Sunday, February 1, 2009

In The Corner Pocket

Happy February...



'In the valley' hasn't ventured too much (or at all) into the southwestern hill towns of the Pioneer Valley, so I set out Sunday afternoon to rectify the situation and get an initial look around...



I drifted up route 57 through Agawam and then Southwick, the previous limits of exploration on this blog; and continued on into uncharted territory. The hills became taller and more numerous the further west the journey went. In Southwick I came upon a sledding hill of generous proportion.



It must be a blast tearing down that slope. But huffing it back up again must not be such a blast.



Unless of course, you had made other arrangements...



And a hill this big can only produce big wipe outs. I stayed to watch a couple of high speed burnouts, before moving on.



Getting into the Granville limits, there was a sign along a particularly twisty section of route 57 marking the Granville Gorge. This gorge occupies a small distant corner of my memory: I remember stopping here way back during my earliest back road expeditions out this way, over 20 years ago. The gorge is not nearly as deep or wide as say, the Chesterfield Gorge, but in the summertime, as I recall, it is still a pretty nice place to be. I parked across the road and carefully scrambled down a hemlock covered slope, to the boulder strewn brook below.



The sounds of the road disappear as you get near the bottom of the shallow ravine, and it was pretty peaceful by the time I reached the water. Some Nuthatches chirped all around, and a gentle breeze blew the balmy 40 degree air through the trees.



Munn Brook, fed directly from nearby Granville reservoir, gurgles soothingly under and around the ice and snow covered rocks.







It was a nice little break from everything, and I wished I had somewhere snow-free to just sit and chill out for a while. But the sun was getting low anyway, and there was more route 57 to explore...

A little further on, you come to a crossroads surrounding a small triangular park. With the general store, library and old blacksmith nearby, it must be the de-facto center of Granville.





The newer town hall and safety complex are located farther up the road though. And farther up the road is where I went, in search of the town of Tolland and the southwestern border of the Pioneer Valley. It was still a ways to go. Not really that far, but just far enough out in the rural hills, and the time being just close enough to dark, to make me take note of my dilemma if the trusty Jeep should decide to sputter out on me...

Traveling for a couple more miles, I approached another cluster of church and meeting-hall type buildings and thought I had finally reached Tolland, but no. It was in fact West Granville. It's weird to think how most towns have developed from individual villages, divided by such short distances yet having their own completely separate congregations. Things moved at the speed of foot travel.



There was an expansive apple tree farm nearby, and the scraggly apple trees were bare reminders of our current weather situation.



That's when I began to notice that all the trees were looking pretty scraggly. Most of them were now topped with jagged splinters, and everywhere the understory was littered with huge broken branches. The winter's ice storms have really taken a toll on the forest out this way.



Now that I was noticing it, I found that it was like this for miles and miles all around. I've heard on the radio that it's the same situation all over the Berkshires north of here too... It's the flip side of the crystalline beauty that had enveloped the Berkshires after the huge ice storm back in December...



Tolland had arrived.



Up one more steep hill, and there it was, Tolland's humble town center. Sitting in a clearing at the very top, like so many other original hill-town centers.



It's great how so many of the western Massachusetts hill towns still have their simple 19th century town centers still intact. The way these towns have kept these buildings in their original condition one can almost imagine how things were back then. I'd like to say things must have been simpler, but of course they would have had their own pressing problems. Also, living out here in what was back then essentially isolation, most of their problems were probably of the life and death variety, and would have to be resolved...No bailouts...

2 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Great ice pix!

I keep meaning to explore those towns, too. I really have no excuse, since I live so close. ;)

CBL said...

I've been through Tolland but not Granville. Thanks for the tour.

I too am amazed that the towns have managed to keep their town centers intact. This is in much contrast to what I see here in eastern Kentucky. Here, small towns were equally prosperous in the 19th century, but a hundred years later, many areas are like ghost towns. It seems like civic pride went right out the window.