Category Archives: Rail Trails

Adams Autumn Delight

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Yang and I have some specially favorite rail trails to ride, and one of these is the Pittsfield to Adams line.  Even if we do it once in the spring, we have to do it again in the fall because the colors are so gorgeous!  This year, we made our trip around the Columbus Day Weekend, on Tuesday.  We thought we’d try something different by not going straight from Pittsfield to Adams, but by parking at the dam in the middle and first going down to Adams.  Then we’d come back and having lunch at a restaurant near where we’d parked before continuing on to Pittsfield and returning. As you can see I was able to take some beautiful shots of hill full of colorful trees across the river from the parking area.

It was a gorgeous day, a little colder than the weather had been before, but the sun was out and the air was crisp.  A warmer fall jacket did just nicely and the foliage was superb.  I had to stop here, not only to enjoy the surrounding hills but to inspect what I thought might be a beaver’s dam.

 

 

 

I  couldn’t help stopping to take pictures of some of the most wonderful flaming maples.  It was so cool to see colors that went from crimson flame to soft orange all in one tree!  I noticed that there weren’t too many  scarlet leaves to see as we’d experienced in our first fall ride here. My guess is that those leaves had either lightened in color or fallen.

We ultimately cruised down the hill leading into Adams.  I wished I could have taken shots of the dusky green woods and glacier-abandoned boulders on my right or the tumbling river on my left, but there was no stopping on that race down the hill.  Just before we entered the town, we stopped to take some shots, with the gold, orange, flame  hills shot with evergreen surrounding the town.  The pale azure sky forms a complement of color.  And here’s a most handsome guy in the foreground!

On the other side of the town, the trail runs along where the river has been  channeled into a canal.  Again, the hills embracing the town’s valley make you think that it must be glorious to wake up in the morning or return from work in late afternoon to such gorgeous colors surrounding you.

 

 

 

 

We may have raced down a hill to get into town, but we had to labor up it when we left.  I may not be as young as I used to be, but I made it, albeit panting a bit at the end. I didn’t need a sign to tell me to Stop! Luckily, there ‘s a lovely little bridge where you can  rest. Nice view, isn’t it?

You can tell by the look on my face that it was a loooong ride up.  Thank God for water!

Wouldn’t you know that when we finally got back to the parking lot, it turned out that the restaurant was closed on the only day of the week we were there!  We ended up having to forego the rest of the ride and scout out a place to eat in Pittsfield.  That’s okay, though.  We’d actually conquered the toughest part of the ride.  Even better, we found this great little (literally) Italian restaurant in town, Brooklyn’s Best.  Later, we took some fun pictures while walking off dinner.  We discovered this neat little gargoyle above.  I even made a new friend.  Do you think Rosie and ‘Tasha will share their litter boxes with him?

A New England Mini-Vacation: Bookstock and the Bridge of Flowers

Last weekend, we had a mini-vacation in Vermont, connected to my day at Bookstock.  What a great time!  We’re so fortunate to be living in New England.  Friday afternoon, we took a leisurely drive up to Brattleboro to have an early supper at our favorite bakery on Main Street.  In a space overlooking the river and mountain, we watched a thunderstorm roll in while we enjoyed a scrumptious olive tapenade/goat cheese/walnut salad and a cappuccino.  The storm passed; we rolled out for Springfield, Vermont and the Toonerville Rail Trail.  It’s not a long trail, only seven miles round trip, but it runs along the Black River and through some gorgeous Vermont mountain and woodsy scenery.  I even managed to spot some Phoebes and Thrushes!  The river ran fast and muddy.  I’m not sure if that was just from the recent rainfall.  Whatever the case, there were some notable rapids.  This should be a nice ride in the colorful New England fall.

