Thursday, August 29, 2013

Perry's Peak, Richmond

Tuesday, we walked south from Rte 20 in Hancock over Perry's Peak and down to the cemetery on Rte 41 in Richmond. It was foggy in the morning, so no views at the top. Later the fog burned off, and at a large field we enjoyed a view of Lenox Mountain. The trail is not easy to follow in places and has some damage from 4-wheelers which should not even be using the trail. It's less than four miles, so we took our time and enjoyed the ambience.

Be sure to check out the photos below of a tree-within-a-tree!

The morning was foggy and the trail lush with ferns.
The hobblebushes had black & bright red berries.
Luckily, the fog lifted and we were rewarded with beautiful views
of Lenox Mountain. Bartlett's Orchard is at the center left. You can just barely
see the Lenox Mountain fire tower at the highest point of the ridge.
Here, you can see, with me for size reference, that this locust is huge.
And the limb coming out of it is a birch tree trunk that has been
completely surrounded by the locust trunk. See the close up below
to confirm that the birch is actually enclosed. 
both trees are thriving! 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Williams River Rail Trail, West Stockbridge & Housatonic

Last week we walked on the Williams River unimproved rail trail starting at the cemetery on Van Deusenville Road in Housatonic. It's a lovely trail about 3.5 miles north to the junction of Pixley Hill Road and Route 41 in West Stockbridge,  so a little less than 7 miles roundtrip. I hope some day more of this old trolley line will be repurposed for walking. Rail trails are an asset to their community, offering health benefits and enjoyment to both residents and visitors.

The trail is beautifully shaded, flat and wide. A nice easy walk!
Here the river is narrow and swift-flowing—our scenic lunch spot.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sweet Fern at Alford Springs, Alford

Sweet Fern along the trail at Alford Springs, Alford.
I love the smell of Sweet Fern! Whenever I find it, I lightly rub my hands together with some leaves in between to release a delightful scent of new-mown hay. I remember when I was a child how excited my father would be as he shared with me the wonderful aroma of this plant.

Although the distinctive leaf somewhat resemble a fern, it actually is not a fern, but a low shrub that sometimes forms a ground cover as in the photo above. Native Americans used Sweet Fern tea for various illnesses. Today, some rub the leaves on their neck and ears to keep the bugs away and use a strong tea for skin rashes including poison ivy. One year, my sister and I dried some and used it to make sachets for Christmas presents.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Bartholomew's Cobble, Sheffield, Mass

I walked the beautiful trails at Bartholomew's Cobble last week. Bartholomew's Cobble is a 329-acre Trustees of Reservations property. It is known for its biological diversity with a wide array of birds, animals and plants notably ferns. I enjoyed the trails along the Housatonic River and past rocky outcroppings, in pastures, and in the woods leading up to the large mowed field that is Hurlburt's Hill. From there are amazing 180-degree views of the Berkshires and the Housatonic Valley.

I usually go there in spring for the spring ephemeral flowers, but found late summer very different. I met a couple from the Boston area who said that for years they have been coming every season and find each visit remarkable in it's own way. What a great idea! I think I'll do that from now on.

The trails are wide and clear, but do not venture off the path because of the abundance of poison ivy.

The view from Hurlburt's Hill. I sat here on the bench and ate my lunch
 while watching a red-tailed hawk flying overhead.
Mt. Everett from Hurlburt's Hill. The Appalachian Trail goes along the top of the ridge.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Alford Springs Reserve, Alford, Mass.

Alford Springs Reserve is an 874-acre Berkshire Natural Resources Council property in Alford bordering on New York state. The nicely-mowed trail is an elongated loop with a connector trail through the middle. The outer loop is about 3.75 miles including a half-mile of dirt road. It's a pleasant walk up and down through the woods. I like to walk it as a figure eight in order to do all the trails and make it a longer hike.

The wide wood road is well-maintained.
In several places, a cut in the trees provides a nice view of Alford agricultural land.
Love those blackberries!
Yesterday, the blackberries provided a nice snack! I should have brought a container to take some home with me. I like them with sour cream or sweetened yogurt. Yum!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sometimes, it's the little things!

Often when I'm hiking, it's the little things by my feet that give me a kick (so to speak!). Here are a few I found recently.

