Category Archives: western massachusetts

Pomeroy’s Maple Sugar House (Westfield, MA)

Date Of Visit: March 25, 2017

Location Pomeroy’s Sugar House, 491 Russelville Rd, Westfield, MA (about 2 hours west of Boston, MA, 20 minutes west of Springfield, MA)

Hours: Fri – Sun, 7:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Cost: Free tour of the maple sugar making house

Handicapped Accessible: The farm is but the restaurant might not be

Highlights: Maple sugar making, breakfast and bruch., cows and calfs

Website: Pomeroy’s Sugar House

 

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It’s March and that can only mean one thing.  Well two things.  Your March Madness bracket sheets are probably as marked up as a fifth grader’s book report  and it’s maple sugar house season. Since this is the peak of maple sugar season, we decided to take a trip to Pomeroy’s Sugar House.  Pomeroy’s Sugar House is a third-generation restaurant and maple sugar making house in Westfield, MA.

Because of the weather conditions during this time of the year, March is considered “Maple Sugar Making Month” in Massachusetts and many of the other states in New England.  The best conditions for collecting and producing maple sugar syrup is when the temperatures are cold at night (below freezing) and mild during the day (in the 40’s and warmer typically).  The season is supposed to last about 5 weeks.

The process begins usually during the beginning of the month of March when the temperatures begin to warm during the days.  The freeze and thaw process alters the pressure in the trees and gets the sap flowing so it can be collected.  Holes are cut into the maple trees with drills and spigots jut out from the trees.  Buckets are then propped up against the trees to collect the sugar   During their growing season, the maple trees create starch.  As the temperature increases, enzymes in the tree transform the starch into sugar during the Spring thaw.  The trees then absorb water through their roots which mixes with the sap and voila you have the makings of a tasty treat that is  considered a emblematic of New England.

Some of the more modernized maple sugar plants use tubing rather buckets to collect the sap.  But,many of the sugar houses still use buckets.  It gives it a more traditional look and it also shows visitors just how the process works step by step.  Each tree can usually yield between 10 to 14 gallons of sap per bucket with some trees having 2 or 3 buckets attached to them.

Even after the sap is collected the process is not complete yet.  Not even close.  Sap is 97.5 % water and only 2.5% sugar.  So it needs to be boiled down to get to the tasty goodness to makw syrup.  Through a long and somewhat arduous process, the sap is processed and turned into syrup with the help of these machines.

The truck below is one of the trucks Pomeroy’s uses to transport their sap from trees at other locations.

Fun fact (unless you’re one of those making the maple sugar): it takes 40 gallons of maple sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup.

Fun fact number two: the Native Americans introduced the process of making maple syrup to the European settlers.  It was all downhill from there.

The demand for these sugary treats is high.  In fact, the restaurant ran out of maple syrup during our visit.  But, the friendly staff at the sugar house were busy preparing more for later that day.  If you get the chance to go today, the staff at Pomeroy’s said they would have more by 5 p.m.  Or, stop by another day!

There is also a farm in back of Pomeroy’s Sugar House.  The cows were in their pens.

A baby calf was hiding in his or her hut but the calf eventually got out to say hi.

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Buttonball Tree (Sunderland, MA)

Date Of Visit: January 5, 2017

Location: 158 N. Main St, Sunderland, MA

Parking: You can park on the side of the road at or near the tree.  It’s a residential area so please be safe when viewing

Cost: Free

Hours: everyday, 24 hours a day

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: “widest tree this side of the Mississippi”, biggest sycamore tree in Massachusetts, 300 plus year old tree

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On a nondescript road in Sunderland, MA, stands a tree.  A big tree.  But, no, this is no ordinary “big tree.”  This is the widest tree in the Eastern part of the United States.

The Buttonball tree, located on N Main St,  is over 113′ high, with a girth of 24’7″ and has a spread of 140′.  Pretty big, huh?  The locals think so.  Because of its size and its legendary status, locals have dubbed the Buttonball Tree, “The widest tree this side of the Mississippi.” It is also considered, wrongly, to be the “biggest” this side of the Mississippi.

