Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Spill Way

Sunday afternoon was markedly different weather-wise from Saturday. Sunny, very cool and windy. Perfect March hiking weather. We struck north.

Along the way we saw signs everywhere of near flood conditions, brought on by Saturday's heavy rains and exacerbated by the snow melting all week. UMass's pond was looking pretty full.

In north Amherst, this property also saw some water. Icy floes floated about the old barn and vehicles.

Across the street on another flooded piece of land, there was further evidence of the Robins' return.

This Downy Woodpecker didn't seem to mind being photographed at all.

Will The Geological Wonders Ever Cease?

We continued north in Leverett. The snow is still pretty thick in these higher hills. We drove along until we came to this sign.

Rattlesnake Gutter is the name given to a local geological oddity in Leverett. It's basically a sloped gully, filled with giant boulders. It's origins are debated, because it appears to be a spillway for a lake that never existed. But scientists believe one of three things created it; a sub-glacial melt water channel, an old fault line, or it was a spillway for an ancient temporary lake that formed in the glacier itself.

Along the road leading up to the trail, we saw sap collecting buckets fastened to Maples. The collection of sap to turn into Maple syrup is another sure sign of the coming season. They say the sap has been flowing earlier the past few years. Surely another benefit of global warming?

We parked and got on the trail. I have never been on this one before. It's been on my list for a long time though, not least because of it's cool name. But I had no idea what to expect. First thing I noticed was a little fast moving stream running along side the trail. The trail itself was rather straight, and ascended gradually.

Soon big glacial erratics can be seen. The melt and rain water pouring all around them.

On the opposite side of the trail, water ran down every nook and crevice from the heights above.

The small waterfalls and streams ran down and under the trail, through piping set up underneath. This Hemlock branch got caught in the splashing runoff.

This downed tree forced a detour through the crusty and icy snow nearby.

Farther up the trail, the gully begins to turn into a wide, deep ravine, with cliffs on the other side of it. In the gully below the big rocks became more abundant.

On the near side, the slope is so steep that part of the trail has broken off, and slid to the depths below. Jersey barriers are in place around the break. They are now so close to the edge, I wonder if they're also going down soon.

WOOP- Gone! Speaking of sliding into the depths below, this picture was taken seconds after I made a brave rescue. You might be able to note the flustered look on both their faces:

See the ice on the edge of the trail? See how that icy edge drops off into nowhere? I was a few yards behind, looking at something, when Kelly suddenly began yelling frantically for help. I came running up to find her leaning back, holding on desperately to one end of the leash. My eyes followed the taught leash and saw that it disappeared over the edge of the ravine! The poor dog was dangling over the ravine, completely out of sight. Kelly was in near panic, holding onto the leash tightly with both hands. I got as close as I could to the icy edge, grabbed the leash and carefully hauled the bewildered critter back onto the trail. She explained after that he was just standing there one second, and suddenly - poof- he slid over and was gone! He didn't even have time to scramble. Luckily he was wearing a harness instead of a collar, or it would have been curtains for the little canine.

We shook off the near catastrophe (the dog literally), and moved on. Along the way there were some cool ice formations. Thin sheet of ice in a snow hollow.

Cold clear mountain stream.

This encrusted rock looked like something from that movie "The Blob" which incidentally was on TV night before.

And much like the blob, every here and there the crusty snow would suddenly give and envelop a leg up to the knee.

We continued on, and hiked up to the top where the trail meets another dirt road coming up the other side of the hill. The owners of this land were kind enough to allow hiking trails, and there's a trail that leads to the M&M trail three miles away.

We turned back here and headed back to the car. It was a nice trail, we'll definitely be back in the spring...

Back in the car, we ventured on a little further north, since we had an extra hour of sunlight now. We crossed over the might French King Bridge over the Connecticut river, and got out to take a look over the side.

If you click this picture to enlarge it, you can see two tiny dots on the top of the bridge shadow, that's me and Kelly, for a reference to the size of this huge, tall bridge.

We turned back at (the coincidentally named) Turner's Falls, where the floodgates were wide open.

Can't wait to get back on the kayak...


Mary E.Carey said...

Holy curtains for the canine -- talk about action-packed adventure! So THAT'S the French King Bridge. I've heard of it and have been very curious about it, but I had absolutely no idea what it was.

matteny said...

When you make your return trip, be sure to check out the Charcoal Kiln (or coke kiln, maybe it's called) in the same area. Very interesting, as not many have survived thru time. Also the view from the Peace Pagoda is great! All are within a few minutes drive of each other. I enjoy your Blog, as mentioned on the Nostalgia Forum.

Tony said...

It's a really beautifully built bridge, it's almost a shame being in such an unpopulated area. That section of river is very popular for canoeing and kayaking, You can rent one, or bring your own, and launch from Barton's Cove nearby, or they can bring you upstream for a few bucks and you can float back down. Good stuff...

Tony said...

Hi again Matteny, thanks for the info. I have been to the Peace Pagoda, and it's definitely on the list for a return visit. So bizarre seeing a Bhuddist shrine in Puritan New England isn't it?...I've never seen the kiln though, I'll have to look into that one...

matteny said...

You will find the coke kiln right off Rattlesnake Gutter Rd on a topo map. It's a goodsize building, reminds me of today's domes that are being built to store sand/salt nowadays. Somewhere I read this is 200 years old, and still standing.. Also on the topo, just past Lake Wyola, there is a Monks Cave. Pretty interesting, as it's exact history and age are unknown. Google both for more info, and bring your topo when you go. You can get some great photos near the kiln. There is a quaint home right along the side of the brook that is just waiting to be on a calender..