Saturday, December 31, 2005

Past Trips - 2005

For those of you that are into such things - and want to take the time to sift through all of this - here are my notes in 'raw form' Without dates, or photos, but in chronological order starting with the latter part of the year and working back in time.

Although my outdoor season has 'officially' ended for the winter, a good day can occasionally bring me out of hibernation. One such day during the Holiday season took me down to 'Frogs Landing' in central Berkshire County where the once famous Frog Rock resides. This guy made a splash during the earlier parts of the 1900's when a boulder, in the rough shape of a frog, was painted to accent its features. Modern days have brought other paint jobs but the Frog is looking pretty glum and definitely in need of a fresh coat of color. I also gave a quick look over to a mountain's base for the possible location of a boulder that may have been a local attraction to youths during the second third of the 20th century.

And so the curtain is drawn upon another season... One of the last - if not the last - outings, is a tradition I started some years back, of Thanksgiving on the Appalachian Trail: dinner and all! Each year brings a little something different, and those of you in New England, will remember it as a snowy one. But the coming year is already in my sights and it will kick off with a continuation of the carbonate bedrock formations of Franklin County. I'll still be looking for those lost sites in the Connecticut River Valley, photographed those many years ago. Also on tap, is an interview with a 90 year old resident of Bristol County and his recollections of rock formations in his own town. I'll be back at the South Shore, Rhode Island, Worcester County, probably out onto the Cape (Cod), and (of course) Cape Ann and all of adjacent Essex County.

As I head towards the close of another season, first rate weather provided me with the chance to pick-up on a project started back in the Spring. Heading into Franklin County - and the famed Mohawk Trail region - I sought out beds of carbonate bedrock that had small cave formations. Interesting from a geologic standpoint, lenses of marble, existing within the larger mass known as the Waits River Formation, had worn into small solution cavities/caves. The obvious difference between this site and the site visited in the Spring, was a much higher exposure of carbonate (marbles) rocks, both in the caves and the immediate vicinity.

Usually a trip into Connecticut is in order during the waning days of my outdoor season, and this year was no exception. On the first day, the Nathan Hale Homestead and its surrounding woodlands in Coventry was visited, and later that day I took on the Nipmunk Trail and Wolf Rock in Mansfield. The second day saw me at the American Clock and Watch Museum at Bristol and a return to the Great Stone Face (Washington Head) at Meriden.

The Connecticut River Valley was shrouded in fog on this particular day. Later on - it would turn into a misting rain. The goal on this day, though, was to return to the site of a Spring trip to further examine the ledges and caves found in northern regions of the Valley. I tried to make use of a shorter route than on my previous visit by bushwhacking in from a closer location. Ah - but traversing thickets of mountain laurel is not always the best route to take. Fortunately, on the way out, I did find an old woods road which will make for easier future access. But once again I gave the Mammoth Boulder Cave, Porcupine Fracture Cave, and Giant Cavity Cave (no king sized tooth ache here) a good look over. One of the interesting aspects to Mammoth Boulder is a balcony exit (entrance?) overlooking the ledges below. Afterwards, I returned to a point farther South in the Valley to look over a set of ledges as a possibly match for old photography of Warner's Ledge. No match this trip around but if weather permits before I step inside for the Winter, I do have a couple more sets of ledges to check out. While in Town, I worked the information from the previous visit and looked at Highland Point. Interesting, is that it may be Stony Hill from the John Lovell set of stereoviews where two views of the Connecticut River were taken.

Descending into the Valley of the Connecticut River one more time, I had intended to work on the location of Warner's Ledge from antique photo fame. An early stop at a local library sent me off in a slightly different direction after sifting through local publications. Sites, brought to my attention, were "Highland Point" of old postcard fame and a previously unknown (to me) waterfall. But first I ascended into Lovell and Peck's "Home of the Rocks" where a marvelous discovery awaited me. In an area, photographed around 1870 as "Titan's Pasture", a fracture amongst the ledges caught my eye. Freehand climbing brought me up to a hidden cave entrance with passages of modest proportions. A second cave lay below and nearby. Moving on, I visted the waterfall. Then I made a quick run into Graves' Ledge/Rock Shelter to do some photo work on the formation once know as "Castle End". Along the way, a quick spin was made through Rock Roof and fav "Etta's Nook".

