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By CORI URBAN
french king bridgeIf you’re floating ideas for things to do this summer to keep cool and have fun, cast your glance to Franklin County and its Connecticut and Deerfield rivers recreational opportunities.

Boating, fishing and tubing opportunities will make a splash with individuals and families alike from the hills of West County to the valley below.

And it’s not just the activities that are memorable; the views are spectacular. 

By DIANE BRONCACCIO

What’s more appealing than than bicycling by fragrant meadows, historic houses, or pastures dotted with cows? Or pedaling alongside meandering streams and vibrant fall foliage? Franklin County, Massachusetts offers up the New England landscapes of your dreams. Breathe in the fresh air and see it all close up, along the many bike trails running through the small towns and countryside. 

The Franklin County Bikeway criss-crosses the region with roughly 240 miles of bicycle routes, including both non-motorized bike/pedestrian trails and designated bike lanes along streets and highways.

You’ll find designated bicycle loops and routes suited to every skill level.

Bike GFDC“I would like to say we’ve got the best cycling in America,” Gary Briere of Rivers Edge Cycling says of Western Massachusetts. “You could find more dramatic landscapes, but what we have here, in Western New England, is this beauty and this ‘bicyclible’ scale. You can go from Northampton to Deerfield or Turners Falls – a 20-mile distance – and stop for coffee or a lunch in a village center.”

“We have the kind of attractions and services that cyclists need, and welcoming businesses and local foods that cyclists really enjoy,” he said.

Before starting Rivers Edge Cycling with his wife, Maureen, Briere spent 30 years working with state parks, promoting outdoor activities there. “This is where I wanted to be,” he said. “It’s really hard to find the kind of magic we have here,” he says.

GRF Balloon Reflection Paul Franz PhotoBy Diane Broncaccio

July 12-14, 2019

Summer wouldn’t be summer without the Green River Festival, a three-day feast of music and hot-air balloons on the scenic Greenfield Community College campus.

Now more than three decades old, this festival evolved from a one-shot, fifth-anniversary party in 1986 to celebrate a progressive music station, now called “The River.” The music of 10,000 Maniacs and NRBQ drew about 2,000 people to that first event. Since then, thousands have come for such headliners as Dr. John, Taj Mahal, Beausoliel, Norah Jones, Arlo Guthrie, Mavis Staples, Lucinda Williams, and the Avett Brothers.

This music festival is becoming legendary in its own right, combining a line-up of 30 to 40 acts on stage, local foods, beer and wine, handmade crafts a dance tent and plenty of activities for children.

It was included as one of 50 essential summer festivals in the New York Times and was also mentioned in Rolling Stone Magazine as a “must-see” music festival in 2015. Your seat is your picnic blanket or a lawn chair on the sprawling fields of the college campus. 

LucyFagellaWorkingPF04052019Lucy Fagella in her Greenfield studio. Paul Franz Photo

By Diane Broncaccio

Several hundred people satisfy their spring-fever wanderlust with a scenic drive through “pottery country,” during the annual Asparagus Valley Pottery Trail weekend in Western Massachusetts.

Tiffany HiltonPottery by Tiffany HiltonThe free, self-guided tour takes visitors throughout Pioneer Valley to see the work of roughly two dozen potters in nine local potter’s studios.

The studios are located along the Connecticut River Valley, but the changing list of guest potters each year come from all over the country.

“We’ve had great potters come from all over the country,” says Tiffany Hilton, who is one of the artists who helps to promote the event. “It’s a great way for people to see where the creative process takes place – and (to see) the lifestyles of our artists. We also have a lot of hobby potters and student potters come around to get inspiration,” she said. 

WestCountygenericPour

Nestled in the hills and along the rivers of Western Massachusetts you’ll find creative craft beverage producers offering small batch liquid art using the freshest local ingredients. Make an afternoon of drinking at the source. Meet the producers at some of our favorite cozy Franklin County tasting rooms and see how your libations are made. Roll the windows down and take a slow ride through landscape that yields what may become your next favorite drink.  

MapleSyrupTap.Deerfield.PeterMacDonaldPeter MacDonald photo

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.

BerkshireEastliftViewPaul Franz Photo

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.

Win a learn to ski package!

By Cori Urban
Bruce ZOAR 106 1Matthew Cavanaugh photo

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.

By Ben Watson

WestCountyJudithFieldJudith Maloney and her son Field. Mathew Cavanaugh Photography

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.

By Cori Urban
JohnErinLOOT

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.

Apple table

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, in Western Massachusetts, 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 five of our favorite pick your own spots.

Head to Franklin County and leave life behind for the afternoon or weekend. Take to the rolling hills, meandering river valleys, and charming towns of western Massachusetts to unwind. Here are eight transcendent views to start you off.

Mt. Sugarloaf

South Deerfield, MA

The View

Whether 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.  

"My husband is a motorcycle enthusiast and likes riding the Mohawk Trail"
"The county is peppered with old and new all mixed up"
"An air of peace and tranquility"
"Real community authenticity. Franklin County is not pseudo anything."
"More down to earth, no pretense, real people."
     
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