Day/Date:THURSDAY -12/22/22 Town visited: WINTHROP Had we ever been to this town before?No Drive to town: 14 1/2 miles Time spent in town: 3hours
What did we do in the town/area? WINTHROP:
Happy Birthday to Jo! What better way to celebrate than to do one of her favorite things: go on a town visit! Winthrop is an interesting small town located at the north entrance of the Boston Harbor. It is an ocean-side suburb of Boston. You don’t typically think of towns being East of Boston, but Winthrop actually is! We had to go to Winthrop to pick up a desk we had purchased on Facebook Marketplace, so we thought, why not make this our next town?
After picking up our desk and getting a coffee recommendation from the lovely people selling the desk, we came across a tiny beach called Simon Donovan Beach in their neighborhood. We found a dollar on the beach (yeah, we pocketed it), so we figured it would be a good day!
Next, we visited the Town Hall and Library in an area known as Metcalf Square. The library had a small museum on the 2nd floor full of old artifacts, many of them from the Winthrop area. There were a lot of old postcards from Winthrop Beach, which made us think it would be a great place to check out. A cool-looking Penny Farther high-seat bike, along with an old ship model, was also on display.
But first, well second, coffee!!! The desk people told us to grab coffee at the Shoreside Cafe. So we did, and we also grabbed some yummy sandwiches for lunch. They served Atomic Coffee, which is roasted nearby in Danvers, MA. The coffee was great, and the atmosphere was charming, with a kitschy nautical theme.
After lunch, we realized we were very close to a beach, so we walked a block toward the ocean and took a stroll along Winthrop Shore Drive. The actual beach where we were was very rocky, but further down this extensive beach was a more sandy area. The rocks were beautiful, and we could see a plane taking off from nearby Logan International Airport (in East Boston) every minute or so. It was a gray, mild December day, not too cold.
Next, we went to Deer Island, at the end of the large peninsula that makes up Winthrop. It is not an actual island anymore. A channel was filled in by beach erosion due to a hurricane in 1938. The island has a lot of history (some not so favorable-), but it now serves as the 2nd largest sewage treatment facility in the US! Two-thirds of the island houses the Deer Island Wastewater Treatment Plant. The remainder of the island is a park with wonderful walking/biking trails near the water, offering superb city views. And fortunately, it doesn’t stink (we thought it might!).
For our last stop, we visited the Winthrop Marketplace, a small grocery store in town (pretty much the only one there). It seemed like everyone knew each other there. A woman at customer service got on the store mic and wished a customer a happy birthday, and another customer said it was her daughter’s birthday, too. So, she started singing fo her, and all the staff joined in. When we checked out, Jo said, “It seems to be quite the day of birthdays here!” Then, Jenny told the checker that it was Jo’s birthday too. Wouldn’t you know they pulled out that mic once again, and we ended our town visit with the store singing “Happy Birthday” once again, this time to Jo.
(click this link to read more about the history of Deer Island)
Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Massachusett, Naumkeag, Pawtucket
Day/Date: SUNDAY -12/18/22 Towns visited:Shrewsbury (+ revisit to Boylston) Had we ever been to this town before?No Drive to town: 30 miles Time spent in town: 5hours
What did we do in the town/area? SHREWSBURY: It was a crisp day in December when we headed out to explore Shrewsbury, a town of about 40,000 people near Worcester. The old town center was still active, with many shops, a library, and an old church. We walked around this area and saw Santa taking pictures with local kids. After the sun went down, this area lit up with many festive holiday lights. We noticed small plaques on the ground by the sidewalk; one that talked of a “Shrewsbury Tea Party,” a protest against taxation that occurred ten months before the Boston Tea Party, and another that told about a history of watchmaking and tanneries in the town.
Next, we ventured to Prospect Park, which used to be the estate grounds of the Matthew Whittall mansion. All that is left are some ruins, but it appears that folks are keeping up the surrounding gardens.
Dean Park is another large park in town and one that seems like it gets a lot of local use with all of its ballfields and walking paths. There is also a beautiful large pond. After walking a bit, we stopped by the pond and communed with the geese for a little while.
Just across the street from Dean Park is the Artemas Ward House and Museum, currently owned and maintained by Harvard University. This historic large plot of land with a stone wall and a big yellow house and barn is from the 1700s. It was closed for the day, but we did learn that Mr. Ward was a major general in the American Revolution and later a Congressman. He was in charge during the Battle of Bunker Hill, and he was later appointed to the Continental Congress and later became Speaker of the Massachusetts House. How was this guy not in Hamilton, the broadway musical?