The green color of this caterpillar (larva) of a Sphinx moth was almost neon!
It would have been hard to miss this very bright Sphinx moth caterpillar crawling along a rock on the trail. Usually it would be feeding on green leaves so its color does make sense for camouflage. Probably it fell from the trees above the trail. 

Ever been in the woods in the early spring and heard what sounds like ducks quacking?
They were wood frogs.
In early spring, I've heard the distinctive hoarse croaks of wood frogs coming from vernal pools as I walked in the woods. The male calls to attract the female. After breeding the female lays her eggs in the pool; the eggs become tadpoles, and in about 2 months they become small frogs. Most of the life of this frog is lived out of the water. I saw the one in the photo above a week ago. Later in the day, we saw a less fortunate wood frog being eaten by a garter snake. Such is the way of nature. For more interesting facts about the wood frog, click here

So is this a centipede or a millipede?
We knew it had to be one or the other, but what's the difference? So I looked it up and found out that centipedes have one set of legs per segment and millipedes have two. This, then, is a millipede. What species it is I don't know, but I now know that it's a millipede!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Beautiful views on Alander Mountain!

View to the north on summit.
Yesterday, the Tuesday Berkshire Hikers climbed Alander Mountain from the Mount Washington State Forest Headquarters on East Street in Mount Washington. A less than two-hour climb on the Alander Mountain Trail brought us past the Alander cabin and up to the summit for these great views. The summit is a long ridge with views to the north, east and south. As you continue south on the South Taconic Trail, you get expansive views to the west of Columbia County (NY) farmland with the Catskills in the distance. We ate lunch while enjoying this breathtaking landscape!

Here we are with a view to the south-west behind us.
The Catskills are in the background to the far right.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Appalachian Trail—Sages Ravine to Mt. Everett

I led an AMC hike yesterday on the Appalachian Trail through Sages Ravine and over Mt. Everett in Mt. Washington, Massachusetts. The weather, the views and the company made for a great trip!

The clouds were stunningly dramatic as they changed throughout the day. On the last part of the hike, from the top of Mt. Everett to our cars at Guilder Pond, we were caught by the rain but it was light enough that I didn't even put on my rain jacket. I love a summer shower!

The views of Twin Lakes, Salisbury, Connecticut, from the cliffs just south
of Mt. Race where we had lunch.
If you look below the center cloud, you will see that it is dumping some rain
far to the north of where we were.
From Mt Race, looking toward Mt. Everett, here the dark cloud was moving closer!
Here at the top of Mt. Everett the rain cloud was almost overhead
and we heard distant thunder. 
We hurried to take shelter in the lean-to just below the summit of Mt. Everett
and watched the rain approach. A very light rain
(and no more thunder) made a refreshing end to the hike!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Tolland State Forest in Otis, Sandisfield, Tolland and Blandford

This week, I explored some trails in the Tolland State Forest which spreads out over four Massachusetts towns: Otis, Sandisfield, Tolland and Blandford. I parked at the large pull-out parking area on Rte 8 in Sandisfield at Alan Road. I walked across the bridge and took the multi-use trail left along the Farmington River. It's a mostly flat, wide wooded path next to the river. It's a great walk in the woods if you don't mind that you occasionally hear the traffic on Rte 8, although you don't see it.

The easy path paralleling the Farmington River continues about a mile-and-a-half
until you come to private land or turn right up the mountain. 
Several small meadows along the way remind you of the area's farming history.
Then the trail turns right and climbs a steep hill to New State Forest Road. At the road I turned right and then right again at the intersection and walked past the entrance to the water treatment plant. Then I made a left on the Gilmore Trail which is a loop trail. It goes from the park, beach & campground entrance, along Otis Reservoir and through the woods to complete a wide loop (approx. 2.75 miles). Or you can opt for a shorter loop with an interesting Gilmore Trail Interpretive Guide. I returned to my car on Alan Road (dirt). About 6 miles total. The park trail map shows many more trails.

It was a nice walk, but nothing too spectacular. In some sections, I was swarmed by little midge-type bugs. Annoying!

Otis Reservoir is the 3rd largest lake in Massachusetts and heavily-used
for boating, fishing and recreation.
The park has beautiful lake-side campsites and a nice beach.