Friday, June 27, 2014

Fresh Bear Tracks at Thousand Acre Swamp, New Marlborough

Apparently we just missed a bear and one or more cubs on the trail around Thousand Acre Swamp in New Marlborough. It's so interesting to see the record left in the soft ground by the animals. It looked like a lot of activity had just occurred! (Thanks to Janice Tassinari for the photos.)

A bear track, probably the front paw.
You can see the holes left by the claws out in front of the toes.
Here the bear walked down the trail. I think that those are cub tracks to the right.
I think these are lots of squirrel or maybe chipmunk tracks.
I loved the beautifully designed suspension bridge over the water
built by the New Marlborough Land Trust in 2013..

Friday, June 20, 2014

Keystone Arch Bridges Trail, Chester

The Keystone Arches and the Western Railroad were built in the 1830s and 1840s to move freight to and from the port of Boston to Albany and then westward, keeping Boston's port competitive with New York City's. To accomplish this feat, Major George Washington Whistler designed the first railroad to climb mountains: the Berkshires. The tracks cross and recross the winding Westfield River. He used keystone arch bridges with no mortar, and built them with local stone, Chester blue granite. The bridges are artistic as well as engineering marvels.

The Keystone Arch Bridges Trail provides wonderful views of three of them. One double arch bridge is still being used today, supporting today's locomotives which are up to 35 times heavier than those of the 1840s. Seeing the stonework in an almost wilderness setting is amazing. The mostly wooded trail is about 5.5 miles round-trip, with bridge and water views. 

This double arch bridge is still being used many times a day
by freight trains and the Lake Shore Limited, a passenger train to Chicago.
One of the stones on the tallest bridge, 70 feet, is dated "1844."
Be aware of plentiful poison ivy along the trail!
The bridges in some areas are overgrown with wildflowers.
Although every stone is a different size, it all fits tightly together
without cement. 
(Photo by Marina Wilber.)
The Romans invented this style of arch. (Photo by Marina Wilber.)
To give you an idea of scale,
I am standing about 40 yards in front of the bridge.
(Photo by Marina Wilber.)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Woodason Spring Trail, Mt. Greylock

Last week we walked the Woodason Spring Trail and the Rounds Rock Trail from the Visitors' Center on Rockwell Road in Lanesborough. I love this trail in the spring when the Lady's Slippers are in bloom. There's a spot where the conditions must be just right for them because there are flowers everywhere you look.

The ferns were amazing. This year I am attempting to learn the names of as many as I can stuff into my head, which sometimes doesn't seem like very many!  Perhaps when I learn a new one an old one drops from my memory? Anyway, life goes on and I still enjoy them!

Cinnamon Fern with separate brown fertile fronds.
Some species have fronds 4 and 5, even 6, feet tall.
The Hay-scented Fern formed a low sea of green.
The Bracken Fern is tall with one stem dividing into three fronds.

We almost disappeared among the greenery!
The red eft is the land form of the Eastern Newt.
I love these bright little guys!
When the trail is moist you may see dozens of them.
Canada May Flower or Wild Lily of the Valley.
The huge ferns looked tropical and lush.
One of many Pink Lady's Slippers.
A section of the view on the Rounds Rock Trail.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Walking in New York City

The Tuesday Berkshire Hikers took MetroNorth into NYC this week on a very warm day with thunder storms threatening. We walked the High Line, the reclaimed elevated rail line in Chelsea and the Meatpacking District that is now a popular mile-long park.

We also walked along the Hudson River on the Hudson River Park that goes all the way south to Battery Park, a lovely waterside strip of land. Then we visited the 9/11 Memorial, a sobering and emotional spot. The rain held off until we were on the return train ride.

The plantings and flowers in both parks were artfully arranged and well cared for. The neighborhood around the High Line is experiencing a building boom because the park has made it extremely desirable real estate. Here in the Berkshires, we have had some local opposition to rail trails; fear that they devalue the neighborhood. I have never seen that happen, in fact, quite the opposite.

The High Line is raised several stories above street level. 
One of many construction projects we saw along the way.
A fun water feature was very popular. 
It was a great place to cool your toes on a hot day.
Street view from the High Line.
Gardens & lawn along the Hudson River Park.
A pier was repurposed to a children's park.
We walked south along the Hudson River to One World Trade Center,
America's tallest building, 
The 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site includes
two one-acre-square 30-ft waterfalls in the footprint of the Twin Towers.
The memorial design title, "Reflecting Absence", says it all.  

East Mountain to Benedict Pond, Great Barrington

Sunday we walked the Appalachian Trail from Homes Road in Sheffield, over East Mountain, down to Rte 23 and then up to Benedict Pond in Beartown State Forest. A respectable 7.5 miles.

I hiked some of this trail a few weeks ago, but what a difference! We saw many pink lady's slippers and lots of sweet-smelling pink azaleas. The leaves were fully out and the trail was mostly shaded, very helpful since it was a hot day.

Pink Lady's Slipper
A great view to the west.
The pink azalea.
I love the patterns made by the fern fronds.