Monday, December 31, 2018

Keystone Arches Trail, Chester, with Cool Ice Formations!

On December 11, the Berkshire Hikers walked along the Keystone Arches Trail in Chester, and got a tour through the Chester Railway Station and Museum with Dave Pierce. He is extremely knowledgeable and was instrumental in saving the station and putting together the museum. The building of the railroad track up a mountain, finished in 1840, had never been done before.

The West Branch of the Westfield River gorge was the easiest way up and over the mountain. The keystone arch bridges that span the river as it tumbles down through an often deep gorge are magnificent. Some of the bridges are still in use although the weight of a locomotive is now about 40 times heavier than when the bridges were built. You can see more information on the design, building, etc., on the websites linked above.

We also got a tour through the old caboose that is available to rent for overnight stays. Railroad buffs and kids, especially, love spending the night there and hearing the trains go by, still about 24 a day.

I always love the trail and seeing the tall bridges but this hike we saw something I had never seen before–ice circles. I had to do a bit of research to find out about them and still do not completely understand how they form. While walking over the first abandoned bridge, we looked down to the river below and saw a group of ice circles bobbing around. The circles were about a foot to a foot-and-a-half across with an edge of snowy-looking ice around the borders. They were moving slightly but not proceeding downstream.

View from overhead as we crossed the bridge. 
Well, that was interesting but we kept on walking to the next bridge. We ate our lunch on top of it while enjoying the warm sunshine. Then some of us walked down the 90 feet or so to the river. Underneath the bridge was a large circle of ice similar to the smaller ones except in size. This ice circle was about 10-15 ft. across and revolving lazily.

How amazing! It was revolving but not moving downstream at all!

In this closer photo, you see the buildup on the edges
and that it was very close to a perfect circle.
 So what caused the spinning ice circles that we saw in the river? Apparently they are quite rare.

Eddies have something to do with it but, it seems, melting ice can create it’s own “eddies" from the changes in temperature and density of the water as it melts off the ice and sinks into the water below causing the ice to spin. These spinning circles can actually form in lakes where presumably there is no current.

Temperature of the water and air affects the formation and melting of the ice. Also as a scientist friend told me: Water at the middle of an eddy has less energy than water at the edges, so it freezes sooner. 

Then there is the frazil ice that builds up on the edges. We saw that on both the large and small circles. Frazil ice are ice crystals that form in moving river water that is slightly below freezing temperature, supercooled. However, I'm not clear as to why they build up on top of the edges of the circles.

I'm not sure that the explanations are complete, but here are a couple of websites that have photos and information on these ice circles:

And here are more photos of the hike. Enjoy! (Some photos for this blog are from friends Janice Tassinari and Michael Wilcox.)

One side of the double-arch bridge. All the bridges
were made without mortar of any kind.
Believe it or not, those are heads of people way up there, looking down from the top of the bridge!
Lots of icicles hang from the inside of the arch.

The trail follows a deep cut into the rocks made without dynamite,
only black powder and human powered drills.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Bash Bish Falls on Christmas Eve 2018

A visit to Bash Bish Falls was a wonderful way to destress from holiday memories. Only a few cars were in the large parking lot and I passed a couple of friendly families with dogs on the trail. The river was gushing and the falls were loud and spectacular. A dusting of snow enhanced the scenery.

I should come here more often!

The view on the drive in is long and dramatic. 

View from the top of the stairs.

View from close up.
I was getting showered with spray!

On the way home I was treated to an early sunset because of the dark clouds above.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

A Snowy Shaker Mountain, Hancock, MA

Tuesday I hiked with the Berkshire Hikers on Shaker Mountain across from Hancock Shaker Village. I have been there many times but never in snow which made for beautiful scenery. The well-crafted stone walls were mostly covered by snow, but the reservoir, which was still open water, and the trails looked entirely different in the new snow. 

Luckily the temperature was in the 30s providing for comfortable hiking. The only time my fingers got cold was when we stopped for lunch and I took off my gloves. But they warmed up soon after we started walking again.

It's a 6.5-mile moderate hike, much of it on woods roads. There was water on sections of the trail because of the wet fall we've had. 

Shaker Reservoir on the north side of Rte 20.

Ellen told us about the history of the reservoir. First built in 1818
and enlarged in 1894, the reservoir supplied water for the village,
the washing rooms, the stables and the livestock,
and power for the machinery. The water moves
through an underground aqueduct to the village,
and is still in use today. 

The snow on the hemlocks was beautiful!

By the time we climbed up to the Holy Mount, which was the site
 for the Mount Lebanon Shaker Village's Sacred Lot,
we were in the clouds!

The Berkshire Hikers at the Shaker Mountain Mount Sinai Holy Ground. 

Monday, September 3, 2018

Storm King Art Center

The 500-acre Storm King Art Center in Cornwall, New York, is a leading sculpture park for large outdoor installations. There are current exhibitions and a permanent collection scattered throughout the grounds. I enjoyed my visit in August on a beautiful day that wasn't overly hot, thankfully.

When I come back, I'd love to spend the day walking on the trails and exploring the sculptures both closeup and from a distance. I'll avoid hot summer days though, because there is little shade. But the open landscape makes for wonderful views. The center is closed in the winter which is too bad; I thought it would be a great place for cross-country skiing or showshoeing!

It's amazing to see such huge sculptures just sitting in a field!  This one is by Alexander Calder.

This one is made of wood and metal and must be over 15 ft. tall.

You can see how this structure towers above us. It's by Mark di Suvero.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Thomas & Palmer, Great Barrington

I explored a new BNRC property yesterday, Thomas & Palmer, in Great Barrington. It's not open to the public yet, but hopefully will be by fall. A new parking lot is scheduled to be constructed as is a bridge over the Thomas & Palmer Brook. The brook is inhabited by beavers who have several dams along this section.

Our group, the Berkshire Hikers, got a tour by BNRC Land and Trails Coordinator, Mike Leavitt. We hiked several old roads and logging roads, some of which will become part of the new trail system. We visited a rock feature that Mike has been excitedly talking about for awhile now. He is calling it the Whale Rock.

On top of the ridge is a long section of smoothed rock that resembles the spine of a whale as it travels across the ocean with most of its body below waterline. It's large and impressive. I'm sure that it will be an attraction on the new trails.

Yup, it's a whale of a rock!

Photo by Ellen Whitaker

Friday, March 2, 2018

Full Moon Outing at Upper Spectacle Pond, Otis/Sandisfield

Last night I walked to Upper Spectacle Pond in Otis and Sandisfield with the Berkshire Naturalists Club. How fun it is to be outside in the dark! I must do it more often!

We started at dusk from Rte 23 and walked a mile in on an unplowed dirt road to the lake. The sky was completely covered with clouds (I spied one star for a few minutes) but we did not need our headlamps and flashlights except once in awhile to navigate some ice or mud. It was amazing how, even with the cloud cover, my eyes adjusted and could see quite well.

We separated along the trail, then remained completely still for awhile, listening and looking around for activity. I heard rustlings in the leaf litter but nothing identifiable. Interesting how my mind creates images. It one point I could hear a small gust of wind coming in behind me. I also heard a loud noise which my mind saw as a herd something huge. However in a second I saw it was four dried leaves tumbling down the road! Yikes!

The moon was visible through the clouds but barely cast a shadow. It's amazing to share the woods with the nocturnal life. 

Upper Spectacle Pond was still covered with ice but we did not go out on it
as it had been so warm for the past week.

The moon provided some light (and atmosphere!) through the cloud cover.