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.
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
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.
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 region: Erving: Pennacook, Wabanaki
Gill & Northfield: Pennacook, Wabanaki, Abenaki