One year in Connecticut- 6 things I’ve learned.

By Jelane A. Kennedy

Map of Connecticut

I have now been commuting and/or living in Connecticut about a year. I thought I would share some of what I have learned.

First Connecticut is a small State. It can still take a while to get from one place to another but in relative terms for me it is small. In comparison, I grew up in Michigan, which is 96,716 square miles in size, and there are a lot of lakes besides the Great Lakes (which look like oceans). There are also multiple national parks or national lakeshore to visit.

I have also lived in Ohio, which was 44,825 square miles and there was not much water around. I lived in Ohio two years and what I remember most is farmland. I also remember camping and it did not smell like camping because I was missing evergreen trees and lakes!

My next State was Virginia, which was about the same size as Ohio at 44,775 square miles, and Virginia had water with the ocean along one edge (Atlantic) and some great mountains (Shenandoah) along the other side. Virginia because it was one of the 13 original colonies had a lot of colonial history, American Revolution history and civil war history. Which meant several national parks to visit.

Jelane winter hike at Gull Pond, Photo by Eileen A. McFerran

And the State, which I still live in when I am not in Connecticut, is New York, which is 54,555 square miles. A little bigger than both Ohio and Virginia. There are lots of lakes and the Adirondack Mountains.

So when you look at Connecticut it is a bit small coming in at 5,567 square feet in size.

Second, I’ve been a bit surprise actually by how hilly it is and how much rural area there is. I use to think of Connecticut as just one big metropolitan area. I am also surprised since it was one of the 13 original colonies that I have yet to really stumble across much about that, it seems like Massachusetts takes on most of that history. In looking for a National Park or Historic site, I found several trails (Appalachian Trail and New England trail) but really only one place to visit that might feel like a park and that is Weir Farm National Historic Site, which celebrates American painting and art. I am very intrigued to go visit the studio and house which is said be a “…significant portion of the landscape remain largely intact as one of the nation’s finest remaining landscapes of American art”.

Third, I have found the folks pretty friendly and willing to say hi, and look you in the eye. I have a feeling that there are many transplanted people in Connecticut so at this point I have not run into the bias I feel in New York about not having been born a New Yorker.

Fourth, but with all the friendliness I have also found that they are terrors on the road. For instance the speed limit is just a suggestion, stop signs are usually just to slow down, swerving within the lane of traffic is common practice (maybe aided by cell phone … I’ve missed being side swiped multiple times) it is a bit unnerving since I’m never sure how close they may get to me as I drive, needing to always be on alert.

Fifth, I’ve also noticed that there are condos everywhere so that the density of the population can be a bit overwhelming for me, Connecticut comes in fifth after DC in population density, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Massachusetts take the first three spots. (Michigan – 19th, Ohio – 11th, Virginia – 15th, New York – 8th by comparison.)

Pat and Jelane, Chihuly sculpture Meijer Gardens in Michigan. Photo by Eileen A. McFerran

Last but not least, at this point I have yet to really see much of Connecticut other than by car. Prior to working here Eileen and I had spent some time in Mystic, Connecticut and really enjoyed the small town quaintness. My friend Linda always talks about this in relation to what we will find as we get to know Connecticut more. I also have a feeling that it may be the state with the most quirky little museums as I keep seeing signs every where when I have been driving here and there visiting colleges for my job (American Clock and Watch Museum, American Museum of Tort Law-started by Ralph Nader, Antique Radio Museum, Trolley Museum, etc.). I have told Eileen that we will have to check them out since we both love a great little museum. We went to the New Britain Museum of American Art and saw a Chihuly glass sculpture on permanent display. I’ll have to in another post discuss visiting this great gem of a museum.

I’m looking forward to exploring more and finding out about this little State. There are at least fourteen lighthouses for me to check out!

Truro, MA lighthouse Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© 2018 Jelane A. Kennedy and Eileen A. McFerran

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Winter Solstice Photo Essay 2017

By Jelane A. Kennedy

As I consider the time between September and now, it is hard to believe all that has taken place. 2017 has been a packed year; fast charging non-stop it feels like.

We have had a year of selling a home like no other, and buying a home. There has been changing jobs and starting anew with people, places and things. This has led to remodeling, packing, unpacking, upheaval and settling in.