In fact, another tree in Massachusetts may hold this claim.  Or, at the least it may be the tallest this side of the Mississippi.  The Eastern White Pine in the Mohawk State Forest in Charlemont, Massachusetts, is listed at 174 feet in height.  And there are many others that are taller than the Buttonball.

For instance, the “Boogerman Pine” (186 feet tall) located in the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, is considered by many as the tallest tree in the U.S. east of the Mississippi.

In addition to these trees, there could be some huge, crazy big tree in some forest or park somewhere that has yet to be recorded.  As you can see, it is a hotly contested claim!

So, the claim of “largest tree east of the Mississippi” is a title that has been debated.  But, the Buttonball still holds the title for widest tree this side of the Mississippi.  OK, enough fun tree facts.  For now.

Who knew it would be such a contentious subject!  Who knew there was so many details about these trees? But, there’s more to the tree than it’s girth and height.  Besides, it’s not the size…never mind.

While the title for largest tree east of the Mississippi may be up for debate, one thing is for: the Buttonball Tree is one big tree!  It is the largest sycamore tree in Massachusetts and one of the largest trees of any kind in Massachusetts.  Once part of the Sunderland forest, the tree now stands in a residential area.  I bet the neighbors just love all the attention.   (another) Fun fact: because of their longevity, during the 17th and 18th century sycamores were sometimes planted at the door of new house for newlyweds as “bride and groom” trees.  The trees lasted much longer the marriages I am sure.

Not only is the Buttonball Tree big, it is historically significant.  And old.  I mean really, really old.  The tree is estimated at being between 350 and 400 years old.  And you thought you were getting long in the tooth.

Without further delay, ladies and gentlemen…the Buttonball Tree….

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In 1987, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of signing of the Constitution, a plaque was engraved in a stone and placed in front of the tree.  The plaque is engraved with the following:

1787 THE NATIONAL 1987 ARBORIST ASSOCIATION AND THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIETYOF ARBORICULTURE JOINTLY RECOGNIZE THIS SIGNIFICANT TREE IN THIS BICENTENNIAL YEAR AS HAVING LIVED HERE AT THE TIME OF THE SIGNING OF OUR CONSTITUTION

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Great Barrington Kennel Club Dog Show (Eastern States Exposition Center, West Springfield, MA)

Dates Of Event: February 4 and 5 (the dates may vary but usually it is the first weekend in February)

Location: Better Living Center at the Eastern States Exposition Center (1305 Memorial Ave, West Springfield, MA)

Hours: 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Cost: Free (there is a fee to park)

Parking: $5 to park at Gate 9 for the entire time you stay.  There is ample parking for the event

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly:  Of course!

Web Site: Great Barrington Kennel Club Dog Show

Great Barrington kennel Club Web Site: Great Barrington Kennel Club

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The Eastern States Exposition Center in West Springfield, MA has gone to the dogs.  Literally.

The Exposition Center hosted the Great Barrington Kennel Club Dog Show this weekend and there were a wide variety of dogs to view, sometimes pat and of course photograph!  Every dog was beautiful in her or his way and there was dogs of all kinds for any dog lover to appreciate!  I tried to photograph dogs of a variety of breeds and sizes.  There were so many cute dogs so this wasn’t a problem.  I hope you enjoy the photos of these cute beasts!

There were large dogs like this 2 and a half year old Great Dane named Leo.

And small dogs like this 15 month old Pomeranian named Scarlett.

And there were dogs of all shapes in between!  As you can tell, there were dogs of all sizes and colors.

The dogs were judged in groups at different times throughout the day and the winning dogs received ribbons.  One of the things that stood out to me There were so many cute dogs to see at the event.  Below are some of the beautiful dogs I saw at the show.

Annie is a 1 year old Belgian Tervuren.

Albert is a 15 month old Lhasa Apso

Cooper is a 4 year old Irish Setter.

Charlie is a 6 month old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

This smiley 18 month old Siberian Husky is Squishy.

