Tag Archives: Holyoke

Heritage State Park (Holyoke, MA)

 

Date Of Visit: March 31, 2017

Location: 221 Appleton St., Holyoke, MA

Cost: Free, although there is a fee to enter or use some of the attractions at the park such as the Children’s Museum, Volleyball Hall Of Fame and the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round

Hours:

Park hours

Sunrise to sunset

Visitors center hours

Sunday:
12:00 pm-4:00 pm

Tuesday – Saturday:
12:00 pm-4:00 pm

Parking: Free onsite parking for about 50 cars is available in Visitors Center lot

Park Size/Difficulty: 7 acres/Easy

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes, leashed dogs are allowed

Highlights: merry-go-round, canal, children’s museum, volleyball hall of fame, easy trail, statue, picnic area, play area, guided tours of the area

Website: Holyoke Heritage State Park

Tip: From May through mid-October, the park offers hour-long narrated train rides on a 1920s vintage railroad on Saturday and Sunday.

Fun Facts:

  • Holyoke is still known as the “paper city” because during the 19th century the city produced an estimated 80% of the writing paper used in the United States and was home to the largest paper and alpaca wool mills in the world
  • Between 85% and 90% of Holyoke’s energy which is powered by the municipally owned canals pictured below was carbon neutral as of 2016
  • Holyoke is also the birthplace of volleyball

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Among the abandoned and dilapidated buildings of a once thriving mill town there is a special park that preserves the history of the area while providing family friendly entertainment and honoring their heroes.

The first building you notice upon entering the park is the Holyoke Merry Go Round.  The affordable merry go round ($2 per ride) is very popular with children celebrating birthdays (perhaps I can have mine there).  The merry go round, which was once part of Mountain Park (an amusement park that used to be located in the area), has been around in one capacity or another since the early 1900s.

 

Railroad tracks remain at the park as a reminder of what was a staple of the area.  The railroad tracks are no longer in use.  Yet they remain a reminder of the railroad system that bisected the area.  The last photo shows the end of the tracks right next to the entrance of the Children’s Museum.

 

The Children’s Museum At Holyoke is located along the path of the canal (444 Dwight St).  Although we didn’t go in, I did take some photos of the some murals on the exterior of the building.

 

Located next to the children’s museum is the Volleyball Hall Of Fame.  Again, due to time constraints, we did not visit the museum.  But, it is certainly on my list!

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I loved walking along the canal.  The views of the old factories and the canal offered some nostalgia and pretty views.  I also appreciated the simple, yet historic, feel of the park.  It is, in a word, charming, despite the many abandoned buildings in disrepair that line the canal.  It felt like a refuge from the busy, crowded streets, although I am sure it is much more crowded during the summer season and when the temperatures rise (if that may ever come).

 

Along the walkway, which is handicapped accessible, there is a small picnic area and play area.  There are also some interesting exhibits.

One of the exhibits is a storm drain art display.  The artful displays encourage people to not pollute.

 

This flywheel stands near what was once the location of Skinner Mill.  The mill was sold in 1961 and burned in 1980.

 

The pearl of the park is the statue dedicated to all of the officers who have lost their lives while on duty as police officers.  The officer’s names are all engraved on the monument.

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There are three police officers’ names listed on the monument.  All three of these officers died while on duty working for the Holyoke police.

Officer John P. Driscoll lost his life on April 25, 1922 when he succumbed to injuries sustained when he fell from the running board of a car that he had commandeered after pursuing a vehicle that was being driven by a drunk driver.  Officer Driscoll had been with the agency for five years and was survived by his wife, five children and parents.

Officer James Gatzounas  died after being assaulted as he and other officers responded to a fight at a New Year’s Eve street party on January 1, 1977. During the altercation, Officer Gatzounas was kicked and punched as he attempted to place one of the suspects under arrest.  He later died after going into cardiac arrest.

Two suspects, ages 19 and 17, were charged with first degree murder. When Officer Gatzounas’ autopsy revealed he died of cardiac arrest instead of injuries from the beating, the charges were reduced to manslaughter.  Officer Gatzounas had been with the agency for 18 months and had previously served with the United States Army during the Vietnam War. He was survived by his wife and child.

The Man displayed in the statue, flanked by two children, is John A. DiNapoli.  Officer DiNapoli was shot and killed i his vehicle while he was following a suspect.  Officer DiNapoli had served for 21 years.  DiNapoli was known for his service to the community.  he and a few other officers started a Christmas tradition of giving toys to the children of Holyoke who lived in high crime neighborhoods. He was survived by two grown children.  His son also became a police officer.

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Below is a short video from the Holyoke Merry Go Round

 


Robert E. Barrett Fishway (Holyoke, MA)

Date Of Visit: May 13, 2017

Location: 1 Bridge St, Holyoke, MA

Hours: (hours during the 2017 Fishway Season)

May 3 through June 11, 2017
Days: Wednesday through Sunday
*Also, open Memorial Day, May 29
Time: 9 am – 5 pm

Cost: Free

Parking: There is a small parking lot for about 10 cars.  Additional parking is available on Bridge St on the sides of the dirt road at the entrance

Handicapped Accessible: No.  I did not notice an elevator to access the fishway.

