Saturday, July 9, 2022

Western Mass Hilltown Hikers join the Northern Berkshire Mineral Club at the old emery mines. Rocks galore! Shafts and tailing piles left from the old operations.

Moving on to Chesterfield, we accessed the Indian Hollow area where camping can be found. Crossing the Dead Branch River right near its intersection with the Westfield River, we now entered Huntington and the ending point of last weeks long sojourn from the Knighville Dam to this river crossing. Not far further, we once again saw the old charcoal kiln remnants eventually making our way to the beginning of a trail to The Pinnacle. Here we met fellow member Karen,who had started out hours earlier in Knightville, walking towards us. Most of the members went on to The Pinnacle, I walked back to the kilns and across the river with Karen.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Dayna and Sadie (Liz: background) @ charcoal kiln remains

Another Western Mass Hilltown Hikers event. Taking an extended route from Knightville and the Knightville Dam property, all the way to Indian Hollow near its intersection with the Westfield River. Along the way were a couple of early resident foundations. That included the foundation of an old silo. Slightly before reaching the Dead Branch River, we got the opportunity to visit the site of a couple old charcoal kilns. Then a LONG walk back!

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Remains of old 1800s dam that busted

A majority of the hikes that I've done with the Western Mass Hilltown Hikers carry some historical interest. Which works just fine with my own interests that I've been engaged with for the past quarter century. On this very hot Saturday the WMHH joined with Alec Gillman DCR Interpretive Coordinator. The following description is written by fellow WMHH member Tom Hoffman:

"Once upon a time, Middlefield had many prosperous woolen mills on Factory Brook, along lower Town Hill Rd. After a severe downpour in July of 1874, those mills ceased to exist.

Three reservoirs provided water for the mills, that were along the brook. The Lower Reservoir was the biggest (100 acres) at the intersection of Town Hill and Reservoir Rds. The next one farther up was called, appropriately enough, the Upper Reservoir (25 acres) The final impoundment was Goose Pond (10 acres), very close to the Peru border. Yesterday the WMHH’S had the pleasure of a guided tour led by DCR’s Alec Gilman, to the site of these 3 washed out dams. We started at a field on Skyline Trail, that is across the street from a house owned by Harry Meacham. On that day, Harry looked out across the field from his home, and could see something was amiss with Factory Brook (no trees back them). Harry took of in the direction of Goose Pond, and found that the stone dam had collapsed. Running back to warn people down stream, he passed the earthen dam at the Upper Reservoir, which was starting to collapse.

Harry and two other men were able to warn the inhabitants and workers of lower Factory Brook about the oncoming flood, which by now had breached the biggest dam at Lower Reservoir, (135 total acres of water!) Thanks to Meachams and others heroics, there was no loss of life! The many mills along lower Factory Brook did not fare as well. The stone arch railroad bridge at the bottom of the brook in Bancroft also was damaged, as well as more downstream in the Westfield River. Woolen production in Middlefield never recovered."

After trailing through the woods of Middlefield, seeing old reservoir and dam sites, we regrouped at the nearby town hall. A brief journey of a mile and a quarter to the west brought us to the location of old Factory Hollow. Scarcely anything remains as a testimony to history past. We did find one old factory foundation and a dam abutment before adjourning for the day.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Otis Falls from an early 1900s postcard

Back with the Western Mass Hilltown Hikers. This trip to the far southern regions of Berkshire County and Otis. Meeting at the expansive Otis Reservoir, we quickly dove into the woods, following the reservoirs outlet, to access Otis Falls. A beautiful testimony to nature, the falls were not surprisingly low on water. After a bit of cavorting about the top of the falls, there was a descending trail that gave us a good view from the bottom. One could easily imagine the majesty the Falls would present at high water. The trail continued on to Larkin Pond where private property impeded further progress.

A somewhat dry Otis Falls

Back to the cars, a short drive south brought us in the adjacent Town of Tolland and the Tolland State Forest. Two hikes ensued from this point: one took us around the perimeter of campgrounds, a peninsula that juts out into Otis Reservoir. One very old cemetery (mostly the Clark Family) exists within the campground territory. The second hike took us on a nature trail that followed reservoir shoreline before turning more into the deeper woods. One old quarry was encountered that you could only guess as to its purpose. The exploration ended just as thunderstorms started rolling through western Massachusetts.

Part of the old Clark cemetery

Friday, June 3, 2022

It's a small contingent of the Hilltown Hikers once again. This time exploring an entirely different section of the Peru State forest in the town of Worthington. We had reports of a mill and/or possible gold mining operation. We ascended along a tributary to the Middle Branch Westfield River (some refer to this as Lost Brook) and few signs of activity were encountered. These included pieces of rail, a pulley, and assorted odds and ends. Later on, hiking partner Tom concluded from a topo map, that a telephone line ran through this area. Once back out on the main road we walked a ways south looking for a reported entrance to a trial that ran along Fuller Brook. Nothing came out of this jaunt. But on the way home, Tom and myself decided to check a different section of Fuller Brook at a much higher elevation that the Westfield River branch. This did bear fruit as a steep gorge with magnificent waterfall were present. Some old foundations and stonework were present near the falls. But it was not exactly clear as to their original purpose. According to one old map, this area was the site of the purported gold mining operations.

Monday, May 30, 2022

Memorial day brought the Western Mass Hilltown Hikers with myself to the Peru State Forest. Or at least one particular section of it. The goal first up, was a memorial built to plane crash victims on the night of August 15, 1942. After finishing up here, it was on to Garnet Peak itself. Despite foliage cover, there was still some fine views westward. And yes, garnets could be found within the rocks of the surrounding forest.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Picking up again with the Western Mass Hilltown Hikers, the object of our adventure was the Conway State Forest. We were accompanied by local resident/expert Pauline along old roads from early in the town's history. We passed a site where a schoolhouse once existed, eventually arriving at the small, well kept, Maynard Cemetery. Across the road was a beautiful cellar hole in superb condition.

We had contemplated visiting Cricket Hill Cave (my last visit: 2008) but passed by its access point as we rambled southward. Continuing on down along Avery Brook we 'bottomed out' in elevation. Here some members elected to take the shortest route north to the cars, completing a circuit of Cricket Hill. A few members went on to check old mill sites further downstream.

On the drive home, my hiking partner, Tom, and I stopped by to looked at Hampshire County's Counterfeiters Cave. Which has once again had its entrance blocked with a large boulder. It had been open for a short period around 2015 and explored by local cavers along with Rhode Island friend Mike.