To contribute to the economy and feed our cravings for sweets, we made our way to the Hebert Candy Mansion. We learned that the Hebert family has been making candy in Shrewsbury for over 100 years! The stone mansion has been the retail outlet and manufacturing sight since 1946. We bought a few delicious chocolates (for ourselves) and some stocking stuffers for the holidays and journeyed to our next destination.
This next destination was quite a sight! Known as “The Secret Garden,” this area is a 1/2 mile or so trail through someone’s property across from a pond. Around every corner, there are statues, decorations, things to read, water features, places to sit and rest, and more! It was so eclectic and unique. Online, we read that it is the work of “Chief Joseph,” who lives on the land. We did a little digging to find out more about him, and it turns out that his actual name is Bob Terkanian, and he was nicknamed ‘Chief Joseph’ by some of his native American friends. Clearly, he puts a lot of work and heart into creating art and maintaining this space. We would love to come back in the spring or summer when the plants and trees add to all he has built.
Finally, our last stop in Shrewsbury was at a small ski area called “Ski Ward.” This place has been in operation since the 1930s and even offers tubing in the summer. It is also the location of the Shrewsbury Farmer’s Market! They offer skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and dining, all in a small, low-key environment.
We had a great day exploring this town! As the sun set, we headed to dinner in Boylston (ramen and rice bowls at Maken Zii). Then, it was off to the New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill for their annual “Night Lights” event. We already visited Boylston back in 2021 but wanted to come back when we heard rave reviews of this festive light show. It was well worth it – with a rainbow bridge to walk through, glowing mushrooms, a fake campfire made of lights, and many beautiful jellyfish in the greenhouse. It was a spectacular way to celebrate Jo’s birthday (#54), and discover even more about our state and Worcester County!
Revisit to Boylston- Botanical Garden Light Show Pics
Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Nipmuc, Agawam
Day/Date: SATURDAY -12/10/22 Towns visited: Holland & Wales Had we ever been to these towns before? No Drive to 1st town: 60 miles Time spent in towns: 3 hours
What did we do in the towns/area? HOLLAND: Before visiting our friends in Connecticut for the weekend, we took a look at our map and picked a few small towns we could see on the way. We started off in Holland, MA as it was easily accessed off of Hwy 84. Our day began with a hike in the Quinebaug Woods (a Trustee’s property). We trekked on a 2-mile loop trail along beautiful the Quinebaug River, which led us to some old chimney ruins and a limited scenic view. It was a chilly, but really lovely morning.
Next, we headed to the town hall, across the street from the elementary school and just next door to a tiny and cute library. We were so psyched that the library was open as so often in small towns, the hours are limited. This library used to be the home of the Fiske family. Inside the library, we met Megan, and she told us just how small the town was (only about 2600 people). She said she grew up in the next town over, Wales. She suggested that we also visit Wales today, as it is even smaller than Holland.
There were a few large portraits framed in the small library. The librarian told us that she believed that they were of the original two owners of the house, that is now the library, and that they were socialites of their time. Megan pointed out another framed photo up on the wall of a bearded man. She told us his picture was on display because his body had been mysteriously found in the lake- a drowning, unexplained.
Well, now we just had to see this lake! Holland has a lot of lakes, and we aren’t sure which one he was found in. The largest is the Hamilton Reservoir. This body of water was made back in the 1860s when the Hamilton Woolen Company dammed the Quinebaug River.
Another lake we found in Holland is Lake Siog. We drove to go and see it but, alas, it was closed for the winter, as made evident by the big yellow gate closing the road. We’ve been known to walk through gates like this at times, but there was no place to park nearby so we just moved on.
There were hardly any stores in the town. There was an Italian restaurant that had closed in the last year as well as a seafood restaurant that is only open in the summer when there are more visitors on the lakes.
But we did find a convenience store called the Holland Market, where we grabbed a seltzer and a lollipop. It was our way of contributing to the economy of Holland!
Since Megan had told us to check out Wales and she thought that their small library might be open as well, we decided to head west to this next small town before taking the turn south to Connecticut.
