Friday, November 27, 2020

Shades of Oliver Wendell Holmes!

This likely will finish out an (all too) abbreviated season. It is with cautious optimism, I'll look forward to another Spring. No doubt about it - it will be a difficult time during the coming months for our Country

The Rhody Mountain Man (occasionally known as Mike) descended upon the Berkshires as we joined forces in Western Pittsfield. Once upon a time, a small cave existed here but recent years have seen a new housing development likey bury it. The area we explored is underlain (to some degree) by marble providing us with a rudimentary karst area. Nothing we would expect to produce any great rewards. Like another cave or other major karst features.

Interesting geology!

After looking over a couple of resurgences, we trekked out into more remote locations where Mike's research, using LIDAR, foretold of possible sinkholes. And sinkholes, indeed, we did find! Interesting, but again, nothing major. Small signs of possible drainage and almost no bedrock outcrops. Perhaps most interesting was a drainage gully that produced a mini cave-like formation. Marble was present at this site but intermingled with other surrounding rocks.

A side passage that exits the cave

Trucking out from the woods, we decided to relocate to the southern parts of Pittsfield to visit a cave that found its history among the famous books by Clay Perry. Elsie Venner's Cave is named after the story by Oliver Wendell Holmes and rests high in mountainous ledges that require a bit of a difficult climb. I visit this cave every few years but it was an opportunity for RMM's first visit. The cave is a chamber under rocks fallen from a higher elevation. There is even a side exit passage under an enormous boulder that has fractured. Photos taken, we returned to our cars to part ways on this particular trip. Likely, it will be springtime before I meet up with Mike once again!

Friday, November 6, 2020

In Search of Ester's!

To say the year 2020 was a 'disappointment' might very well be the understatement of a lifetime. Unless you've been living in a cave, likely your life was touch in some way, shape, or form by all that has been going on.

It was no different for me as a lot of the activities I typically pursue were hampered, or even completely closed off. Piling on top of that, medical problems once again reared its ugly head. Slowly coming back from that, I was able to connect with two good friends in a search for Ester's Cave.

Little had been heard from Ester in recent decades so we wondered what might be found - if indeed we could find it. Using some long ago directions, we climbed a significant, steep hillside. Eventually, some ledges with broken rock were located. The first thing we noticed is this was not limestone as the old directions mentioned. But a tiny entrance did exist and was explored by the two friends.

At this point, I went off through the woods to see what other prospects might exist. Covering a large section of the countryside, the possibilities for a cave were even less than the area I left behind. As I circled back, communication let me know the friends were moving on and would meet up with me along the way. Joining the two - and an area landowner - we made our way back to our cars in a more roundabout route. By this time, my injury from a couple of months back was beginning to severely hamper me. I managed to dump myself into my car and tell my GPS "HOME", ending this adventure.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Beyond Quabbin

A brief respite from the intense heat allowed me a small window of opportunity to make my way out beyond the Quabbin Reservoir and into sections of northwest Worcester County. Here, in two different towns, I located three new (to me) features and a revisit to a LONG ago site of historic importance.

Princess Rock

First stop brought me to Princess Rock, site of a rather interesting story. An Indian maiden jumped off the top of the rock with her Indian brave boyfriend. Death was the escape from being forced to marry a very important chief from the Narragansett tribe. My observation was one could hurt themselves - perhaps badly - but the jump itself is maybe around 15 feet. There is a sloping hillside below, with a number of rocks that had once been part of the ledge.

Captain Andrew Robinson & Moses A. Fales
@ Mine cliff circa 1870

Moving on a bit, was a mining site that has a rich and somewhat enigmatic connection in town. I have seen this described as both a gold dig and copper/copperas dig. Apparently, its earliest origins may date to the late 1700s, as when the area was 'discovered' in the first half of the 1800s, the mine had already been there! I managed to locate it with a little searching, although it had been years since my last time through the area and the forest had really grown up! One goal was to finally obtain an accurate GPS fix and I noticed an old trench along the base of the cliffs. I can only guess it was used for drainage.

Skipping several towns to the south, I located (with a little searching) the sit of an old rattlesnake den. I had been through town about a year earlier, visiting the local town hall, showing a postcard I had of the den. It was pretty well known but at that time I moved on. No rattlesnakes were present on this particular day but a pleasant surprise in finding it to be a neat little cave.

In the mouth of the Rattlesnake Den

Although my last year's visit to the town hall did not turn up any information on Missionary Rock, l did have a very rough location as to where it lay. While driving along the road, I spotted three people out walking so I addressed my query to them. They did not know, but just as I was getting reading to pull away, one of their neighbors came up behind me in his car. As luck would have it - the rock lay just off the border of his property! I got a full-fledged tour with my guide, pulled out all the appropriate equipment, and eventually left the area as a happy camper filled with new information!

Ancient shelter: Missionary Rock

Setting the trusty(?) car GPS for home, I was directed south to the Mass Pike and back west to the Berkshires!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Remoteness of Franklin County

Camp Rock

20+ years is a bit of time in one's life. So with that in mind, I took my act up into Franklin County for my second only visit to Camp Rock. Back in those days, I took my less than two-year-old Ford Ranger along some pretty despicable back roads to reach this geologic treasure. Coming in from an entirely different direction I was fortunate enough to have a solid woods road with open gates. My luck continued by parking within several hundred feet (later on a Subaru drove right past me up to the Rock) and soon had me at the base of this impressive monolith. At around 60 feet long, and reaching perhaps 15 feet high, its vertical eastern side provided shelter to an early family of settlers thus earning its name.

Somewhere along the Deerfield(?) River

After updating some very old photographs (from back in the days when we sent out our film for developing) I moseyed on up north to the Mohawk Trail. Over the winter, I picked up a very interesting piece of old photography showing a couple of men fishing in the river near a giant boulder. It seems I may have seen it at one time in the past along the Mohawk Trail, but my aging memory is pretty dim on this one. I soon realized that safety issues of diverting my attention from the road (not to mention a large amount of foliage) would probably make this a lost cause. So when I got the chance to take the next major highway south, I turned in that direction, then took the backroads to the site of Mary Lyon's birth. Mt Holyoke College retains ownership of this property which is well kept, including a picnic table.

Rock with Mary Lyon plaque commemorating her birth place

A look at the same location early in the 20th century

Finishing up photographs, it was time to head on out of a very rural location and eventually meet up with Route 9 to take me back into the Berkshires.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

A couple of Dens in the Nutmeg State

In a joint excursion with Mike - the Rhody Mountain Man - we converged south of my border, and way west of his Rhode Island border, in Litchfield County, Connecticut. After meeting and exchanging pleasantries, we removed ourselves to the County's southern region in the town of Roxbury. A big part of this town's history involves the old days of iron mining and manufacturing. But our goal took us in a little different direction to Gamaliel's Den.

Gamaliel's Den

This somewhat modest geologic site lends itself to stories of counterfeiting, Native Americans, and even the old Leatherman! At an area once called Raven Rock, one is challenged to make their way up a boulder-strewn hillside. It is a moderate-sized opening underneath a nice piece of ledge.

What followed, found us into Fairfield County near Lake Zoar, which backs up the Housatonic River. Along the Boys Halfway River, a rare lens of marble (for these parts) - and a small cave - can be found. In the long-ago past, this marble was quarried, and in more recent years blasted in an attempt to close off access. Legends of an underground 'ballroom' still persist but evidence of this seems to be a bit on the lean side.

Descent into the Devil's Den/Boys Halfway River Cave

With explorations for the day complete, it was only for me to wind north along old familiar routes through Waterbury and all the way north to the Berkshires once again.

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.