March is Maple Month in Massachusetts and Franklin County sugarhouses are yielding the first taste of spring as the maple sap begins to flow. Whether you kick off spring with breakfast at a sugarhouse or pick up fresh maple products including syrup, candy, spread, or other maple items, there are delicious options awaiting.
570 Mohawk Trail (Route 2), Shelburne, MA 413-625-6170
Open daily, 8:30 am - 2 pm
The Goulds have been sugaring for 59 years and this landmark restaurant on Rt. 2 serves a full maple breakfast complete with their signature corn fritters, homemade pickles and even sugar on snow. While you are waiting for your table - generally a long wait during sugar season - you can watch the evaporator in the sugarhouse, check out the gift shop and have a 25 cent maple ice cream cone. Besides a great breakfast, the restaurant offers scenic views of the hills. After breakfast, browse the shops in nearby Shelburne Falls.
491 Greenfield Road, Deerfield, MA 413-773-5186
Open Sat & Sun 8 am – 3 pm
Davenport Farm Sugarhouse
111 Tower Rd, Shelburne, MA 413-625-2866
Sugar house open weekends March through October 8am-3pm
In existence since 1770, this scenic farm has 2500 tree taps. The warm homey restaurant is set up with patrons seated together at large tables for the opportunity to strike up conversations with new friends. The “from scratch” menu features a full breakfast including their popular Finnish pancakes, an oven cooked custardy cross between Yorkshire pudding and pancake. After putting your name in for a table, the lower level offers viewing of the working evaporator and a chance to ask questions about the syrup process. Be sure to find the stained glass window of maple samples.
Hager’s Farm Market
1232 Mohawk Trail (Route 2) Shelburne, MA 413-625-6323
Monday-Friday 6:30 am – 6:30 pm, Saturday & Sunday: 7:30 am – 6:30 pm
Hager’s Market has a nice selection of products from their maple farm including syrup, maple coated nuts, dips, popcorn and more. You can even get breakfast including pancakes, maple pecan waffles, and cider donuts with maple cream. During Mass Maple Weekend, they feature fried dough with maple cream, host boiling and cooking demonstrations, and offer kid friendly activities. While there, you can pick up other local products including Hager's own beef, pork, fresh bread, frozen pies, spices, local beer and wine, produce and more. If you prefer to stay home, you can shop their maple products online.
Cook with Maple
Come indulge in a weekend in Franklin County at an Inn or B&B and be treated to a delicious breakfast! Or creatively use your syrup in a recipe like this one from Centennial House Bed and Breakfast, placing as a finalist in last year’s Beadandbreakfast.com recipe contest.
Baked Eggs in Acorn Squash with Maple Glaze
Select an acorn squash that will yield three or four 1 inch slices when cut around the circumference.
Holding the squash on its side, carefully cut three or four 1 inch slices with a sharp knife, one for each person. Clean seeds out of the centers and trim the center to create a nice circle.
Lay slices in a 13x9 baking dish with about 1/2 inch of water; bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until soft.
When done, remove slices carefully from water, dry off and lay on a greased two-sided grill or panini maker. Break two eggs into each slice. You may have to drain off a bit of the egg white to make them fit. brush with maple syrup. Grill for about five minutes, either turn carefully or close the lid three or four minutes make sure both sides get nicely browned and eggs are no longer moving.
Brush again with syrup just before serving. The finished slices go well with home fries.
Find a complete list of Massachusetts sugarhouses and facts about sugaring on the Massachusetts Maple Association website.
Work off your maple breakfast with some winter adventure in Franklin County.
With Franklin County’s rural landscape featuring more than 75 percent of its acreage in forest and open land, it is no surprise that winter recreation abounds. Whether your destination is a resort or multi-activity facility or a quiet pond, the most rural county in Massachusetts is sure to please. From downhill and cross-country skiing to snowshoeing and snowmobiling, we’ve got your winter adventures covered. Bring your sports equipment and hit one of the many state forest trails, or travel light and check out the full-service options at Berkshire East or Northfield Mountain. Make it a weekend and stay at a cozy inn or rustic cabin and dine out for delicious meals of locally sourced foods and be sure to sample local micro brews, wine, or spirits.
