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!

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)

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
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 regionErving: Pennacook, Wabanaki
Gill & Northfield: Pennacook, Wabanaki, Abenaki