Lenox. June 11, 2022

Day/Date:  SATURDAY – 6/11/22
Town visited:  Lenox
Had you ever been to any of these towns before?
Drive to 1st town:  122 miles    Time spent in town:   4 hours

What did we do in the town/area?  
LENOX:   We were on our way to our nephew’s graduation from Union College in Schenectady, NY (yay, Jeremy!), so we took the opportunity to check off another town, (#132) in the Berkshire’s town of Lenox. We were excited to be joined by our youngest nephew, Toby. Lenox is most famous for being the home of Tanglewood, an outdoor music venue that hosts the Boston Symphony Orchestra for the summer. Lenox is also home to Shakespeare and Company, a well-known theatre company, and many artists and galleries. (For dance, you must go to the next town over, Becket, the home of the world-renowned Jacob’s Pillow).  

We arrived in town around lunchtime, so we ate some yummy sandwiches and salads at a small cafe called Shots (ok, ok, we shared a vegan choc. chip cookie too!). Many people were roaming about an outdoor fair called Spring Art Walk, with artists exhibiting their work and music in the background. It was a nice vibe.

Walking around downtown, we noticed lots of beautiful art, some ornate old buildings, and the historic library. The library building used to be the old courthouse in the early 1800s but has been a library building since 1874. We decided to go in and take a peek inside. One area now used for talks and public events at the library used to be the courtroom. The room was surrounded by books all around the perimeter. In the library was a dictionary on a stand. Jokingly, we showed it to Toby and told him what a “dictionary” was (he’s 15). Then, we looked up all three of our names (Jo, Jenny, and Toby), all of which have definitions in the dictionary. Toby’s was the funniest; see the photo!  

We also walked by the town hall and saw that it was getting a Spring Cleaning with some power washers!

One of the stand-out buildings in town was Ventfort Hall, a substantial home built during the Gilded Age (in the late 1800s). This home was built for the sister and brother-in-law of J.P. Morgan, a well-known financier, and investment banker. Having always heard about the Gilded Age, we did a little digging and found out that it was a time of huge economic growth in the US, coinciding with the rapid expansion of industrialization. So, a few quickly became very wealthy (think the Vanderbilts, J.P. Morgan, and the Rockefellers). Along with this expansion came the need for vast amounts of unskilled labor. Thus, huge waves of immigrants, mainly from European and Eastern European countries, made their way to the US. Poor conditions and low wages were widespread during this time, thus creating a massive chasm between the “haves” and the “have nots.”  Being a bit more associated with the “have nots”, (and also not having a lot of time) we decided against paying the fee to tour the house. We did have some fun playing in the trees and with the statues behind the building though.

After our town exploration, we headed for a hiking adventure at the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, run by Mass Audubon. It was a lush forest hike with lots of beaver activity (we didn’t see any beavers, though) and many ponds, ferns, and birds in the trees. It was a beautiful short hike but in such a pretty place. Plus, there were the best bathrooms for an outdoor hiking area we have ever seen! We regretted not having more time here, so we vowed to come back another day to do more hiking in this area.

Our last stop was at “The Mount,” once the home of writer Edith Wharton. This was a very large home, so we suspected that Ms. Wharton had family money as women writers did not earn that much in the early 1900s. It turns out that her father’s family name was “Jones.” – a family with a legacy in banking and real estate. Some say that the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” refers to them. In addition to being a prolific writer, Ms. Wharton was a humanitarian, philanthropist, decorator, and garden designer. She designed the house in Lenox, and it was here that she wrote some of her best-known works. As a side note, Ms. Wharton was the first woman to win a Pulitzer Prize. She won this prize for her novel, “The Age of Innocence.”

We couldn’t tour the home on this visit because they were setting up for a wedding (sad face), but we got a chance to drive in and snap a few pictures.

Thanks Lenox!

