Sixth Annual Great River Challenge Off-Road Triathlon Welcomes Paddlers, Runners and Mountain Bikers to a Unique Adventure Experience, October 9, 2021

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Great River Challenge, Northfield, MA

Northfield MA –Calling all paddlers, runners and cyclists to the annual Great River Challenge Off-Road Triathlon in Northfield MA on Saturday, October 9, 2021! Grab your boat, sneakers and mountain bikes and head up river to First Light Power’s Northfield Mountain recreation facility for an incredible race that has challenged and delighted athletes of all levels for six years and growing.

Individual and team, "Iron Person" and "Short Course" categories make the race accessible to participants from 12 or 70. The unique event offers fitness, food and fun on a beautiful fall Saturday in the heart of New England. It underscores the array of outdoor recreational opportunities that make Franklin County a great place to live and visit while supporting the Kiwanis Club of Northfield’s outdoor campership program for families in need. COVID protocols are in place this year along with the usual high level of safety provided on and off the water by Northfield and Gill first responders.

2021 sponsors include: Greenfield Savings Bank, First Light Power Resources, the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, the Northfield Golf Club, The Brewery at Four Star Farms, Viles Insurance, Stellar Kayaks, King & Cushman Insurance, Franklin County’s YMCA and Centennial House Bed and Breakfast.

Witness the pageantry at www.Greatriverchallenge.com and https://www.facebook.com/greatriverchallenge
Individuals and Teams can take advantage of “touchless” registration at www.runsignup.com.

Jen Kapitulik Henny Penny QuiltPop-up event Columbus Day weekend, October 9-10
Studio Tour - November 13-14

COLRAIN — This town’s scenic hills, forests and pastures are filled with artists who open their studios to visitors one weekend each year for a self-guided tour called Crafts of Colrain. Part of the fun is driving through picturesque country roads in late fall, meeting the artists and finding vibrant hand-dyed silks, paintings, handcrafted jewelry, woodworking and wrought iron works from about 20 artists.

But this year, visitors will get two bites of the apple: A “pop-up” selection of the artists’ work is on view in nearby Shelburne Falls during Columbus Day weekend, Oct. 9-10. And the pop-up shop, hosted by the Wood and Barrel Co. at 50 State Street, gives visitors a “one-stop shopping” opportunity. And the second chance is the self-guided artists’ studio tours Nov. 13-14, from 10 am. To 5 p.m. Columbus Day weekend is one of the best times to see Franklin County’s spectacular autumn foliage.

“We’re hoping people who come for the pop-up will return for the November tour, when the artists will have even more goods,” says Jill Horton-Lyons of Winterberry Farm, which specializes in hand-dyed yarn from its sheep and Angora goats. Last year’s tour was relatively quiet, because of the COVID pandemic, but the resourceful Crafts of Colrain artists have countered with new features to entice both new visitors and those who return to their studios each year.

Cynthia Herbert Jennifer KapitulikCynthia Herbert and Jennifer Kapitulik“People got quite excited about (the pop-up), partly because of the uncertainty about the pandemic in November,” says calligraphy artist Peggy Davis. “It’s a new idea and a new way for people to see our work. We do know that Columbus Day weekend brings foliage tourists. And it’s a great way for us to interact with both groups — visitors and local people.”

The idea came from Kevin French, a Colrain craftsman who works at Wood and Barrel, and who makes lamps and lights from repurposed beer and wine barrels. Wood and Barrel recently moved into the former Stillwater Porcelain shop, on the Buckland side of Shelburne Falls.

As for the November tour, Davis said the member artists are “very excited to have something closer to their traditional experience” of the self-directed tours once again.

Here is a sample of what you’ll find:

Marilyn BealScarf by Marilyn BealFIBER ARTS — One-of-a-kind silk scarves by Marilyn Beal, using carved stamps, hand painting or Japanese shibori in their making. Jennifer Kapitulik of Rag Hill Farm offers everything from art quilts to potholders with chickens on them, to hand-spun yarns. Diana and Liz O’Brien feature rug-hooking demonstrations and offer rug-hooking supplies in addition to hand-crafted gifts and accessories. Jim and Jill Lyons offer woven scarves, felt slippers, spinning and weaving demonstrations. Moonshine Designers Cynthia Herbert and Bob Ramirez offer hand-dyed mohair yarns, handwoven and knitted wearables, and some of the coziest socks ever. Sarah Schoedel makes elegant handwoven baskets, along with jewelry from precious metals, gemstones and even from recycled fence wire.

Al LaddWoodworker, Al LaddWOODWORKING — Al Ladd of Fine Edge Woodworking has over 30 years’ experience in creating inlaid jewelry boxes, cutting boards, ornaments and beautiful gift items from common and rare woods. Kevin Noyes Jr. uses native hardwoods for his tables, chairs, furniture and cabinetry. Kevin French creates lamps out of wine and whiskey barrels. Stetson Wood Collection features functional woodwork creations, from epoxy-resin tables to jewelry boxes.

PAINTERS, PHOTOGRAPHY — Peggy Davis creates calligraphy art on cards and prints, jewelry and fiber items, while her husband, Joe Kurland, focuses on photographic art, often inspired by the surrounding landscape. (They are in the tour on Sunday only). New this year is photographer/mixed-media artist Olga Solomita, who recently moved here from Cambridge. Also new to Crafts of Colrain this year is Tony Palumbo, a neon sculpture artist who has returned to his first love, painting and drawing.

Tony Palumbo Lilacs Roses 180Tony Palumbo, Lilacs and Roses AND MORE — Morrell Metalsmiths is a long-time family business offering hand-forged iron accessories for home. Inge Jockers designs contemporary silver jewelry embellished with gold and gemstones, inspired by nature and antique designs. Eugenia Shearer gives new life to old collectibles by accents of decorative painting. Stoneman Brewery's Justin Korby returns with his local craft beer.

The website — www.craftsofcolrain.com — includes videos of many of the artists and their work. Many of the artists have been honing their crafts for decades. Their farms, hills and the rivers surrounding them are often the inspiration for their color choices and designs.

Berkshire East Rafting

By Daniel Hales

I took the leap, the plunge, the lunge, the splash, and did four of the fair-weather adrenalized activities at Berkshire East Mountain Resort. You might infer that I survived my bold exploits on Thunder Mountain from the fact that this piece of writing exists--and further, that I’ve written it to encourage you to pursue similar feats of daredevilry. And you would be right! 

Smith Bridge, Colrain 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. 

Bridge Flowers

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. 

Ct R North AirAbove the Connecticut River looking north into Franklin County with Mt. Sugarloaf to left and Sunderland to right

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?



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?


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.

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.

Quabbin Foliageweb Paul Franz Photo

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.

Header ENJOY 

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.

"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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