Berkshire East Mountain Resort
With 47 trails on more than 180 acres, Berkshire East is on the map as southern New England’s winter adventure destination. The resort offers downhill skiing, snowboarding, and a snow tube park, along with updated facilities and full equipment rental. New to skiing? Take a beginner lesson. Or up your game and sign up for the Mountain Master Camp, a fun, intensive coaching program designed to elevate your skills and take your skiing to the next level in a small group setting. Be sure to check current conditions at before heading out.
Come in from the slopes and warm up at the onsite Crazy Horse Bar and Grill offering a full bar, beers on tap, a great wine selection and a satisfying menu, plus cozy tables by the fire. Extend your stay at the resort’s Warfield House Inn, a former New England family farm on a breathtaking 530 acres overlooking the scenic Mohawk Trail and Deerfield River.
Here’s an interesting fact: The Berkshire East resort has onsite renewable energy powering 100 percent of its state-of-the-art snowmaking, making it the only ski area in the world to produce all of its own electricity.
With all of these amenities so close by, skip the crowds and the long drive to other resorts and spend more time out on the slopes at Berkshire East!
99 Millers Falls Road, Northfield, MA, 800-859-2960, website
Open Wednesday through Sunday 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Open on Monday holidays.
This full-service facility in Northfield offers regularly groomed trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing as well as equipment rental and lessons. If you time it right, you can catch some of the year-round naturalist programs like full-moon snowshoe outings and winter wildlife tracking. Check the schedule here.
Northfield Mountain has more than 25 miles of trails designed specifically for cross-country skiing and groomed for both classical and free-style skiing. It offers some of the finest Nordic skiing in the region, from beginner trails to the demanding 800-foot vertical climb of Tenth Mountain Trail.
More than six miles of trails are reserved exclusively for snowshoeing. The trails meander through scenic sections of the mountain, with great views from Rose Ledges. Free snowshoe trail tickets must be picked up at the ski shop before heading out. Snowshoe rentals are available.
Before heading out, call the 24-hour Snow Phone for the most current conditions: 800- 859-2960 or check out the Trails Report on Facebook. The trail system is closed to all users on Mondays and Tuesdays, except holiday openings. Equipment rental is available as well as combination packages that include rentals, trail fees and lessons. For those with very young children, pulls may be rented for $5 per hour.
Winter sports at state parks and conservation areas
With fresh air and room to roam, Franklin County boasts 13 state forests with ample recreational access. Hiking trails are great for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing if you have your own equipment and are not seeking groomed trails. Venture into these forests for scenic views and enchanting trails.
Erving State Forest, Erving, MA
This dramatic and undeveloped landscape covering 4,479 acres offers cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, hiking and snowshoeing.
Mt. Grace State Forest, Warwick, MA
This site encompasses 1,689 acres including Massachusetts’ third highest peak with access for snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking.
Wendell State Forest, Wendell, MA, 413-659-3797
This is one of the few state parks with groomed trails and limited equipment available. Featuring 7,900 acres including groomed cross-country ski trails, snowmobiling, hiking, snowshoeing and ice skating. Seated skiing and ice-skating equipment is available for use in the winter.
Mohawk Trail State Forest, Charlemont, MA
Spanning 6,457 acres in the towns of Charlemont, Savoy, Florida and Hawley, Mohawk Trail State Forest is one of the most scenic woodland areas in Massachusetts featuring mountain ridges, gorges, woods and a variety of plant and animal life. You can cross-country ski, hike, and snowshoe up to some of the most amazing tall, aged, old growth trees in the state! Year round cabins are available.
Monroe State Forest, Monroe, MA, 413-339-5504
A rugged landscape of valleys and mountains, this 4,321-acre forest in southern and central Monroe and Florida offers a scenic lookout platform at the side of Hunt Hill with several miles of trails for cross-country skiing, hiking and snowmobiling. You are likely to come across cellar holes and stone walls from when the forest was farm land in the 19th century.
Roadside Adventures – Ice Climbing
Just get out of your car and look up. One of the most thrilling of winter experiences is ice climbing. As one climber described, “It is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.”
