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!