Day/Date: SUNDAY -5/29/22
Towns visited: Hampden, Wilbraham, Ludlow
Had you ever been to any of these towns before? No
Drive to 1st town: 77 miles Time spent in town(s): 8 hours
What did we do in the town(s)/area?
This seems like a good day to see three towns in the lower Pioneer Valley!
When we first arrived in Hampden, we visited the downtown area and took pictures of the town hall and the historical society just across the street where people were getting ready for a plant sale. We drove around little more passing a small plaza with a “Grog Shoppe”. We were like, ‘a grog shop?’ What the heck is that? Apparently in Hampden, they use this term to describe liquor stores.
On our drive, we turned into Hampden Memorial Park, where we discovered a cute recreational area with a ball field, a water spray playground, and picnic areas. It also had the trailhead for Goat Rock Trail, which looks like a nice hike for next time (since we had already determined where we were going hiking today in Hampden)!
We headed to Minnechaug Mountain for our 1.6-mile hike. This area is 274 acres of conservation land available for hiking and horseback riding. (We didn’t see any horses, though.) We parked on South Rd. (entrance looks like a driveway) and headed up “Kathy’s Trail” and stayed on that blue dotted trail until we hit a ridge and intersected with the red dotted “Billy Goat Trail.” We made a left on Billy Goat/Algonquin trails and headed straight up to the summit. We caught some pretty views of the Scantic River Valley and some skyscrapers in Springfield (we think) before hiking back down to the bottom. There are several trails that enable the possibility of hiking a longer loop; however, we had decided to reserve some of our hiking legs for another hike in Wilbraham (our next town for today). This hike was lush and green and full of ferns, and yes, there were several mushrooms for Jenny to check out. It rained last night, so there were a few spots at the beginning that were a little muddy but overall, it was just delightful.
Next, we drove to the Mass Audubon’s “Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary”. We didn’t stay too long as we were headed to the next town, but we just wanted to check it out. We walked down to the pond and the bridge over the brook. It is a gorgeous place. We decided it would be the perfect halfway meeting spot to meet our friends from Connecticut on a future adventure.
As we headed out of Hampden and into Wilbraham, the neighborhoods became a bit more densely populated. Wilbraham is situated just east of the 3rd largest city in MA, Springfield, so it makes sense.
We wanted to check out the fairly new, women-owned cafe called Common Grounds Coffee in Wilbraham, but upon our arrival, they were closed 🙁. So, instead, we moved on to option #2: Pan’e Dolcetti (Italian pastries and coffee located along Rte 20 in a little shopping plaza). We got an iced tea and a macchiato. The pastries looked amazing, but we were hungry for a regular meal, so we avoided temptation and drove off to the Village Store & Cafe, sat outside, and had some lunch. Jenny needed soup because she had a tooth pulled a few days ago and they had a homemade loaded baked potato soup with bacon. It really hit the spot! And Jo enjoyed a yummy turkey wrap. While we were there, we saw a few girls with purple shirts that said “Cookies against conflict.” Jenny talked to one of them and found out that they were selling cookies down by the church nearby as a fundraiser for a domestic violence safe house for women, called Safe Passage. We decided to go down and buy a few cookies for the cause. It was nice to support these young folks in their quest to make a difference, and the cookies were good too!
Then we drove to the nearby Wilbraham Monson Academy, a small college prep school where both abolitionist Lucy Stone and poet Emily Dickinson’s mother, Emily Norcross Dickinson are both notable alumni. This school is on the National Register of Historic places in Wilbraham. We walked around took some pictures of the buildings, one of them, Rich Hall, dons a bust of Atlas- a titan in greek mythology who is holding up the sky.
We saw the town hall while driving to our next destination, Mt. Marcy, so we grabbed a pic.
When we arrived at the Mount Marcy Conservation area, we hiked another 1.6 miles and took in some gorgeous views. The south trail was a lovely switchback-style hike. It was so peaceful and full of fern meadows! We really loved this trail.
We finally reached our 3rd and the final town of the day, Ludlow. We started off touring the area with Ludlow Town Hall, which is right next to the Ludlow High School.
Randall’s Farm and Greenhouse is just a mile from there, where we went next. This place reminded us a little of our once-favorite market in Waltham- Russo’s (which, sadly, is now gone). It has a garden center, a market with lots of fruits and veggies and groceries (many from local businesses), and beer & wine. We picked up a mini vegan strawberry rhubarb pie (to cook later) and some fresh veggies. Next door (and part of Randall’s) was Elsie’s Creamery– an ice cream stand that actually had some vegan options! So we each got ourselves a cone and sat for a bit to eat them.
We headed to the Ludlow/Springfield Reservoir, which seems like a place where people like to run or bike or walk. We had a short visit there and sat by the water for a bit.
Then we headed southeast to the Red Bridge/Chicopee River reservoir area for fishing and boating, which also has a hydropower dam. This area was short on parking, but locals were boating, fishing, and enjoying the water. We can imagine coming back to this area for kayaking. Here is a nice youtube video of the Red Bridge area (not taken by us).
Ludlow is located right off Interstate 90, which made it easy to hit the ramp and head home after a lovely day of discovering.
Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Nipmuc, Agawam, Pocumtuc (Algonquin)
Wilbraham is also the birthplace of Friendly’s!