As the adventure capital of the region, Charlemont has one of the most dependable ice climbing spots with roadside ice as high as 40 feet at what is known to climbers as the Zoar Road Cut, a mile and a half up Zoar Road and the Deerfield River from Route 2 west of Charlemont Center. The more snow there is, the better the ice. Another dependable ice spot is at Farley Ledge in Erving . This ledge looms over Route 2 about four miles east of the Connecticut River. Being south facing, the best ice is in the shade of hemlocks on the upper left side.
More about ice climbing can be found at neice.com .
If the weather cooperates and the outdoor ice is safe, glide along some of the ponds at state parks like Wendell State Forest. Manmade ice might be available outside at Beacon Field and Green River Park in Greenfield. Northfield Golf Club allows public skating on their pond in the winter. If you’re going out on a pond or lake, put safety first and never go out on the ice alone. As the winter heads into spring, use extreme caution as the condition of older ice varies and can change quickly. If you prefer to skate indoors, try the Collins/Moylan Arena at 41 Barr Ave. in Greenfield. Public skating is $5; skate rental is $5. The public ice-skating facility is overseen by the Department of Conservation and Recreation and has a full-service pro shop. For more information, call 413-772-6891.
There is a vast network of snowmobile trails in Franklin County. The Snowmobile Association of Massachusetts works to develop and maintain an expanding interconnected snowmobile trail system, allowing snowmobile enthusiasts to travel from Worcester County to the Berkshires safely. There are numerous snowmobile clubs in Franklin County. Memberships to the Snowmobile Association of Massachusetts are available through affiliated clubs and provide lawful access to the interconnected trail system. Check sledmass.com.
If you’re 15 years old or older you need a license to fish the fresh waters of Massachusetts. All fishing licenses are valid from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. License costs are $27.50 for residents above age 17 and $11.50 for residents between age 15 and 17. Non-resident fishing licenses cost $37.50 a year. Three-day non-resident fishing licenses cost $23.50 for people above age 17 and $11.50 for people between the ages of 15 and 17. Licenses can be purchased online or at most town halls, at local bait shops and at designated retail stores.
Once you have a license, try these spots for ice fishing:
Lake Wyola in Shutesbury
Lake Mattawa in Orange
Ashfield Lake in Ashfield
Ruggles Pond at Wendell State Forest.
And when you’re done with the winter activities…
By Cori Urban
Almost a dozen years ago Bruce D. Lessels traveled with his wife and two daughters to Chile — where 22 years earlier he had trained for the U.S. Whitewater Team. When he stepped off the bus in the same town, the first person he saw called to him by name.
Perhaps it was a coincidence, but for Lessels, co-founder and co-owner with his wife, Karen J. Blom, of Zoar Outdoor Adventure Resort in Charlemont, it was memorable. It was through his passion for whitewater racing that he developed connections to Chile and to people there, and it is because of that passion that he hopes to help people connect to one another and to nature at ZOAR.
There visitors can go rafting on the Deerfield River or take a three-hour, 11-line zip line tour on the 85-acre property. Try a kayaking trip or take instruction, primarily on the Deerfield, or rock climb in the area. There is camping and lodging on site and a retail store for whitewater gear.
“We were the first to do rafting and zipping” in the Charlemont area, which is becoming known as an outdoor adventure destination, Lessels said.
The ZOAR business began in 1989 after his five-year stint on the whitewater team. “I was looking for the next step and not sure of what I was going to do,” he said. Though he had thought of beginning an outdoor adventure business, he had no business experience but decided to take the plunge anyway.
Lessels grew up in Belmont in a family that enjoyed hiking and the outdoors. He began canoeing when he was 15 through his brother’s Cub Scout leader who was an active paddler in the Appalachian Mountain Club. “I liked the physical part and being outdoors on the river that had this energy,” he recalled. “I often like the solitude of it. I enjoy the lack of intrusions and noise, and I love to explore.”
A 1983 graduate of Amherst College with a bachelor’s degree in geology, he jokes that “what I do with geology now is I walk over it all the time.”
It was during college that he began closed-canoe racing with a single-bladed paddle. “It was a blast. We raced all over the world,” he said, pointing out that he was third in the 1987 slalom C-1 world whitewater championship and his team of three was first in the slalom C-1 team event.
Lessels knew the Charlemont area because he had visited to paddle on the Deerfield, and he now lives in Buckland.