We did come back through Holland the next day on our way home and drove around the residential part of the lake. There were a few run-down homes on the outskirts of the loop but several cute houses right along the lake.
WALES We drove to Wales at the suggestion of Megan, who was from there. She told us to definitely go to the town library and said that there wasn’t much else going on in the town. She said it was about as small a town as it gets. She mentioned living by a lake when she lived there, so, like Holland, the local lakes seem to offer up the bulk of the available recreational activities around these parts.
As we were heading toward the library, we noticed a small pull-off with cars parked nearby, and a cute yellowish building which was very adorned for Christmas with ice skates hanging on the doors. It was only as we were looking around that we saw a sign off to our left that said Meeting House Quilt Shop. Maybe the pale yellow house was the shop? Our curiosity was piqued, so we went in. And instantly we felt so glad we did. When we walked through the doors, we were pleasantly surprised and instantly transported into a world of wonder. The shop was full of vibrant fabrics neatly displayed and arranged by color, artful quilt designs hanging on walls and on shelves, books and tools, and all kinds of wondrous things. The light in the space was beautiful, as many of the windows were yellow, casting a golden hue on everything. As we walked in even further, we saw shoppers and quilters working together, perhaps in some kind of class. It was truly a marvel and a highlight of this very small town visit.
After that excursion, we found the library and went in. The librarian there was busy, so we didn’t get to converse with her, but we took some pics of the place. This library was also in an old house, but it wasn’t as cute as the one in Holland.
The Town Hall was nearby and up on a small hill. There was a large bell on display just next door. This building used to be an old Baptist Church. There was also a separate Town Office building nearby. This building had a cement planter outside designed with the town seal and their motto, “The past our heritage, the future our legacy.”
Lastly, we passed by Lake George, which gets used quite a bit in the summer but on this late fall day was just quiet and peaceful.
We ended our day here and headed to Connecticut to see our friends.
Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Nipmuc, Agawam
Day/Date:SATURDAY -12/4/22 Towns visited:Milford & Holliston Had we ever been to these town before? No Drive to 1st town: 26 miles Time spent in town(s):5 1/2hours
What did we do in the town/area? MILFORD:
It’s a great feeling to walk into a new business owned by two cool women who have made it their mission to serve up coffee and community. Blooming Hearts Coffee Roasters, a reasonably new cafe and coffee roaster in the Nathaniel Plaza in Milford, was the perfect place to start our day. They opened less than six months ago, and you can tell that people love it! It has a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere, and we were pleased with our lattes!
And to add to the yumminess, the next store over was Basic Batch Donuts, a “from scratch” bakery with some pretty fun and delicious-looking donuts. We’re talking donut flavors like “Fruity Pebbles,” “Maple bacon,” Cranberry cheesecake,” and “Butter cookie.” They looked and sounded so good that although we weren’t hungry at the moment, we couldn’t resist buying a couple to take home (and to share with family).
After all of that deliciousness, we decided a nice walk along the Milford Upper Charles Rail Trail was in order. We parked at the Cedar Swamp pond and walked towards Louisa Lake. The trail is mostly paved, but a couple of off-shoots by the lake granted us some views of the lake and a beautiful swan gliding along the water.
After our walk, we drove through the downtown area, completely missing the hard-to-miss town hall. We had to turn around. We laughed when we finally saw it because it’s beautiful and grand and unlike the other buildings nearby and we really shouldn’t have missed it.
Lastly, we stopped at the Historic old St Mary’s Cemetery to see a round Irish tower we had read about. It is believed that there is none other like it in the U.S. Built in 1896, a local Irish parish priest intended this tower to be like the watch towers of Ireland.
It had a striking and unique presence.
Just 6 miles from our last stop in Milford was the first stop in Holliston: the Town Hall. Another pretty building next to a New England-y painted white church amidst the downtown area. We parked the car and walked down to Fiske’s General Store. This store has been in existence since 1863, and it feels like there is something for everyone inside. There were handwritten signs everywhere promoting everything from made-to-order Holiday Bows to Pokemon cards. The assortment of inventory included: cards and gifts, candy and crafts, games and housewares, holiday fare, a squealing pink rubber chicken dressed as Santa, and more. It was fun to shop around, and we walked away with a sweet little tree for our mantle and a few holiday gifts. One of the owners showed us an x marked on the carpet, telling us that this was the very spot where he met his wonderful wife 50 years ago (she was right behind us and glanced over with a smile).
