June 23, 2020

Beautiful meadow!


We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

-T. S. Elliot


Our P’town-or-bust path winds its way through the Berkshire Mountains, which are more hills than mountains and, at times, alongside the Housatonic River gorge.  As we walk up hill and down, we go through forested country and next to wide swaths of beautiful pastureland.  Christine cares for several rescue horses, cows, chickens, and even a pig.  She doesn’t have much pastureland and she drools whenever we pass a broad, flat, grassy meadow.  “Oh, the moos would love it out here,” she coos with a besmitten leer.  Karen and I roll our eyes and continue on down the road.  Traffic is light and there aren’t many people out and about.  We are mostly left alone, except for the occasional “Hello” as we pass.

When we passed through Dalton, MA, we came across a sign in front of an old brick building that read “Crane Paper Company.”

“Isn’t Crane the sole source of paper for US currency?” said Christine.  It’s a pleasure to walk with such good and interesting people as Christine and Karen – conversations with Waldo tend to be a bit one-sided and mostly in my head.  Christine is very well-read and she was right.  The company bought its first paper mill in 1770 and sold paper to Paul Revere who used it to print the American Colonies’ first paper money.  Today, it makes bank note paper for several other countries as well.  Who’da thunk that the source of all that green is a small town in western Massachusetts?  I find it surprising, and pleasantly so.

The road meanders alongside the Housatonic River.  In hilly places, it rushes over large boulders and down narrow defiles, making that soothing gushing, slapping, gurgling sound that is the basis for many a bedside sound-maker.  The temperature is a good ten degrees cooler and the river is bathed in shadow cast by an enswathing deciduous forest and its undergrowth.  Idyllic in tone, it soothes our tortured step as we plod along.  Waldo, distracted by the many new and interesting smells, noses about here and there, taking it all in.

Now that we are in the more rural parts of western Massachusetts, Waldo is enjoying himself more.  There are fewer cars rushing by, lots of new smells and an abundance of sticks.  Outside of the forested areas, there is less shade than on the Marlborough rail-trail (that runs between Marlborough and Hudson), because the highway is wider, and Waldo drinks a lot more water.  I have to watch him closely and make sure he gets all he needs to drink.  Avoiding the hotter times of the day is going to be essential too.  I can see it coming.

It’s nice to be walking somewhere different.  As much as I like the rail-trail in Marlborough, and I never tire of it, walking somewhere totally new is a welcomed change.  I have to be out walking Waldo anyway, so we might as well change things up a bit.  I never suffer from are-we-there-yet-itis because my walks with Waldo never end.  All Waldo-walks are of the to-be-continued-tomorrow sort.  We soon will be coming to a bike trail (Northampton Bikeway that runs from Haydenville to Northampton) that connects to the Norwottuck Rail-Trail (that runs from Northampton to Belchertown) — it will be nice to be able to follow a path that isn’t next to traffic.  The trail passes through Northampton, crosses the Connecticut River and then continues on to Belchertown.  The Connecticut River has become a waypoint for me because it’s close to where it will take us an hour to drive to where we start instead of two.  Belchertown is near the bottom of the Quabbin Reservoir, which serves as one of the sources of water for Boston, and is close to being in the middle of the state.  We are making slow progress, indeed.

The four of us are on a trek of discovery, doing it the way it used to be done.  On foot.  One step at a time.  Out in the open.  Among the forces of nature.  We walk along, taking in what we’re passing through and soaking up what we can.  We’re spent at the end and, as we drive back to the car we left at the start, I’m always amazed at how far we came.  It didn’t seem that far when we walked it.

And we still have some two hundred and sixty miles to go.


Rail-trail in our near future!

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