The Trustees of Reservations Week, Central Massachusetts Highlights
Massachusetts might border the ocean, but it’s not until you drive the interior of this state on backcountry roads that you really appreciate the abundance of water. I woke up at Tully Lake Campground this morning and took the 10-minute trail to Doane’s Falls. Little did I realize I was about to witness one of the most majestic sites in New England. An onslaught of water came gushing down a series of rock ledges under a perfectly sculpted stone bridge, one that was built by the CCC under FDR’s helm. It would set the theme for the day—the rushing water of springtime and the wall of rock that’s continually shaped by these rapids.
Chapel Brook in Ashfield is a popular swimming hole in summer, when this tributary of the South River snakes through a dense hardwood forest before cascading over ledges and forming natural pools. Earn that dip by walking across the street and taking the half-mile trail up Pony Mountain. You’ll be rewarded with a panorama of mountains and valley.
The sound of rushing water also greets me at the next stop, Chesterfield Gorge, a 30-minute drive from Chapel Brook. Here, the East Branch of the Westfield River drops dramatically through rock walls that are close to 70-feet high. Below the gorge, fly-fishermen were seen casting their lines in the riffles in the hopes of hooking a trout. I took deep breaths of sweet pine and walked a ways through the thick forest on the East Branch Trail. This 7-mile long dirt road is open to both hikers and mountain bikers who can cruise through the adjacent Gilbert Bliss State Forest, perfectly suited for a day trip.
Even my last stop of the day, the homestead of William Cullen Bryant, has a water theme. Stroll under the tall and ancient-looking sugar maples and hemlocks his family planted 200 years ago, when the great poet was just a boy, and you’ll reach a rivulet, a trickling stream. The Trustees has posted Bryant’s entire poem from 1823, “The Rivulet,” next to the spring. “The same sweet sounds are in my ear, my early childhood loved to hear,” wrote Bryant. Long after his family had sold off the land and moved to Illinois to farm, the poet and abolitionist would buy the land back in 1865, the same year his good friend Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Bryant, as he documents so well in his poetry, always preferred country life to city life and he would spend all of his summers here until his death in 1878. Look out at the meadows, forest, and Berkshire foothills and you realize little has changed thanks to conservation efforts. It’s still a sylvan slice of heaven, one that I’ll return to next time with a picnic lunch made by the Old Creamery in Cummington, just down the road.