Friday, May 30, 2008

Manhan Flowers

Friday afternoon we hit the Manhan Rail Trail in Easthampton for a quick run. The sun was sinking fast into a line of fuzzy clouds as the predicted weekend's rains were coming our way.

We figured we still had plenty of time before the rain came, to bike the 4.5 mile trail.

So much time in fact, we stopped here and there to do some flower watching. The Manhan seems to have an abundance of wildflowers along it's length. I wonder if they were planted on purpose, or maybe seeds were just scattered along the trail by some thoughtful person...?

Here's a sampling of what we found, along with some best guesses as to their identities:

Yellow Wood Sorrels...

Ragged Robins...

White Campions...

Yellow Flag Irises...

Couldn't find this one in my book, but the long upward pointing seedpods indicate it's some sort of wild mustard, maybe a Dames Rocket...?

And another guess, is this is a (blackberry) bramble...?

Continuing on with the ride...Impending rain usually brings good fishing, as these two guys were attempting to certify, on Lower Mill Pond just off the trail:

This is an interesting new addition to the trail; a see-thru, holographic-like image from the trail from it's railroad days.

Ghosts now, watching over the skateboarders on their line....

Then we felt a couple raindrops, which spurred us back into motion. We hurried back down the trail to the car, getting there in the nick of time.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

All That Glitters

We made some time after work to put a few more biking miles in, on the Norwottuck Rail Trail.

Some short detours had to be made today though.

The Norwottuck is due for a total reconstruction in a year or so. For now, in the interest of safety, it's getting some temporary work done to it. They're going to smooth out the worst of the cracks, bumps and bulges that have developed over the trail's long existence. Some sections are closed off, as they cut out the worst areas and refill with fresh asphalt.

The tree roots that have created the criss-crossing bulges in the pavement all along the trail have gone beyond nuisance, to downright dangerousness, as some inattentive people have tripped over them and gotten hurt. They don't do bicycle frames, tires, and buttocks any favors, either. It's definitely time for a refit. Unfortunately though, the recycled glass that was originally mixed in with the pavement won't be part of the new reconstruction. It gave the trail a unique character; a beautiful sight as you'd coast along, with the trail giving off thousands of little sparkles of reflected light ahead of you...

But there have been reports of people getting flat tires, especially the past couple of years, as the trail's deterioration has accelerated. You can stop pretty much anywhere on the trail, and quickly collect a handful of the bits of recycled glass that have gotten loose from the pavement.

"Razor Sharp Shards Of Glass"...? Maybe. All I can say is that it's never caused a problem for me. Perhaps the lighter racing/road bikes with thinner tires are the victims of the 'road diamonds'. Hmm, maybe if they put the glass in big tumblers, and rounded out the edges better, before mixing with the pavement...? Alright, I'll let it go. No glass...

I guess all good things must pass...Speaking of good things passing, a couple scenes from trail side:

Crossing the railroad bridge...

...we encountered this potential problem. Sorry, nowhere to detour here...

The very tired looking fellow pivoted at the last second to let us by. We rode on into Northampton, arriving there just as the sun was beginning to set.

We parked the bikes, picked up coffees, and did a little walking around. Things were still pretty busy. At the Calvin Theater, a lot of people were lining up, almost around the block, to see Ray Lamontagne.

Maybe, someday they'll be lining up to see these guys:

Monday, May 26, 2008

Ashwinni..Ashuaniti..Aw, You Try Saying It

On Memorial Day, we decided to go and try out the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, out in the Berkshires, between Lanesboro and Adams. I had been wanting to check it out since I first noticed people bicycling along the Chesire Reservoir a couple years back as I drove by. I had also recently read about it in a Rail Trail book I have, where they said some good things about it.

The trail starts at the Rte. 8 side entrance to the Berkshire Mall. There's a nice parking area with bathroom facilities, (real ones, not port-a-potties.)