He is a member of the board of the Academy at Charlemont (the school his daughters attended), of Double Edge Theatre in Ashfield and the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce.
He enjoys indie/folk guitar music, playing squash and barbecues. And though he is of Scottish descent, he has no taste for haggis and because he grew up listening to his sister play the bagpipes, contends one cannot listen to unlimited bagpipe music.
Lessels, 56, stands six feet five inches tall, but laughs when he admits he is a “terrible” basketball player.
But that’s not his sport.
He’s looking to provide people — families, church and school groups, businesses, camp groups — with outdoor adventure for everyone from the least to the more adventurous.
ZOAR gets more than 20,000 visits a year and gives those visitors a place to connect with the outdoors and with one another. “Being in the quiet away from the hubbub, this is a place to have the opportunity to connect,” he said. “A lot of people’s lives are very busy and active. This is a nice way to get away from that,” Lessels said.
By Ben Watson
When Judith Maloney arrived in Franklin County with her husband Terry back in 1972, they had no idea they were going to settle down here. The couple had been living in San Francisco, where Terry had just completed his medical training at the University of California, and Judith had gotten her teaching certification.
“We figured this was just the cross-country road trip that everybody takes once in their lives,” Judith says.
But in this back-to-the-land era the young couple wound up buying a piece of land and settling in the town of Colrain, eventually building a post-and-beam house from timber harvested on Catamount Hill.
“We lived way out in the boonies,” Judith says. “Being in Colrain was exciting. It was a community that was rich in what it knew. People there had a lot of skills that I wanted to learn: how to survive the winters, grow your own food, and keep your vehicles going.”
Terry, a Princeton graduate and former Marine, worked as an emergency room doctor for more than 25 years at Franklin Medical Center. Judith, whose family lived in San Francisco and who came from Italian immigrant stock, had connections to the California wine industry, working for a family that owned a vineyard in Napa County. In their San Francisco days, the Maloneys and their friends would make a couple hundred gallons of their own wine every year. But, like other aspects of life in rural western Massachusetts, the couple were in for a culture shock. The granite soils and cold winters of Franklin County, as it turned out, were ideal for growing apples and producing cider, both sweet and hard, but not so great for growing wine grapes. Plus there were cider presses here, with the one at Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain busy throughout the fall and winter months.
“Well, what’s the saying?” Judith says, laughing, “When you have lemons, you make lemonade! It didn’t make much sense at the time to bring in wine from California. The tradition of fermenting hard cider was one of the neighborhood bounties, something that belonged around here, and it gave people pleasure.”
Eventually, the Maloneys started making cider commercially in 1984. West County Winery became one of the first small, artisanal cider producers in the US. In recent years that number has skyrocketed, from around a dozen or so producers to hundreds of companies, as the Cider Renaissance flourished and as people rediscovered a taste for this traditional American beverage.
They also planted apples. “We learned as we went,” says Judith. “Along the way we had our successes and our failures.” Terry sought out apples that were reputed to make interesting and high-quality ciders: Baldwin, Redfield, and various russets, as well as traditional English and French cider varieties. Gradually, as interest in cider increased, a community of growers and cider makers was grewing and coming together.
In 1994, the Maloneys joined forces with the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce and its president, Ann Hamilton, to hold the first Franklin County Cider Day (which in recent years has expanded county-wide, and has increased from one day to three). The first organizers and attendees were mostly home brewers like Charlie Olchowski and Paul Correnty, both of whom continue – more than two decades later – to teach amateur cider makers the ropes and keep the culture of the county’s hill towns alive and well.
“It’s the amateur cider maker who to me is the soul of CiderDays,” Judith says. “It is the union of harvest and drink, of the apple tree and its spirituous potential, of the imagination become real, that pleases me most.”
In recent years, the festival has featured many commercial ciders and has attracted thousands of cider aficionados from around the country and around the world. But, as Judith says, the feeling is the same, with open houses all weekend long at orchards and cider houses from one end of the county to the other. “It’s not a trade show like other cider events,” she adds, citing the majority of talks and programs that are free of charge and open to everyone. “CiderDays is a recognition of the orchards, of the apple identity of Franklin County. It’s not creating the cider community, but affirming it with this annual gathering of zealots.”