The next day was my stint at the Sisters In Crime-New England Table on Woodstock Green at Bookstock.  I had a wonderful time with two of my favorite writers, and pals, Leslie Wheeler and Connie Johnson Hambley.  Leslie has a new book out in Rattlesnake Hill and Connie has completed her Jessica trilogy.  If you’re looking for some exciting and enjoyable summer reading, these are great choices – as are Letter from a Dead Man and Bait and Switch!  We have the best conversations on writing, the great stuff to do in New England, our families, etc.  We also had a lot of fun talking to and getting to know readers and writers visiting our table.  I can’t say enough about the great opportunities Sisters in Crime offers both readers and writers (published or not).  And one of the best benefits is meeting the other members of the group.  I’ve made some swell (as Anne Sheridan would have put it in a movie) friends here.  At our booth, the three of us couldn’t help telling interested readers how enjoyable we found each other’s writing!

 

Last day of our vacation, Yang and I went to Shelburne Falls and visited the Bridge of Flowers.  If you’ve never been there, this is an old foot bridge that has been planted on either side of a central path with all kinds of different, beautiful flowers and shrubs.

There are zinnias, roses, red hot poker, delphinium with bachelor buttons, Rose of Sharon, bee balm – you name it. Here are some lovely lilies.

 

 

 

Isn’t this rose a treat?

These dahlias and the sunflower are all set for the Fall !

 

 

Here I am, delighted to be with a shrub with which I share a name!

 

 

 

 

 

God knows what the heck this thing is!  I hope aliens didn’t leave it!

 

 

You can see from the pictures how gorgeous the flowers are.  Several years back, a terrible flood wiped out the bridge garden; but, as you can see, it has been restored with resounding success.  Some of the flowers will last several seasons of the year, while some are more seasonal and will be replaced with flowers and plants appropriate to the autumn, later.

So many people enjoy the garden!  However, as I will show you, humans aren’t the only ones who delight in the Bridge of Flowers.  Yang got several wonderful pictures of one of the many Tiger Swallowtails taking a sunny Sunday brunch on the Bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was also a  Hummingbird Hawk Moth, which people frequently mistake for a Hummingbird.  Gorgeous and otherworldly, isn’t it?

Then, we got some shots of the real deal:  this female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird.  She adored the Bee Balm and the Red Hot Poker!  She was also fairly undaunted by most of the humans at her restaurant.  Yang got some superb shots, didn’t he?    I’m happy to say that we also saw another such bird on our stroll through town and that the hummingbird who usually visits us each year at home has made several appearances already!  All in all, a delightful weekend!

 

Wood Thrush Image:  https://www.freeclipartnow.com/animals/birds/Wood-Thrush.jpg.html
All other images, author’s collection

 

Return to Pittsfield for Fall Beauty

 

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 A week ago Saturday, Yang and I had the pleasure of biking on the rail trail from Pittsfield to Adams, MA.  We couldn’t have asked for a better day with the sunshine, pellucid blue October skies, and mild weather.  Fortunately for us, the foliage was just moving into peak, giving us some lovely sights.  Here I go!
The following photos start at the end of the trail in Adams because we wanted to make sure we could get that far, so we didn’t stop for photos on the way down.  To our surprise, the trail had been extended by about two miles along the new rail tracks and the Hoosic River.  After 12.5 miles, we had to take a little break.  The sun softly and warmly lit the surrounding hills, but I don’t think my camera could quite capture the magic.  Still, I think the image is pretty neat.  Also pretty neat is Yang taking a break and noshing on a Honey Crisp apple.  We’ve got way too many, since I accidentally bought a bag of them instead of Macs for apple pie.

 

 

 

 

Coming back through Adams, we saw a gorgeous Great Blue Heron skim by along the Hoosic, but we couldn’t catch up to him to get a shot.  Nevertheless, as we came back through town, I managed to get this picture of the twin spires of a Catholic church rising between the town buildings and the warm seasonal colors of the surrounding hills.  What must it feel like to live nestled in the arms of autumn glory?
Going into Adams, along the trail, you rush down a steep slope, accompanied by the galloping river.  It’s a kick to ride down.  Going back up it is a kick in the pants!  What an incline!  I still managed to charge up to the top without stopping.  This old gal can still make it without having to walk her  bike.  Yippee  for me!  Once you get to the top, there’s a bridge over the pooling river where you can rest – and fish!  We met a young dad taking his son fishing.  They were after trout, but further toward Pittsfield I had talked to a young guy who’d caught a pickerel.  Didn’t think to get a picture, though.  Anyway, here’s the other side of the bridge with the handsome Yang looking profound and happy.