When I think about the pictures taken in this time period it is reflective of how much we have been traveling between many places. The photos have been taken in those many spaces we have traveled.

As we begin the move through the dark times of winter we look forward to some down time to catch our breath.

Albany, New York

Jelane and Snoopy will always be pals. Photo by Eileen A. McFerran

Burlington, Vermont

Changing Light, Burlington Waterfront. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Hartford, Connecticut

Gingerbread Lane, Children’s Museum West Hartford, CT Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Eileen enjoying an indoor campfire – West Hartford, CT. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Moody pond, Wild Acres, Pittsfield, MA. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Chestertown, New York

Gingerbread village, Chestertown, NY Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Rocky Hill, Connecticut

Spiral Log Photo by Eileen A. McFerran

Safe travels into the New Year!

© Jelane A. Kennedy & Eileen A. McFerran

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Two little nature trails in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

By Jelane A. Kennedy

Sign into Wild Acres. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

In our most recent visit to the Berkshires Eileen and I decided we want to try to find a couple of new hiking trails in the area of Pittsfield. We have our old standbys that we enjoy visiting near Lenox and Stockbridge but this time we want to add to what we knew, mix it up a bit. One of the best ways that I have found to do that is to pull out my phone and use my “Oh, Ranger” app. The app gives great information about each park and offers sometimes pictures that people have taken along with directions. At times I have found the mapping to the trailhead a bit dicey but once I have the address I can always play with the GPS app to check out directions.

Our first new hike was at Wild Acres Conservation Area. It sits next to the Pittsfield municipal airport. It is identified as a conservation area. We parked at the gate, which was closed and walked into the main park area that had accessible bathrooms, a very nice picnic pavilion and a small building used for educational field trips. The area was redesigned back in 2014 after the local airport had finished a major construction process, which had previously closed the area. Unfortunately though the parking area near the pavilion is access for wheelchairs the trail is not.

Little snow at pavilion area. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

We found a trailhead off the side of the picnic pavilion area. We got the impression that it was a place that locals know, so they know the trail because the markings were sparse for us. Luckily it was well trampled so we just followed along. We had hoped for at least a kiosk that showed the general plan of the trails but that was not to be. Luckily after walking out to the pond we ran into some folks walking their dog. They told us that the trail was really set up as a figure eight and encouraged us to walk over to the observation tower. The pond was a great little space with benches and picnic tables and I read later they have fishing derby’s there. Extending our walk to the tower was nice added bonus. We climbed up to enjoy the view. On one side we observed the airport (the tower would be fun to watch planes from) and the other view spread out looking over the local area. It was a great little hike and as we headed back we found a sign that designated the area as F. H. Controy Nature Trail. All and all it was a nice trail even though it was lacking good marking, but we would come back again. We thought it might be fun to snowshoe through the woods out to the pond and tower.

Canoe Meadows information sign. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

For our second new hike we went again to the Pittsfield area and this time we went to a Massachusetts Audubon area. Using the “Oh, Ranger” app again we went to Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary. It is located near the Housatonic River. We almost missed it as we were driving in what seemed like a suburban area and then it just popped up with a little sign and parking area. At the end of the parking area we found a great kiosk that gave a basic map of the trails and some information about the birds and other wildlife.

The Sanctuary is 253 acres and has 3 miles of trail. While we were there we saw multiple runners, besides a few walkers like us. They do not allow dogs so it is quiet and dog poop free. The area is a bird sanctuary. While there we did two loops, the first was the Sacred Way Trail, it was a bit wet in spots but overall an easy hike in and out of woods and wetlands. The second hike we took was along the old carriage road that runs through the middle of the looping trails. We looked for the Wildlife Observation Building that was listed on a trail marking post but there was no building so we figured it was an old sign. The walk was peaceful and a great jaunt. We did not see much in wild life but it was nice to be out among the trees. We both decided we would like to come back and snowshoe the trails.

What was amazing about both new trails areas was that they were tucked into an unexpected region that provided wooded green space and seemed like quiet reprieves from the hustle and bustle of Pittsfield. We felt like we had really found truly local haunts that provided a break from city life.

