Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sheeps Cave, Connecticut River Valley

Sheeps Cave

The Easter 'menu' was to bring a routine investigation to a number of relatively tame sites in the northern section of Massachusetts' Connecticut River Valley. 'Routine' is another of those famous last words that often gets lost along the way.

Reaching an area bordering the west shore of the great River, I intended to take a quick look again at Sheeps Cave which lays in the collapse of a large cliff face. Here is where things got sticky as I ended up wandering a section of woods that were eventually found not even the correct location for the cave! Adjusting my location, I moved on only to find the old woods road to the cave lost. But old notes scribbled on my atlas gave me a clue and upon entering the woods once again, I found the old road to be completely obliterated! However, a vague familiarity with the direction to the cliffs eventually got me there where a much more precise GPS location will negate a future repeat of today's difficulties.

The rest of the day was to be devoted to looking at several rock climbing locations, always a good opportunity to view some spectacular examples of the local bedrock. However, ambiguous directions that did not match road names on my atlas led me astray for awhile. But after aborting the attempt to locate my first site, the access road was located by luck as I was driving on to my second destination.

This ledge was no easy feat to locate - or get to. It is most of the way up a large mountainside where evidence of past quarrying was seen. It took several attempts, and back tracking, but eventually way up in the upper reaches of the mountain a massive ledge of gneiss was to be found. And no short piece of rock was this either as it stretched for at least 700 feet with shorter sections continuing still on further.

Although the access route to the noble ledge was marked at intervals with flagging tape and painted saplings, it proved of little help in either the ascent - or descent. I eventually resorted to bushwhacking my way down the mountain which brought me a great stroke of luck. I stumbled into a major abandoned quarry complete with numerous tool marks and plenty of leftover rough cut rock.

So finally making a descent to my car, it was only to drive down and over the Miller's River to catch the Mohawk Trail back west to the Berkshires.