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.

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.