Eileen near the ponds edge enjoying the view of the mountains. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© Jelane A. Kennedy 2017

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Fighting Falcon Museum, Greenville, Michigan – finding family history.

By Jelane A. Kennedy

On our last visit to Michigan I talked my Mom and Eileen into going to visit The Fighting Falcon Military Museum in Greenville, Michigan about 40 minutes from Rockford where my Mom lives. I had done a little research a head of time to find out when they were open so that we could make a visit. The hours of operation were on Sundays from 2- 4:30 pm from May through Veterans Day and by special appointment.

For me the main attraction of the museum was to see a replica of The Fighting Falcon glider. The glider was known during WWII as the Waco CG-4A. It was made to carry a pilot, co-pilot and up to 13 infantrymen or small Howitzer or bulldozer. The idea for the glider was that it would be towed up into the air and released behind enemy lines and was one of the first stealth aircraft to be used.

Glider with canvas Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

It is considered a replica because it is not one that was built in one of the factories but was made of surplus parts found through out Michigan and even Germany. After the war the surplus gliders in their boxes were sold at auction. Many of the gliders were discarded in farm fields and barns as the wood from the boxes were used as building materials. Some gliders were also purchased and then built into homes and even travel trailers. 50 years after “Glider Day in Greenville” in 1993 a group of individuals began the process of collecting the parts and building a glider from start to finish.

One of the things that amaze me about the glider is that it was a one-way ticket. The pilot and co-pilot took on this job knowing that they would only once fiy this plane on a mission. It is hard to think about how the pilots would practice with their glider, get to know all it could do and all the creaks and funny sounds (like we do with our cars) and then know that once they left for a mission their beloved glider would be at the end of it’s life span. My guess it that the greater purpose that they felt for their work took over, it was the price they paid to do business.

Skelton of the glider. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Seeing the glider in person was unbelievable. It had over 70,000 individual parts. It was made of mostly wood and canvas. The height was 12’7” and it is 48’4” long with a wingspan of 83’8”. In many ways it look like a huge model airplane kit like the one’s you might buy at a hobby shop. The replica at the museum sits in a special room built onto the old Cass Street, Board of Education building, to hold the glider and it does not have a complete set of wings, the wings are clipped to fit in the room. Standing next to the glider and peering around inside you can see the intricacies of the plane. The number of hours it took to assemble one on the shop room floor itself was a feat to be imagined. One of the amazing things to see were pictures on the wall of the cockpit area hinged open to drive in a jeep or other big equipment and then think about it actually flying around with all that weight inside!

So how did a museum about The Fighting Falcon come to be in Greenville, Michigan? Well there are two stories to tell. The first was the story of the wartime contract. Gibson Electric Refrigerator Company was headquartered in Greenville, Michigan. The company was the merging of two companies one that built cabinets for ice blocks in Belding, Michigan and another competing company that built ice refrigerators. This all started in 1877 and the merger took place in the early 1900’s. Gibson’s as it was known in Greenville was a mainstay of manufacturing for the town (meaning jobs) until about 2004 when the headquarters and manufacturing plant was closed in Greenville after being bought and sold multiple times over the years (my sister’s husband has worked for this company his entire career). During WWII Gibson’s took on a couple of war contracts and one of those was for building the Waco CG-4 glider.

The US Army Air Force, US Navy, Royal Air Force and Royal Canadian Air Force (among others) used the Waco CG-4 during WWII. There were 16 companies that built gliders across the country. The two Michigan contracts were Ford Motor Company and Gibson’s. Out of the two Gibson’s was able get up to speed faster, building the gliders because of their history of working with wood. They still had at that time men in the shop with the wood working experience. The company that built the most gliders was Ford Motor with 4,190 gliders. Most of the other companies built less than that and Gibson’s was one of the top 6 manufactures with 1,078 built. 13,900 were delivered by wars end. The factories were open 24 hours a day during that time. The gliders were used in WWII and as late as 1950 for artic exploration.

The museum also has a small section upstairs discussing more of the war contracts Gibson serviced and other military artifacts through the museum. One of the upcoming exhibits will be about the war efforts on the home front. It would be great to hear more about the women and their jobs working in the factories. What it was like and the transition to factory work. I hope they are able to gather those stories before that oral history is lost.