 

 

 

 

On the ride back, we luxuriated in watching the surrounding hills changing into their fall vestments!  Lovely, right?

 

 

 

There were other trees that created a wondrous concert of colors:  blending with one another or even displaying a deliciously complimentary palette all in one tree.  Delighting in these gorgeous crimsons, oranges that flamed or shone a gentle peach, yellows pale or startling, I thought of the fourth novel I planned in my Jessica Minton series. It will be set in a Maine in a vibrant autumn show of color.  The beauty of this season, the liminal sense of freedom and haunting adventure draws me to create a tale of delicious mystery and spirit.

 

 

 

 

We rode toward the end of our journey, with visions of crepes and tea dancing in our heads – 25 miles works up an appetite!  But the beauty of New England fall never deserted us.  So, enjoy the ride  along with us.

 

 

A Breath of Autumn

 

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Here’s a melange of interesting autumn images that I’ve come across this past September. One Friday afternoon, while riding the bicycle trail from Coventry, Yang and I came across these funky caterpillars. We’d seen them last fall on the same trail, so apparently these are their main stomping, er crawling, grounds. Does any one know into what they ultimately metamorph? Notice how they have prongs on their derrieres, no doubt to confuse predators as to which end they are biting. We wonder what these guys are.

The following weekend, we did 22 miles on the Nickerson Park Trail on the Cape. What should we see on the trail but this adorable quail! I suspect s/he is domesticated because the little critter did not seem at all unnerved by passing cyclists or walkers. I’ve seen pictures of domesticated quails on line, and this little guy seems to match up. Nevertheless, I’m counting him/her as one of my bird sightings for the year. I hope you can see the little guy in the center of the picture to left on the trail, almost in the leaves. Click on the image for a bigger picture.

 

Though not nearly as cute, here are some pictures of me in Brattleboro, VT. Every year this house creates a tunnel of enormous sunflowers. We went up last weekend and took these shots. The house used to also have a hutch for chickens and bunnies, but alas, those adorable creatures are no longer kept there. I’m not quite so adorable as a bunny, but I like to think I have some charm. Yang staged the photos nicely, don’t you think? Is there anything he can’t do?

 

 

 

Finally, Natasha desires to send you the best of autumn holiday greetings!

 

Rosie wants to photo bomb Natasha’s greeting – and Natasha is NOT amused.

 


 



Falmouth Rail Trail – Look! Ospreys and Swans! Oh My!

Before the summer is over, I wanted to post some of my other favorite images from the summer adventures Yang and I had along the New England rail trails.  In June, we did a rail trail in Falmouth, on the Cape.  As always, we saw some of our favorite  birds there.  We sighted many rabbits and chipmunks, and at one point a fox dashed across the trail far ahead of us.  Per usual, the Catbirds wouldn’t hold still long enough to be photographed.
So, here are some of the lovely birds we could photograph.  In one little bay, we found this swan family:  Mummy and Daddy and several young cygnets.  falmouth2Interestingly enough, one of the kids had already turned white!

 

 

 

 

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We also managed to photograph this gorgeous Osprey. falmouth3 Look at those eyes!  They’re enormous.  No wonder no prey escapes this guy or gal.  There are several spots along the trail that have osprey nests on poles and platforms erected by the good folks on the Cape.  There is even one platform in the bay near the docks in Woods Hole.  As your ship pulls in or out, you can see the family chilling in the nest.

 

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We caught this swan falmouth6swimming forward to greet us in a different marsh along the trail.  I think he’s saying, “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille” in this shot

 

 

This display is always fun to see along the trail. falmouth7 I think it’s neat that the people who live next to the trail here have such a fun and creative bent with all these nostalgic items.

