Sunday, October 26, 2008

Since my end of August trip to Balance Rock (Hampshire County) where I met the woman telling me of a cave in the Mohawk Trail vicinity, I've been gathering information on just such a site. Taking to the highway, I accessed a resurrected part of the older Mohawk Indian footpath that the automobile highway has taken its name from. Deep within the woods, in a stand of tall white pines, the cave was to be found! What it really consists of is a huge chuck of rock that has broken off a ledge, positioning itself as a type of 'lean-to' against the parent ledge. Farther east - and north - in the town of Rowe lies the normally sleepy little stream known as Pelham Brook. One of the mysteries I've worked on is the Stone Face/Profile Rock in that vicinity. Never having definitive success, I decided to give it another try before winter. But a deluge of rain the previous night had Pelham Brook turned into a raging river. Still - I picked my way up the steam's edge photographing a few boulders along the way. One previously overlooked rock looks to be a good possibility and the images will be studied over the coming winter to see if a return trip is necessary. This area was photographed - and the subject of a number of postcards (including Profile Rock) - by Charles Canedy. Canedy was better known for being one of the early entrepreneurs behind the Mohawk Trail roadway. Another Canedy postcard in the Pelham Brook area shows a perched boulder along the road leading into Rowe. Although I've been told that rock was destroyed, one can still see high on the hillside, at least a couple more boulders sitting precariously above the road. Finally, taking the long - and very scenic route home (pass the home of Charlemont's local celebrity: Ernest Seguin) - I entered the most southwestern portions of Franklin County. Just in time for Halloween - a visit to Witch's Cave.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

This time of year is traditionally devoted to visiting the Middlesex and Essex County areas.

Day One: Heading on into the Middlesex Fells, I looked into an old lead from an even older edition of an AMC hiking guide. They mention "small caves" near a trail. My first discovery in the area was a splendid Indian profile amongst the rocks. Then I came across what is likely the "caves" but rock - or even "cave-like" - formations might be a better way to describe them. Farther along the trail, now in somewhat of a valley, a ledge contained another one of these small formations. Certainly much better examples of caves do exist within the Fells. Back on the road and heading past the Great Stone Face formation, I arrived at a rocky summit and park where another cave was reported. Again, a "cave-like" formation is all there was to be found near the top of a vertical ledge. Moving up the road, at the urban Pine Banks Park, I looked into the origin of an old postcard called "A Rocky Nook". I first thought it might be in the main picnic area but soon discovered it lay in a slightly more remote area around the back of the pond. Going out of Town, I passed the Old Indian Cave and a major road intersection where history recorded a large perched erratic once existed - or maybe still exists. Then on to the Bow Ridge area of Lynnfield where old quarries awaited me. One has some elaborate painting on the quarry wall depicting large clusters of skulls, hence the name Skull Rock. I had expected to hike on in to the Great Frog Boulder to give it a measure but took a wrong turn, a little past the Pirate Boulder, ending up almost back at my starting point. So another time. Just to the north, a quickie trip was made in to Ship Rock to get a circumference measurement. While in the area I gave it a go to find Wigwam Rock in light of some new information and picture I came across. Despite running across a number of 'worthy' erratics none seemed to fit the description and picture completely. Finally to complete the day, I took in Witch Rock.

Day Two: I revisited the Chief Wingaersheek profile in an old quarry quite near to my campground. Moving up the western side of Cape Ann, I investigated a new view on a postcard of an old site at Great Rock. Coming up - and around - Halibut, I made my way down the east coast to the granite pier where I took in the seashore with binoculars, looking in vain for the Profile Rock at Devil's Den and the Oldest Inhabitant profile rock formation. Just down the road, I entered Dogtown to tour the Whale's Jaw, measure Peter's Pulpit, and take in the Briar Swamp area including glacial boulder caving at Raccoon Ledges. The rest of he afternoon was a leisurely ride down the coast, stopping at Good Harbor Beach where massive waves pummeled Bass Rocks, likely site of the Old Man's Cave (rock formation). Finishing up the day was Stage Fort Park with Tablet Rock and the very picturesque Half Moon Beach.

Day Three: Rolling into the more northwesterly portions of Essex County I began a day that would see me visiting some extraordinary public lands. The first stop was at Den Rock Park (one old reference calls this the Devil's Den) home to a magnificent outcrop of rock. Very small caves have been formed in the fracturing and falling on parts of the ledge. There are several old postcards on this site including a nearby bridge called the Witch - or Den Rock - Bridge over the Shawsheen River. Farther north near the New Hampshire boundary, I had the report of a glacial boulder being an ancient land boundary. Not that this is unusual, even Wigwam Rock was a marker, but this historical report came complete with a street address! Successfully found, I wandered west once again entering Middlesex County. Here I had the report of another rock used by famed preacher George Whitefield, possibly near a local cemetery. I guessed which cemetery it may have been, only to find upon visiting, it was a very modern cemetery. Too modern to have been there in Whitefield's days. So on to the library where I culled through old historical records to come up with the probable site. Just as interesting was the mention of a rock in town, inscribed by the Native Americans with a map! This time I got the correct cemetery, found the likely Whitefield rock, and even found an elderly resident who told me the location of the 'map rock'. BUT the owner of that rock was not home, so I shelved it for another visit. Dropping down south to the land where granite was once quarried, I visited conservation land with old lime quarries. Then on to the local pulpit rock which I was told is at a pile of rocks. It was more like a rock wall extending a bit out from a slope in an adjacent home's yard. Hard to believe this existed over a century and a half ago, but very near to the 'wall' was a rock that would have served as a more practical pulpit. Nearby, the 'Fox Hunt rocks" was on more local conservation land. Just as I was finishing up my final photos, the predicted rain began to fall ending the day for me. One note of interest on the trip home: I had been told of a cave along the Mohawk Trail by the son of a cave owner last year. Since then I've looked for it several times unsuccessfully, but then the foliage and road conditions made that difficult. Finally on this trip home - a small cave entrance was spotted among the ledges to await future investigation.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Prejudicially speaking, there's no finer time than Fall to be out in Western Massachusetts! A few old images had been accumulating and it was time to set out across the Connecticut River in search of their location . The first stop was an old haunt at the Rattlesnake Gutter, a geologic marvel in Leverett. I brought along an old postcard showing two ladies sitting amongst some ledges but a given location nearby to the Gutter. I slowly examined the ledges from roadside before entering the Gutter proper to visit a good sized talus cave. Further investigation down in the Gutter and along it's outer edges did not reveal the exact location in the old photo postcard. However, I still believe it to be in the immediate area as there are other ledges on private land. I traveled around town afterwards to search out the site - or possible sites - of a couple waterfalls recorded in past history. One old coke oven was also nearby. Then on to the most southern perimeters of New Hampshire to investigate the Pulpit Rock. I suspected two images to be from a site visited in the past which I erroneously named "Hidden Glen" unaware of its past history. Bushwhacking in to Pulpit Falls, I then moved upstream to the beautiful secluded glen where I did match up a postcard of Pulpit Rock but not quite an old image of two Victorian Age ladies sitting in a spot nearby. A couple caves are also located in the immediate vicinity. I had wished to head on over the State border to revisit Pivot Rock (also know as the Balance and Tipping Rock) but considering my location, the geography, and where my car was, I favored a retreat back to the north and the highway where I was parked. Home came by way (partially) of the Mohawk Trail where the Fall foliage begins its approach towards peak perfection.