The second part of the story is that in 1943, the students at Greenville Public Schools made the decision that they would see if they could fund raise enough money to pay for one of the Gibson made gliders. The students raised $72,000 in two-months time, which meant instead of one glider they had enough to purchase four gliders! May 19, 1943 was named “Glider Day in Greenville” and there was a big parade out to the football field and a glider was towed over head during the day.

At Black field a ceremony took place honoring the students with the Distinguished Service award from the US Treasury Department. The award is the third highest honor that is bestowed by the Secretary of the Treasury and is not presented very often. This was the first time it was given to school students.

Where my family history mergers is that my father was his class president all four years of high school at Greenville Public Schools and it was his senior year that this all took place. He was one of the students honored for collecting the most funds. My Dad joined and served in the Navy after high school as WWII was ending.

Dad’s class photo.

A long time ago when my Mom and I stopped at the Greenville Historical Society I remember one of the volunteers showing me an article about Glider Day, all I remembered is that he was in so way involved with the glider. My Mom didn’t remember this so when I suggested going to the museum she was not sure what I was up to but she was game. So she was very surprised when we arrived and at the door happened to be our former family eye doctor and his son (who plays the organ at Mom’s church in Rockford). I don’t know a lot about my Dad since he passed away when I was 7 and we moved to Greenville about that time. My Mom has been able to tell me bits and pieces that she knew of him. Before we moved to Greenville we had lived primarily in the Upper Peninsula in the Escanaba area.

While Eileen and I wandered the museum Mom got caught up with Dr. Dibble and his son. She later caught up with us. She did not know this history about my Dad and she got a kick out of see the old high school class photo, one we also had hanging around the house. Reading all the news clips and seeing the pictures added a new context to my father. My mom recognized some of the names in the article and was able to tell me more about what she knew of the connections. The slogan on the sign out front of the museum says “… whispers in the shadows” in many ways this sums up how I feel about my Dad.

In May 2018 the museum is planning an event to celebrate “Glider Day”, I am planning on attending. The question I still have unanswered is why did the student’s name one of the gliders “The Fighting Falcon” since the school mascot was the Yellow Jackets?

Sign out front of The Fighting Falcon Museum. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© 2017 Jelane A. Kennedy

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John Boyd Thacher State Park – an Oasis near Albany

By Jelane A. Kennedy

Visitor Center Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

Visiting John Boyd Thacher State Park has been a family favorite for generations. When I first met Eileen one of the first places we went to hike near Albany was Thacher Park as the locals call it. She and her family really considered the park their home space. They had hiked, picnicked, and swam (the swimming pool was removed years ago) at Thacher park since she was a little girl. They also camped nearby at Thompson Lake Campground, which is another section of the Thacher park system. There are 140 campsites, a beach and other recreational activities. The restrooms and showers have been updated in recent years. She always talks about how even her grandparents had memories they shared of picnicking at Thacher park.

Dramatic view JBT park. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

So what is the allure of Thacher Park? For one thing is it is not too far away from Albany. Eileen always claims it is a 20-minute ride (but actually it is about 40 minutes). The temperature is almost always 10 degree’s cooler than down in Albany. On those hot summer nights when it is muggy, heading up to Thacher with a picnic dinner or maybe a plan to barbeque is always a favorite. The hiking trail system is very unique, with 25 miles of trails it is not often you see many folks or that you feel crowded unless you choose to. When you drive up to Thacher, Hailes Cave Road intersects the park so on the one side of the road you have a woodlands hiking area. With Lucy we often hiked the nature trail that started at Paint Mine picnic area. She loved taking a dip in the stream to cool off. Also there is a great waterfall tucked along the trail.

One of the water falls within the park. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

The park is actually known for the waterfalls and the geological uniqueness of the Helderberg Escarpment, which has world famous fossil-bearing formations. The trail system on the other side of the road includes the Indian Ladder trail that allows you to hike below the escarpment cliff line. It is called Indian Ladder because it was a trail thought to have been used by the Mohican Indians quite often and there were actual ladders (tree ladders) used to move up and down from the cliffs to the trail below the cliff line. On this trail you have the opportunity to walk behind another one of the waterfalls in the park.

