A Day at Mount Sugarloaf State Reservation

Into the Woods

At the observation town of Mt. Sugarloaf in South Deerfield, MA. (Photo credit: Karen Baynes)

When the heat broke recently we headed to the woods in New York for a week. If you have ever been to the Adirondack Park you know what it means to cross the blue line on the map into 6 million acres of preserved land, watching the forest thicken and the peaks climb around you.

We returned last weekend to the Pioneer Valley from our mountainous adventure in NY, with a few more mountains under my oldest son Isaac’s belt. He has now climbed six mountains over 4,000 feet, and a handful just under.  My younger boys made it up and down Chimney Mountain while in NY, a nice accomplishment for them.  The trail was just a few miles, but it was quite steep. The view from the top was very satisfying, as were the caves for scrambling and climbing.

We’d been home for only a few days and all of the boys had mountains on the brain.  I was looking for a satisfying climb I could do with the boys on my own, without needing to pack a meal, and keeping us in cell phone range. Being a birth doula, when I’m on call for a birth, one thing I seem to lack is Wow Them type activities that don’t exhaust me if I get called in – and don’t take me too far from where I need to go whenever it is time. There are times I’d be pretty happy to go to Look Park everyday, but sometimes we need a bit more.. so we took a small climb up Mt. Sugarloaf in South Deerfield, MA.

Dusty south side trail up the mountain. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

When we arrived at Mt. Sugarloaf we took the south side trail up, which I have to say is a fairly steep ascent. The dry weather made the trails is dusty to the point of being slippery. My four year old needed several hand-ups but managed it fine. Anyone younger may be in need of a hiking back-pack because it is hard to imagine a larger or heartier four year old than Theo. He is all Viking, I assure you.

Steep as it was, it took us only 30 minutes to get to the top. For a hill with an elevation of 652 ft, it has some kind of view. You can see farmland for miles, and the beautiful wide Connecticut River bending around Deerfield and Sunderland.

After our snack and climb up the observation tower, we opted to descend on the long driveway that climbs Mt. Sugarloaf on the north side. I was somewhat concerned that Theo would not be able to go slow enough on the steep descent, beating us to the parking lot by way of too many somersaults. But the nice wide drive way made for an easy climb down. The boys kicked acorns down the hill, ran to the side at the slightest sound of a car, and were suitably impressed by joggers, power walkers and grandmothers with strollers taking that route up the mountain. – We did see a longer, possibly somewhat steeper part of the north side trail.  When we return to Mt. Sugarloaf, we will try that out.

As soon as we reached the trail-head where we had begun, Henry and Theo asked to do it again – and if I had packed a meal, I might have let them.


Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

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