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Mohican

Bellingham. June 2, 2022

Day/Date:  THURSDAY -6/2/222
Town visited:  BELLINGHAM
Had you ever been to any of these towns before? No 
Drive to 1st town:  37 miles   Time spent in town:   2 1/2 hours

What did we do in the town/area?  
This evening, we planned to go to a trivia night that our friend started hosting in an awesome brewery in Franklin called 67 degrees (you should check them out), so we thought we’d leave early and get in another town visit! Since we have already visited Franklin for this project (remember the ladybugs and the Franklin library?), we decided on a neighboring town called Bellingham.

Our first stop was to find out where the independent coffee store is (of course). The only shop we found that wasn’t a chain was “The Perfect Blend.” Come to find out, they aren’t a coffee shop, but they have protein shakes, interesting teas, and some coffee-infused drinks. The women who worked there (Maggie and Jen) were so nice and friendly, giving us a few suggestions of things to do in Bellingham. We tried some delicious teas, fruity blends with collagen. Also to note, the store was women-owned, as were most of the stores in the section of the strip mall (the Plaza at Bellingham Commons) nearby. Only one store was a big chain, which was nice to see.

In fact, there were A LOT of strip malls in Bellingham and many Dunkin’ Donuts. Plus, there was quite a bit of traffic for a town of only 17,000 people. We think this is because it is just off of highway 495.  

Upon their suggestion, we headed to find the SNETT – the ‘Southern New England Trunkline Trail’. This is a rail trail that runs 23 miles from Franklin to Douglas. We walked a bit of it and even found a parallel path in the woods. We even saw a few lady slippers along the path. We would love to return to explore more of this trail and see what it has to offer!

While driving, we saw signs for ‘Silver Lake’ and decided to take a detour and see what was there. This lovely little spot had a person-made lake which, we learned, was initially built by damming a nearby river to have water to power a family’s cotton mill. It later became a “go-to” destination with a carousel, dance hall, and a skating rink. But now, it has a simpler vibe with the lake, some brought-in sand, some swing sets, picnic tables, and a nice playground for kids that even includes a water splash section. We walked around and thought about how nice it was that this was here for the town residents.

Since we were near the Rhode Island border, we felt a strong need to find a marking for it, so we passed into Woonsocket, RI. Another border town! This means that thus far, we have hit all the bordering states – NH, VT, RI, CT, and NY!

Lastly, we backtracked a bit to take a picture of Town Hall, which was a nice one (part of the area was currently under construction) in an old area that used to be the town common. There were some other, newish buildings there as well as a really old, very small public library that is now home to the Bellingham Historical Society.  

From here, it was off to Franklin for some food, some beer (for Jenny), and some trivia! 

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Nipmuc, Pokanoket

Hampden, Wilbraham and Ludlow. May 29, 2022

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!

HAMPDEN:
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. 
 

Wilbraham: 
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.

Ludlow:
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)

Cohasset. May 22, 2022

Day/Date:  SUNDAY -5/22/22
Town visited:  Cohasset
Had you ever been to this town before? No
Drive to 1st town:   34 miles   Time spent in town:   3 1/2 hours

What did we do in the town/area?  
COHASSET:  (a rocky shore town)
Today was hot, and we were excited to make Cohasset our town to visit for the day as it sits along the coast both East and South of Boston. 

We rolled into the cute downtown area and parked by the town green. We walked down Main St. toward the strip of shops that included a coffee roaster cafe that we had just learned about called SeaBird Coffee & Co. We popped in and ordered an oat milk cortado for Jo and a decaf latte for Jenny. The coffees were yummy. Unfortunately, they were out of bags of coffee beans, so we couldn’t take any home.

After exploring the downtown area a bit and seeing some historic buildings, shops and a Red Lion Inn that seemed similar to the one in Stockbridge, MA (it is NOT related), we walked back to the town green and found the Town Hall and two classic New England looking white churches. We noticed a street called Beach Street, so we decided to check it out. We walked along this newly paved road lined with beautiful homes, many with their backs privy to a beautiful water view. This area was part of Little Harbor. There were many large natural rock formations in this town that homes and other buildings in this town have craftily incorporated in their landscape.

