Contributed by John Crist, Jr. (pictured, second from right)
John has led the LGLC’s annual fall foliage hike at Cat and Thomas Mts Preserve since 2005. What follows is his commentary after leading this year’s hike on Oct. 18, 2020.
On Saturday there were literally hundreds of people on the trails. I have never seen so many cars at the trailheads or people on the mountain. If there was ever a case to be made for more open space and trails this is it.
It is pretty astonishing all that has transpired on the Cat & Thomas Mountain properties over the years. Prior to the LGLC purchase in 2003 the landscape was ravaged by recent logging. Washed out logging roads and ATV trails were tangled with brush and tree limbs. Rusting tree removal equipment could be seen at the old staging areas, and more than a few bottles and cans remained. With the LGLC’s guidance it is now an “under rated world class hiking destination” (quoted from a young hiker couple I spoke to Saturday morning on Thomas).
If memory serves next year will mark twenty years since my first unofficial LGLC hike with Lynn LaMontagne (later Lynn Schumann) on a cold fall day. We were the only ones on a freshly snow covered Cat Mountain, bush whacking up from Edgecomb Pond across the old beaver damn. It was not an easy day hike but worth the extra effort and layers so that she could see firsthand the potential this tract offered.
With progress there are growing pains. Some of the early official LGLC hikes encountered pickup trucks and guys with guns having target practice at the old gravel quarry below Thomas Mtn and ATV riders near the summit of Cat. Fast forward to Saturday and the old logging road ruts and clear-cuts are only visible if you look closely. However the heavy foot traffic is starting to take its toll on the terrain in places. I’d estimate there were at least 100 cars at the two trail heads around 2:00 Saturday. On the bright side, our small LGLC crew crossed paths with a wide variety of people of varying hiking abilities, colors, ages (even one baby) and genders. There were a lot of dogs, all but two from what I saw were leashed. Surprisingly there was very little rubbish on the trail and most people did a nice job social distancing and/or wearing masks. All came from near or far to enjoy the mountain and its amazing autumn views. Hikers are now more likely to encounter salamanders and like-minded people than machines while enjoying a day outdoors.
I freely admit that I miss having a quiet summit of Cat Mtn mostly to myself. That said I am very grateful for the commitment of the LGLC (all the way back to Lynn) to protecting this incredible place from privatization and making it accessible to all. You all do great work and the rewards are being enjoyed by many. It was really exciting to hear about the Lookout being protected earlier this year, another favorite place from my childhood. When my company’s year end matching opens up I plan to contribute to your current projects.