In 2010 Terry Maloney passed away, but his spirit and his legacy still suffuse CiderDays, even as its volunteer organizing committee begins to think about the festival’s silver anniversary in 2019. West County Cider, with Judith and Terry’s son Field at the helm, still has deep roots in Colrain, but Field is developing a new facility and tasting room on Peckville Road in Shelburne. And the healthy number of nearby orchards and cider producers ensures that apple growing, and cider making, will continue to flourish here for many years to come.
Ben Watson is the author of Cider, Hard and Sweet and serves on the organizing committee for Franklin County CiderDays.
By Cori Urban
TURNERS FALLS—John D. McNamara has spent years hunting for treasure, and when asked what his favorite find has been, he smiles. It’s not an interesting industrial steel mold or a well-worn workbench or even drawings of silverware from the former Lunt Silversmiths.
“Erin,” he replies simply, looking at Erin K. MacLean, his business and life partner.
She blushes, and they laugh, the comfortable laugh shared between people who enjoy each other’s company and know each other well.
But if pressed for a favorite “thing,” he has found for Loot Found + Made, the business they run in Turners Falls, McNamara gives the nod to eye glass and fork and spoon super-sized steel or epoxy dies. “They are super decorative,” he says of the finds from about a dozen years ago.
The lives of McNamara, a native of Athol, and MacLean, from Ashburnham, came together in Fitchburg, and they wanted to find a place that was theirs.
One day they were driving through Turners Falls, the largest of the villages of the Town of Montague, and he recalled stopping at the light on the corner of Third Street and Avenue A in the 1970s when he was going somewhere with his mother, Sylvine McNamara, who was driving a ’68 Volkswagen Beetle. He saw the colorful mural then painted on the side of the Colle Opera house, “and I thought, What?” he recalls.
He shared that memory with MacLean, who immediately liked Turners Falls because it reminded her of Brooklyn with its brick buildings and tree-lined streets. “Erin thought it was charming, walkable,” and it is surrounded by the Connecticut River, McNamara says.
For the couple, the natural beauty of the area collided with its industrial and historic heritage, creating a vibe they wanted to be part of.
In 2007 they bought a brick building on the village’s main street, Avenue A, and remodeled what had been a cone shop, then a dentist’s office, and most recently a dog-grooming parlor into Loot. They moved into one of the three apartments above the 1,500-square-foot store in 2008; they still live there.
McNamara credits his mother with his interest in antiques: “She was the antique lady in Athol. She did this as a fun hobby.”
But he and MacLean have turned it into a successful business.
As they spoke to a visitor at a large wooden table in the back room separated from the retail space by century-old swinging wood and glass doors, she got up to refill his coffee and hers, and Mini, one of their three rescue cats, jumped up for attention. (They have fostered some 20 cats through the local animal shelter.)
McNamara and MacLean — who also own another mixed-use building a few doors down on the avenue — agree that the community and their customers keep them in Turners Falls. “We feel like we have been really supported” both by town officials and repeat customers who come from as near as down the street to as far away as Boston and New York. “I like to say this is a ‘yes’ town for business,” McNamara says.
He generally finds items for the store, sometimes cultivating a relationship with a seller that takes years to produce a purchase. MacLean takes charge of merchandizing, displays and general store operation. “There are so many things you’re doing all the time. It’s creative in its own way,” she says. “We are not a dusty antique shop.”
Indeed, displays change frequently, and merchandise is clean and well placed. She has an artist’s eye, being a graduate of Syracuse University with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts in painting.
McNamara has a bachelor’s degree in video and television production from Fitchburg State College and has had the opportunity to be in front of the camera several times as one of the Brimfield Antique Flea Markets vendors on the television show “Flea Market Flip.”
When not working at Loot, the couple can be found hiking or patronizing local businesses like Brick and Feather Brewery, Five-Eyed Fox restaurant and The Rendezvous pub. In fact, it was the latter establishment that helped draw the couple to Turners Falls.
“I liked the graphic design, craft night and music,” MacLean said. “It offered us a place to meet people that we are still friends with.”
She and McNamara are energized by new businesses in the village and are good neighbor businesses; it’s not unusual to see MacLean raking or sweeping in front of one of the couple’s buildings.