Next, we drove to the entrance of the Barnes Wildlife Sanctuary and had some homemade lunch before spraying ourselves with sunscreen and bug spray for our walk. The 32-acre property that is owned by the Cohassett Conservation Trust, abuts a larger green area known as Wheelwright Park (a park with woodland trails and a skating pond). “The towering trees and glacial rock formations provide wildlife habitat and awe-inspiring scenic beauty…”. We got a little confused by the trails and never saw the pond, but it was a lovely walk (albeit a bit buggy).

Since we felt hot and wanted to cool off by maybe dipping our feet in some water, we drove along the scenic Jerusalem Road to Cohasset’s local beach known as Sandy Beach. But alas, we weren’t allowed to park our car and enjoy even a half-hour of beach and water time here because Sandy Beach is a “private beach” for residents of Cohasset (proof of resident sticker required). We did drive through the parking lot to grab some pics as it is a beautiful beach. While it is understandable to want the residents of this town to have access to the beaches in their own town, it can be frustrating to a visitor. To see so much beautiful shoreline and have no access to the water (or sand for that matter) unless you are affiliated or invited by a resident of this town was a bummer for us, especially on such a hot day. The laws in MA allow for property owners along the water to take as their own the shoreline between their properties and the water, essentially making that beautiful stretch of nature “theirs to claim ownership of.” Because of these laws, towns like Cohasset succumb to exclusivity.

We then drove to another coastal area known as Cohasset Harbor and Minot Ledge, located just off of Border Street. There is some fascinating history here about the Minot Ledge Lighthouse.

Once again, due to residents-only parking restrictions, we were only able to quickly get out and take pictures of the area that also had a replica of the historic lighthouse. BUT, then we did see a little pass-through off of Lighthouse Lane that led us to another parking lot near a little trail called Beacon Trail, a short climb to where, in the mid-1800s, the original signal pole for the lighthouse once stood. We don’t really know if we were allowed to park there, but as there were not many cars there, we did park and walked the trail atop this rock for some fantastic views of Cohasset Harbor. It was beautiful but windy up there!

After driving around a bit more to the edge of Scituate (the next town over) and along many shorelines (so much water in Cohasset), we decided to make one more stop before heading home. Motivated by our desire to pick up some treats to bring to an outdoor potluck dinner with friends, we stopped at Mullaney’s Seafood Market on Chief Justice Cushing Hwy and picked up some shrimp and potato salad. We were super pleased with our decision to stop here! Everything looked excellent, and the shrimp and potato salad tasted fresh and delicious.

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region:  Massachusett, Wampanoag, Pokanoket

Canton. May 21, 2022

Day/Date:  SATURDAY -5/21/22
Town visited:  Canton
Had you ever been to this town before? Yes – briefly
Drive to 1st town:  23 miles    Time spent in town:   3 1/2 hours

What did we do in the town/area?  

CANTON:  What we’ve deemed as The Bird Town 
Our journey to Canton today was chill and a lovely day to be outside. We looked up a couple of destinations online before heading out and learned of a Mass Audubon place with a Wildlife Sanctuary and Bird Art Museum. We read that a woman named Mildred Morse Allen* donated her land to preserve the 121 acres of property that she always deemed as a wildlife sanctuary. Mildred was also an artist and a filmmaker. Before heading to the Sanctuary, we visited the Town Hall, and just across the street was the Canton Public Library. We decided to pop into the library, knowing that they had a few of Ms. Allen’s bird paintings on exhibit somewhere in the library. We found them on the lower floor, and they were beautiful!