From the Overlook (handicap accessible) parking area you can look out over the City of Albany and on a clear day see the mountains over in Massachusetts, the Green Mountains in Vermont and the Adirondack mountains up in the northern part of New York. During the year people come to the park to watch the hawks soar over the cliffs created by the escarpment. There are 171 birds that have been found in the park boundaries. People also come each spring to help the salamanders cross the road as the make their migration to the vernal ponds.

Hiking the nature trail. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

In another section of the park you can find the Emma Treadwell Thacher Nature Center. It is a great place to visit and has become known as a great place to bring kids to learn about nature. It is connect by a trail to Thompson’s Lake campground so it is easy to walk the kids over for programs if you are camping. In the winter they also have snowshoes available to hike the trails nearby. A great team of naturalist who do programming all year around staffs the nature center. We have stopped by throughout the year to see the exhibits, watch the birds or attend a program.

Up close view of the Visitor Center. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

One of the new things the park now has going for it is the Visitor Center (handicap accessible). It is a beautiful building that recently opened. It looks out over the escarpment and has multiple exhibits inside that highlight the geologic and explain the features of the park. This summer we took our friend Johanna up while she was staying with our friend Gayle on her visit from New Mexico. It was a hot Sunday afternoon in Albany and it was a nice reprieve to go up and see the new center and check out the exhibits. The design of the center allows you to see the vistas outside and even in the small details of the décor they took advantage of those spaces to include pictures of fossils found in the area. There is also on the lower floor a replica of a cave as the area is also known for spelunking.

View from the Overlook Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

A few years ago the Governor started a program called “I love my Parks”, during one of the first years we volunteered for the day up at Thacher and there in started the Garden Gang which we volunteered with for a couple of years. We helped to revitalize the multiple garden spaces along the road in the park. It was during one of our gardening days that Eileen got the idea that the South entrance sign which had a raised bed space that was our responsibility, that maybe we should see about refreshing the mural that was integrated into that area. So we checked with the head of our group who talked with the Park Manager. This lead into a winter long project for us. When they took down the old South and North entrance signs we discovered that it wasn’t only the paint that had taken a beating but so had the wood of the sign. It became clear that as it crumb at our fingertips that it wasn’t just a touch-up job but that we would have to start fresh. Which meant designing new murals within the confines of the structure of the old ones. This lead up to hiking the Indian Ladder Trail to try and find where the last person had gotten the inspiration for the shape of the sign and to really get to know the colors and composition of the landscape so that we could try and create something that looked on target for the area.

The mural Eileen and I painted. Photo by Eileen A. McFerran.

We had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into it was a really big project. On our hike to find the spot where the last artist got their ideas we had just about given up when Eileen looked behind us and noticed as we started to leave the waterfall she spotted the inspiration for the structure of the signs. I took multiple pictures, which we used to plan out our work. I started us with first a blow up of a couple of the photos, then a sketch with pastels and finally we began tandem painting both signs in order to try and make them look as much the same as each other as possible. It was a stretch for both of us but a great project to work on together. We get a kick each time we drive up to the park to see our art work.

So if you are ever in the Albany area and what a great little adventure come check out one of our favorite places – John Boyd Thacher Park.

Eileen being a kid on the zip line! Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© 2017 Jelane A, Kennedy & Eileen A. McFerran

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Small Town 4th of July – Schroon Lake, New York

Early afternoon July 4th Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

This year we participated in the Schroon Lake 4th of July celebration. For a number of years we have spent the 4th in Saco, Maine but now that our friends who managed the KOA in Saco have moved on we decided it would just not be the same. We always enjoyed time with our friends, great fireworks and it was a fun adventure.

Last year we had spent the 4th in Albany because I had work obligations and our fireworks watching choice was not great. I had come up to the house in Schroon to spend a little time and Eileen had just finished work at the school nearby. We had talked about heading out to Tupper Lake further up in the Adirondacks but it had been a busy few weeks and we just weren’t ready to hop in the car again. Since we were in town we decide why not check it out. So, we packed our lunch with the intention of heading down to the Schroon town beach and to see what the event was all about. Knew if it wasn’t our thing we could always head back.

