Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Eastern Franklin Co - along the State Line.

WAY back in 1995 this latest 'phase' of my outdoor life began with the desire to seek out the many little (and often insignificant) caves across Massachusetts. The basis was originally the classic cave book "New England's Buried Treasures" by Clay Perry. Primarily, his index reference many caves that Perry did not cover in the narrative portion of his books. Quite soon thereafter, I was adding other sources and even other geologic formations.

In the boulder field near Indian Cave

But those early years were mostly devoted to Franklin and Hampshire County. Even looking up a few caves I had seen back in my youthful days. So as we move into the present time, I am once again mixing in the old with the new and visiting sites not seen in years! With that in mind, it was back to the Indian Cave in western Franklin County, south of the New Hampshire border.

The trail into Indian Cave used in past years seems to have disappeared. Although on my bushwhack out of the woods, I did run across an old blaze from that trail. But with modern devices like GPS and a newer trail in the vicinity, I did eventually make my goal! Two histories (at least) on this Town mention an overhanging portion of the cave. One says 100 people could fit under it, another says 500! Neither is correct. A nice set of updated photos was obtained since my last visit was 2006. I also examined a number of boulders scattered about the forest including one I humorously labeled Squaw Cave. A perched boulder with some nice shelter space underneath.

One portion of Indian Cave

My next stop was just a jog to the west where some rugged mountainside was covered trying to add to a past couple of visits for Ice Cave. Nothing really presented itself of any interest except falling a couple of times on the rocky hillside.

The Bear's Den

My third - and final - stop took me one more town west and over the Connecticut River to land at the Bear's Den. This is a picturesque little cave, at least looking up at it from the stream below. But the short interior is pretty bland. It appears to be the result of some significant weathering, maybe even of a softer bedrock within the ledgy outcrop.

Photography ate up quite a bit of time on this trip. So over 10 hours later, it was back in the Berkshires!

Tuesday, May 5, 2020


One of many relics visible @ Questing

Amid the whole Corona Virus situation, it becomes a bit more challenging to get my 'outdoor fix' but with a little ingenuity, it is still possible. On this day, I met Great Barrington's local history expert, Gary L., down in New Marlborough at a Trustees of Reservation property know as Questing. Old roads and land that once belonged to the Town's earliest settlers were explored.

View across portions of the two drumlins at the local cemetery

Afterwards, we looked up a nearby cemetery, much of which is built largely on two drumlins! Several late 1700s headstones exist. These were of the rare (to this area) slate and an even rarer brownstone! Many were marble, likely from the local quarries. Old roads existed in the area that are mostly abandoned, and I suspect long ago forgotten.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Recon 101

Good old reconnaissance! Sometimes a necessary process to produce a 'final result'. So it was on this cool spring day, I descended South of the Border into the Nutmeg State. Still looking for a good approach to Robbers Cave!

The Falls

My first attempt was a bushwhack through the woods up a high ridge overlooking the valley of Still River and Mooreville. Further progress was eventually blocked by a private home built deep into the woods. Taking a different route, I found an old road with side trails. This eventually led me back out to the area of my desired destination. A nifty waterfall was found, which I suppose to be Robbers Cave Falls, but no sign of any cave. So maybe next time!

Near the base of Hanging Mountain

On the way home, I wanted to see how the rock climbing project at Hanging Mountain in Sandisfield was progressing. Quite well, I'm happy to say! An entrance road and small parking area now exist and people were working away up in the woods and ledges. At this time the area IS closed to the public. So after that. it was onward north to my little home in the central Berkshires.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Quabbin Region

I've had a project hanging around for the past five years over in the southern Quabbin Reservoir region and things looked good to make it happen! A small (VERY small) cave was discovered there. But of greater interest was a set of initials/names that had been carved on its walls and dated 1878. Some research from an existing photo led to the possibility that at least one of the individuals responsible was a previous landowner!