With a complete rainout of the annual Cape Ann trip and, an unsuccessful attempt to locate a geologic site through a records search at the county clerk's office, its time to ask "what's left?" for the rest of the season. More than likely it will go into sites up and down the Connecticut River Valley including a return to a new area of caves that was first visited back in April of this year. Little was done at that point in time due to a foot injury sustained earlier in the week down on the Rhode Island coast. But a massive ledge honeycombed with fractures and talus caves will be given a thorough going over. And - with the foliage quickly falling away, it will be a good time to slip back up in the mountains, with cameras, to follow in the footsteps of John Lovell and David Peck: circa 1870.

Time again to return to the mountains bordering the Connecticut River. I searched out a previously unvisited ravine and gave a look over to several ledges to see if anything might match the old photography of John Lovell. It is a project that, in lieu of any new information, will grind along very slowly. At this point it seems a records search of old landowners may be in order since many of the geographical/geological sites are tied to former local residents. I am still attempting to locate the old writings of Rev David Peck on the sites in the mountains, and have contacted a present member of the congregation at the old church he ministered at back in the late 1860's. This trip also brought another visit to Graves Ledge for further photography of the various rock formations as well as gathering data for plotting their geographical locations. On the return trip home through Hampshire County, a quick stop was made to search out the story of Martha's Rock/Cave.

Ah - the cool air of Fall has finally arrived! Bordering my neighborhood is a vast tract of woodland with its own trail system. A modest walk through those woods will bring me to the Appalachian Trail where one can take their choice of points North or South. Within those forests is a small summit and The Boulders where, those many years ago, the glaciers laid down rocks, of gigantic proportions.

Despite near record gasoline prices and temperatures unseasonably warm, it was time to hit the road once again. My ultimate destination were the more eastern portions of Massachusetts but on the way several stops had to be made. Down in southeastern Worcester County, a little above Rhode Island, reports of rocks and one cave were investigated. Next I swung on over to Norfolk County for another visit to one of my favorite spots over the years, the Wrentham State Forest. Two small waterfalls had been reported here but with most of the small brooks dried up nothing was to be had but the pleasant surroundings of numerous boulders. Continuing east towards the coast, I looked over the story of Robber's Cave which involved some pleasant hiking, along with working the faces of some impressive ledges offering fine views. Ultimately, I set up camp on the South Shore and prepared for the next day where the surrounding towns' histories have a myriad of references to rock formations within their boundaries. SO day two saw me visiting Pond Rock, investigating Rattlesnake Ledge/Den and Widow's Rock (probably destroyed), visiting Hatchet Rock (which included an Old Man/Washington profile), three hours research at a local library, checking out The Pebble and other rock formations in the local harbor, Doherty's Rock, looking for Damon's Rock, investigating an old homestead where Toad Road should lay as well as nearby Cleft Rock, trying to find exactly where Landing Rock might still be found, and finally visiting Kent Rocks (whew!). Before pulling out of the area on the morning of day three, I walked local town woods, visiting a number of rock outcroppings and a small cave, while searching for Lion's Den. I checked into a reported "Castle Rock" in northwest Plymouth County and also dropped in at Sachem's Rock. Finally heading on down into Bristol County I reconnected after several years with one of the local historical societies (thanks Liz and Andrew!) in an attempt to track down a site depicted on a rare - and somewhat unusual - postcard. Pulled out of their files, was a writing mentioning numerous local boulders and a cave. Realizing I needed to devote a good day to this project, I headed on home to return another day.

Trying to work some of the more local material, amid skyrocketing gasoline prices, I stayed within the confines of central Berkshire County. Searching out an earlier lead of a rock shelter/cave used to harbor slaves as part of the Underground Railway, I found my information source. However, the elderly resident did leave things a bit confusing as to the directions but they seem to point to a rock exposure and small cave I previously looked at a year or two ago.