My view from my chair. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

The town beach is a lovely space with a sandy section down near the water and a hill that comes up from the beach that is a grassy park like area with nice shade trees. I like sitting up on the grassy knoll and looking out over the view of the mountains around the lake. The shade trees proved a nice combination to balance the hot sun and there always seems to be a breeze on the hill. We were a little leery of the 4th of July event since we had heard that in the past it was dominated by an overlay of fundamentalist Christianity and we had heard the people sometimes felt preached at during the event. Fundamentalist anything always makes me a bit cautious.

We knew from a flyer we had picked up that there were going to be some musical performances, a small craft fair, a parade and fireworks. Only one of the bands listed to perform was familiar. So down we went with our lunch, books, swim gear and chairs. To our surprise the beach and grassy knoll area was busy but not packed like sardines. Main stage for the event was up and over to the side by the parking area (we heard later that most years the stage was set up down on the beach but because there was so much rain and a higher water level the location was moved).

Big Bouncy Bounce’s on the town beach Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

It has been a while since I’ve attended a small town 4th of July celebration. As a kid growing up in Michigan my Mom, sister and I use to go to my Aunt Margaret and Uncle Jerry’s for the 4th and we participated in the Jaycee’s 4th of July celebration in Dowagiac, Michigan. My Aunt and Uncle were members of the Jaycee’s so we always had a behind the scenes view of the celebration. I remember it as always a lot of fun, with a parade, and fire works. So I was curious to see what Schroon Lake would have to offer.

The stage show was made up of multiple bands and a Native American storyteller and singer. We enjoyed them all. The storyteller probably had the hardest time because the sound from the stage at a distance was very muffled but when she sang her last set rather than told stories it was easier to hear, plus for us since we have several CD’s of Native American music from the songwriter she sang from we knew most of the songs and enjoyed each one.

As the day went on more people at the beach Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

We saw a little of the parade as it ended at the beach area. Prior to the start of the parade when we walked down to the beach we saw that the serious parade watchers had already staked out there spots along the main street in town. We found where we were to watch that the spacing of the entries in the parade seemed to be an issue (meaning there was a long wait between each entry) at the end where we were and there appeared to be only a couple of bands.

Of course I am spoiled when it comes to hometown parades, in the town where I spent most of my growing up years they really knew how to throw a parade. The Danish Festival in Greenville, Michigan each year has a least 120 entries and goes on for quite a while (close to two hours). I have fond memories of watching the parade and marching in the parade whether it was in the middle school band, Danish dancers or the girl scouts, it was a lot of fun and still is one of the main events of the festival.

Boats in the distance waiting for the fireworks Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

As the Schroon Lake 4th of July day events progressed we decided we were enjoying the vibe, the weather was great not too hot or cold. We had found the perfect spot to camp out with our beach chairs; we had a great breeze from the lake. Since we walked down from the house we did not worry about parking. When it came time to think about dinner we headed back to the house, 3 ½ blocks away and made a big salad, grabbed a few more drinks, added some warmer clothes to our bag, in case the temperature dropped, and made our way back to our little spot where we had left our chairs and big towel. We watched the lake, saw the kids play on the Caterpillar jungle gym, read our books, listen to the music, took a break to go see the crafts and just chilled out. It was the kind of day we needed after such a busy week before.

The day ended with a great fireworks display! We felt like we had front row seats. We also enjoyed seeing all the boats out on the lake with their lights on. Everyone was friendly, and polite near us. We had a great day just being outside and hanging by the lake, you just couldn’t beat the view!