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This whole rail trail is wonderful to travel, and we usually take the ferry from Woods Hole to Martha’s Vineyard to walk around there and enjoy the beautiful houses, especially the Victorian camp cottages.  Sorry, no pictures.  I  feel intrusive taking those shots.  What a great – and exhausting way to spend the day!

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A Walk in the Sterling Woods

Sterling1Recently, Yang and I decided to take a Sunday morning walk, while it was still relatively cool, in the wooded rail trail in Sterling , MA – right behind the center of town. As you can see from the sign, DSCN2858the name of the trail is  the Mass Central Rail Trail.  It runs about a mile and three quarters one way, so round trip is about three and a half miles – too short for a bicycle ride, but nice for a walk.

 

Parts of the trail are flanked by swamp and marshes like this, Sterling3where we saw tons of Catbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, and Song Sparrows.  Using our new binoculars, we could watch a Song Sparrow raise his head and liberate a beautiful song.  I just wish we had a camera that could photograph what we see through the binoculars.  We also saw a ground hog pick his way through the underbrush and onto the trail, but he was too quick for us to get a photo of him.

The trail itself is Sterling6straight and flat with packed gravel, perfect for easy walking and so beautifully shady and cool during a summer day – especially in the morning.  We were lucky to see scads of chipmunks and even a few rabbits.  We weren’t so lucky in finding ourselves sometimes accompanied by mosquitoes – Sterling4but they weren’t so bad here as in other woods we’ve strolled through.

 

Toward its far end, the trail passes across a lake.  This area had once been a vacation resort, but now, as a public trail, anyone can go there to fish, boat quietly, or just enjoy the view. Dscn2868 There are some benches in the woods overlooking the lake that afford a lovely relaxing outlook.  Once, Yang and I took our tea and scones there to sit and have breakfast and enjoy the beautiful vista.  We saw scores of dragon flies and baby fish. We’ve also seen a Great Blue Heron here in the past.  I think Sterling7I might even have done some reading.  Where a bridge carries you over the lake, you come out into the sunshine, and it’s such a pleasurable view!

 

 

Yang really enjoyed using our new binoculars!Sterling5

In the parking lot,Sterling10 I saw these lovely daisies and chicory, so I had to photograph them.  One year, I found loads of Baltimore Orioles, male and female, building their nests in the trees along the lot.  Sterling12No such luck this visit.  I might have come too late in the season.  Still, a wonderful walk.

Millerton Rail Trail Birding Adventure

 

So, our first bicycle ride on the Harlem River Valley Trail, starting in Millerton, NY,  was a wonderful trip!  We started off after a delightful lunch at Harney and Sons tea outlet – and my buying out most of the store! Must have my Keemun and Breakfast Supreme!

The day was absolutely perfect for a bicycle ride:  not too hot but sunny and clear.  We saw a plethora of the most wonderful critters!  I increased my count of birds seen this year with some unique additions.  Unfortunately, they moved too fast for me to get any good pictures, so I’ll have to rely on other sources for illustration.  When riding past the big pond in the cattle pasture along the trail, LittleblueHeronI saw this heron flash by over the water.  He was too small for a Great Blue Heron –– and didn’t have a crest.  But he wasn’t the right color for a Green Heron; he was a dark, slatey blue.  He reminded me of pictures I’ve seen of the Little Blue Heron, and when I checked several sites on line I discovered that’s exactly what I’d seen.  Here’s a picture courtesy of Dario Sanches via Wikkipedia.  Interestingly, these birds usually aren’t seen this far north.  However, some have been sighted in New York and New Jersey.  So, my conjecture as to his identity seems to be right on the money.