Dropping in on a town's local celebration in northeastern Berkshire County, I got the chance to meet and talk with several of the residents. Here I sought out information on a local cave site and came away with another good bit of information on a second cave. Eventually I made my way northward, over the Mohawk Trail, and into northwest Franklin county, the site of two visits last summer. Here I got the opportunity to look over some of the local glacial erratics including 'Substation Erratic' and a further investigation into their former local attraction the Stone Face/Profile Rock. The day was finished off in the local historical society where old photos, postcards, and maps provided a wealth of information.

Every so often, I'll pull an 'old lead' out of my files to work on it some more. One that has been a great mystery for decades, is the location of a small cave in eastern Berkshire County used for revival meetings years ago. Despite talking with two individuals and several very uncomfortable hours bushwhacking through forests, bogs, and berry bushes, nothing further was to be found. The one gem of the day was a lead given to me by an elderly gentleman on a nearby overhang cave used as part of the famed Underground Railroad.

Looking for a little R&R, I dropped down "South of the Border" which in my case means the State of Connecticut. Despite some near record breaking heat, I was able to finally come face-to-face with the Stone Face/Washinton Head at Meriden.

An old postcard image once again proved to be the trick that brought me out into the heat and humidity of a Berkshire summer. A local lake in southern Berkshire County was portrayed with the 'Sea Lion' rock formation just off it's shore. Nothing conclusive has been ascertained at this point, but the investigation is ongoing. Update: Further review of both old and new photographs, along with consultation with my source, reveals the rock visited is most likely the Sea Lion - but missing it's 'head'! It appears the effect of a head was probably due to a second, small rock, being placed upon the much larger rock representing the 'body'.

A break in the hot summer weather allowed me to return to the Valley of the Connecticut River. A large expanse in the mountains, described by Rev David Peck in 1870, was gone over to locate long ago geographic features. On this trip, areas he described as being between Paradise and the Garden of Eden (can you guess he was a 'man of the cloth'?) were visited as well as Kellogg Hill and Prospect Ledge. Peck described Prospect Ledge as having a superb vista and, probably the same one described a bit earlier in history by geologist Edward Hitchcock. The view is still excellent, with a few remaining tobacco fields in the distance, but I suspect modern civilization has changed much in the valley below over the intervening years. The area also contained more ledges with small caves. A cache of John Lovell's photography surfaced including two views previously unknown to me. One is at Warner's Ledge (still to be located) and another near a local cave, which I successfully located. Nearby, I visted a small waterfall which has come to be known as Slip Dog Falls. On the return trip, I stopped in at the Goshen Historical Society to research local sites of geologic and historical interest.

A grim reminder that summer has arrived. Battling the bugs and heat, I made my way into Ice Gulch (or - Ice Gorge - as it is sometimes known) one of a number of 'geologic rifts' scattered throughout New England. Not to be confused with the better known Ice Glen to the north, this much more rustic gorge offers rugged travel and interesting caves. Cooling snow and ice within the caves helped with both the heat and bug bites. A venerable old tree that use to span the rift like some primitive bridge, up to the last quarter of the 1900s, lies solemnly across the bottom now.

Again - and again - it's back into the mountains east of the Connecticut River! One of the goals on this trip was to examine a massive wall of rock to see if it might be the long lost 'Warner's Ledge' from John Lovell's photography. So up past Silver Cascade and into the wilds I went. Apparently, this is not the site. Not to be diminished, a yawning cave entrance exists under the edge of the precipice. Definitely not for the vertically challenged. But this site may very well be Sheep Hill written about by the Rev. Peck in his historical writings. A slight view of the Connecticut River Valley could still be had. While in the area, I returned to Rock Shelter getting hypotheses on the sites Graves Nook, Myra's Retreat, the Tripe Lichen Ledge, and Titan's Quarry. Some photo work was put in at Kittie's Nook before the heavy rains came down. And no trip in this area would have been complete without stopping in at Etta's Nook. So I'm on my way towards rounding out the history and locations of John Lovell's 76 stereoviews for the area.

