By Daniel Hales
We set out prepared to document mostly creaky and condemned bridges. Not because we’re pessimists, but because of this discouraging introduction in our guidebook: “Unfortunately, four of the covered bridges in Massachusetts that are ‘endangered species’ are located in Franklin County,” (New England’s Covered Bridges: A Complete Guide, by Benjamin and June Evans, UPNE Press, 2004.) What we discovered instead was anything but unfortunate and nothing short of awe-inspiring. Clearly a lot has changed since 2004. Even more apparent: one of Franklin County’s unsung treasures is its covered bridges... or rather--SIX of its treasures.
by Daniel Hales
“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?" That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.” - Herman Hesse, Siddhartha.
You don’t need to be the Buddha to find enlightenment in a river. Anyone who spends time on the banks of a river, floating or paddling on a river, can come away feeling calmer, clearer, more centered. Likewise, time on the river can be incredibly energizing and euphoric, dancing to the rhythm of the currents, the waves slapping a hippity hop beat on the side of your boat to the tune of Paddler’s Delight. Of all the things I love about living in Franklin County, I love its rivers the most.
By Daniel Hales
Photos by Kim Chin-Gibbons & Michael Cohen
The Hilltown of Ashfield is flush with farms, orchards, sugarhouses, apiaries, and cideries. But when you’re driving out to pick your own blueberries, currants, gooseberries, and raspberries at Bug Hill Farm or apples, pears, and plums at Clark Brothers Orchards, you’ll discover that something you might need even more is grown in Ashfield: dreams. And not the kind of wispy dreams that leave you empty. At world-renowned Double Edge Theatre, they plant, nurture, and harvest some of the wildest, most delicious dreams you’ll ever taste.
By Daniel Hales
Do you have a favorite flower? A dozen favorite flowers? Want to be horticulturally promiscuous and meet dozens of gorgeous, sexy new flowers all at once? There is no better place for amorous encounters with wildly diverse flora than the Bridge of Flowers. No list of the Seven Wonders of Franklin County is complete without this blossoming bridge. The former trolley bridge connecting Shelburne Falls and Buckland is an architecturally lovely structure, built on elegant, curving arches across the Deerfield River. But you’d be forgiven for not fully appreciating the underside of the bridge on your first visit due to the abundance of beauty on top of the bridge--beauty so abundant it cascades over the sides of the bridge as well. Hundreds of flowers, shrubs, and flowering trees bloom in a riot of color and fragrance the length of the bridge.
By Daniel Hales
Have you been to the Turners Falls canal -- which I think of as a little slice of Venice in western Massachusetts? I first experienced it on a magical, moonlit stroll with friends after one of the legendary fashion shows at Suzee’s Laundromat. However, I soon found that the canal is equally enchanting by the full light of day. Whether for exercise or enjoyment, biking or birdwatching, leaf-peeping or lounging, you need to make the canal connection. Best of all, the canal is only part of the package.
The light is returning, spring is in the air, and there is still plenty of snow! If you’re itching to get out of the house and safely be around other people, hit the slopes at Berkshire East Mountain Resort in Charlemont MA, only a short drive away.
BY RICHARD D. LITTLE
Franklin County, Massachusetts: the world’s best place to study geology! Be prepared to be amazed! Most people think of geology as “just a bunch of rocks”, but exciting Earth events are recorded in rocks and landscapes, too. Franklin County has magnificent landscape scenery: mountains, waterfalls, rushing rivers and meandering ones, such as New England’s longest river, the Connecticut. We also have quite a bunch of rocks, too, including famous ones with dinosaur footprints plus we also have something truly unique: the world’s only petrified armored mud balls. Intrigued?
BY RYAN BOEDING OF FRONTIER CYCLING TOURS
As another season gets closer to an unfortunate close, it is always nice to look back on the short but sweet cycling season that we had. As I sit and reflect on the crazy year that 2020 was, I remember how emotionally releasing and relaxing a long ride in the hills and countryside of our beautiful part of Massachusetts felt. We all needed (I think) those moments of relief to forget and escape the situation we are in. At the same time, that makes me think a lot about the 2021 season, and some questions come to my mind. The first one for me is - what route did I like best? Also - where do I absolutely want to get back to? How do you answer those questions? What new road or route did you like best? Where do you want to go again, and even what new places do you want to ride in?
By DIANE BRONCACCIO
What’s more appealing than than bicycling by historic houses and 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.
“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.
We invite you to visit Franklin County and take in the stunning fall foliage here. Our rural hills and valleys are mired in red maples, golden oaks and autumn’s changing scenery. Grab your cameras, bikes and canoes and come visit our classic New England landscape. Here are nine locations from which you can enjoy some of autumn’s best views. Or if you’d rather, just stay in the car and take an old fashioned foliage ride on the state’s oldest scenic roadway, the Mohawk Trail.
Think of the places that make your town feel like home. Chances are, a local shop or restaurant came to mind. The truth is, many of those local businesses are hurting right now. But they’re still standing strong, doing their best to keep us safe. Our Main Streets need our love, more than ever. Now is the time to find your local.
We know there is great fly fishing in Franklin County and we were delighted that Michael Vito of the Deerfield River Chapter of Trout Unlimited shared with us this first-hand experience written by a visitor from Ohio last year. Enjoy!
C. F. Walton Deerfield River, Massachusetts
May 12-16, 2019
Our Deerfield River expedition had its genesis two years earlier at the South Holston River Lodge1 in Bristol, Tennessee. It was there that a group of our Bangers and Hookers met another visiting guest, Scott Meador from New York. During the visit, Scott shared that his favorite river is the Deerfield River in Northwest Massachusetts. Our Harry Singer made careful note, in that his son, Reid, had attended Amherst College, which almost borders on the Deerfield River.
By CORI URBAN
If 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
Summer wouldn’t be summer without the Green River Festival, a three-day feast of music food and a makers market. This year the event will take place August 27-29 at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Greenfield.