A messy situation waiting at the entrance to the chamber

But let's not get ahead in this story! I started the day looking up the local stone chamber (occasionally called Monk's Caves) which I last visited in 2009. I tried to access the site back in 2015 but the area is covered by dense underbrush. Mostly of a very thorny variety. It never happened on that day and I moved on to another small cave. But the present time brought me back to the area hoping that with the foliage not yet in bloom, I might yet reach the chamber. The short version of this story is I did finally get there! But at the cost of plowing through a considerable forest of prickly growth. I was shocked upon arrival to see the chamber's exterior completely engulfed by the growth and only recognizable from a few feet away. Time was spent gathering a new set of photos and seeing little (at least on the inside) had changed over the past 11 years. I did not relish the thought of traversing the prickly forest once again to make my exit but luck was with me. About a third of the way out to the trail, I came upon an area that was somewhat more open than thorn covered vines. Success!

A little more cozy on the inside!

Moving on, I arrived at the parking area for the large react of land I would have to cross to hopefully reach my destination. The site had been successfully located - and explored - late last year by eminent explorer Mike "Rhody Mountain Man" G. It would be impossible to overestimate how much 'easier' that would make my trip. A long walk later - only to find I had incorrectly entered GPS data - I made the necessary adjustment and finally arrived at the cave. It is a curious item. The ledge had been obviously shaped by the forces of weathering with a large talus slope out in front supplied by the disintegrating rock. But of greater geologic interest, was the appearance of possible solutional formation of the tiny cave. So I set about running quite a few tests with my bottle of acid. Initially, I got all negative results. But before leaving the scene, I went deeper into the cave and tested a number of locations along its walls. Positive! Even though I was able to get a pretty good fizz at one location, and a lighter reaction on the opposite wall, this confirms the presence of carbonate rock. And the possibility this cave was a lens dissolved out of the parent rock.

Clough Cave

At this point, it was time to call it a day! I drifted down to the Turnpike and back west to the Berkshires.

Wring by Clough & Co.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Lee - Lenox Rambles

Seizing the opportunity to work a lead generously offered by Mike (Mr.) T., I headed out to the Central Berkshire region of... Lenox! Yes, I occasionally do some stuff that is almost in my own back yard.

Big piece of Lenox Mountain

So anyway, some boulders of VERY large proportions were deposited near the base of Lenox Mountain. The largest of these having a circumference of 166 feet! Height could very well range from 15 to 18 feet depending on the location of measurement. The first was approximately 12 feet vertical, then sloping back to the rock's summit. There is one nearby with almost as much circumference but lacking a bit in height compared to the Big One. I noticed on my GPS waypoints the Balance Rock in Kennedy Park was not too far off. So I finished this trip visiting a park favorite which I had not seen since the later days of 2002.

Kennedy Park's Balanced Rock

A day later, I joined South County's Gary L. for explorations in Lee. We started out in East Lee at the trailhead to Donato's Trail. This is right alongside the famed Jacob's Ladder Highway. This one ended up being a steep climb, and we decided to do a 'summit circuit' which made the approach a bit longer. However, the descent back was much quicker and shorter in distance. Without the leaves yet on the trees we got a slight glimpse of Goose Pond below.

Peter's Cave - from an old Lee Chamber of Commerce booklet

Moving our act closer to the center of town, we took on Fern Cliff and locations there, written - and pictured - in the local history of the area (my own history was late 2003 for the last visit). These included Peter's Cave, Union Rock, and The Trysting Place. Peter Wilcox's cave made for a good yarn in Clay Perry's books on New England caves. While other sites on the cliff (including Peter's) was the subject of photographs in Picturesque Berkshire South (1893).

Union Rock

Monday, April 6, 2020

Catamount! The Caves, the Marbles, and Other Things...

There's a little piece of Heaven that exists, just south of the Vermont border, in the Town of Colrain. The Catamount Hill(s) were first settled around 1780, mostly abandoned a century later. Geologically, much of this area is underlain by the Waits River and Goshen Formation, parts of which were formerly called the Conway Schists during the late 1800s by eminent geologist B.K. Emerson.

View out of the Bear's Den

As far as the interests of the amateur speleologist and geologist might go, there is the presence of marble/limestones to be found in these old Conway Schists. And even furthermore, one of three 'major' caves in the Catamount Hills may have been formed within those marbles. But on this particular day, conditions meant hiking in a ways to my first objective: the Bear's Den.

