Sunday, October 30, 2016

Jug End Reservation on a Late Fall Day

It's the day before Halloween and rain was predicted for early afternoon. I took a walk in the morning at the Jug End Reservation in Egremont. About a week and a half ago was peak foliage, a little later in the month than usual. But with the temperature in the high fifties and the leaves yellow, gold and burnt orange, today was a beautiful day for a hike!

Jug End is only about five minutes from my house so I'm very familiar with it. I love to see the changes through the seasons and as the years go on. In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the property was a rustic year-round resort with skiing, golf, horseback riding, dancing, tennis and other activities. See photos and history here. Not much is left of the resort today except some foundations and old tumbled-down cabins in the woods, and the memories of past guests.

The loop trail is beautiful with woods and meadows and streams. I saw a bright Blue Jay and heard several woodpeckers. 

Many of the leaves are down, making for a noisy rustle as you walk.

Nice to be able to see the surrounding mountains since the leaves are down.

A large Oak near the trail had just been uprooted and fallen down.

Fluffy seeds on this vine. I should know the name of it,
but it escapes me at the moment.

Beautiful leaves still attached on this particular Maple.

The meadows are mowed every few years to keep an open habitat.
One of the meadows is growing up
with invasive Bittersweet.
Maybe it wall be mowed next summer.

The goldenrod has gone to seed.

Only a few ferns stay green all winter. This Evergreen Woodfern is one.

The Christmas Fern is another species that stays green through the winter

Here is the brook on the Upper Loop Trail.
Not much water today!
Princess Pine or Tree Clubmoss.
The cabin is long gone, but this beautiful fireplace
and chimney remains.

Another tumbled-down cabin, now an artifact on the Upper Loop.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Pitcher Brook at Noble View, Russell

Noble View Outdoor Center, an Appalachian Mountain Club property in Russell, Mass., is a gem! I have been there many times for hiking, meetings, wilderness first aid weekends and workshops. 

But on a hot summer day, my favorite place to cool off after a long walk on the beautiful trails there, is at Pitcher Brook. There are two falls with pools below--spectacular bowls with water pouring into them. Take your pick! 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

High Falls in Philmont/Claverack, NY

I visited High Falls last week and although the water flow was low it was still an impressive sight. The falls are near the village of Philmont and just below an old dam built in 1845 that at one time provided power for 17 mills in the area. It was my first visit and I want to come back when the water flow is gushing!

It's a property of the Columbia Land Trust and their brochure gives the interesting cultural history of the area and a trail map for several miles of trails. I explored them all, viewing the falls first from the highpoint, then walking down to the base of the falls where you see about two-thirds of the vertical drop. It's still spectacular!

I ate lunch while watching and listening to the falls. Some young people came by and asked if I knew where the spot was where people jump off the falls into the pool below. I said, "Are you crazy! That's so dangerous!" Actually, I don't think I phased them a bit. Oh, well.

A bench made this high view through the trees a great spot to meditate.
Here's the view from my lunch spot at the base of the falls. A couple of girls were swimming on the left.

Then a group of millenials stopped by while checking their smartphones. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Bear Mountain with Laurel!

Bear Mountain is always a wonderful hike but especially spectacular when the mountain laurel is in bloom. Some years there are more flowers than others and once in a while there are almost no blossoms. This year the bushes had a particularly abundant amount of flowers. Glorius! My hike was on June 11, and I enjoyed the laurel on various trails around the Berkshires until the end of the month.

The laurel was in blossom everywhere.

Some bushes had pink flowers and some had white flowers.
Happy hikers enjoyed the lovely blooms!

A collapsing stone tower (circa 1885)  near the peak
offers great views and is an impressive lunch spot!
The ridge is characterized by stunted red pine and scrub oak on the rock ledge.
Descending Race Mtn to the south.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

A Winter Walk on the AT in Dalton

A week ago I walked with an AMC hiking group on the Appalachian Trail through Washington and Dalton. It was a beautiful day with only a few inches of snow in some sections and ice here and there on the trail.  With the shallow snow cover, what stood out to me were the club mosses. They were bright green in the background of white snow. We examined them more closely than I had ever done before and I researched them when I got home.

What I found is that club moss as a classification is being debated by biologists. They are not actually mosses because club mosses have a vascular system whereas mosses absorb water and nutrients directly from the environment without a vascular system.  Club mosses are spore producing like ferns but are not a fern. Closely related, they are called a "fern ally." So it's complicated!

From Mary Holland's book Naturally Curious, I learned that coal is made up of petrified giant club mosses (some were over 100-feet tall) that grew as a dominant species hundreds of millions of years ago. In the 1800s, powder made from their spores was used as a baby powder and a dusting powder for wounds. The powder was also used medicinally and even ignited for flash photography and stage lighting!

Club mosses today are only about 6-10 inches tall and are protected in many states because they are slow to reproduce and were decimated by being harvested extensively for Christmas decorations. When I was growing up in Otis, in November some of my classmates made some extra money by pulling up "princess pine" by the sack-full to sell to florists.

We saw at least three types of club mosses.
Using Mary Holland's book, I think I've identified them correctly.
This is a bristly clubmoss, a single spike from a running stem.

This is the ground cedar or fan club moss

This is the princess pine or tree club moss.

The trail is mostly flat with some ups & downs to make it interesting.

Evidence of lots of work by a pileated woodpecker searching for bugs in the wood.

On the way up to Warner Hill, last year's ferns were matted down
but I remembered how green this section had been last summer.

Warner Hill with a view north to Mt. Greylock.

The view south from Warner Hill.