Hungry and ready for lunch, we crossed the street to the Superette, where we waited in line to order a homemade sandwich for lunch. After gobbling those up, we drove to the site of the old, lost site Darling Woolen Mill just across the street from the 8 arch bridge; a recently restored bridge incorporated into the Holliston portion of the Upper Charles Rail trail, and that is where we headed next.
Just off the rail trail (and just past the post with W, aka-whistle post), was the entry to the Wennakeening Woods where we made a 3/4 mile long loop trail in the woodlands.
Historically, a whistle post means to inform the train conductor to blow the train’s whistle so as to warn anyone in or near the crossing that the train is coming.
Then we headed to the “Open House” at the Historical Society’s Asa Whiting house.
We felt a little out of place here as there were many people mingling who clearly all knew each other there, but the house was filled with artifacts & toys on display from many different decades from the turn of the century to the 1970s. We enjoyed some hot apple cider and noticed a portrait of Dr. Timothy Fiske, the first trained physician in Holliston. It turns out it was his grandson, James Ferdinand Fiske, who founded the Fiske General Store that we visited earlier! It was a fitting way to end the day.
Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Nipmuc
Towns visited: Whitman, Abington & Holbrook Had we ever been to any of these towns before? No Drive to 1st town: 24 miles Time spent today in these towns:6 hours
What did we do in the towns/area?
Three little towns
Today we visited three small towns south of Boston and Quincy that are practically stacked on top of each other (at least, that’s how it looks on the map). We started at the southernmost town and worked our way north.
WHITMAN: We started the day at Restoration Coffee, a local coffee roaster with 3 locations (Bridgewater, E. Bridgewater & Whitman). We learned about them when we went to Plympton in October at the Mayflower Market days fair. We were so glad to discover them as the vibe of the place was lovely, and the coffee was dee-licious! It was located in the old downtown part of Whitman, complete with an old-timey drugstore called Duval’s pharmacy. With our coffees in hand, we walked to the town hall and to the large local park near the center of the town. Whitman Park is on the National Register of Historic Places, designed by the Olmsted Brothers. It was a little windy, so we had to cinch up our hoodies for our walk! Later we walked by the Emerald Isle Shop, a store full of ‘all things Irish,’ and we were intrigued and just had to go in. It was a great little shop with friendly staff. One of them asked us if we had been to Ireland. Jo said, “Yes,” and Jenny said, “No.” To this, she responded, with a smile, “Not yet!” We purchased some creme cookies and some fig bars. And Jenny scored a great wool sweater from the sale bin for less than $35!
Our last stop in Whitman was a sign marking the Toll House Inn (its location, next to a Wendy’s parking lot, was kind of funny). It was here that the “toll house cookie” was invented in the 1930s. Ruth Wakefield, a baker at the Inn, ran out of nuts for her basic butter cookies. So, she chopped up a Nestle chocolate bar and put that in instead. Voila! A wonderful creation was born!
Before the town of Whitman split off and became known as Whitman, it was once a part of the next town we planned to visit, Abington.
ABINGTON: Our 2nd and most populous town of the day was Abington, to the North of Whitman. The Town Hall, Public Library, Middle School, High School, and a Pre-K school are all in the same area, a bit out of the main part of downtown. We went into the lovely library, where after spending a little time working on a puzzle, we struck up a conversation with Jill, one of the librarians. We told her about our town visit project and asked if she had suggestions for things to see in Abington. Jill told us about Island Grove Park, a local favorite. Intrigued by this place that hadn’t been on our list, we decided to drive over there immediately! What an interesting park; it’s kind of on a peninsula jutting out into a lake. As with the park in Whitman, it was also designed by the Olmsted Brothers. There are picnic areas, trails, and a sand-bottomed, perfectly round, outdoor swimming pool. There were also some small wood-framed buildings nearby, one with a red cross on it (for the lifeguards?) and probably a snack bar, making it feel like a camp. It seems like it would be enjoyable to come and swim here in the summer or ice skate in the winter. We walked the trails, noticing a very decorated house for the holidays and an interesting memorial along the way. This memorial, in a pine grove in the park, marked the meeting place of abolitionists in the 1800s. A very cool place indeed. Thanks for the recommendation, Jill!