The interior of the Bear's Den

The old roads are often flooded due to poor drainage and beaver activities. The Bear's Den is a major rupture in the ledgy hillside that has formed a separation - and cave - of good size. At just over 50 feet, this is a good size cave for these parts! Enjoying my first visit to this area since 2006, I eventually moved along to the area of the Catamount Dens and the Oven. Along the way, occasional outcrops of the grainy black marble could be found. Even popping up in the middle of the roadbed.

My long-ago past visit to the Oven did determine a small presence of marble, thus providing evidence of a traditional solutional genesis. However, I had a nagging feeling over the years that I'd like to see more than that. Between photography and running several dozen tests on the surrounding bedrock, this ate up the lion's share of my time this day. But it was worth it! A much greater presence of marble was to be discovered, furthering the evidence of this cave being a rare formation in Massachusetts, outside of the Berkshires!

The Oven

Packing up, I moved a short distance 'down around the corner' to the Catamount Den(s), proper. This very impressive collapsed ledge, sports a good size talus cave. It also appears to be at the head of a major drainage that probably dates to around the end of the last ice age. This drainage was eventually followed down to McLeod Pond. Of interest here, were some significant outcrops of marble. These seem to extend out into the water but I'd need water access to confirm that.

At the Dens

It only remained (yeah - right) to climb out of the area surrounding the pond to access my route back to the car. This proved more difficult than anticipated and I eventually arrived ending a VERY long - but enjoyable and productive - day in the outdoors. Then the long drive home.

Methodism in the Hills "Another sect appeared in this area when the Troy Conference sent missionaries to Rowe in 1800. There they succeeded in forming a class of a dozen members that became one of the circuit which included Catamount Hill. The Methodists did not believe that buildings were necessary for their purposes. Meetings were held in groves, caves and barns. The Hill meetings were held at the Oven Den and in the newly erected unhewn log school house. Twenty years later the Methodist Reform Church of Colrain was organized by the leading men on the Hill. One of the preachers was Doctor Pardon Hayes of Rowe."

The Puzzle of Catamount Hill (1969) by Elmer F. Davenport

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Awakenings: The Sequel!

A week later, I returned to the same basic range of mountains just east of the Connecticut River. This time it was to explore more southerly sections of the 'old Park' and reacquaint myself with the locations first studied over 15 years ago. And yes - the photography of Amherst's John Lovell figured prominently into this.

Several old mountain roads lead upward and trails often diverge from these roads. My first jaunt took me up through an area once occupied just past the mid 100s by the Ansel (A.C.) Delano sawmill. Beyond that, an area existed (not overgrown as it is today) called Paradise. Here I found several good examples of conglomerate ledges and very close by is one used by climbers called The Sunbowl.

Silver Cascade

Returning to my starting point, I relocated bit a bit to the north and hiked up the mountain via another old road. Here was a pretty worthy cascade that I believe photographer Lovell called Silver Cascade. It's not far from an old sugar house that once belonged to Nathaniel Smith. A magnificent glen lays below this cascade and might be the one portrayed in the old Lovell photography as Mossy Glen.

Looking down through the Grand Porch

The remainder of the day was put in at a better know set of ledges once called The Bear's Den - or Home of the Rocks - that is covered in 12 different old stereoviews. My first stop here was at Russell Rock which is a relatively new photo to my collection. It can be found between the Kitchen and Pantry, and the Curve Rock. Finishing up here, I moved on to the area of the Grand Porch which seems to mark the entranceway to Titan's Pasture. I worked my versions of photography for the Porch and the beginning of the Pasture. On the way back, I had enough time to quickly snap Old Man Titan, a giant facial formation that watches out over the Valley in the vicinity of the Rock Shadow.

Old Man Titan

[For those wishing to explore some old-time geologic writing on this area, I would refer them to the "Cirques and rock-cut terraces of Mount Toby" by B.K. Emerson. This can be found in GSA Bulletin (1911) 22 (1): 681–686.]