When we arrived at the Museum of American Bird Art and the Mildred Morse Allen* Wildlife Sanctuary, we were excited to walk the trails and enjoy the little gardens there. Sadly, even though it was a Saturday in May, the museum building was closed, which was disappointing. But there was plenty to do just taking in the grounds and walking the two-mile loop trail. We heard so many bird songs during our walk, including a red-headed woodpecker. We also spotted a small pond with a bunch of frogs hanging around the edge—Aaah, nature.

We both wanted a little “pick-me-up” after our walk, so we headed over to the Alchemist Baker (a bakery on Washington St.) and got a watermelon, hibiscus iced tea for Jenny, an iced coffee for Jo, and a macaroon to share. The woman who helped us with our order was so lovely, and when we asked where she likes to eat nearby, she recommended the Takara restaurant (for sushi) and Amber Rose Cafe (for breakfast). We didn’t end up going to either of those places, but we are glad to note it for later or for you if you plan to have a meal in Canton! And just so you know, we enjoyed our treats very much. Jenny especially liked the tea.

Our next stop was the Tilden House, a farm and house owned and managed by the Canton Conservation Commission, built almost 300 years ago. The beautifully preserved red house abutted the Pequitside Farm. There were walking trails nearby that were picturesque and very lush. We walked up to the community gardens area and back through a cut grassy path. 

Lastly, we stopped by the Eleanor Bradley Cabot Estate. We have been to this estate a few times before, and we enjoy it every time. It features a stately home, beautiful gardens, and walking trails around the property, all managed by the Trustees. Unfortunately for us, a wedding event was about to start so we couldn’t view the gardens or tour the house. It is understandable, though, for it is a beautiful spot for a wedding! 

Fun Fact: Greta Gerwig’s 2019 version of the movie Little Women was filmed at the Bradley Estate. It was the site of Aunt March’s house.

*Mildred Morse Allen 1903-1989

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Massachusett, Wampanoag, Pokanoket

Leyden, Bernardston and Greenfield. April 24, 2022

Day/Date:  SUNDAY -4/24/22
Towns visitedLeyden, Bernardston, & Greenfield
Had you ever been to any of these towns before? No 
Drive to 1st town:  17 miles (from Deerfield)    Time spent in town(s):   8+ hours

What did we do in the town(s)/area?  
Today was day two of our weekend away and it was another great one!

LEYDEN: 
Before yesterday, we had never heard of Leyden. But, the rock climber we met yesterday on our hike in Erving brought it to our attention. “Some of my partner’s family owns a sheep farm, and they have 100 baby lambs right now.” That was all we needed to decide to make it our first stop in another 3-town day in Franklin County.  

This town only has about 750 residents, so the town center was quite tranquil. There was a town hall, a church, and a tiny library on top of a hill that afforded a view of a few farms.  

Since we were only about a mile or 2 from the state line, we decided to drive the small country road that crosses into Guilford, VT. We realized that the Connecticut River is what separates NH from Vermont. So, yesterday, when we were at the NH border in Northfield, we were on the East side of the Connecticut River. Today, we were on the West side of the river, which borders VT. There was a barely readable rusty town line sign showing the border.  

We then headed to Leyden Glen Farm (the place with 100 baby lambs). After a few miles of windy dirt roads, we finally came upon the farm. We looked around a bit but didn’t see any sheep or lambs. We checked out their mini-farm store (which was a cute red shed with freezers full of lamb) and considered a purchase from their self-serve system.

Then, we walked around and used Jenny’s binoculars, trying one more time to spot any animals from a different vantage point. But to no avail. Fortunately, a truck pulled up and parked. The man who got out of the truck was Mark, and it turns out he owns the farm with his wife, Kristin. He told us that he had just been with the lambs and that they keep them over in Bernardston (the next town over) until there is enough grass to graze on in the Spring on their land. He said he would probably bring them over in a week or two. Bummer!!! But, we did buy 1/2 pound of ground lamb and had a friendly chat with Mark. When we asked him if there were any good hikes in the area, he pointed us to a most amazing ridge hike at the Leyden Wildlife Management Area a mile or so down the road.  