Having worked up an appetite, we decided to grab some subs or “grinders” from a spot that we had driven by earlier called Submarine Galley. They were pretty yummy. Then, we went for a short hike at Ames Nowell State Park. The trails hugged the shore of Cleveland Pond. This park area seemed to be popular for hiking, fishing, and mountain biking.
HOLBROOK: Heading northeast, we visited the small town of Holbrook. Holbrook used to be part of Braintree and then part of Randolph. We happened upon a house with a historic marker on it that said “John Adams House 1770”. We pulled in to see what it was, and it turned out to be a private hairdressing business. Knowing that John Adams was born in what is now known as Quincy, we searched for some more information about the house but, we couldn’t seem to find any information online about the history of this house or who lived there, but it does seem like former president John Adam’s younger brother, Elihu, was born in the area now known as Holbrook, so maybe it’s related to that (as their father’s name was John).
Next, we visited the downtown area’s town hall and library. Looking at the map, we realized Holbrook is surrounded by four cities (Brockton, Braintree, Randolph, and Weymouth). Although the smallest in population of the three towns we visited today, it definitely had the busiest roads.
Our final stop was a hike in the Cranberry Pond Conservation area; a tucked away spot on the Holbrook/Braintree border. This sweet little hike was the perfect end to our 3-town day. Now it is off to our nephew’s piano recital back in Newton!
Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Wampanoag, Massachuset, Pokanoket
Day/Date: SUNDAY -10/30/22 Towns visited:Bourne Had we ever been to this town before? No Drive to town: 77 miles Time spent in town:6 hours
What did we do in the town/area? BOURNE: Cranberry Bogs!
On our way into Bourne, just after having some delicious coffee from Snowy Owl in Sandwich, we passed by a cemetery that was being landscaped. We did a double take when we saw one of the landscapers in a scary clown mask while cheerfully working away on the day before Halloween. We slowed; aww, who are we kidding? …we stopped to, slyly, take his picture, but he figured us out and purposefully gave us a few visible shots!
We continued on to the Cape Cod Canal, as there is a paved trail that runs along both sides of the canal that you can walk or bike along. We had a pleasant stroll and got picturesque views of the Bourne Bridge and the Cape Cod Railroad bridge. This amazing contraption lowers down when a train needs to cross the canal, and when it isn’t in use, it lifts to clear the way for boat travel. We didn’t get to see a train over it, but we found this youtube video of it happening! See it here.
The Cape Cod Canal runs for 7 miles. There is a lot of history about building a canal that would let shipping boats through without having to go around all of Cape Cod. The construction was started and stopped a few times in the 1800s and 1900s by a few private companies. Management of the canal was taken over by the US Government by an emergency order four days after a German U-Boat showed up off the coast of Orleans, further east on Cape Cod. It turns out that this was the only attack on US soil in WW1.
There was so much history in this town that was much older than the canal! We visited a little historic area with the Jonathan Bourne Library and the Alonzo Booth Forge, a replica of an old blacksmith shop. Nearby we came upon The Old Bourne Cemetery, which piqued our interest differently. No clowns here (!), but the stones were ancient and since Jo’s great-grandmother was named Nancy Ellen Bourne and her ancestors were from the Cape Cod area, we thought we’d see if we could locate any family gravestones. While we didn’t match any of the names with family members, you could feel the history here.
One of our main goals for the day was to find cranberries at harvest time. We researched online and found some trails that might take us to the bogs. The Bourne Conservation Trust has protected many areas in Bourne and maintains many trails. Thank you, BCT! We took a hike in the Bourne Sisters Woodland area. Near the end of our loop trail, we came upon a cranberry bog that had not yet been flooded. It was pretty, and we zoomed the camera in to see the berries still in the bushes. A little disappointed that we did not see the berries being harvested, we got back on the trail that led up to a ridge.
From that ridge, we spotted a bright patch of red. Could it be? Yes, it was! Just down from the bog, we had just seen was another bog that had been harvested. No farmers were actively working the bog that day, BUT they had recently flooded the bog, churned through the fields, and let the berries float to the top. Cranberries have four air pockets inside, allowing them to rise to the water’s surface. After they float, the farmers get into the bog with a “boom,” like a long stiff strap. This allows the farmers to push them together to one side of the bog. Then, a large vacuum sucks them into a truck, where they are culled and washed. It is a fascinating and low-tech process but ingenious. We also learned that most of the cranberries are harvested this way, but some that you would buy for cooking are harvested by hand in dry bogs. Farmers use a type of scooper similar to that used to harvest blueberries. This is much more labor intensive. We were so excited about this find!