(Photo from Wikkipedia:  By Dario Sanches from São Paulo, Brazil – GARÇA-AZUL (Egretta caerulea; uploaded by Snowmanradio, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12106836)

 

Yang and I also noted two almost Robin-sized birds cruising over and through the underbrush by the side of the trail.  But they flashed white feathers on the backs of their tails –– definitely not a Robin trait.  Still, I did see rusty red and black on them, but not really in a Robin-design.  My guess was either Redstarts or Rufous-sided Towhees.  We dismounted our bikes; approached cautiously for a good look; and, yep, they definitely seemed to be Towhees.  These guys aggressively hopped around in and kicked up the mat of dead leaves looking for insect-type treats.  There was a male and female.  The BlogEastern towhee malemale had contrasting black and rusty-red coloring, with a white tummy, while the female was mostly all a lovely rusty reddish brown. BlogEastern_Towhee-27527 I tried to get some shots, but I don’t think they came out very good.  Here are the photographs by Bill Thompson and Ken Thomas, respectively, on Wikkipedia

(1)Male  By Bill Thompson of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region – Photo of the Week – Male eastern towhee at the Quabbin Reservoir (MA)Uploaded by Snowmanradio, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15297291 (2) female (Photo from Wikkipedia, By Ken Thomas – KenThomas.us (personal website of photographer), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3423294; 2.

 

I may also have seen a Red-eyed Vireo.  I’m not sure what color his eyes were; he was too far away, and he was wearing shades.  blogred eye vireo sanchesWe also saw tons of red-winged Blackbirds, Catbirds, Grackles, and Robins.  We were treated to some lovely bird song from all these feathered critters.

Vireo image:  On Wikkipedia, by Dario Sanches – originally posted to Flickr as JURUVIARA (Vireo olivaceus), CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8792302)

What four legged beasts did we come across?  Lots of rabbits, a garter snake, and chipmunks.  We even saw baby chipmunks that were really tiny.  Only gray squirrels showed this day, though I have seen red ones here in the past.  And the funniest thing was to see a groundhog galloping through the woods below us.  Those suckers may be plump but they move fast.  Better here than anywhere near my garden –– or my friend Amber’s, if they know what’s good for them!

Spring Bicycle Ride

We recently did the North Central Pathway rail trail. It technically extends between Gardner and Winchendon, though there is a break of about a mile that has not been developed yet.  It’s a beautiful paved trail that runs through clear, lovely, green woods in a straight path.  At the Winchendon end, we cycled down toward a sports/recreation area,Winchendon1 but right off the trail is this cool abandoned factory and what appears to be a ware house. It’s all next to a set of falls and canal off the river. Since there weren’t any “No Tresspassing” warnings or locked gates, we  checked out the area, being careful not to take any risks of falling or hurting ourselves.

 

 

Here’s a picture of a smoke stack;Winchendon2 somehow the rest of the factory seems to have fallen away – although there was a building behind it that looked as if it might have been part of the original manufacturing site.  Look at how gorgeously azure-blue the sky was that day.  The sun was so bright, I had to wear my shades – prescription, of course, or I’d have been riding off the road.

In this other Winchendon3shot of the chimney, you can better see the tree growing up around it and what’s left of the building behind it.

 

 

 

There were man-made falls next to the buildings and a canal running along it for water power. The scene was beautiful.  Winchendon5I have no idea what they made here.  Since this town was the rocking horse capital, perhaps that’s what they produced?

 

 

We got back on the trail for our return ride, passing a pond that had some Barrows Golden Eye Ducks.  Would that they  had been close enough to photograph.  These are diving ducks.  So it was a hoot to watch the flock sit up on the water, flap their wings, then dive down and disappear beneath the surface for a stretch.  Then, up they’d all pop.  Now you see them, now you don’t, now you do!

We did get to photograph some cute critters, though – at least I think they are cute.  So, here’s the trigger warning:  PICTURES OF A SNAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

I almost ran over a little one of these guys when he was trying to cross the trail. I guess he wanted to get to the other side.  Playing chicken?  He was too small for me to see right away, but Yang assured me he was okay. Winchendon9 Then, I came across his big sister right here.  A beauty, eh?  I don’t know what kind this one is.  His/her color is coppery with darker markings, so it doesn’t look like a garter snake to me.  What do you think? Can anyone answer my query?

