Sunday, December 28, 2014

Campbell Falls, New Marlborough

Yesterday, the falls were glorious; lots of water coming down the rocks. Although it's almost January, the temperature was in the high forties and almost no ice was present. Campbell Falls State Park is in Norfolk, Connecticut, but the actual falls are in Massachusetts. The park is a cooperative effort of the two states. The parking area is on Spaulding Road off Conn. Rte 272 which is called Norfolk Road in Mass. A sweet trail, about a half mile, leads you through tall trees, ferns and blow-downs covered with moss. I also like to walk the rarely-traveled dirt roads, like Campbell Falls Road and Canaan Valley Road into Connecticut, through woods and farm land and by the river.

The falls are almost 100 feet tall. The view at the bottom is wonderful, but there is also another vantage point. If you go back up to the dirt road, Campbell Falls Road, make a left and continue just over the stone bridge to a trail on the left, you can go to a slanting flat rock at the top of the falls. Here you can look to the left where the river goes under an old and beautifully-constructed stone bridge, courses by you and, to the right, disappears over the rock edge with a roar. Very dramatic!

Campbell Falls on the Whiting River.
Ginger Creek comes in from the south-east
to join Whiting River just below the falls
Someone had built an elaborate 5-foot tall cairn on the side of the creek.
At the top of the falls is the old stone bridge.
The water cascades noisily over the rocks.
Two types of lichen and some moss on a birch log. I love the colors!
Some soft green foliose (leafy) lichen.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Yokun Ridge, Lenox

Tuesday, although there was no snow on the trees and not much left on the ground in Great Barrington, by the time I got to Olivia's Overlook in Lenox, there were a few inches of snow on the ground. We hiked the Brother's Trail, Old Baldhead Road and the Ridge Trail.

It was spectacular how in some sections the snow clinging to the branches was almost four inches deep, and in other sections the branches were bare. In one spot, I looked to the right and the trees had no snow, and on the left they were covered with a thick layer of snow! A great hike--you never knew what would be around the next bend!

The snow sticking to the branches was magical!
A curtain of icicles hung from a log spanning the brook.
Monk's Pond was mostly frozen.
I loved the monochromatic scenery.
This pine tree was heavily laden with snow
although only a few inches were on the ground.

McLennon Reservation, Tyringham

November 25, we hiked the loop at McLennon Reservation in Tyringham, a Trustees of Reservations property. We parked on Fenn Road just off Main Road because the dirt road up to the trail, a half-mile, is better walked than driven. The sky was gray but the air was warm and perfect for hiking. 

We were in for a couple of surprises. Camp Brook, which drains Hale Swamp, was loaded with water from all the rain the last week. And, when we got up to Hale Swamp, we were delighted to see that beavers had been busy building a dam, upgrading their lodge and preparing for winter. The last time we had been here, in the spring, there was no sign of beaver, just a small creek winding through a meadow. Now the dam was about five feet high and the swamp was covered with water. Easy to see that beavers have a huge effect on their surroundings!
(Photos by Janice Tassinari.)

Fenn Road is an easy walk through the forest.
Camp Brook had wonderful falling water
visible as you walk along the trail up to the swamp.
The large swamp was full of water behind the new dam.

In the course of a few months, the beavers built this 5-foot high dam.
In the background you can see the pile of sticks and mud that is their lodge.
We also saw the ends of branches sticking up around it.
The beavers planted them in the muddy bottom for winter food;
they eat the tender bark on the twigs and branches.
A Winter Berry bush was very festive with its bright berries
in the mostly subdued surroundings.
I'm always amazed by this huge maple, about 15 feet around.
It's probably been used as a boundary marker for hundreds of years.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Project Native, Housatonic

View from Rte 41, North Plain Road.
Last week, we walked the trails at Project Native, a 54-acre non-profit native plant nursery and wildlife sanctuary founded in 2000. The trails take you through fields and woods; beside wildflowers and an area for white oak regeneration. Although the nursery and shop are closed for the season, the trails are open every day, dawn to dusk. Dogs are not allowed because it is a certified wildlife habitat.

I love the trails. They are wide and mostly flat, easy walking and lots of variety, also some wonderful handmade wooden benches and a picnic table along the way. What a wonderful place to take kids, especially when the butterfly house is open! A snowshoe walk would be fun here. And, I will definitely be back in the spring and summer.

What a wonderful place to sit and contemplate (in warmer weather)!
A view toward the 22-acre field which is filled with wildflowers most of the season.
Lots of milkweed, critical monarch habitat, in the fields and along the paths.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Appalachian Trail From Pittsfield Rd., South to Rte 20, Lee

Saturday, I hiked with three friends on the Appalachian Trail. As I drove the half-hour to the trail head, I saw snow on the hilltops in Lee. Then, at the Jacob's Ladder parking area, a layer of snow covered the ground from flurries that night. What a surprise! No snow in Egremont, Great Barrington or Stockbridge. Apparently just that small change in elevation made the difference. My first snow of the season--always fun!