In search for a bite to eat, we went to Gray Gables Market for lunch. This cute little store provided us with some delicious sandwiches. We then were on the hunt for local cranberries to purchase.
Next, we headed to Monument Beach, which was on a small cove with many boats. It was so warm, even this last weekend in October, that folks were just hanging out in their beach chairs watching the ocean do it’s thing.
We traveled next to the village of Pocasset. There wasn’t much there, but we did find a little market that had cranberries for sale in a big crate. So, we know they were from one of the local bogs.
Next, we saw the village of Cataumet. This area is charming and must be busy in the summer, with a couple of ice cream shops and mini golf courses. But it was pretty quiet this time of year.
We went on a 2nd BCT cranberry bog hike, starting at Dimmick Field and following the red arrows to the bog. This bog had been flooded, but the berries were not floating at the top. So, either they had finished the harvest, or the farmers still needed to churn through the bogs to knock the berries off the vines. But it was interesting to see a bog in another stage of the process. The afternoon sun made this hike particularly beautiful!
Our final stop of the day was to the village of Buzzards Bay. This felt like the real commercial center of Bourne, with a lot of shops, chain stores and restaurants, and hotels. Buzzards’ Bay is where the Bourne Town Hall was located. This village is also home to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. This is a public university founded in 1891 that focuses on maritime-related fields. The campus is located right at the entrance to the Cape Cod Canal. They have a giant ship that is used for training that they might take out to sea for six months or so.
All in all, we were really amazed by all that Bourne has to offer. There is so much water all around, and through Bourne, it makes navigating by car a little challenging But, we had a great day and were so excited to see those berries! Now, we must go home to cook some cranberry bread!
For more information about how cranberry bogs work Fee free to check out this You tube video! Bog video
Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Wampanoag
Day/Date:SATURDAY -10/15/22 Towns visited:Williamstown & Savoy Had we ever been to any of these towns before?No Time spent in town(s):20 + hours combined
What did we do in the town(s)/area? WILLIAMSTOWN: Well, we were blown away by our visit to Williamstown. This small town in the uppermost corner of the state is home to Williams College, a small liberal arts school. Having been to many “college towns,” this one seemed to integrate campus and town nicely. The Berkshires are known to be a home for the arts, with many museums and summer event spaces. We found out that, along with Tanglewood music venue in Lenox and Jacob’s Pillow dance study and performance center in Becket, Williamstown is also known for the performance arts, specifically, the award-winning Williamstown Theatre Festival which typically runs in the summers.
We really tried to pack a lot into our few days here. We went to the Clark Institute of Art, spending time both inside the museum and outside, walking the campus’ many trails and taking in the scenery and the outdoor sculptures. One piece of art entitled “Can you teach a cow to draw?” by Analia Saban was a fence showing concepts such as the rule of thirds and the golden ratio. The fence surrounded a pasture of cows on a hill, and the walking paths went right through the pasture. These well-behaved cows didn’t seem to mind us literally walking through their home in order to see another outdoor exhibitof architectural artworkcalled the Crystal, an asymmetrical wooden structure that provided a unique look out onto the scenery (the picture will explain it better). Inside the museum was an impressive collection, inclusive of paintings, sketches, sculpture and photography, much of which was donated by Sterling and Francine Clark. They had familial ties with Williams College, so they decided to establish a public art gallery in the town of Williamstown.
We stayed in a lovely Airbnb about a mile from campus, a small apartment adjacent to a couple’s house. After checking in, we continued our Williamstown adventures, checking out the Spruces Community Park, a charming park with a few miles of walking/biking trails on a flat piece of land with great mountain views. This used to be a mobile home retirement community from the 1950s until 2011 when hurricane Irene came and devastated the area. The Hoosac River is just a few blocks from this spot, and with it being so low in elevation, the area was severely flooded. The town condemned the area after every home was damaged and turned it into a public park.
Since the night before had been really rainy, we decided to pick up some great food for dinner from the local food co-op and head out to chase the sunset! We ended up watching it from Luce Road which went from town up into the hills, with many farms. It was beautiful! We slept well that night.
