Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hinterlands, (or, how I met the AT)

We headed west on the turnpike recently on a search for another of the always marvelous Trustees of Reservations sites, Ashintully Gardens. This one was located out in Tyringham, out in the post-Berkshires Lee exit area...



The Berkshires appear to be just a week or so behind us as far as greenery-growth is concerned, but Tyringham is just past the mountains, and located in a beautiful little valley itself, where the leafery is more on par with our own. They have us beat in the gingerbread house department though...



The town seems to be rural and staying that way. The main road through town runs along one slope of a long narrow valley that is populated on either side with horse ranches and small farms, mixed in with residences. Then the town center comes up quick as a road intersection that can easily be missed if you blink passing through it, and then it's back to hill-sheltered farm land again...I don't think we passed one traffic light.





We pulled up to the intersection of Main and Sodem roads, where the gardens were supposed to be. Looking around though, we didn't see anything that looked like the garden. There wasn't the familiar green and blue Trustees sign anywhere. There was a big white house though, but we weren't sure if it was the estate that housed the gardens, and it didn't look like anything we should explore further, for fear of tramping through somebody's back yard...Hmmm. I should have brought a detailed print-out of the directions from the computer...

Well it was a long way to come to go home empty handed. On the way here we saw a small sign, back down the road a little ways, that signified where the famous Appalachian Trail crossed the road, on it's 1700 mile or so trek from here down to Georgia. Weighing a potential trespassing charge against the open AT, we opted for the trail.

There was a small parking area right nearby, and we soon had boots and sneakers on the venerable old trail.



It was a good choice. After a short jaunt through some woods, the trail emerges and cuts right through some wide open valley lowlands.



The spring breezes were also plowing through, creating a rather refreshing situation, and thoroughly stimulating Bloggerette's senses...



The lowlands border some wetlands teeming with ducks, blackbirds and swallows.



The wetlands apparently overflow on occasion into the open meadow we were on, so much so that it has to be protected with raised wooden walkways that have been laid down for several hundreds of yards all the way into the adjacent woods on the other side. This made for a relatively mud-free walk for us, and a relatively erosion-free trail for Ma Nature.



We were impressed by the walkway's length. It must have been a piece of work getting this much boarding down...







At last on the other side the AT dipped back into the woods, where the board-work became less detailed but no less functional.





In the woods, the trail bridged a fast running brook. A bamboo-looking plant was scattered about neat the stream, growing in large patches.



I'm not sure if it is in fact bamboo, but the only other time I've noticed any significant amount of this plant was on the Ashwilliticook trail just north of here, last year. I wonder if it is starting to run rampant in the Berkshires.

In this section of the trail was also the only evidence of human waste we saw. But nature proves itself defiant again, by growing right up through the middle of it.



From there it was left or right; right turn back to the road and the car, or left and Georgia-bound.

It was late. We went right.



Soon we emerged from the woods again and then passed Tyringham's swimming hole, where there were a couple of picnic tables and a small beach area bordering a man made water basin. Onward through more breeze filled meadows,



Nearby, an oriole flitted through a band of trees separating two fields.



This area must be right in their migration route, because of maybe two or three times I've ever gotten a good look an oriole, it was on this side of the Berkshires.

Now back through another open area and on into a horse ranch...





Here Chris tested fate and common sense by grasping a potentially active electric fence. Aaah those awkward teenage years...



I of course taunted him into doing it. Aaah those awkward middle-age years...

The horse ranch was on the road we started out from, though about a half mile away. We were soon back in the car and thus ending our first encounter with the Appalachian Trail...



...or definitely a good section of it.

5 comments:

Joey B said...

I think your "bamboo" is a little stand of horsetails. But I couls be mistaken.

I've always wanted to hike the AT since reading A Walk in the Woods.

Mary E.Carey said...

That gingerbread house was a tourist destination for us when we used to live in Pittsfield. Love the photo of the little one peeking around with Nemo in the background.

Tony said...

It could be Horsetails, that would make more sense, this not being Asia and all...My buddy Mike tried to do just the Connecticut/Mass section of the AT a few years ago and made it about 45 miles before finding himself 'recovering' in a motel somewhere. Still, it was an acheivement...

Mary, I forgot to link to that gingerbread house's web site, going back to fix...

dominique said...

I think that what you saw is called Japanese Knotweed - it was introduced as an ornamental because it resembles bamboo; and now it is an invasive species which is very difficult to eradicate.

Tony said...

Dominique, from what I've looked up, it does actually look more like a certain variety of horsetail, but see for yourelf: here's a couple of close-ups I took from last year's Ashuwillticook Trail ride:

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_9PZw351ewno/SDz1MZFn7HI/AAAAAAAAGQ8/kc6qC0LiAdw/s1600-h/img_6577.jpg

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_9PZw351ewno/SDzw6ZFn6-I/AAAAAAAAGP0/1YnvYOs4av4/s1600-h/img_6588.jpg

...and here's a wikipedia pic:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/10/Equisetum_camtschatcense_02_by_Line1.JPG

But I was also wondering myself if it was some new type of invasive plant taking over the landscape...