Beautifully sunny open woods!

Some of the smaller beech trees were still holding their leaves.
As soon as the buds for this year's leaves start to swell, they will drop.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Railroad Lines Not Trolleys--Correction!

I have had an interesting email correspondence with Bernie Drew, a Great Barrington historian, newspaper editor and columnist, and author of many books on the history of our area. He found my blog while doing some research online. His email:
Hello, Bess Dillman. I'm practically a neighbor. I live in Great Barrington. I'm researching a section of East Mountain State Forest in Great Barrington, and in particular a Berkshire Street Railway transmission line (not a rail line, a wire line) that brought electricity from Pittsfield over the mountains to a substation in Sheffield. I've been Googling "Berkshire Street Railway" in various combinations and your recent blog came up. 
I've hiked the section of old Williams River roadbed you describe, but it is not Berkshire Street Railway. It was an actual rail line that went from VanDeusenville to West Stockbridge. Nor is the roadway you describe near Mohawk Lake a Berkshire Street Railway line. 
It was the planned Lee & Hudson Railroad, that was to provide an alternative to the high rates of the New York, New Haven & Hartford line that went from VanDeusenville to Stockbridge and Lee and Pittsfield. The L&H was never finished, but there's the segment you found, and another in West Stockbridge. 
My wife, Donna, and I hiked the L&H segment near Mohawk Lake years ago, and yes, the cuts through the ledge are impressive. The name Mohawk Lake, as you may know, comes from the 18th century when Mohawks encamped there so their children could attend the Mission School with the Mohicans in Stockbridge. 
Bernie Drew
The difference between trolleys and railway lines is significant. Railways use heavy locomotives, first powered by steam and then diesel, to transport many freight and passenger cars. Trolleys were usually one car, first drawn by horses and but soon switched to electric power. They carried passengers and some light freight. Trolley rails often ran along roads; railways needed extensive track construction.

There were many miles of trolley lines in the Berkshires but they were not the trails that I have blogged about. As Bernie explains further:
Berkshire Street Railway mostly carried passengers; NY,NH&H carried freight and passengers. Berkshire Street Railway was electric; NY,NH&H was steam. Berkshire Street Railway in 1910 was acquired by New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. Trolley service continued until 1930, when the company switched to buses.  
The Housatonic Railroad, operated by NY,NH&H from Van Deusenville to West Stockbridge/State Line, connected with the east-west railroad from Pittsfield, going to Albany. This is the old line you picked up in Houstonic or Williamsville. We've cross country skied parts of it. (This is now the trail in Housatonic along the Williams River.) 
The Lee & Hudson Railroad would have come from Lee and made the same connection in West Stockbridge to the east-west railroad—but it was never completed. Organizers ran out of money. It was meant primarily to carry freight for the paper mills, machine shops and the quarry. (This is now the trail next to Mohawk Lake.)
It's also very interesting to learn where the name Mohawk Lake came from.

Thank you Bernie Drew!

An electric-powered trolley car.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Mt. Greylock in January With No Snow!

Sunday I hiked up Mt. Greylock with a few friends. We parked on Hopper Road in Williamstown and started up the Haley Farm Trail promptly at 9:30. We immediately met three weekend backpackers who advised us to put on our Microspikes which we did. We wore the Microspikes all day and appreciated them most on the way down the Hopper Trail which was covered in ice.

It was hard to believe that even on the top of Mt. Greylock, the highest mountain in Massachusetts at 3,491 feet, the snow was just a dusting. This is so different from last year which was the coldest and snowiest winter in many years. Our main problem was trying not to get uncomfortably hot from the exertion of the uphill climb! 

We hiked a little over 10 miles with temps in the 40s. Not bad for January 31st!

The view from Stony Ledge.

How fun is that to be hiking in the snow in a tank top!

It's amazing how much heat the body generates while climbing.

It's always a great view from the top.

It was dark and gray at the tower but it is Greylock after all. 

I loved the bright open woods with views
not obscured by leaves, as we made our way down the Hopper Trail.

This section of the Money Brook Trail was new to me. Sweet!

After all the grayness at the top, these colors were almost dazzling.

The sun came out as we returned to our cars. It actually felt like April.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Pleasant Valley in Winter

Enjoying the view from Lenox Mountain, Richmond.

Yesterday, I co-led a hike with Becky Cushing, Berkshire Sanctuaries Director, at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox. We walked up the Trail of the Ledges to the top of Lenox Mountain and returned on the Overbrook Trail. The temperature was in the mid-twenties with some wind here and there, but we were comfortable. We had hoped to use snowshoes, but alas, not enough snow. 

We saw lots of animal tracks including those of red fox, deer, coyote, bobcat, fisher, mice and squirrel. As Becky was pointing out some tracks, we noticed some yellow snow next to them at the trail's edge. The animal was marking its territory. One way to tell the difference between coyote and red fox is to smell the urine. This we did!

The consensus was that it smelled skunky, so that meant they were red fox tracks. Some of us, including me, didn't smell it. I'm not sure if that was because my nose was running or that I'm someone who just doesn't distinguish that odor. I guess it's a good thing I'm not a red fox!

As we started, a bridge cross a stream gave us a good view of animal tracks.
The water was moving swiftly but froze as it splashed up on this branch.
Becky shows us fisher tracks.
The Trail of the Ledges is challenging with steep sections.
Ice seeping out of the rocks formed icicles and ice sheets along parts of the trail.
Becky picked up some snow with yellow urine
and we sniffed it to help identify the red fox tracks. Fun!
A great way to spend a Saturday morning.