Living a sort of retro life is pleasing to her. “With the way the world is changing with people buying more online, there’s a disconnect,” she said. “What we do here is old fashioned. We like people to feel like they are coming into a home and talking to someone, hearing a story, touching something. That motivates and keeps me going. Maybe it has a ripple effect.”
If you go, check out more about Franklin County
Looking to get out of the office and into the fresh air? Been meaning to do more physical activities and eat more fresh fruit? What about getting in some fun outdoor activities with the family before the cold weather hits? Picking your own apples is the perfect way to check these items off your list.
Franklin County has orchards dotting some of the most scenic landscapes in Massachusetts. Pick from century old trees located in orchards that have been in the family for generations or from newer experimental orchards. While you’re at it, take a break, bring a picnic lunch, and take in the scenery or refuel at some of the orchard restaurants. Here are four of our favorite pick your own spots.
Clarkdale Fruit Farms
303 Upper Road, Deerfield, (413) 772-6797
Pick Your Own daily 9am-5pm
Farm Stand open daily 8am-6pm
This fourth-generation family fruit farm located in the beautiful hills of Deerfield grows heirloom apple varieties from trees planted by the first generation of Clarks in1912. As true New England farmers, the Clarks are not ones to rest easy and continue to plant new varieties every year. Clarkdale offers eight pick your own apple varieties to choose from including Macintosh, Ginger Gold, Gala, Empire, Cortland, Macoun, and Jonagold. Looking for that hard to find variety that you won’t find in your local supermarket? The Clarks actually grow over 40 apple varieties including Esopus Spitzenburg, Wolf River, Akane and Pound Sweet. If you’re looking for more for your cornucopia, their farmstand, open 8am-6pm daily, also carries pears, nectarines, plums, grapes and more. They accept credit cards and SNAP EBT. While you’re there, don’t forget to take your picture in front of the iconic Clarkdale apple.
Let’s face it, there are only so many whole apples you can eat, so they conveniently have a few tasty recipes on their website like Lavinia’s Apple Lemon Custard Pie
New Salem Orchards and Preserves
67 South Main Street, New Salem, MA, (978) 544-3437
Pick Your Own Saturday and Sunday, 9am-5pm
Spectacular view overlooking Quabbin Reservoir? Check. Location on a farm established in 1750 with 125 year old fruit trees? Check. A barn with fresh pressed cider, just baked cider doughnuts, local cheeses, preserves and apple butter? Yup. You’ll definitely want to bring a picnic lunch and make a day of your trip to this orchard in the historic town of New Salem. The views here are spectacular year round but for a real treat, come at the peak of foliage where you will likely find friends and neighbors savoring hot mulled cider in the barn kitchen. If you hit it right, you may find a pop up cider or vinegar making workshop.
Bear Swamp Orchard
1209 B Hawley Road Ashfield, 413-625-2849, 413-768-7989
Organic Pick Your Own and Hard Cider Tasting Room open Fridays - Sundays, 10am – 6pm
Stroll through this ten year old small family-owned certified organic solar powered orchard perched on a hilltop in Ashfield with panoramic views that span Vermont and New Hampshire. With more than 60 different cultivars in varying degrees of production, the Gougeon family grows many great heirloom varieties. Since 2010, the family has focused on identifying new apple varieties that have seeded naturally and grafting them into the orchard.
This is definitely a picnic worthy spot and while you are there, say hi to the chickens and Shetland sheep. Aside from apples you will also find hard ciders, sweet ciders, vinegar (raw, un-pasteurized, untreated), jams and jellies, baked goods, and maple syrup. In case you did not get enough of a workout while you were picking, the orchard borders the Trustees of Reservations Bear Swamp Reserve which offers miles of scenic hiking trails and views of its own.