But, how does he see?  Jambo is a 2 and a half year old Briard.

Named after the hot and humid southeast to southwestwinds originating as hot, dry desert-air over Northern Africa, Sirocco is a 4 and a half year old Portuguese Water Dog.

As you may be able to tell the second photo, the Portuguese Water Dog is often groomed to show off his posterior.  In addition to their tails, which act as rudders, the short trimmed fur helps them swim.

What would a dog show be without a Golden Retriever? Sometimes you just gotta have Faith, a 4 year old Golden Retriever.

Jubi (short for Jubilee) is a 1 year old Samoyed.

Sadie is an 8 month old German Shepherd.

Tess, a 1 and a half year old Airedale Terrier, is a search and rescue dog in training.

This affectionate 2 year old Burnese Mountain Dog is Dylan.

Breanna is a 7 month Clumber Spaniel

Blaze is a Portuguese Waterdog.

Lucca, named after the Italian city by the same name, is a 3 year old Belgian Shepherd.  All of that posing makes you hungry!

Kensi, an adorable 6 month old English French Bulldog, barked at my camera while he posed for me.  Cameras can be scary things!

Tasha is a 2 year old Gordon Setter.

Believe it or not, even Saint Bernards are small at some point in their life.  Night Blu Sky is a 3 month old Saint.

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That’s one way to get his attention!  Hampton is a 3 month old Skipper Key.

Harleigh, a 9 month old Great Pyranese, is a therapy dog for special needs people and seniors.

Dizzy is a 2 year old French Bulldog.

Clyde is a 1 year old German Short Haired Pointer.

Billy is an 11 month old Irish Setter.

Flair is a 19 month old Saint Bernard.

Maikai Maika is a 13 month old Saint Bernard.

Eliza is a 6 month old Smooth Collie.

Sophie (in the back and on the left in the photos from left to right) is a 5 year old Newfie.  Berg, her daughter , is 5 months old.

Titan is a 9 month old Great Pyranese.

Limerick, a 2 year old Brussels Griffin, looks like he’s saying, “What are you looking at?”  Just looking at a cute dog.

Leo is an 8 month old Cavalier King Chafrles Spaniel.

Peyton is a 1 year old Soft-coated Wheaton Terrier

Benjamin is a 3 year old Corgi

Mac, a 15 month old English Mastiff, is a gentle giant.

Maybelline is also an English Mastiff.

Tabitha is a 7 month old Chow.

Apollo, a 200 pound and 5 year old Saint Bernard, won “Best Of Breed.”

Timber is a 2 year old Rodesian Ridgeback.

Brie is a 4 year old Standard Poodle.

Capone is a 2 year old English Mastiff.

Juice, named after the acclaimed singer Juice Newton (yes I am being serious), is a one year old Chinese Shar-Pei.

No, that is not “Cousin It.”  Sorry for the decades old reference. Mirror is a Bergamasco Shepherd.

Jasper is a 4 year old English Sheep Dog.

Elda is a 2 year old English Setter.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get the name of this cute Colored Bull Terrier

Mica is a 2 year old Wire haired Pointing Griffon.

There were also vendors at the event who sold everything from clothing and jewelry to pet treats and toys.

While the dogs were judged and winners were selected, they’re all winners in my book!

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Williamsburg General Store (Williamsburg, MA)

Date Of Visit: January 14, 2017

Location: 12 Main St, Williamsburg, MA

Hours: Open daily, 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Parking: There are about 5 parking spots in front of the store and room for about a dozen more cars in the rear parking lot.

Handicapped Accessible: There is a ramp on the side of thhe store but it may still be difficult getting through the entrance door.

Highlights: Daily baked bread and other baked goods, ice cream parlor, historical

Web Site: Williamsburg General Store

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As a youngster, I used to love the family trips to New Hampshire and other far flung parts of Massachusetts.  One of the sharpest memories I have are visiting the local general store (I especially liked the old time “penny candy”, funny how  somethings never change).

