Sunday, May 23, 2021

Back to Essex

Ancient land boundary

Twenty months is a long time to be away from something that has been my 'old stomping grounds' for a couple decades. Between Covid and late summer medical, that's what happened during 2020. So it was with keen anticipation I took to the road and looked forward to landing on Cape Ann once again.

Small cave formation @ Den Rock

But before that could happen, I wanted to check in at several sites not visted in a VERY long time! First up was an ancient land boundary boulder in northernmost Essex County. I see that over the last dozen years it had lost the picturesque tree that once grew alongside it. On to Den Rock where it once was reported the Devil resided in its trademark fissure in the ledge. Over the years I've picked up couple interesting photos. One definitely showing the well known rock face, the other: unidentified but likely can be traced to this site. Down in the region of the Harold Parker State Forest, I did trace two very old photographs to the Jenkins Boulder (which I had identified from a 2000 photo of my own doing) and visited the old Jenkins soapstone quarry by way of a new access I recently discovered. The day was finished with further testing of the fold-able kayak on the Annisquam River.

Originally labeled as Cape Ann - circa 1880s...

...Today known as the Jenkins Boulder in Andover

Day two turned into a real treat! I was taken on a tour of some difficult to access local sites including quarries and private estates. These are areas I would have never seen without the company of my host and local gardener. I saw several Lanesville area quarries, an old cemetery (where the namesake Lane Family might be found) and estates over in the Annisquam section of town. I got a real lesson on how gardens can work to complement the rocky surfaces that are a typical part of Cape Ann. Along the way I was treated to Sheep Rock and the possible discovery of Tilting Rock. Upon parting ways with my guide, I traveled up and around the top of Cape Ann, stopping at Folly Cove to search out the whale that had washed up there weeks ago.

Tilting Rock as it appeared circa 1880s...
...the likely Tilting Rock as it is today!

The third day took me up to Newbury. I hoped to find possible access to the Parker River from an island on the Great Meadows property. Although this did not prove to be a reality, I took the time to look over several large boulders at that location. Some have said one of them is Gerrish Rock. My very knowledgeable local source took me there years ago to show me Gerrish Rock rising from the Parker at low tide. It's not often I get into Newbury so I went over to the Devil's Basin (old lime pit) along with the Haystack Boulder and another one off in the brush simply identified during the 1890s as 'a glacial erratic boulder of quartz augite diorite' . On the way out of town, my day was cut short with a flat tire . Phooey!

Glacial boulder @ Great Meadows
The Devil's Basin

Day four came and it was time to make my way to one of my most favorite of all places: Pigeon Cove. But first stop was closer to Rockport Center at Old Garden Beach. I had to photograph the large boulder first seen many years ago and told that it had a name: which, of course, I long ago forgot! From there it was on to the Atlantic Path which allows me access to the Atlantic shoreline and many of my favorite rocky formations. Here I was 'reunited' with the 'Meditation Seat', Pulpit Rock/Singers Rock/Dianah's Bath, Chapin's Gully, the Great Gargoyle, and Metoric Stone. Old maps of the coastline list archaic names to many of these places and at some future point I will explore than further. Coming just off the coastline, I looked to see if the site of an old chalybeate spring could be found. From the plant growth, one area looked to be excessively damp, but nothing definite. I then took a quick look at the overgrown Profile Rock and saw that it would eventually need a small cleanup to free it from the dense overgrowth. A bit to the south, I came to the Turtle Mound and old Rockport Hospital ruins. A quarried boulder lay secluded just out of site, buried within the underbrush.

Dianah's Bath - with Singers Rock in the background. Circa 1870s

On day number 5, I left the Cape to travel down to Salem. I'd seen a number of postings on some conservation land in the area known as Salem Woods at Highland Park. I did a quick one hour trip around its perimeter that gave me a good idea of what it offered. Forests, marshes and meadow lands with enough rock outcrops to tell me what might lie beneath. Leaving Salem behind, I took a jaunt roughly northwest for twenty miles to continue on from where I left off the day of the flat tire. This covered the Stickney Boulder, a search for a memorial boulder with plaque (a no show) and ending at Holmes Rock, another old land boundary.