Pine Hill Orchards
248 Greenfield Rd, Colrain, MA 413-624-3325
Pick Your Own Saturday and Sunday 10am-5pm and Monday holidays
Restaurant open Monday – Friday, 6am-2pm and Saturday and Sunday, 7am-2pm
Matt Shearer, a member of this family-owned 75 acre orchard in Colrain, says people come for the apples but stay for the animals. After picking Macs, Courtlands, Jonagolds, Spencers, Honey Crisps, Macouns, and Galas, he finds visitors lingering for hours at the pond with the cows, goats, potbelly pigs, donkeys and ducks. The on-site restaurant serves delicious comfort food every day from early morning until 2 pm. And there’s more. The orchard’s market has hard and sweet cider, fresh baked pies, cider doughnuts, maple products, crafts, and local meats.
Tips and resources
Call ahead to find out which apple varieties are currently available for picking or just show up and be surprised. If you’d like to do your own research before heading out, this interactive Apple Finder has pictures, tartness levels, and descriptions of more than 120 varieties grown in New England.
Still have not satisfied your apple appetite? You can immerse yourself in all things apple with workshops, tours, tastings and more at Franklin County CiderDays. This annual event, held the first weekend in November, features the longest running hard cider tasting in the country.
Why not get some creative ideas on what to do with your apples by taking cooking classes from James Beard Award winning Chef Sanford (Sandy) D'Amato at Good Stock Farm?
South Deerfield, MA
The ViewWhether you arrive at the top of Mount Sugarloaf’s south summit by driving (just a few minutes) or walking (about a half-hour) up the winding auto road, or by hiking up one of the marked trails, once the Connecticut River comes into view you’ll have no doubt that agriculture is alive and well in this valley. Lined with trees and productive farmland, and an occasional red barn and white steeple in the distance, this spectacular and quintessential rural New England view is both serene and inspiring.
Before it was called Sugarloaf (sugar was once molded into cone-shaped loafs for shipping), the indigenous Pocumtuck people called the mountain Wequamps, believing it was a giant greedy beaver killed by the god Hobomok and turned to stone. The south summit is the head, the north ridge its back. Directions and information about picnicking, trails, and parking here.
While You’re There:Visit Historic Deerfield, an authentic 18th-century New England village. Tour beautifully restored museum houses with period architecture and furnishings, see demonstrations of colonial-era trades, and explore world-famous collection of early American crafts, ceramics, furniture, textiles and metalwork.
French King Bridge
The View:If you are traveling on Rt 2 you are definitely going to want to pull over when you reach the French King Bridge for its beautiful form, impressive height, and breathtaking views of the Connecticut and Millers Rivers and surrounding landscape. This steel three-span cantilever arch bridge over the Connecticut River, connecting Gill to Erving, opened for travelers in 1932 and won the American Institute of Steel Construction’s Most Beautiful Steel Bridge Award. From the parking area at the end of the bridge, you can walk to the center and take in the view of the river winding through a dramatic undeveloped landscape including the Wendell and Erving State Forests. For a view of the bridge itself, follow the path down the bank.
While You’re There:Get a hearty meal at the French King Restaurant right next to the bridge and then head out to the Erving State Forest or Wendell State Forest for hiking, XC skiing, snowmobiling, hunting, and water sports.
If you’re the type of hiker who is all about the view, then High Ledges is the hike for you. You can park your car at one of the clearly marked parking lots and take the 1-mile moderate trail straight to the overlook. The trail meanders through fields of wildflowers, where birds, butterflies, and other critters can be seen. Large rocks create perfect seats to gaze at the 3-directional view of the Village of Shelburne Falls, the Deerfield River Valley, and Mt. Greylock in the distance. If you can peel your eyes away, you will also see a large chimney, the remnants of Dutch and Mary Barnard’s cabin. After reaching the summit, you can continue hiking on the series of trails. The trails all loop around, so you can pick the distance you would like to do. Directions and more information here.
While You’re There:
You’ve just seen the Village of Shelburne Falls from a bird’s eye view, now see it up close. Head west on the Mohawk Trail and turn left at the Sweetheart sign to get to the village. There you can check out the amazing art galleries and shops, find a good book at any of the 3 bookstores, and eat quality fresh food at any of the restaurants or cafes. See what else is happening in the village and the surrounding hilltowns at shelburnefalls.com.