A young bear walked across the trail recently, probably that morning.
We could clearly see his or her tracks on the board pathway.
On the right side of the photo you can see the claw imprints out beyond the toes.
Two beaver lodges in this beaver pond! About one-third from the right
 on the front lodge, you can see a curved path where the beavers climbed up
out of the water to put more branches on the top
Here this large birch tree is almost ready to fall. Busy beavers!
The inch to two inches of snow was melting
with the temps in the 40s.
Amazingly clear tracks of a ruffed grouse, or partridge, walking down this log.
I had a great day!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mahanna Cobble & Bousquet, Pittsfield

The trail along Yokun Ridge has been a favorite of mine for many years, even before the bench honoring George Wislocki, founder of the Berkshire Natural Resources Council, was placed at Mahanna Cobble in 2010. Last Tuesday the sky was a little gray, but the views were still wonderful. Thank you, George, for preserving our Berkshire ridges and many awesome natural sites!

View from Yokun Seat toward Onota Lake.
The large stone bench honors George Wislocki,
founder of Berkshire Natural Resources Council
and its Executive Director for many years.
The southerly view from George's bench at Mahanna Cobble.
View from the top of Bousquet looking toward Pittsfield and Mt. Greylock.
The friendly sheep and goats are helping to mow the ski slopes at Bousquet.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Norwattuck Rail Trail, Northampton & Hadley

Last week after I had an appointment in Northampton, I decided to take a walk on the Norwattuck Rail Trail. It's an 11-mile paved path from Northampton, through Hadley to Amherst and Belchertown. The original railroad was built in 1887 to link Northampton and Boston. Passenger service was discontinued in 1937 and freight service in 1979.

I parked in Northampton near the bridge, then walked over the Connecticut River, past fertile agricultural land, and made a left on West Street in Hadley. At the end of the street, I continued on up to the top of a berm and, voila! There is the river again! It had been completely hidden by the berm. Then I made a left along the river and walk to another section of berm back to the rail trail, and then back across the bridge.

It's a little over 4 miles with varied scenery. The long bridge crosses the river and Elwell Island; the undeveloped farm land which nearby, though not visible on my walk, has sprouted many large shopping centers and blacktopped parking lots; the river views are unpopulated and peaceful; and the sky is huge. Since I don't bike, I have not been on the rest of the trail, however it is well used. I love this little walk and try to make time for it whenever I am in Northampton.

The bridge over the Connecticut parallels the Coolidge Bridge on Rte 9.
Various crops and nursery stock are grown on the flat fertile land.
West Street, Hadley, is wide and lined with large oaks and maples.
It reminds me of its long agricultural history.
Some houses along the street are still farms.
At the end of West Street, I climbed up a wide berm to be able to see the river.
No buildings or development are visible.
Looking south across the fields to the Holyoke Range.
I love this sky and landscape!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Upper Spectacle Pond, Sandisfield & Otis

Half of Upper Spectacle Pond is in Sandisfield, half is in Otis and the whole lake is in Otis State Forest. I walked there several times in the last few weeks. The old and unmaintained state forest roads are wonderful for walking. It's mostly flat terrain, allowing me to observe the environment, since I don't have to be so focused on my feet. And it's easy to daydream while walking along. 

We found the remains of an old saw mill below the outlet dam. I had never seen them before and emailed my questions to Tom Ragusa, an authority on the history of the area, especially on the Knox Trail which went through here. He said it was called the Webb Saw Mill and was active in the 1800s. The rock foundations and structures seemed extensive to me and I wondered what it was like here 200 years ago when the mill was operating. Who was walking along these same roads and paths? It certainly must have been different from the quiet forest it is now! 

Although some of the roads are passable by car, we saw none that day.
Web Saw Mill foundations.
The mill appears to have had several levels.
How did this maple tree grow on top of the old walls?!
The next week, a light rain speckled the water
 and the colored leaves were duller and grayer.
This looks like a comfy hiding place inside this tree trunk.
Wonder if anyone lives there. I did not put my hand inside to investigate!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Greenport Conservation Area, Greenport, New York

The Greenport Conservation Area is 650 acres of former farmland along the Hudson River with amazing views of the river and the Catskill Mountains. There are 5 miles of wide paths through fields and woods. North of this property is more adjacent public lands with a 2-mile trail to Harrier Hill where the views are panoramic.

The land is so different from the Berkshires even though it's only a half hour away. The mountains are larger, the river is larger, the fields are larger, the sky is larger and the views are longer. It's expansive while the Berkshires are intimate. I love both! It's good to get out and notice the difference and appreciate each. 

This gazebo is all-accessible and has wonderful views.
The Hudson River and the Catskills beyond are spectacular. 
This is a monumental old white oak
among mostly young trees.
Although evergreen trees have needles all year, in the fall the lower needles
 turn yellow and fall off, making a golden carpet under the trees.
A remaining silo at Harrier Hill is a reminder that this property was farmland.
The seating, some even covered here at Harrier Hill,
provides comfortable spots to enjoy the view.
Milkweed seeds are food for the birds and the plants
are habitat for Monarch butterflies.
I'll have to come back in the summer to see the butterflies!
Many of the paths are wide and some are all-accessible.