We would NOT have found this hike if it weren’t for Mark. After we parked, we walked up this grassy trail (that looked like an old road) to a ridge that gave us beautiful views on both sides. We were both taken aback by the simple quietness and beauty of this place. The pictures don’t really do it justice, but it was stunning. We were on a ridge between Ball Mountain and West Mountain. We will put a picture of where we parked our car if any of you want to find this fantastic spot (pic at bottom of this post). even saw an Eastern Bluebird up there! 

BERNARDSTON:
Our 2nd town of the day was Bernardston, located to the east of Leyden. Driving into town, we came upon some sheep and baby lambs! So cute! Then as we went into town, which was a little more populated than Leyden (about 2000 residents), we discovered a lovely place called The Back Porch (Country Shop & Antiques). This place was located behind the owner’s home, and it was such a wonderful small shop, beautifully arranged and very affordable. Their dog Murphy said hello to us at the counter, and the couple who owns it were lovely. We would definitely come back to this shop to see what new finds they bring in!  

Hungry for lunch, we found a local pizza and sub shop called Antonio’s. Here we enjoyed some delicious roast beef sandwiches on the porch, watching the Sunday afternoon happenings in this quiet town.  

Lastly, we headed to the town hall and library for our usual pictures. Then, it was off to the big city of Greenfield!

GREENFIELD:
This city had more bustle to it, but not quite as much as Amherst or Northampton (which have many college students). Greenfield does have a college, though, Greenfield Community College, which enrolls about 1600 students at a time.

We parked and walked around, taking in the City Hall, Catalpa Coffee, and the Franklin Community Food Co-op. We also noticed several Bee Statues. We wondered what those were about. It turns out that Greenfield has a Bee Fest every year in honor of Lorenzo Langstroth, a Greenfield pastor in the mid-1800s who was also known as “the father of modern beekeeping.” These statues, painted by local artists, were part of the 2021 festival.

There was also a department store in the middle of town called Wilson’s, which closed right before Covid hit. Willson’s had been in operation as a full-line department store from 1882 until 2020. 

Next, we hopped in the car to visit Pierce Brothers Coffee Roasters, the makers of Fogbusters Coffee. The first address we had for them must have been old because it took us to a run-down mill building a few blocks from the downtown area. But, there was an interesting shop in this mill building that the owner of The Back Porch in Bernardston had told us about., called Innovintage. We didn’t hop in but would love to in the future.  

The next address for Pierce Brothers Coffee Roasters took us to an industrial park. This seemed more like it! We also saw the headquarters for-Pure Pro Massage Lotion (a company known by many massage therapists such as Jo). Who knew they were there?!  

We ended the day with a hike at Rocky Mountain Park. We hiked the Sachem Head trail (about 1.8 miles) and then went up to the Poet’s Seat Observation Tower. We saw some great views of Greenfield, the largest city in Franklin County, population of about 17,000.  

We had a great weekend exploring some of the most rural parts of this beautiful state.
  (map pic of where to park for the Leyden Hike)

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: 
Leyden & Bernardston: Wabanaki, Abenaki
Greenfield: Wabanaki and Pocomtuc:

Erving, Gill and Northfield. April 23, 2022

Day/Date:  SATURDAY -4/23/22
Towns visited:  Erving, Gill & Northfield
Had you ever been to any of these towns before? No
Drive to 1st town:  80 miles    Time spent in town(s):   8 hours

What did we do in the town(s)/area?  
ERVING:  Did you say hiking with goats?

We set out for a weekend of adventures in the Pioneer Valley, and we were not disappointed.

