Sunday, June 28, 2009

On an August day in 1853, at a small knoll in Stockbridge, Massachusetts known as Laurel Hill, the Laurel Hill Association was born. Laurel Hill is formed as part of the Dalton Formation, comprised primarily of metaquartzites. The same bedrock unit stretches out to the south where less than a half mile away lies the well known Ice (or Icy) Glen. To the north and east lie namesake units of Stockbridge Marble along with a smattering of marble units within the Walloomsac Schist.

But Laurel Hill has its own stone seat and rostrum (pulpit) and a short, steep hike to its top brings one to a partial view and another magnificent stone seat.

One of the small caves at Bartholomew's Cobble

Down at Bartholomew's Cobble in Sheffield I was warned how ferocious the mosquitoes had become. It was an understatement. The trails were wet - the adjacent Housatonic River full. Several minor caves are located here along with flora unique to the marble/limestone bedrock.

None of these caves appear to be formed by solution although small solution features are present. What is very conspicuous is quartz and indeed a latter check of geologic data reveals this to be a quartz unit within the Stockbridge Marbles.

From the desk of the armchair traveler (how's that for an oxymoron?) an answer to what in heck is the profile at Profile Rock on Buzzards Bay. This was one example that just didn't "cut it". However, a 1892 news article surfaced in cyberspace accenting the profile. The bad news is this rock has been partially buried by sand on a public beach and the section with the facial feature is now covered!

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Father Stan

Father Stan (L) poses at a central Berkshire cave entrance

Oh well - a somewhat belated summer has finally arrived. Heat, humidity, bugs - although the ticks have been roaming about since late winter and are now biting in monstrous proportions. A somewhat strange weather pattern persists that does not give many days a break from some sort of rain.

However around this time of year many, MANY years ago it all began for me. I remember being in the midst of collecting comic books which have become quite the collectible in more recent decades. Issues placing the origin of certain characters ranking high as a collectible. So for the occasional traveler through this site (personal acquaintances know my story well) here is my "origin".

Obviously it begins with parents but beyond the biology was a Father. Stan was a well know cave explorer out of western Massachusetts. A learner to Clay Perry famous for his books on caves in New England and New York. Being the youngest of four children (all sons) I had patiently waited for my own turn to visit the stygian underworld I'd heard so much about.

It all began just to our north in an old marble quarry dating back to the mid 1800's. The sense of excitement at approaching the quarry's edge, and peering down in, will always remain with me. There - a small slot provided entrance to Baker's Quarry Cave. Although I can't say I saw my future flash before me, I definitely knew something special was beginning. More than providing entrance to a natural tunnel thousands of years old, I was gaining entrance to a unique world where geology and history intersected.

Although there is much more to the tale, this makes for a fitting story of one's Father - for Father's Day. So long after his demise, Stan travels with me each and every time I head on out.

Explorer @ Baker's Quarry Cave entrance, Berkshire Co

Another generation waits her turn at the entrance to
Baker's Quarry Cave

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Indian Rock, Worcester Co

Indian Rock

On this day I ventured over to the far (eastern) side of the Quabbin Reservoir to join with the East Quabbin Land Trust. Here, they have an ongoing project to bring Indian Rock out of the woods where it has lain for probably the better part of the past three decades. A trail was begun the day of my October 2007 visit, and that trail needed maintenance work, particularly after a winter that was cruel to the area woodlands. The ridge that the rock rests upon once sported a fine view, especially eastward. It is the hope of the EQLT to once again make that view possible.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Pinnacle, Norfolk Co

The Pinnacle

This adventure begins where I began my April vacation - on Massachusetts State Forest land, just above the Rhode Island border. Taking on a different section of the Forest from where Boulder Cave lay, I returned to two small but interesting cave formations. The first would barely be human sized but has a smooth, worn passage somewhat reminiscent of a solution cave but likely is not its origin. Right nearby is 'another' boulder cave (this whole area of State Forest land is replete with glacial erratics)but with a definite 'passage' underneath. Here we have a huge boulder with just the right dimensions, setting down on a ledge, providing the small cave underneath. Also nearby is, what I have named, the Pinnacle, a giant spear of rock standing straight up at least 20 feet high. A casual look seems that a large, somewhat flat, erratic was left standing on what was previously its side. After clearing out of State Forest property, I took one more look for the cave formation in town that I failed to find back in April. This time it was a success and it lay amongst the red and purplish rocks indicative of (what is now mapped as)the Blackstone Group in these parts.

Working my way south adjacent to the Rhode island Border, I visited a splendid balanced erratic and 'boulder den' (cave-like formation) within a local park. More of the reddish rock was present on the face of the Den (it might be noted that a nearby area is documented for an occurence of red limestone). Turning east away from Rhode Island, I cruised on into a town holding a superb example of the Devil's Footprint formation. This set of footprints comes complete with story of a local man and his pact with Satan. Finishing out my day on the other side of town was one of the several King Philip's caves scattered around Massachusetts. Heading down deep into southeast Massachusetts I found my campground closed but a quick phone call confirmed sites available at another State Forest farther down towards Buzzards Bay.

Minister's Rock, Plymouth Co

Minister's Rock: early 1900's

Sliding Rock, Bristol Co

Sliding Rock: early 1900's

Day Two was to be primarily coastal towns starting in the western Buzzards Bay region and heading west from there. My first stop: Minister's (occasionally: Pulpit) Rock. Also seen in town: a split rock formation that made at least several appearances on early era postcards. I had been told by the landowner on a previous visit, Calvin Coolidge and Warren Harding posed by this boulder for a photograph long ago. In the next town west I drove by a giant pair of rocks visited on a previous trip know variously as Great Rock, Split Rock, and even Big Rocks but my investigation took me nearby to another reported "Great Rock". Located on a local golf course, I was graciously granted a tour of the surroundings, including the rock which they call Split Rock - yes, another! Afterwards, a direct line was made south to the coast in search of the Sentinel, a rock sitting off the shoreline portrayed on another old postcard. One more town west and a look for two features mentioned in local history writings: Leanto Rock and a Devil's Footprint. A thorough search revealed nothing definitive on these reported ahoreline area features. It is not usual for seaside rocks to have shallow, cup-like depressions and to say one is the footprint without further knowledge would be impossible.

I decided to bypass a few things on my list and continue directly west to Fall River where Sliding Rock lay waiting in a local park. While in town, a long overdue return to the famed Rolling Rock (one historical reference: Goose-nesting Rock) which is now the "official glacial rock" for the State of Massachusetts. Just outside of town, I stopped to visit an old friend/eBay dealer and great source of information on the local area. Nearby: an alternate access route was scouted to another King Philip's cave. On the way back to camp, I did a drive by check for a route to Joe's Rock and finished the day at the local library.

The rock ledge from which Rock, MA takes its name.

Early 1900's postcard

On a somewhat abbreviated third day, I journeyed up the Rt 495 corridor to investigate the origins of the Town of Rock (got to love that name). Along the way, a trail was discovered on land trust property that covers roughly the area that lends the Town its name. An old quarry site (and modest example of a 'footprint' formation) were present. I believe the location was found for a couple old postcards but will have to work this a bit more for further confirmation. I finished the morning, before heading home, in a neighboring town looking for a couple Indian ovens (rock formations) but a lack of definitive information made them impossible to locate. However, I did leave town with knowledge of possible contacts that may help. Location information can often be a long process.