Posted by: RasmaSandra | January 1, 2019

Massachusetts Off the Beaten Path

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Mount Greylock State Reserve – The visitor’s center which is accessible from Route 7 near Lanesboro has maps available showing the campgrounds, picnic areas and hiking trails in the reservation.

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Driving up the steep winding road of the mountain one can see how the change in altitude affects vegetation. The lush hardwood forests at the lower levels give way to the low growing evergreens at the summit.  Greylock at 3,492 ft. is the highest peak in Massachusetts.

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On its summit is a 90 ft. stone tower The Massachusetts Veterans War Memorial Tower commemorating the citizens of the Commonwealth who died in the war. It was dedicated in June of 1932. The tower offers an incredible panorama of the lovely green-clad mountains and valleys of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, and New York. There is a section of the Appalachian Trail where hikers might meet hardy backpackers who are going the full distance between Mount Katahdin in Maine and Georgia’s Springer Mountain.

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Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary is located near Pittsfield. Here one can find a large beaver population and get a look at the gnawed stumps of their building material and the complex dams they make to control the water level in their mounded lodges. Beavers were introduced here along Yokun Brook in 1932. Their dams have made ponds that now provide great habitats for migrant waterfowl and other birds. The sanctuary is at a relatively high elevation so birds such as the hermit thrush, winter wren and slate-colored junco which are normally rare to this area stay here in spring and summer. Salamander migrations are a major spring event along West Mountain Road.

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The 730-acre area has some 7 miles of trails winding past ponds and waterways and through meadows and woods and along the slopes of Lenox Mountain. Those who wish to try it may enjoy the Trail of Ledges which leads to a fire tower and a great view. It is quite steep in places. A trail-side museum has natural history exhibits and provides pamphlets describing the water cycle, the numerous plants that grow here, and the beavers’ feats at construction. Canoe trips are offered regularly on the Housatonic River and area lakes from mid-May through Columbus Day.

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Bartholomew’s Cobble and Colonel Ashley House – This site is known for its diversity of ferns, wildflowers, trees, shrubs and vines and the many species of birds. “Cobble” is the New Englander’s word for rocky outcrops that rise steeply, like islands of stone, from adjacent bottomlands. The one mentioned here was named for George Bartholomew, who farmed the surrounding fields in the 1800s. It is a natural rock garden of grand proportions. There are more than 800 species of rare and endangered plants and over 250 species of birds which can be found on over 270 acres of lush forest, winding trails and fields and meadows on a foundation of hard quartzite rock. In the summer, 45 species of ferns appear. A National Natural Landmark Museum and picnicking spot.

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You can walk along the Ledges Trail or along a somewhat longer trail which leads down to the Housatonic River and a classic oxbow lake. A mile-long uphill path goes to the high pasture that spreads over the top of Hulburt’s Hill.


Nearby there is the Colonel Ashley House which was built in 1735 and is the oldest house still standing in Berkshire County. On this site Colonel John Ashley helped draft the famous Sheffield Declaration, boldly vituperating the British Parliament, three years before Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. Colonel Ashley acquired more than 3,000 acres and was among the first slave owners in Massachusetts to accept the idea of abolition. In the Ashley house, you can see finished period rooms, a pottery collection including examples of redware and 18th and 19th-century tools of many kinds.

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Moore State Park – A peaceful 400-acre retreat in the heart of central Massachusetts. Today one can see stone mill foundations and a restored sawmill. The exterior of the sawmill, which was first opened in 1747 by Jaazamiah Newton has been restored with a siding of weathered wood and the remains of the old water-driven turbines can still be seen. The remnants of the mill village at Moore give a glimpse of the old rural manufacturing economy which was displaced by the industrial developments of the nineteenth century.  Turkey Hill Brooke was the source of power for the mills.

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It flows into the 25 acres Eames Pond and then down a succession of three cascades and on through the park. There is a walking trail which goes along the edge of the pond. Fishermen may try to fish for pickerel, perch, and bass. In the naturalized gardens are great drifts of azalea and mountain laurel and rhododendrons. The flowers cascade down hills, line wooded paths and decorate waterfalls.  Among the birds to be seen are chickadees, goldfinches, nuthatches, bluebirds, cardinals, mourning doves and scarlet tanagers. The park is named for Major Willard Moore, a Paxton patriot who led the local farmers to fight the British at Bunker Hill.

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Purgatory Chasm is located 10 miles south of Worcester. The chasm is only about 50 ft. wide but reaches a depth of 100 ft. or so between precipitous walls accentuated by tall cedars growing form seemingly solid rock. There is a half-mile long descending trail from the parking lot to the chasm that is quite steep. There are warning signs about slippery rocks and uncertain footing. When one reaches the bottom there is an awesome feeling of having plunged suddenly into the earth’s rocky body. From the bottom, trails lead along the edge of the chasm and circle back to the parking lot to avoid a difficult climb.

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Trails lead to a wide variety of rock formations, with such names as The Corn Crib,

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The Coffin, The Pulpit,

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Lover’ Leap

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and Fat Man’s Misery. There is also a recreation area with picnic tables.

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Parker River National Wildlife Refuge – This 4,650-acre refuge lies on the Atlantic Flyway. Most of the preserve is on Plum Island, which is about six miles long and a mile wide. A road runs its entire length. On the left, going south, are sand dunes dotted with wild roses, scrub pines, dune grasses, bayberry, black cherry, and beach plum. On the right are fresh and saltwater marshes and beyond are the waters of Broad Sound, a long, narrow inlet. The beach may be reached by access roads. Self-guiding nature trails lead to various ecological niches within the refuge. The longest is a boardwalk trail that goes for two miles through Hellcat Swamp. There among the dunes are a freshwater swamp and a cranberry bog. At the end of the trail is an observation blind for bird-watchers.

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More than 300 species regularly frequent the refuge to rest and feed such as large numbers of migrating warblers, Canada geese, black ducks, and green-winged teals. Among the animals, there are deer, foxes, muskrats, minks, and weasels, but they are rarely seen during the day. In winter, harbor seals come to sun on the beaches. Fishing permits may be obtained at the refuge gatehouse.

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Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary – This is the largest of the 14 sanctuaries supervised by the Massachusetts Audubon Society. It covers about 2,000 acres. In the early 1900s, this land was bought by Thomas Proctor who was a wealthy Bostonian for the purpose of creating a private arboretum with an enormous rock garden called The Rockery as its centerpiece.

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The Rockery is set by a small lake and is a small man-made mountain complete with little gorges, caves, and paths. There are exotic trees and shrubs. Among the imported trees are cork, magnolia, Korean pine, and Sawara cypress. A fine grove of pine trees stands on the hill above the Rockery. There are 10 miles of trails in the area and a causeway crossing a large pond to an island covered with beech trees. The woodlands are carpeted with partridgeberries, starflowers, and wintergreen. Masses of blue irises grow in the marshy areas. There is a special area for bird watching and an observation tower overlooks a meadow. Canoe and cabin rentals are available.

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  1. Great blog post! Massachusetts has been my home since I was born.

    • Glad you enjoyed the tour. How wonderful that you live in such a lovely state.

  2. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

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