Today was a three-town visit day that started off in Erving, MA, a town that reveals itself just as the speed limit on Rte 2 goes from 55mph to 35mph. Our first stop was Erving’s Town Hall, which was right on Rte 2, and Freight House Antiques, a store just across the street. The store had a big sign out front that said, “‘Fogbuster’ Coffee by the Pierce Brothers” which lured us in. We hadn’t heard of that coffee brand before, so we had to check it out. Here, we learned about the Pierce Brothers, who are local roasters in Greenfield (a couple of towns over) and they have recently re-branded their Air Roasted Coffee as Fogbuster. The woman inside the store said their coffee was delicious and so, we bought some decaf.

But the Freight House Antique store isn’t a coffee place. It is an antiques/country store with a lot of cool stuff such as hooks, antiques, stone sculptures, etc… They also have a luncheonette (with outdoor seating) which, after our hike, we came back to for some delicious sandwiches. 

Our Hike
When we arrived at the destination of our pre-chosen hike, Farley Ledges Trail, the lot was full, so we had to turn around and find another place to park. Just across the road and down a bit, there is a neighborhood street (Maple St) that we turned on. A friendly man in a van could tell we were wondering if we could park there and kindly approached us and steered us up the street a bit to a neighborhood-designated ‘extra’ parking area for hikers of the trail. Awesome.

Our 2-mile hike at Farley Ledges was great (we did the red trail). Almost immediately, there is a big wooden sign with the names of different rock areas for climbers and the distance it will take to reach them. We could also see a couple of rock climbers straight ahead on the first rocky area on the hike. About 1/3 of the way into our trek, a dog started barking at us. His name was Walter, and he was super cute. His owner (yikes, we didn’t catch his name) started talking with us a bit, and we told him about our quest to visit all of the towns in MA. He excitedly asked if we had gone to Leyden yet, and explained that someone in his partner’s family had a sheep farm there called Leyden Glen, and they just had 100 baby lambs! (we took careful note of that fact and incorporated it into our plans for the next day!) (more on that in our upcoming post for April 24)

The rest of the hike provided some beautiful views, a waterfall crossing, and a surprise meeting with a few other hikers and their tag-along goats. YES, we said GOATS! (see pics). Roaming free the way dogs would on a hike, we came up close and personal for a moment with these unusually tame and friendly four legged kids. The people they were with were younger and faster than us so they came and went quickly. We did thank them for making our day though. 

This hike was truly an adventure and worth every moment! 


After lunch, we headed to
GILL:
Now don’t be confused (as we were) when we tell you that we visited the campus of Northfield Mt. Hermon boarding school while in Gill, MA. I mean, there is a town of Northfield after all, and we are heading there next, but it turns out that, while part of this school was initially founded as a school for girls in Northfield in 1879, the fully consolidated campus (a merger with a school for boys) now stands in Gill, MA.

This campus is so beautiful and comes with an actual farm on the premises. There are also athletic fields and buildings (even a facility for the rowing club), a church, dorms, arts buildings, a fitness center, and more: a pretty sweet (and seemingly expensive) boarding school that sits in a very serene and picturesque location. I knew about this place as my college roommate went here in the 80s, but I didn’t understand that the landscape would look quite like this. 

From NMH, we headed towards the Town Center of Gill, a historic district green, town hall, and library with a more recently built tavern, known as simply Gill Tavern, across the street. 

On our way to the town center, we took in more of the scenic farms with tiny mountainous backdrops. We even passed by a hilly pasture with two striped cows next to a sign that said, “Everyday Farm.” And yeah, we grabbed a pic. It was just another example of the sweet beauty in this town.

Our final stop in Gill was the Upinngil Farm Store, where they sell milk, cheeses, fruit and vegetables, local goods and crafts, and baked goods. We bought some apples & some more Fogbuster coffee (this time, we got regular). Next to the farm’s barn, we saw some young cows playing with each other. It was kind of adorable.

