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.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Trolley Line Trail in Stockbridge

For about 50 years, from the 1880s through the 1920s, public passenger transportation--trolley lines--flourished in Berkshire County. In 1901 the Berkshire Street Railway was formed, and planned and executed a line the full length of the county. Over the years the Berkshire Street Railway bought up other small lines, consolidating them into a four-state empire. But as the automobile became more available and popular, ridership declined and its last line ceased operation in 1932.

In time, the trolley tracks were pulled up and became overgrown. But many have been kept open as local walking trails such as the one along the Williams River in Housatonic and West Stockbridge. I recently came across one in Stockbridge that goes from Mohawk Lake to Glendale Road. I've traversed it several times lately and love marveling at the construction and history. As I walked along the trail in the woods, I half expected a phantom trolley car to come clanking up behind me!

As we passed Mohawk Lake, my friend Michael recounted that as a child he remembers being at this lake in winter and watching men cut ice and pack it in sawdust in the nearby ice house. This was the about 1950 and his mother still had an icebox in the kitchen that needed a big block of ice delivered to the house frequently. He lived, by the way, in the center of Stockbridge, not in the isolated countryside. Times have changed, haven't they!

Here's the cut through a rock hill.

Quite an undertaking. Seems to me like major-earth moving for its day.

I loved the ice on the rock face formed from water oozing out of the rock.

Wow!

The snow was perfect for showing track definition in this squirrel imprint.
We also saw turkey, deer, rabbit, coyote, bobcat, and maybe fisher tracks.

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