When we awoke in the morning, our first thought was, “time for coffee!” So, we headed down to Spring Street, which is a small street a few blocks long that has most of the restaurants, the Williams bookstore, and other shops in town. There was the 2nd location of Tunnel Coffee Roasters, and having had such a good cup o’ joe there the day before in their other location, we went back for more! It did not disappoint! After coffee and breakfast at the cafe, we went across the street to take in the Williamstown Farmer’s Market, complete with live bluegrass music! We purchased a few carrots and onions from a small local farm called Big Foot Farm.
Then we walked around the Williams College campus. From every vantage point, you could see the foliage-covered mountains all around. We went into the newly-expanded library. A brick wall from the old library sits inside the new, very modern glass library building! We also toured the Williams College Museum of Art, which had some really amazing works! There was an exhibit about the late artist, Mary Ann Unger. Unger was a feminist sculptor whose works express unconventional human forms. Her work “Across the Bering Straight” (pictured) is a room full of figures, seemingly in motion, plodding away on their journey. Unfortunately, Unger passed away at the far too young age of 53 from breast cancer. Her daughter, who is an artist in her own right, attended Williams College, which may be why the exhibit made it to this museum.
After our campus adventures, we picked up a sandwich at the local deli, and they headed to Sheep Hill . Jenny read that this spot was “the best place to see foliage in the Berkshires,” and we think that the review was correct! This spot, just a few miles out of the downtown part of town, is part of Williamstown Rural Lands, a protected patch of land for recreation. The views from this hike were lovely from the bottom, then just became more and more colorful and beautiful as we walked up the hill. From the top, we enjoyed our sandwiches as well as spectacular views of the foliage and Mt. Greylock, Mt. Fitch, and Mt Williams. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and we could have sat on top of that hill until nightfall. But, alas, we wanted time to visit one more town on our way home.
SAVOY: This small town of about 650 people is on the Eastern Edge of Berkshire County. This town is so small that they don’t even have a post office. Well, they do have post boxes next to the town hall, which are covered by a wooden shelter. And the town offices are only open Tuesdays from 1 pm to 5 pm! The very small Town Hall building has a police station around the back. We think they only had one police car, which was parked beside the building. This town had no stores and no gas stations. There was google info for a general store, but it led us to an abandoned building. The info for a general store led us to an empty building.
But, there is a State Forest in Savoy, and our handy dandy All Trails app took us down a bumpy road to a trailhead for Tannery Falls. This was a fairly steep but well-maintained hike to the base of a waterfall. Well, actually, to the base of two waterfalls, with the hiking trail running between them. It was beautiful, and the water was really flowing after the recent rain.
We hiked back up, hopped in the car, and headed the 2+ hours on Rte. 2 all the way home. What a wonderful fall foliage weekend adventure in the Berkshires! 5 towns visited in 3 days!!!
Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: WILLIAMSTOWN: Mohican SAVOY: Nipmuc, Wabanaki Pocumtuc
Day/Date:FRIDAY -10/14/22 Towns visited: North Adams (City) & Clarksburg Had you ever been to any of these towns before?Yes we have been to N. Adams but No, we have never been to Clarksburg Time spent in town(s):20+hours
What did we do in the town(s)/area? NORTH ADAMS: We arrived in North Adams on Thursday evening after our visit to Ashfield. We had reservations at the Wigwam Western Summit Cabins, located right on Rte 2, a.k.a; the Mohawk Trail. There is a pretty notable “Hairpin turn” on this road, and our cabin was just about 1/6 of a mile after that turn. Our very kind host, Lea, welcomed us from inside the gift shop she also runs. This gift shop and set of cabins have an incredible view of the Hoosac Valley and a mountainous range. It’s a place many people call America’s Switzerland, and fall is a fantastic time to be here. The forecasted rain had been holding off all day, and we were so happy to be able to get settled in and take in the scenery before it came. This place came with two wooden Adirondack chairs, a fire pit, and a wooden outdoor shower that faced the mountains. We had been hoping to use the fire pit, but after settling in, we went out to explore and grab a bite to eat for a little bit, and when we returned, it started raining. But that was ok because we were fed and had a scrabble game. Plus, there was actually something quite soothing about the rain.
In the morning, the rain subsided and it left behind an incredible scene over the mountains of a fog that we could see was coming our way. We took our time getting packed up and, we most certainly did use that outdoor shower. It was so awesome! So much so that, at different times throughout the rest of the day, one of us would look at the other with a smile and say, “that shower, though.”