The Stickney Boulder
Holmes Rock

I noticed the return to longer trips proved fatiguing. Either out of shape or just the normal aging process, time will tell. So on the morning of the sixth day, I pulled camp and set a direct route home to the Berkshires.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

To Blackstone and Beyond!

Ah springtime in the outdoors! With the black flies feasting away, and my allergies raging away, it was time to make my first overnighter since 2019. The destination: deep into Worcester County. The goal: to start with a lead hanging about from late last year.

When my outdoor season was abruptly ended due to medical concerns late in the summer of 2020, I left a tantalizing clue to the mystery of a House Rock within the Blackstone Valley. A piece of conservation land with that name might be the answer to the mention of such a formation in the town's history. Slipping into the property, which is barely 3.5 acres and surrounded by housing development, I began my search. Barely a rock could be found! I returned to the suburban streets to canvass the neighborhood I had been through 5 years previously. Finally after checking other nearby conservation land and neighborhood streets, success of a sort. Buried behind the corner of a house, and for all intentional purposes inaccessible, was a gigantic monolith of rock. With no one at home, I had to leave my find behind and move on.

Beehive stone chamber entrance

Next town east found me following the report of a boulder near housing along a quaint little lake. This boulder did not show itself so I ran over to the nearby beehive stone chamber to update my photos.

Slipping (just barely) into Norfolk County I connected with local author Marjorie Turner Hollman who puts out a series of guides to 'Easy Walks' for people of more limited abilities. Together we explored an old trolley route in her neighborhood.

Abutments to former bridge and trolley route

Nicking the corner of Middlesex County, I put in an effort to locate Jasper Rock. My information was really scant and I wasn't even sure what I might be looking for. Having a starting location, I went through a large tract of woods. A couple of erratics were there and a hilltop with a water tank on it. Could this be the Jasper Rock site? My debriefing later that afternoon confirmed I did not locate it (recognize it?) but I gleaned enough to make another competent search in the future.

Devil's Pulpit (aka Pulpit Rock) as it appeared circa 1870s

The following morning found me a bit north of Worcester itself checking back into some minor caves first visited ten years ago. While in the area, I wanted to check a 'new' access into the Devil's Pulpit and nearby Half House Rock. This route makes for a bit shorter journey than what I've used in the past. Since it was obvious by then I had one more walk left in me, I went ahead in to update photos of Devil's Pulpit and Half House. Then it was only to find my way to the Mohawk Trail and back to the Berkshires.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Hiram, Leaning, and the Oven...

Hiram's Tomb long ago. Unknown date but likely circa 1890

The primary goal on this trip was to be testing the assembly of new kayaking equipment - in the field. I had already gone through the learning process at home and was anxious to further that skill. Also to try out the handling of that new equipment in a real-life situation. That did not happen as I was looking for a somewhat private place far from the gaze of onlookers. And the location I chose down in Chester Ma proved to be a busy location.

Hiram's Tomb as it is today!

But on the way into town, I thought it worthwhile to check into one of my favorite locations at Hiram's Tomb. After all, it had been almost 12 years since the last visit. The location and hike in went smoothly and it allowed for some much-needed update on my photos. Afterward, I made my attempt on Littleville Lake before moving on to the Knightville Dam in Huntington. Much like the lake at Littleville, Knightville is also the site of an Army Corps project. However, directly in front of the Dam is Leaning Rock (aka The Devil's Arm Chair).

The Leaning Rock as it appeared in the early 1900s

... and the Leaning Rock today!

Once again, I used the opportunity to do a photo update. It was the same day in 2009 when I last visited Hiram's and the Leaning Rock. Taking the scenic route back towards Windsor and Rt. 9, I made a stop at the Indian Oven. I had only one old photo from the end of 1999, so a good chance to update that as well.

Indian oven - as it appeared in an early 1900s postcard image

Sunday, April 11, 2021

'Coordinating' with a Tory

Tory Cave - or what's left to it

Sometime in the past, Rhody Mountain Man (occasionally known as Mike) had visited the historic Tory Cave alongside Roaring Brook in Lenox. But doubting his observations, he requested coordinates for the sake of comparison. Coordinates, I unfortunately did not have. Being a beautiful spring morning, I decided to pay Tory Cave a visit. Looks to be late in 1998 since my last visit. Coordinates and photographs obtained, I hiked on out of the October Mountain State Forest to enjoy the rest of my Sunday morning.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Old Friends and Railroad Lines

Reuniting with a long-ago hiking partner (second half of the 1990s), we had a chance to share one more adventure. Beginning in the southeastern regions of Berkshire County, and just barely in Hampden County, we attempted to trace an old railroad line. That line brought granite from the Becket quarry down into adjacent Chester where it was finished.