Returning East of the Connecticut River, I 'time travelled' once again back to 1870 through the use of writings by Rev David Peck and the photographic work of John Lovell from that era. Although no significant geologic breakthroughs were forth coming on this trip, I came away with a much better geographic understanding of the area. Pretty much all the names used way back then for geographic/geologic locales have long disappeared. But slowly, bit by bit, the puzzle begins to come together. On this particular trip, I visted the site of Delano's sawmill which is along the entrance way to what Rev Peck described as "Paradise" and the "Garden of Eden". I also climbed old Bearsden Mountain which once boasted pastures and fine vistas. The pastures have all grown to woods and the vistas of the Connecticut River below are all shut off. Along the way I was able to stop in at old favorite Poet's Seat and get good hypotheses on Kendall's Recess and Titan's Dooryard listed among the Lovell set of stereoviews.

Continuing on with the previously mentioned geologic reconnaissance project, I dropped in on southern Franklin County. Here, the origins of one of the state's many Bear's Dens, was more fully explored while looking into scattered deposits of carbonate rock. Along the way, a small, picturesque waterfall was encountered. Swinging up onto the Mohawk Trail, a previous cave lead was worked. On the way home, old homestead sites, stone walls, and steeply dipping beds of Goshen Schist were given a look over.

A past cave project in the mountains north of the Mohawk Trail is being expanded into a much larger geologic reconnaissance project. On this particular day, May Day, a more extensive investigation was made of The Oven and the exposures of marble in the surrounding area. Future trips will involve examinations of similar phenomena, especially in Franklin and adjacent sections of Hampshire Counties. Also on this day, a number of picturesque waterfalls were discovered, as well as a set of small caves, a 'new' cave entrance to be explored, and two young men were met that clued me in to a group of caves in a nearby town. Thanks, guys!

Over the winter, two towns, adjacent to one another in the upper Connecticut River Valley, had reports of cave features come to my attention. Another beautiful Spring day was spent investigating these with very successful results. The first location was a very impressive set of ledges honeycombed with caves from fractures, overhangs, and talus (boulder). Some evidence of erosional features was also present. The second site was also a grand set of ledges. Here were found overhangs and a couple of boulder formations.

Two days were spent in the Narragansett Bay area of Rhode Island. On the first, two radically different, but equally beautiful, seashores were explored along Narragansett Pier and Newport. In the process, several small, and insignificant, sea-cave formations were noted. Narragansett Pier's 'Indian Rock' was visited and its famed 'Old Man's Face' rock formation sought out. Local authorities confirm the demise of the Old Man from years of suffering at the hands of several hurricanes. Jamestown's 'Indian Head Rock', Newport's Cliff Walk, and Middletown's Purgatory and Hanging Rocks, were visited. The second day saw an examination of rock formations on the 'Neck' section of Newport as well as a significant area of pirate/sea caves in other portions of the Bay area.

The second outing of the Spring season also took me into the mountains east of the Connecticut River. Searching out two waterfalls recorded in history, I found a good match for Silver Cascade through the use of antique photography and written descriptions. Less successful was an attempt to identify the second waterfall as I had no photos or written descriptions. But an unsuccessful attempt was made to match the site through pictures of two rock formations that may have been near that locale. Antique writings may have provided a good hypothesis as to the location of rock formations Cozy Cave, The Kitchen and Pantry, and possibly Russell Rock, however I would still like to uncover the old photos for these sites. While in the area, old favorites The Grand Porch, Curve Rock, and the Rock Shadow were visited.

What better way to start off the new season than resuming work on my largest and longest running project. Returning to the Connecticut River Valley, I sought out more geologic features from the photographic work done by John Lovell of Amherst some one hundred and thiry five years ago. Sites that got a look over on this visit included (amongst others) Etta's Nook, Willard's Point, Pulpit Rock, and Fortress Rock. Antique writings from the very same era were sufficient enough to locate Castle End, Kittie's Nook, and Beauman's Cascade.