Sure enough, the fog we had been watching lifted and headed in our direction. For a time, it was so thick that we were hesitant to drive as we were planning on heading down into the downtown part of North Adams, which meant going towards the hairpin turn. So we decided to take a short hike on the Hoosac trail, which was within walking distance of our cabin. As it had poured all night, and we didn’t want to fall in any mud, we took our time walking. It was kind of magical being in the forest amidst the fog. Jenny looked around for mushrooms and I just took in the smells and sounds.
At some point, the fog lifted enough for us to begin our descent into the downtown area to get some coffee and explore this city.
After we parked, we noticed a large outdoor sculpture sandwiched between City Hall and Mass MoCA. It’s called Big Bling by Martin Puryear.
This piece has been traveling as a temporary art exhibit in several cities. It is now a part of The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (a.k.a Mass MoCA), the largest contemporary art museum in the United States. Mass MoCA was once a shoe factory in this once very industrial old mill town. North Adams has seemed to reinvent itself by trying to use these old mill buildings in new ways such as artist workspace and housing lofts, pop-up stores and more.
We headed to another independent coffee roaster called Tunnel City Coffee in North Adams, which has cafes in both North Adams and Williamstown. Their North Adams Cafe is located at Mass MoCA. The coffee was really, really, yummy, and the place had a nice vibe. I kind of wished I had some work to do so I could have holed up in there! Anyway, we also bought some beans to take home.
There was also a taco truck within the Mass MoCA complex, and we were hungry, so instead of going to Jack’s (a hotdog place our bro-in-law told us about a while back), we opted for a couple of tacos, and wow, we were so glad we did! The folks at Chignon Taco truck not only made our delicious tacos, but they also treated us to their delicious spirit as they unabashedly sang along to Celine Deon songs while making our food.
Well-fed and caffeinated, we journeyed on to explore the North Adams Library. This library is in a beautiful building, once called the Blackinton Mansion. It was donated as a library in the late 1800s. And it feels like an old house generously loaded with books. There is a beautiful wooden staircase and a sitting room that feels like you have traveled back in time a bit.
After all these adventures walking around downtown, we decided to take another trek in the woods and head to the Cascades Trail. We parked at a school and wandered through a neighborhood before reaching the head of this 2-mile path. The trail follows along Notch brook. It is supposed to lead you to a cascading waterfall at the end. Unfortunately, due to the rain the night before, the last part of the trail that led to that waterfall was flooded, and there was no way to pass without getting soaked. But we got to enjoy most of the trail, which was lovely.
The last discovery we had in North Adams that we just happened upon was the area known as Blackinton. We were driving through it, and Jenny noticed a hiker crossing sign right next to a sign that said Blackinton Historic district. So we turned around on this fairly busy road, and Jenny got out to explore. It turns out the Appalachian trail crosses here, and the signs for the AT North and South go right through this neighborhood. People are obviously friendly about it, as there was a water hose with a sign telling AT hikers to help themselves to the water. We thought this was pretty cool.
After that little excursion, we journeyed on to the small town of Clarksburg, just to the north.
Just north of North Adams is a small rectangle of a town names Clarksburg, with a population of about 1600 residents. We drove to the town hall and then tried to find the library, but failed. (Looking back, we think it may have been behind the local elementary school). In looking for the library, we did find the Clarksburg Senior Center and a park for sports. The Senior Center was advertising an art show the next day for local seniors.
This town borders Vermont, so we drove to the state line. Interestingly, the sign that marks the entry into VT is a typical white sign with the seal of Massachusetts in the middle.
Our All Trails App noted a trail in Clarksburg State Park, so we headed there. This state park also has a campground, which was closed for the season. In fact, the sign said the whole park was closed for the season, but we went in anyway. We were unable to hike the pond loop trail around Mauserts’ Pond because it was washed out from all of the rain the night before. So, we walked along the camp road. It was really beautiful at the pond, as the lake was reflecting the clouds and the mountains.
After our visit, we found out that the Appalachian Trail goes through Clarksburg near East Mountain in the Clarksburg State Forest. We would have had to trek 3 miles in to actually come across the trail, so we didn’t do that.
There were no restaurants or stores in the town. We are guessing that residents go into nearby North Adams for their food and services.