Big Red Star fireworks Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

© 2017 Jelane A. Kennedy

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2 more hikes in the Berkshires – {Ashuvillticook and Greylock}

By Jelane A. Kennedy

Eileen walking along bike trail. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

In April we decided again we needed a break and choose to hike another couple of areas in the Berkshires. As in the Adirondacks, spring brings wet and soggy ground so there are times when finding a good spot to hike can be difficult especially because you don’t want to damage the trail. One of the great things about rail to trail bikeways are that in the cases where the trail has been covered in macadam, the hard surface makes a stable walking and bike-riding platform. Since we had decided not to bring our bikes as they are still in storage we ventured out to the bike path near Pittsfield. Ashuwillticook Rail Trail was 11.2 miles long and goes all the way to Adams, Massachusetts running along Route 8 (the trail was wheelchair accessible). There are four entrance points on the trail, one at each end and two in the middle. The first day we entered the path near the Berkshire Mall. A long time ago we had found this bike path in the winter and the three of us when Lucy our golden retriever was alive, had enjoyed a winter hike on the trail. So when we were again in the area we thought we would check it out. This time we were on the edge of winter releasing it’s grip and spring starting to take it’s own. So the weather had warmed up, it had been raining instead of snowing but the buds were still not quite out.

Evidence that beaver are nearby. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

The first day we hit the trail it was busy with both walkers and early bikers. Our challenge was to find a place to park. Once awarded a parking place we headed out on a nice little stroll, soaking up the sun and listening to all the early peeps and croaks of the animals around us. At one point we heard these loud sounds that we thought were ducks and when we approached the area we could not see any! But the sounds around us were so big and that was when as Eileen studying the water she pointed out the source of all the sound.

“Hey Jelane, look it’s the frogs, that is what we are hearing!”

And to our amazement they were everywhere floating on the pond letting us know spring was here! As we moved on Eileen saw what looked like a beaver dam out in the waterway, and moments later I saw a large brown object over to the side near the shore. We slowed down and as we approached closer we stopped to watch hidden there in the tree’s a beaver  hanging out scratching its’ belly and taking a stretch. As it eased quietly back into the water we noticed around near by evidence that a beaver had been munching on some of the tree’s.

Beaver swimming – the water is great! Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

A couple days later we would again find ourselves at the bike trail but this time we drove further toward Chester, MA and accessed the trail at another parking lot. It was quieter here and less congested than the entrance near the Berkshire Mall, next time we will use this entrance to the trail again for this reason. This section of the trail allowed us to walk along the waters edged. We had great views of the mountains and found ample places to park along with less congestion along the trail itself. Again while walking along we were fortunate to see a beaver again, this time the beaver swam toward us, made eye contact and turned and swam back further out into the water. We felt so luck to have spotted beaver twice! In both hikes on the bike trail we enjoyed a great hike and little mud with great views.

Trail sign for Bradley. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

For our next hiking adventure we headed to Mount Greylock State Reservation. We had not been back there in a while. We weren’t sure what the hiking conditions would be but we hoped we could find a dry enough trail so not to hurt it with slogging through mud. As luck would have it the Bradley Farm Trail was fairly dry and we enjoyed looping up along the river and up through the woods. We found evidence of the old farm stone fence along the trails we walked. We both thought about how much work making the fence would have been and how sturdy the stone fence was, many years after the builders had passed on! It was another sunny day and we enjoyed a great view of the mountains from the parking lot of the visitor center. We were disappointed it was closed and only open the weekends during the winter/ spring. We had hiked here also before with Lucy but with our snowshoes. It is always so different to hike an area in different seasons. Winter snow offers such a flattened surface for hiking as compared to spring, summer and fall when you need to watch your boots carefully as you step over large rocks and hidden roots. Again it was a great day to walk in the woods and we enjoyed the gurgle of running water and seeing the winter run off cascading over little falls. It was so good to be out in the woods.

Stone fence on Bradley farm trail hike. Photo by Jelane A. Kennedy

It was always so interesting to see the woods in the in between times. The land was wet, the trees were bare and you got a small sliver of a hint that spring may be around the corner. No flowers were up and there was the faintest glimmer, if you looked carefully, of buds starting to form on the trees. You could hear the beginnings of birdsong and the woods starting to awaken from their winter nap and just around the corner in a few days or weeks spring was waiting to surprise, in it’s full bloom. It always seems that one day everything was quiet and you wonder will Spring come and all of a sudden overnight the trees will blossoms and the forest will awaken but at this point it has yet to happen and right now all was quiet on the edges.

Funky Birch Tree Photo by Eileen A. McFerran

© Jelane A. Kennedy and Eileen A. McFerran




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