NORTHFIELD: 
Northeast of Gill, and sitting at the top of the state, is Northfield, MA. We headed here next and parked at the visitor center parking lot for the Northfield Mountain Area. This site is the trailhead for many hiking trails and rock climbing ledge trails. There is also a nice recreation area at the base with some fields, tables, and a yurt (maybe they rent this out?). Anyway, since we were already tired from our hike earlier in Erving, we just walked around the flats of this area for a bit, chasing a few birds and butterflies while deciding that we’d love to come back to this spot for a hike someday.

We then headed to the town of Northfield, visiting the town hall and a couple of stores on this main strip with a mountain view and a very small-town vibe. 

The two main stores were Mim’s market and the Super IGA. Both stores had displays with local coffee beans from a few different local brands, making us happy. The IGA market is located right next to a Unitarian Church called First Parish, and it turns out that Dean’s beans (a coffee roaster in nearby Orange, MA) made a coffee blend called Parish blend with a picture of this church in Northfield! All of this; locals supporting locals stuff makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. We walked along this main road passing by a school, a guesthouse and an art gallery.

We drove past a small college campus *(which turns out to have once been a part of the original/former NMH campus) and the library and a small golf course on our way to the NH state border. It was right here at the border where we saw the Northfield Drive-in- it’s currently closed, but we’re sure it will be opening again soon to the delight of both NH and MA residents!

As we are spending the weekend up here, we decided to call it a day and head to our hotel in Deerfield and grab some dinner; for tomorrow, we’ve got three more towns to visit!

*(There is a bunch of history info on the NMH website about the varying and different owners of the former Northfield Campus throughout the years).

Indigenous/ Native land info for this regionErving: Pennacook, Wabanaki
Gill & Northfield: Pennacook, Wabanaki, Abenaki

Newburyport & Newbury. April 18 & 19, 2022

Day/Date:  MONDAY – 4/18/22 & Tue 4/19/22
Towns visited: The city of NEWBURYPORT & the town of Newbury
Had you ever been to any of these towns before? Yes
Drive to 1st town:  54 miles   Time spent in town(s):   12 + hours

What did we do in the town(s)/area?  
Our primary mission of this town visit was to spend time with our good friends Camie, Rhys, and Gracin (age 4.9) who were visiting from Utah. Rhys grew up here in MA, so they are on an epic cross-country adventure and rented a house in Newburyport near Rhys’ family for a few days. We were so excited they invited us up for an overnight!

THE CITY OF NEWBURYPORT:  
We drove to their AirBnB through an industrial part of Newbury. Jenny saw a fox in front of an office building on the drive, carrying its dinner (a bunny). More on Newbury later!

We then entered Newburyport and found the house they rented. It was in a neighborhood full of beautiful old 1700s-style homes, tightly packed together. It’s easy to imagine fishermen living in these parts many years ago. The house was near Cashman Park, a park with fields and play structures set along the Merrimac River. We explored the park a little bit (Gracin really likes the swings there) before heading inside to have some dinner (Rhys’ famous homemade pizza). Then, we had a glow-in-the-dark party with some glow sticks that Jo had brought.  

All four of us had fun reading Gracin a bedtime story. Then, afterwards, we had a good long talk with our friend, Camie, before retiring to bed. A big wind and rain storm came through that night, so we didn’t get the best sleep. But, it was sunny by morning. After Gracin had a quick trip to urgent care (tick bite!), we all headed into the downtown area of Newburyport.

We started at the Tannery Marketplace, which has taken some old buildings (that were once a tannery) and turned them into local shops. We visited a great bookstore called Jabberwocky and a toy store as well. (Rhys’ uncle wrote a book about being a spy in the CIA, and they carried it in the local author’s section of the store.) There were restaurants, a home goods store, a dance studio, a bike shop, and many more! It was nice to see so many thriving small businesses. And, it’s really cool when old, interesting buildings get repurposed.  

We moved on, deciding to take the car to park a bit closer to the heart of downtown. We walked along Waterfront Park from the parking lot, where the Merrimac River begins to empty out into the ocean.  

