Saturday, September 12, 2015

Labor Day 2015 - The Mohawk Trail

    We spent this past Labor Day weekend in Western Massachusetts/SW Vermont. My older daughter's Mother-in-Law have a cabin in Heath, MA. The town was established in 1785,  and was named for a Revolutionary War general. It is still very rural, We've been there a few times in the winter, skiing at Mount Snow in nearby Vermont, and snowmobiling around the area. This was the first time that we've been there without everything covered in several feet of snow, however!  Heath is situated a few miles off of Mass Route 2, "The Mohawk Trail", which runs through the Massachusetts Berkshires from  (roughly) Greenfield, MA West to Williamstown, MA. It was one of the first scenic roads in the United States. While not as popular now as it was in its heyday of the 1940's and 1950's, it remains a beautiful area year round, and spectacular in October foliage season.

Our first day there, we made the relatively short drive to the town of Shelbourne Falls, MA.  The town is touristy but quaint, and the Bridge of Flowers is one famous site there. 

The Bridge itself was once a trolley bridge, but has been converted into a long, elaborate  garden pathway spanning the Deerfield River. 

It is planted and maintained by the town's garden society. As you can see, it includes flowering shrubs, small flowering trees, and flowering vines, as well as a great many flowers of many varieties!

Close up of a very small section of the gardens from September, 2015. 

Recrossing the River via a second bridge (a truss bridge dating from 1890!), a short walk down a side street brought us to Shelbourne Falls itself.  The river was damned here years ago to power a small hydroelectric plant (the red building). 

Water mills and later power plants were common on the small rivers of New England during the industrialization of the Northeast during the 1800's. 

The Indians knew this as "Salmon Falls" Note the coloration of the rock, more typical of the Southwest than New England. 

The other special feature of the falls is the numerous "glacial potholes" 

These were created first by glacial action, and then by rocks at the the bottom of  depressions being swirled by the waters passing over the falls, gradually grinding out and deepening the granite and gneiss of the river bead. 

This shot shows some of the potholes (also known as "kettles" geologically) better - many still have the rocks at the bottom of them that have done the grinding. Salmon Falls reputedly contains the largest such feature on record at 39 feet wide. 

Another shot, showing some more of the long dam as well. The past 2 months have been quite dry in our area, so the water flow is relatively light. However, it can be quite different in the Spring; the four of us have done whitewater rafting on the upper stretches of the Deerfield River in years past. 

This shot of the Falls during in a spring flood gives a better idea how the carving action would have taken place over thousands of years!

The following day (after blueberry pancakes with maple syrup for breakfast),we set out driving around SW Vermont. We stopped especially at one establishment for their soft serve maple syrup ice cream, known in Vermont as a "maple creamie". Seriously delicious! They of course had all sorts of other Maple products for sale, with the syrup making process on site (operating only for about a month each year in the spring when the maple sap runs). In the windows they had three different years worth of sample bottles displayed, one bottle for each day of production. In 2014, there were only three weeks of production, from about March 22 to April 14. As you can see, the color of the syrup gets darker in general as the season goes on (left to right), but it is hardly a uniform process, depending upon temperature, rainfall, snow melt etc. each day. The darker syrups generally have a stronger maple flavor (and contain more complex organic pigments), and are often used for cooking (and ice cream) flavoring for that reason. 

We then drove on to an orchard for  a tractor ride and apple picking. My wife is holding a bottle of n Angry Orchard hard cider - I have already finished mine.  :-)
My older daughter (white top, next to me) is expecting her first child in less than 2 months, although you can hardly tell that in this shot! I'm too young to be Grandpa.... or maybe not, LOL!

There were acres and acres of apples. We didn't pick too many that day ourselves. We have several  orchards in our area at home - indeed, one of my patients owns and operates a cider mill, located a few hundred yards from my office. The above are Cortlands, a variety, my younger daughter was quick to point out, that was developed at Cornell and named after the nearby town of Cortland, NY. When my wife and younger daughter are back in Ithaca later this month, they will probably come back with a bunch more apples from the Cornell orchards! Then it will be my job to make my Fall tradition apple and cinnamon glazed pancakes for breakfast. Thanks to our host for a fun weekend!


  1. What a charming post....if I ever get to cross the pond this is a part of The States I really hope to get to. Good luck with the approaching Grandadhood.

  2. What a charming post....if I ever get to cross the pond this is a part of The States I really hope to get to. Good luck with the approaching Grandadhood.

    1. Thanks! The US is huge - even decent a tour of New England would take a week or more... better two weeks! Hartford, Providence, Newport RI, Cape Cod, Boston, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, loop back to Western Mass and my part of Connecticut, the Litchfield hills, then to New York City.

      You could spend a couple of weeks in Virginia, Washington DC and Maryland easily as well. Even most Americans have probably visited less than half the states... hmm, let's see:

      Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachussetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Colorado, Utah, California, Texas. That's only 22/50. On the future list for sure are Lousianna (New Orleans - for that matter, a riverboat cruise of the Mississippi, preferably with a Civil War theme), Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington.

      Heck Michigan, Wisconsin, Montanna and many more are worth visiting as well, and also a Cruise to Alaska and a stay in the Hawaiian islands are definitely all in the long term plan... and it's been 40 years since my one trip to Europe. I need to retire! :-)

    2. Peter, you need to come West, young man!

    3. In due time, my freind. I have a good freind (one nof my origuinal HS wargames group) who moved to Phoenix, AZ, and I have yet to even visit him. Right now with 2 elderly mothers to keep a watch on, a pregnant daughter, and another with medical issues, plus 4 dogs at home, and high expenses, extended travel is still a ways off!

  3. Great to see how you spent your Labor Day holiday, Peter. Not only did I get a glimpse Vermont but learned something about maple syrup production as well.

    Lovely family outing!

    1. There is (limited) maple syrup production in our area as well - the local High School has a group that makes it every year, and we actually have friends that make a small supply of their own. The biog thing about maple syrup is that it takes a lot of sap to make much syrup - about 35:1 IIRC! Traditionally, that's done by boiling the sap, but other kinds of evaporators and also reverse osmosis are also used, which are faster, cleaner, and cheaper.

  4. Stunning. I have often thought that the part of the USA I would most like to live in would be New England, and these posts only confirm it. Beautiful!

    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Lawrence. New England is beautiful, but there are many other areas of great beauty as well, many quite different from the other.