A recent search on Google retrieved 3 general stores in the Western Mass area (basically west of Springfield, MA).  While their numbers are dwindling, these shops still exist and I was lucky enough to find one in my travels in Williamsburg, MA.

Since the weather has been cold and the trails icy, we nixed our plans to hike some of the trails in the area.  Luckily, the Williamsburg General Store was located near the center of town.

The general store has been a staple of the town for over 140 years.

The general store, built in 1876, still has the original furnace that was used with the fireplace that once stood in the front part of the store.  I couldn’t help to think of all of the famous, and not so famous, people who had walked through the store before me.  It’s also survived the Depression, recessions and, not least of all, New England winters.

The general store seems custom built for tourists.  Memories rushed over me as I walked past the stuffed animals, t shirts with quirky sayings and other tchotchkes you would only purchase when you’re on vacation for some reason.  It is deceivingly long inside.

The ice cream parlor area used to be a post office years ago.  There is a table and chairs to sit down at and enjoy your coffee, ice cream or other treats.  And the bread, pastry and other bake goods are baked fresh everyday by one of the employees who travels at least half an hour each way to work there.

It’s not dumb luck this store has lasted so long.  The nostalgia, homey feel and pleasant staff make this place a great shop to stop by on one of your journeys to Western Massachusetts.


Norman Rockwell Museum (Stockbridge, MA)

Date of Visit: October 15, 2016

Location: 9 Glendale Rd, Stockbridge, MA

Hours:

May – October and holidays:
open daily: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

November – April: open daily:
Weekdays: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Weekends and holidays: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Parking:  There is a  large parking area for 100 or more cars across from the museum.

Handicapped Accessible: Yes, and they even have a separate parking lot for handicapped parking beside the museum

Dog Friendly: No

Highlights: original art work by Norman Rockwell, other works of art by various artists, sculptures behind the museum

Web Site: Normal Rockwell Museum

Nothing may say Americana like the work of Norman Rockwell.    And, in a small town in the Berkshires you can still view this idyllic vision of America from so long ago.

But, even before you enter the museum, there is art abound.  Along the walk way to the museum there are these unique sculptures and works of art.

Since it was the middle of October during our visit, the grounds of the museum were bursting with colors.

Rockwell was a prolific artist and his work is widely regarded as being some of the finest art in modern American history.  Virtually every home, office or school has at one point hung a Rockwell painting, or more accurately somewhere in their building.  In fact, I remember seeing this one in my doctor’s office.

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The museum allows photograpy, just not flash photography.  So, make sure to grab your DSLR or make sure your camera phone is fully charged before you go.

It’s so hard to choose the best Rockwell painting, especially since everyone has different tastes.  But, here are a few of the paintings at the museum.

Throughout the day, a curator or other staff member gives a brief lecture on the life and works of Norman Rockwell.

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There are also works of art by other artists at the museum.  They range from more traditional works of art to modern works of art.  There wa also a special tribute to cartoonist and satirist Thomas Nast during our visit.

Behind the museum is an open area with sculptures, some of who were sculpted by Norman Rockwell’s son, Peter Rockwell.  The art work is very creative.

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“Monster” made from fiberglass resin by Peter Rockwell, 2014

Sculpture by Peter Rockwell

“Junkyard Baby Buggie” made of license plates, tools, hubcaps, antique bottle and miscellaneous articles by Thomas Fiorini listed at $11,000.

Sculpture by Peter Rockwell

“Birdy Buggy” by Erika Crofut.  Made of steel, vines and trash treasures.  Listed at $2,200.

“Nuclear Family Totem” by Angelo J Sinisi, made of steel and bronze.  For the low low price of $4,000.

“Christmas Buggy On Main” by Dee Moretto, made from wood, bondo, metal, fabric and paint.

“Bedrock Carriage” made of gypsum cement, copper and mocha moss, made by Thomas Mesquita.  It’s all yours for $3,000.

“Bachelor” by Nicole Peskin made of found objects and welded steel.  Listed at $9,000. Maybe I need one of these for my bachelor pad.