The trail is in absolutely excellent condition; In it's 11+ mile length, we didn't see a single crack over a foot long, and those were just a couple. It gets the slightest bit wash-boardy, for a small section along the reservoir though, but hardly noticeable. Rollerbladers and skaters of other stripes took full advantage of the trail's great condition.

The whole length of the trail follows the Hoosic River; from it's beginnings in the Chesire Reservoir, which take up almost the first 4 miles of the trail's length, then on to beaver dammed wetlands and marshy areas thick with birds and wildlife. The first half of the reservoir is shallow, murky, and covered with algae and lillypads. It then broadens into a real reservoir, deeper, wider, and clearer.

Mt. Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts, can be seen looming in the distance across the reservoir, flanked by it's slightly smaller brothers.

As with some other rail trails, old whistle markers signify the trail's previous incarnation as a railroad line...

I made sure to ring a new bicycle bell I just put on my bike at every marker we came across, and any other time I thought of it, simply to irk Kelly. The recent addition of the bell nearly completes my handlebar's transformation into something resembling a dashboard. Kelly says I should install a CD player next. I Am Gadget Boy.

The trail was constructed with a lot of care and planning. There are great looking wooden rails lining the path in many sections. At each intersection, protected by hefty green and yellow gates, there are some nice large brick inlays; a lot of work purely for aesthetics.

Some residents along the trail added their own embellishments.

The passing miles are painted onto the trail itself, and there are kilometer markers along the side, for the British Weights and Measures - challenged.

There are benches and pick-nick tables galore. Massachuestts DCR spared no expense with these, and placed them at every scenic spot. And in several spots are informational panels, telling you about the Hoosic watershed, the wetlands, local wildlife, and other interesting tidbits.

This little convenience store/ ice cream parlor provided us with some mid-trail refreshments.

The whole trail has a lot of very long, straight stretches. One of them runs through a particularly wetlandy wetland area where wildlife seems to abound, even more than in the other sections. Yellow Warblers and Blackbirds flitted about everywhere.

Geese sat along the trailside, hissing at passerby's that linger to look at their gosslings too long.

A young rabbit sprung under cover when the camera was pointed at him.

This Caddislfly(?) was less camera-shy, as it kept landing on my hand, insisting I take it's picture.

Stiff, bamboo-like grasses run all along the side of the trail. Maybe they were planted there on purpose, as a type of barrier?

A Blue Heron wades, ever so slowly, among the water lilies as it patiently hunts for it's supper.

Just past that area, an old pumping station demarks where the Hoosic finally begins to collect volume, and build up into something resembling a river.

And the river begins to turn into a real river, however narrow, after passing over a small dam.

From there riffles run along side the trail, as we begin a slightly steeper descent into Adams. Light posts begin to appear along the path on the outskirts of town.

Finally we emerge form the tree cover, into the town of Adams.

Some interesting signage and bike themed embellishments:

There's a trail side pub and restaurant called CJ's, near the end of the trail, which ends at a Berkshire/ Adams Visitor Center.

A nice view of Mt Greylock can be had here by the visitor's center.

Right across from the center is an old factory, where this Starling was creating a ruckus.

Kelly quickly determined the reason. Two fledglings had escaped the nest, and were waddling around on the ground below, answering their mother's calls.

Kelly wanted to help them, but about all we could do for them was advise them to learn to fly, and soon.

We found a Subway store near the trail, and stopped to refuel with a couple sandwiches. It's a good thing we did, because we still had an 11+ mile trek going back. We had followed the Hoosic River all the way to Adams, which meant a sometimes barely noticeable, but always present decline in elevation. This made for a pretty carefree and effortless journey into Adams. But heading back would require paying the piper. Though not particularly tiring, stressful, or steep in any way, I would label the ride back as exercise, simply because of the great length without the assistance of gravity. I would compare it to the Northampton Bikeway, going north towards Look Park, but for almost 4 times the distance. So be prepared for the return journey, and may the wind be at your back.

I was very impressed with the Ashuwillticook Trail. It was a very pleasant, healthy, and scenic ride. The Mass DCR did a great job here.