope I’d comandeered for the purpose. A jury-rig by any means, but a rather successful one from any perspective. I don’t know how well it lasted, but Mike and I actually went as far as to make a quick force-diagram in order to make sure it’d survive at least ’till the morning…

From there, we headed back towards Boston – stopping in at the Border Cafe in Burlington for dinner, and then hitting The Dark Knight Rises at the Jordans TemperPedic Omni-theater. Yeah… it was pretty awesome, I have to admit. And definitely a great way to end a rather entertaining Saturday…