An alpine start to Thanksgiving and the holiday season

Some Thanksgiving traditions include meeting at the bar, playing flag football or even shopping. For the past 5 years my favorite tradition has been a 6 mile traverse of the Seven Sisters before sunrise on Thanksgiving morning. Getting up early isn’t fun but this hike brings together my friends and family to do an activity we all love; essentially it is a reflection of everything I feel so thankful for. What are your active holiday traditions?

The Seven Sisters is a name for the 6 mile section of the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail  in the Mount Holyoke Range State Park between Mountain Road in Hadley MA and the Notch Visitor Center in South Hadley MA. The route traverses a ridge with 7 distinct sub 1,000 foot summits which totals almost 2,000 feet of climbing. It is better known as the site of the Seven Sisters Trail Race in the spring.

5 years ago my friend J.R. suggested that we hike the Seven Sisters before 6 am on Thanksgiving morning. The first year we had 4 people; the next year it was 5, then 9 and this year we had 17 plus 3 dogs! We all met at 5 am at the Notch where we spotted cars and headed back to Mountain Road to make our 5:10 am start.

The wind was howling, the wind-chill was below 0 and it was completely dark still but that didn’t stop us. We added an extra layer, turned on our headlamps and began the first of many climbs on the hike.

I have hiked this mountain hundreds of times but doing it in the dark with 16 headlamp wearing hikers reminded me of an alpine start on Mount Rainier. 

Our group consisted of my friends from all stages of my life, my brother, my girlfriend and friends of friends. At the start almost no one knew more than 3 people in the group but as we climbed toward the first summit of the day everyone in the group got to know each other.

We reached the summit of Mount Holyoke just as the sun was starting to rise.

Even though it was cold and windy we still stopped for some hot chocolate and Atkins Farms cider donuts.

We didn’t want to stop for long since it was so cold but at least the sun had risen to a beautiful day in the pioneer valley. We packed up and continued our traverse of the Seven Sisters.

The route is beautiful ridge traverse with plenty of ascending and descending with expansive views into the valley below.

Conversations about donuts, dinosaurs, climbing gear, skiing and other wonderful topics seemed to make the miles fly by and before long we found ourselves at the summit of Bare Mountain; the last peak on the hike.

We stopped for a group photo then descended to the parking lot and went our separate ways.

A few hours later I sat down to Thanksgiving dinner feeling thankful that this tradition, and the people who make it possible, are in my life. What are your Thanksgiving traditions?

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