Tuesday, September 24, 2013


If you have been reading then you are aware that this weekend has been all about tours.  On Saturday I had the pleasure of doing a few tours through the Upper Housatonic National Heritage Area ~ www.heritage-hikes.org.

Saturday was gardens, homes and history.  Sunday was all about hiking and history.  We met up with our group on Route 183 for "Faded Tracks on Monument Mountain" which was called A Walk on the Dark Side of Monument Mountain with  Bernie Drew a local historian and writer of "Faded Tracks on Monument Mountain".

A good sized group was ready to explore this less explored area of Monument Mountain to learn about charcoal and visit a quarry and travel back into the 19th Century.  We had learned about charcoal making the day before at Bidwell House, and our tour guide was also in this group along with his faithful companion Penny.

The road at the beginning was pretty steep and one could only imagine traveling up and down with wagons pulled by oxen to get the charcoal need for steel production during the 1800's during the harsh winters!
We took an ample amount of breaks as we tromped on wood roads and off road bushwhacking through the woods.

As we traveled our leader spoke about the history of the hills and how the trees were harvested for charcoal and we searched for pits  which were manned 24 hours a day while charcoal was made.

The woods and I are great friends who, not by choice but by circumstances have parted company in my recent past, so I loved being part of this group!

It was a crisp, cool day ~ perfect for a hike and I was prepared for any weather outbreak (except snow) having layers to put on or take off as needed.                                                                            
Penny had a great time and was a great addition to the group!  Testing the depth of the large puddles from the rain the evening before.

It wasn't muddy or too damp which was great and I saw some amazing things in the woods ~ having put the batteries in the camera the evening before so I would not miss out this day on some great shots as I had done the day before!

 I thought these twin mushroom trees were really cool and had to get a few shots to share.  It was really amazing to me that there were two trees ~ side by side in this condition and not a whole stand of them.

There were many great rock formations in the woods as well ~ I love rocks and we would get our fill of seeing many ~ learning that even the rocks were harvested for use as foundations as they used what they needed in the old days.

I just appreciate a good rock to sit and idly think, draw or write on ~ there were many which would do if we were not in an organized group!

Before we knew it we were back into the present time and place ~ tour was over and we were breaking through the trees and back to civilization and our cars.  It was such a nice way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday morning.  We thanked our guide and said our goodbyes headed to the car and consulted our map as we headed off for our next tour scheduled for the day.

Our second organized hike of the day brought us to Ashley Falls, and after a quick pit stop to grab a bite to eat along the way to our destination we arrived at Bartholomew's Cobble with naturalist Rene Wendell.  As we waited for everyone to arrive I checked out the museum and tried to guess which pelts belonged to which animals ~ loving the coyote one the best as it was the softest ~ surprisingly so ~ as I thought it would be a bit more coarse.

We began our hike, stopping many times to get educated on the edibles in the woods, the plight of the hemlocks and many other things.  It was most informative along with being a beautiful place to spend a few hours!

Cobble means rock and there are more huge rocks in this place than you can count on two hands and all of your toes!  It is advised not to go off of the marked trails however as there is so much poison ivy everywhere and surprisingly growing out of rocks and higher than I thought it could be in the trees!

This hill has many different species of ferns growing on it.  I love ferns and was surprised to learn about a couple of different species of ferns which I did not know existed until Sunday!        

Rene is really a wonderful naturalist ~ very informative and fun to spend an afternoon gleaning his knowledge.  It was a great setting as well.

Not only is there woods and rocks ~ the river passes through and alongside in many spots and there are a couple of cow pastures along the way as well where we discovered some wild spearmint as well as other plant species.

 A hole in the base of this rock could be home or shelter to a few critters in the woods!

 This rock caught my attention with the small ferns growing off of the moss in the middle of the trail.

From a distance this caught my attention.  As we got nearer the orange was an outcrop
of mushrooms.
Dolls Eyes
Rock with impression on it

Pink flowers in the cow field by the river

Spider rocks

This tree was huge and hollow!  Rene and 12 ~ 7 years old hold the record ~ only one of our companions were willing to check out the inside of this tree so we did not see how many grown adults could fit in there!

The tree recently lost a huge limb off the side which has taken this tree out of the running for the largest one in the area ~ now the largest one is supposedly in Pitt Park in Pittsfield, MA ~ although I do not think it is hollow ~ I may have to take a walk over and see it for myself!

This tree was so cool!  I could not even begin to think about checking it out from the inside, however as I was in shorts and it was all spongy on the inside which did not really appeal to me.  It was hollow way up at least to where the side branch broke off when it was hit by lightening recently.

We toured some fields where they replanted three fields of trees.  We were not too far from the Connecticut border in one spot.  Our tour was not over yet, and soon we had looped back to the giant hollow tree and walked up a different path to a spot overlooking a swampy area which is home to frogs and salamanders and a much needed breeding ground for them.              

Rene was full of great information.  Teaching us how to make an acorn top whistle ~ something I have not mastered yet, although I did bring three acorn tops home so that the boys could also see if they could do it ~ Pat's Dad came the closest to making it whistle ~ I am still working on it!!

We came around a large cliff of rocks with a tree growing out through one and rounded a corner which came close to the road which we had come in on, and soon were back at the building where we began.  I was thankful for the sun shining down brightly as I laid on the grass to rest.  A great day to be sure!

Soon, we were heading back towards Great Barrington and I needed to pick up the supplies I had forgotten for the Shepherds Pie ~ it was my middle son's birthday and I still had birthday dinner to prepare.  It was a nice ride back to Pittsfield.

It had been a full day as it was, so once I arrived home I kicked off my sneakers, made a cup of tea and called my sons to confirm our dinner plans and work out an ETA, my eldest son had phoned while I was out so I returned his call and was delighted to receive an unexpected visit from he and his lovely wife and daughter.

They were not coming for our dinner, as it was so late ~ but I got huge hugs from my favourite granddaughter and we made plans if she does her schoolwork and goes to bed, gets up and behaves all week to come spend Saturday with me ~ a whole new kind of adventure and one that I look forward to.

I was in the final stages of adding the potatoes to the top of the Pie in order to bake it for the 30 minutes required and when they left I got it into the oven and made another cup of tea and caught up on some computer things before my four diners arrived.

We had an excellent dinner, albeit late.  Everything about the weekend was amazing and wonderful.  I would highly recommend any of the tours put on by the group.  They are doing a different set of tours for the first weekend in October and this morning I reserved places for a few more informative tours.

They still have spots open so be sure to visit the web site and make your reservations early as they do fill up rather quickly.  I am sure you will not be disappointed and who knows ~ maybe I will see you there!

1 comment:

  1. Very nice ! I was in Ashley Falls this pass weekend ! I went down into Cannan Conn and did some tree marking, next month I will be doing some logging ( they are dead trees) walked on a 30 acre forest. And yes I forgot to take my camera with me lol but will take it next month.