Connecticut River Waterfront and Industrial Canal
Turners Falls, MA
Across the Connecticut River from Barton Cove, Turners Falls has no shortage of great waterfront views. Unity Park is the ideal place to picnic and observe migrating birds and fall foliage as well as glorious sunsets behind the Gill- Montague Bridge. It is also a spectacular vantage for full moon and eclipse events with an unobstructed sky and shimmering moonlight frosting the water. A short walk along the scenic waterfront bike path winds you around to the canal view complete with 19th century mills, smoke stacks, and post-industrial vistas.
While You’re There:
Along the bike path you’ll find the Great Falls Discovery Center, dedicated to the natural, cultural, and industrial history of the Connecticut River watershed. The Center’s four acres of native plants, butterfly gardens, and open lawn are a peaceful retreat with especially beautiful views of Turners Falls' historic mill district. Take in some comedy, theater, dance, or music at the newly renovated, 320-seat Shea Theater, grab dinner at The Rendezvous, or plan your trip so it coincides with any number of town festivals. Information on these and many more events in Turners Falls can be found at www.turnersfallsriverculture.org
Enjoy a long western vista from the beautiful 1912 sandstone structure Poet’s Seat Tower, so named for the area’s attraction to poets such as Frederick Goddard Tuckerman long before the tower was built. Reach Greenfield's topmost point by hiking or by walking up a paved road then climbing winding staircases in this peaceful location conveniently located to downtown. From Main Street, turn left onto High Street and turn right at Maple Street. At the end, bear right to the top of the hill. There is a parking area on the left and you can walk up to the Tower.
While You’re There:
Visit Greenfield’s newly minted Crossroads Cultural District downtown for eclectic shopping, eating, and entertainment. Favorite eating spots include Tex-Mex comfort food breakfast and lunch at the Brass Buckle or everyday-special locavore fare and modern cocktails for lunch and dinner at Hope & Olive. Browse John Doe, Jr. Used Records and Books for just the right music or visit one of the oldest family-run department stores in the country, Wilson’s. At night, hear all kinds of music at the Root Cellar or the Arts Block.
New Salem, MA
What tour through scenic beauty would be complete without a waterfall? This special spot, managed by The Trustees of Reservations, indulges you in waterfall splendor with a minimal trek to get there. According to The Trustees, “on its way to the Quabbin Reservoir, the Middle Branch of the Swift River cascades into an intriguing woodland pool at the bottom of a secluded gorge. Here, along a short, quarter-mile trail, you have two choices: go to the left and you can explore the enchanting waterfall; head to the right to follow the stream as it tumbles through large boulders past the site of an old mill." Directions and info here.
They also explain that "...in 1675, the great chief Metacomet (known to European settlers as King Philip) met here with neighboring chieftains to plan attacks on Hadley, Deerfield, and Northampton. A black bear shot on the property gives the reservation its name."
While You’re There:
Visit the Quabbin Reservoir, one of the largest man-made public water supplies in the country; stop by New Salem Preserves for some hot mulled cider, just picked apples and fresh warm cider donuts on the weekend. Check out more activities here. visitnorthquabbin.com
If one waterfall were not enough, here’s another coupled with panoramic views of the Highlands and foothills of the Berkshires. If you want a strenuous hike you’re in luck but there is also an easy way up. Chapel Brook is also among the impressive sites managed by The Trustees . As they describe it, “We think it’s the rugged beauty of the landscape, like much of the Highlands a blend of steep and deep forests, sensational summit views, and streams that surge and trickle with the seasons. The brook is tranquil – except when spectacular Chapel Falls are in full roar! – and rugged Pony Mountain has a kick. Although Pony Mountain is only 1,420 feet high, the hike to the top is exhilarating. The Summit Trail rises to meet the abrupt, vertical, 100-foot rock face of Chapel Ledge (which attracts experienced rock climbers). You’ll want to be in good shape to tackle this trail. A less-daunting, half-mile trail leads around the western side of Pony Mountain to its summit." Info and directions here.
While You’re There
Get a Big Time Breakfast at Elmer’s, where half the fun is the charmingly amusing menu.
While You’re There:
Take in Northfield's classic New England architecture or treat yourself to a wine tasting at Cameron’s Winery. After reading about all of Northfield's attractions, you may want to extend your stay at Centennial House B & B. Too tired for another hike? Come back for biking, boating, skiing, and hiking at Northfield Mountain.
Franklin County has much to offer throughout the year. Find out more!
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