Sculpture by Peter Rockwell

 

There is also a tour of Norman Rockwell’s studio.


American Legion Park (Feeding Hills, MA)

Date Visited: July 3, 2016

Location: 478 Springfield St, Feeding Hills (Agawam), MA

Hours: Open everyday, 24 hours a day

Cost: Free

Time To Allot For Visit: 5-10 minutes

Parking: While there is no designated parking area for the park there is plenty of parking available at the American Legion Post located behind the park and parking is available at the strip mall across the street

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: sculpture, tank, memorial, well manicured grounds

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I don’t know about you but I’m really stoked to see that Judas Priest cover band.

But the real attraction on Springfield St in Feeding Hills (a territory in Agawam, MA), is the tank and Freedom Eagle sculpture located in front of “The Tank” American Legion Post 185.  The Tank is an eatery/event venue servicing veterans.

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DSC_1028The tank is a M-60 tank monument dedicated to all veterans (past, present and future)

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Donated in 2005, the Freedom Eagle shows an eagle soaring through the air, fish clutched tightly in his or her grip

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There is also a memorial from the town of Agawam in remembrance of the people who served during World War I.

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Although it is a small park there is a lot to take in and it certainly makes you proud and grateful.

The area is also a common spot for dog walkers.  Across the street, we saw a group of four big dogs being walked.  This is a group of Bernese Mountain Dogs.  The dogs go to the local senior center and  visit Alzheimer’s patients as therapy dogs.

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From left to right: Roma, Tony and Lena (one of the other dogs was a bit camera shy).

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Bash Bish Falls (Mount Washington, MA)

Date Visited: March 12, 2016

Hours: Open everyday from sunrise to half an hour after sunset.

Cost: access to the trails and waterfalls is free. It may cost if you rent one of the Bash Bish cabins at nearby  Taconic Falls.

Bash Bish Falls

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Located in the most southwestern part of Massachusetts, Bash Bish Falls is considered one of the most dangerous waterfalls in not only Massachusetts but the entire United States.  It is also one of the most beautiful.

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According to legend, Bash Bish was the name of a Mohican Native American woman who was accused of adultery which was punishable by death..  Bash Bish was pushed over the falls while tied up in a canoe.

The shape of the falls is said to resemble a woman falling to her death. Another theory claims the segmented characteristic of the falls resembled the reuniting of Bash Bish and her daughter White Swan who had also disappeared over the falls according to the Mohican legend.  If the rapids of the stream leading from the waterfall and the speed of the water falling from the waterfall are any indication, the restless spirits may still be there.  It is also a good reason why swimming is not allowed as the rapids can be very strong and it is easy to hit a rock.

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Bash Bish Falls is located in Massachusetts, just past New York/Massachusetts border.

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There are several entrances for Bash Bish.  One of the entrances, at the top of the hill from the Massachusetts entrance on Falls Rd, gives ample evidence as to why Bash Bish may be considered such a dangerous waterfall.  The stairs, which are a generous description, and walkway, also a generous description, are rocky and treacherous.  There is a railing to hold on to.  But, it’s still a tricky path.

I would recommend using the first parking spot on Falls Rd, if you’re traveling from Massachusetts.  The trails are easy to moderate with a few slight inclines from the first parking lot.  It is a 3/4 mile walk to the waterfall from the parking area.

There are many interesting rock formations along the trail. Little known factoid: I learned a new word recently for the strange piles of rocks stacked creatively that we often see along trails and at beaches like the rocks in the first two photos in the top row of photos below.  They are called cairns, unless you ask a conservationist or geologist in which case they will condescendingly call them just rock piles since real cairns are nature made and not man made.

Bash Bish Falls is a popular spot for dog walkers.  I met the following dogs during my hike.

Charlie

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Juno, a Rottweiler and Shepherd mix

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Cassie, a Bernese Mountain Dog.

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Murphy, a beautiful Golden retriever

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To get a better perspective of the waterfall and the stream leading from the waterfall, I have attached the following videos.