Next, we searched for, you guessed it, coffee!!!! There were many great coffee shops in this city. Rhys took us toward where he had remembered Plum Island Coffee Roasters being; near the water. But, we found out they had closed. Then, later we found them again in a different location. It turns out, they merged with a cafe called “Souffle” and are now roasting beans again! We were delighted to see this as we had read about their closure (due to a greedy developer – and we know all about that 😦 ). It sounds like the town really rallied and fought to keep them open on the waterfront, but they did not win. So, when we found them in a shop located on Market Square, Jo grabbed some of their beans to go. Between these times, we stopped at another coffee shop called Battlegrounds Coffee (a veteran-owned coffee shop and roaster) for an actual cup of coffee. Their coffee was quite good!!!  

Next, we searched for, you guessed it, coffee!!!! There were many great coffee shops in this city. Rhys took us toward where he had remembered Plum Island Coffee Roasters being; near the water. But, we found out they had closed. Then, later we found them again in a different location. It turns out, they merged with a cafe called “Souffle” and are now roasting beans again! We were delighted to see this as we had read about their closure (due to a greedy developer – and we know all about that 😦 ). It sounds like the town really rallied and fought to keep them open on the waterfront, but they did not win. So, when we found them in a shop located on Market Square, Jo grabbed some of their beans to go. Between these times, we stopped at another coffee shop called Battlegrounds Coffee (a veteran-owned coffee shop and roaster) for an actual cup of coffee. Their coffee was quite good!!! 

Right in the center of town is a playground for kids! Rhys said that when he was young, it was a bit dangerous. There was a rolling log that kids would try to stand upon but would inevitably fall off. But, now it is safer, and Gracin enjoyed some time on the structure.  

Then, we hopped back in the car, and Rhys drove us to Plum Island, an 11-mile barrier island that is part of Newburyport, Newbury, Rowley, and Ipswich. It was a very windy day, and we hopped out of the car to see some pretty intense waves! These were the biggest waves that we have ever seen in MA!  

The Town of Newbury:

After a late lunch back at the Airbnb, we said goodbye to our friends 😥 and headed back to Plum Island to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge to walk the Hellcat Boardwalk Trail. It was a well-marked and well-maintained boardwalk that let you see all the features of this amazing place – the ocean, forested wetlands, and marsh. We would love to come back when all the beach plums bloom. (After all this is how Plum Island got its name!)

Then we drove the entire stretch of land to the end at Sandy Point. Along the way, we saw a bit of wildlife. We saw a beautiful great egret. Notice its black legs! We also saw a turkey and a turtle crossing the road. 

We parked at Sandy Point and walked on the beach for a bit. It was beautiful, with late-afternoon light, smooth rocks, and soft sand. The part of the beach to our left was temporarily closed for the nesting season of the piping plover. We can’t wait to see those little ones emerge soon!

We then headed into the town of Newbury. Our GPS took us to the wrong town hall, so a local pointed us in the right direction in the village of Byfield. Byfield? That isn’t on our map! Newbury is comprised of three distinct villages – Old Town (or Newbury Center, Byfield, and Plum Island). In the Old Town, we saw Old Town Church and the historic Coffin House built around 1678.  

We headed into Byfield to find the Town Hall and found out that it was located in a business park with a storage center and a fertility clinic! Some of the neighborhoods in Byfield were very rural and beautiful, with windy roads.

We also passed the “The Governor’s Academy” in Byfield, the oldest continuous boarding school in the United States. It was founded in 1763 by a grant in the will of William Dummer, an early governor of MA. In 2005, the school decided to change its name from the “Dummer Academy” so as not to deter students from enrolling! 

As the daylight was waning, we decided to call it a day. Today’s town visit was quite memorable, complete with friends, coffee, the ocean, blue skies, and much history!

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Pawtucket, Wabanaki, Agawam