Date completed: 11/16/2021
Home base: Franklin Park, NJ
Miles: I hiked the entire trail southbound from Nov. 1- Nov. 11.
Describe the NET: If you were to pull trail together through a cross-stitch of New England Americana, this is the trail system you would get. Gentle rolling junior mountains are enough to provide gorgeous views for as wide as you can see, but not elevated enough to make the thought of climbing the next one unbearable.
Advice for NET Hikers: Take water into the Holyoke range. Stop for the hotdog (#1) at Guido’s. Plan ahead so you don’t get stranded road walking deep into the night. Stop for ice cream. Road walk into the towns and see America.
I had only read that the NET was a hidden gem, but sometimes you have to see for yourself. I tend to find long hikes more meaningful to me. It takes more than a few days to get over the logistics, the equipment, the thrill of being on trail for 10-15 hours a day, to transform and transition into one purpose, to experience 100% joy through hiking, surviving, smiling, and repeating.
For the entire trip, I felt safe on trail, through towns, road crossings, during the day and night and being surrounded by total isolation. Hiking season had ended and I think I counted 5 on-trail conversations- of those, a maintenance worker trying to find a fallen tree, a local who offered me a shower and a bed, and a couple who hiked 100 miles last year who offered me a ride anywhere. I declined, I was chasing daylight, a cold snap, and a storm front arriving on Friday. Not finishing was never an option. I spent 10 of the 11 nights hiking into the night. I stayed in 2 hotels (Hadley, MA & Plainville, CT) and never took a zero day. My calves continue to pay for that!
The continuous ledge and ridge walks, especially through CT were my favorite parts, the river walk-arounds and overflowing vernal pools never excited me, nor did the lack of water through the Holyokes. I will say that Guido’s does have a delicious hot dog and the 90/Mass Turnpike is creepy at dusk! This is a special trail system and I believe a tremendous opportunity for exposure and visibility to the right to farm communities.