Collapsed road crossing of brook

Accessing the site of the old right-of-way began near the abutment of a former trestle. Getting in proved to be a bit tricky but soon we were on our way along old paths and Walker Brook. As we got deeper into the woods - and higher in elevation - we began to close in on Quarry Road. Here, the ROW eventually disappeared but sections of old Mitchell Rd. could be found including former bridges that once traversed ravines sporting attractive falls.

Culvert under old roadway

Eventually, it became necessary to bushwack on up alongside the stream, finally making our way out to Quarry Rd. On the opposite side, a woods road was located. It provided a southerly route, parallel to Quarry Rd, with old relics such as culverts (one being a small keystone bridge) and an old, primitive shed with ancient apparatus within. We finally reached the quarry parking lot where we had left one car. So it was only to drive back to car #2, where a brief examination of the trestle abutment ensued, then on to our respective homes.

Thursday, March 25, 2021


I typically start off a new season with the title "Awakenings" and this year even more so than usual. I've now reached the senior years of my life with all of its challenges. A far cry from over 25 years ago when this latest leg of my outdoor adventures began to take place. This year also comes on top of a very slow year cut to pieces by pandemic precautions. However, hope springs eternal and the planning is well underway! I expect one or two new specialty kayaks to arrive and be tested before bringing them online for a fully-fledged adventure.
The abode of the Hermit!

So now we begin! Out in Hampshire County is a 'local secret' I've been lucky to find - and visit - a couple of times over the years. Although this is really the 'cave with no-name' I've come to call it the Hermit Cave - or even the Abode of the Hermit - after a modern-day hermit took residence, perhaps thirty years ago. This is a remote - but very beautiful - location hidden away in the breakdown of some ledges. Tarps along with pots and pans still can be found. So I can't help but wonder if it still receives occasional use to this day.
Signs of intelligent life?

Moving on, I wanted to take a stab at relocating another old site I hadn't visited in many years. My memory was indeed somewhat 'fuzzy' regarding this one but I felt a mild sense of confidence I could dig it up once again. Wrong! The old pegmatite mining site was not to be found on this day. But upon returning home I consulted the works of the late Alan Plante and quickly saw the error of my ways. However, the day was beautiful and the exercise well worth it. Just one aging old senior trying to stay in touch with his abilities. ;)

Friday, November 27, 2020

Shades of Oliver Wendell Holmes!

This likely will finish out an (all too) abbreviated season. It is with cautious optimism, I'll look forward to another Spring. No doubt about it - it will be a difficult time during the coming months for our Country

The Rhody Mountain Man (occasionally known as Mike) descended upon the Berkshires as we joined forces in Western Pittsfield. Once upon a time, a small cave existed here but recent years have seen a new housing development likey bury it. The area we explored is underlain (to some degree) by marble providing us with a rudimentary karst area. Nothing we would expect to produce any great rewards. Like another cave or other major karst features.

Interesting geology!

After looking over a couple of resurgences, we trekked out into more remote locations where Mike's research, using LIDAR, foretold of possible sinkholes. And sinkholes, indeed, we did find! Interesting, but again, nothing major. Small signs of possible drainage and almost no bedrock outcrops. Perhaps most interesting was a drainage gully that produced a mini cave-like formation. Marble was present at this site but intermingled with other surrounding rocks.

A side passage that exits the cave

Trucking out from the woods, we decided to relocate to the southern parts of Pittsfield to visit a cave that found its history among the famous books by Clay Perry. Elsie Venner's Cave is named after the story by Oliver Wendell Holmes and rests high in mountainous ledges that require a bit of a difficult climb. I visit this cave every few years but it was an opportunity for RMM's first visit. The cave is a chamber under rocks fallen from a higher elevation. There is even a side exit passage under an enormous boulder that has fractured. Photos taken, we returned to our cars to part ways on this particular trip. Likely, it will be springtime before I meet up with Mike once again!