Here Mr. or Ms. Snake seems to be saying:  “I’m ready for my closeup, Mr. Demile!”Winchedon8

So, for those freaked out by this lovely creature, here are some soothing images.  First, the ginormous (for us, anyway) Winchendon13pumpkins Yang and I grew last year.

Then, Yang, himself, always a calming influence. Wynchendon6

And, of course two of the most adorable black cats in the world, NatashaWinchendon14

Winchendon15and Rosalind.

 

 

October Images Part Two

It’s December today, but we have no glittering snow icing, cool blue in the shade or soft pink in the sunset.  Just dead, crusty leaves and bare, scraggly branches.  So, how about one last lingering look at October’s brilliance?  These shots are from two trips, one afoot and one a-wheel!
Yang and I found a new bicycle ride outside of Boston, The Neponset River Trail, which runs along the river out to the Blue Hills.  Here is a portion that cuts along and across a canal (via a bridge of course!).  Neponset1The trees look striking, reflected in the water, and must provide a lovely view to people living in the mill converted to apartments.

 

 

We started the ride from Pope John Paul Park, Neponset2where the river is almost an estuary.  If you ride away from Milton, the river broadens and becomes tumultuous as it races toward the ocean.  Neponset4

 

 

 

 

 

 That’s not in any of these shots, though.

 

Neponset3Yang had a good time! We both had to pause for a rest on the way back!

 

 

 

 

Our other recorded trip was to the wilds of the forested hills of Leicester.Spidergate1 It was a lovely Friday afternoon, shortly after Yang got out of classes.  The colors here were a blend of yellow and toasted orange. Spidergate2

 

 

 

 

 

Spidergate4The red golds of autumn were not yet lying in the gutter dead (tip o’ the hat to Graeme Edge).
The hat in this shot would be my marine blue beret, which I bought in France last spring.  Spidergate3As long as we’re on international wardrobe, my in-laws from China gave me the coat when I visited them last autumn.

 

 

Delving into the woods, we came across the backwash from a pond.  Spidergate6The autumn sky’s pellucid blue is such a striking complement to green pines and the fall colors.

 

 

 

Hiking back to our car along the road, the evening began to close in, so that the last flare of the sun created a vibrant flame of color in the  trees.Spidergate7

 

 

 

 

 

All that tramping and beauty makes a body hungry.  So Yang and I repaired to Le Mirage for sustenance. As you can see, Mr. Piranha made short work of his meal.
Spidergate8 Sadly, this was the last night of this wonderful restaurant.  Le Mirage is now closed, and so  lovely meals, good times, and good friends are now relegated to memories. Much thanks to Diane, her family, and her staff.

Adventures on the Cumberland Rail Trail

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Sunday’s ride at the Cumberland, RI rail trail was wonderful. The path is rimmed by trees and shrubs, “reducing all that’s made to a green thought in a green shade.” Except, that description leaves out the rollDSCN1874 of the Blackstone River on one side and the lazy calm of the canal on the other. Wild life abounds as you zip along a well-paved route, with just enough hills to work off a few calories, but not enough to leave you prostrate. And then, what chugs up, must glide down! All eighteen miles of round trip!

Anyway, back to the critters! We saw this fellow lazing in the sun in all his turtlely glory. Look at those luxuriously stretched out hind tootsies! Pretty big for a painted turtle, eh? DSCN1859Apparently, there are also quite few snappers in the river and the canal––but none of them threatened us. Do you think we could escape if one charged?

There was also plenty of feathered fauna to enjoy, too. We could hear all kinds of delighted, playful, trilling and teasing from catbirds, red-winged blackbirds, sparrows, and cardinals. Isn’t spring bird song grand? DSCN1854We also caught sight of this lovely swan, whom one trail-stroller informed us was part of a pair that was brooding a clutch of eggs on an island in the river. And here is proof that the fishermen on the river aren’t all of the homo sapiens DSCN1876variety. I’m sorry I missed my pal the Green Heron, but who can complain about seeing a Great Blue?

The Cumberland trail is just a lovely, relaxing, happy rail trail to cruise. Look at how much fun the other Dr. Yang is having!

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5/27/15