Dog Friendly: No.  Dogs are allowed on some of the property outside.  But, they are not allowed past a certain point and they are not allowed in the building (service pets maybe allowed though)

Highlights: family friendly, educational, historical

Website: Robert E Barrett Fishway

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Every year around this time of the year, thousands of shad, bass, eels and other aquatic critters make their way to the Holyoke Dam as part of their annual migration.  That’s where the people at the Robert E Barrett Fishway come into the picture.

The Robert E. Barrett Fishway staff have been helping fish (mostly shad) make their migration since  the mid to late 1800s when they actually had to use buckets, ropes and levers to help the fish along.  Now, they used modernized technology to help thousands of fish a day make it along the dam.  In 2016, they helped 422,649 by their manual count done by college interns.  The interns use a clicker to count each fish.  And you thought your job was tedious.

These days, the fish are carried up by a mechanical cage-like trap pictured below that collects the trapped fish about every 10 minutes.  These traps can carry 500 to 700 fish at a clip.

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The fish are attracted to the stream that leads to the fishway by, of all things, oxygen.  Peter, our friendly tour guide, told us they add oxygen to the water and the fish, with their keen senses, are attracted to this slight change.  Once they are channeled into the stream, the fish are trapped between two gate-like structures and visible behind a glass window where they are counted by the interns with clickers.  They are also visible to the thousands of visitors who stop by each year.

The fishway is named Robert Barrett, the former President of Holyoke Water Power, who, in 1955, was inspired to create the first fish elevator on the east coast of the United States.  Since then, the fishway has emerged as one of the busiest fishways in New England, if not the nation.

I have always thought fish were cute and resilient.  A lot of people don’t seem to agree on this (at least on the “cute” part).  But, think about the dangers and obstacles they face every day from predators (including people) to nature itself, the fish has withstood so much and still perseveres.   In fact, we have a lot (or at least those things) in common.  Think about it.  Something so small and, frankly, taken for granted gives us so much and overcomes so much.  Yet, we often consider them insignificant or “yucky”.   Then again, the fact so many people don’t appreciate them, makes me do so all the more.  In any case, I was very excited to see them all through the windows at the fishway.

After they are released from the cage, the fish make their way along the Connecticut River.

Turkey vultures and other birds of prey, perch on the various tree branches by the fishway for easy pickings.

Even if you can’t make it to the fishway for the annual fish run, you can go for a walk, observe the bird life or even take your dog along the property to enjoy the beautiful views.

On the grounds of the fishway is one of the original ways that helped power the dam.  It sure has come along way from those days.

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Peter was our friendly tour guide.  Unfortunately, the flash didn’t go off for the photo I took of him.  But, I wanted to include his photo anyway.

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Unfortunately for the shad, there was the annual Shad Derby Tournament the 2nd and 3rd weekends in May.  Fishing enthusiasts were bringing their catches to the parking area of the fishway to be weighed for the $1,000 cash prize.

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Scott Tower (Holyoke, MA)

Date Visited: July 30, 2016

Location: 8 Scott Tower Rd, Holyoke, MA, behind the Community Field Park at 51 Community Field Park, Holyoke, MA

Hours: Open everyday, no hours listed but it can be dangerous at night

Cost: Free

Parking: Roughly a couple of dozen parking spots are available at Community Field

Dog Friendly: Yes

Time To Allot For Visit: Between half and hour and an hour

Highlights: the tower, pretty views of West Springfield and the surrounding area, wildlife, plant life, easy mile hike

Lowlights: Graffiti all over the tower (all. over), a lot of broken bottles and other litter on the premises, some stairs to the top of the tower have holes in them or are missing, tower not accessible by car

Fun For One: Yes

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The walk to the tower is an easy mile walk with a few moderate inclines.  An easy way to locate the trail to Scott Tower is to look for the overpass.  Walk directly under the overpass and stay on the asphalt trail.  There are a lot of side trails and trees, plants, graffiti and remnants of what looks like used to be a waterfall or wall.  Now, the party days are way behind the Nomad but zig zags and 4:20?  Well, I guess things don’t change that much after all.  You crazy Holyoke kids.

Below is a side by side comparison of what the tower reportedly looked like in its heyday (July 16, 1972), a photo of what it looked like in May 31, 2004 and what it looks like now (July 30, 2016).  Yes, it’s pretty cringe worthy.

As a footnote, the tower was originally built in 1942.  Also, there used to be a fence around the tower which you can see at the bottom of the second photo taken in 2004.  The fence seemed to work as there is very little if any graffiti on the tower in the second photo.  Of course, the fence was torn down (presumably by visitors) and the graffiti and vandalism escalated.

There was also a lot of rustling in the brush from squirrels, chipmunks and other types of wildlife.  The vulture on the pole we saw on the way to the tower seemed like a bad harbinger.

Once the main attraction of Craft Hill at Anniversary Hill Park, Scott Tower is now a shell of what it once was.  Graffiti and litter cover the tower and it appears to be in disrepair.  In fact, you can see some remnants of what look like what used to be tables or shelters.  Even with all of the graffiti and litter, the tower is still impressive.

Not all of the graffiti was just messy chicken scratch.  Whenever I go to a landmark in MA, especially Western MA, there is bound to be some artistic renderings.  There wasn’t anything too artsy there but these images did catch my eye.

 

Scott Tower has two areas for observation.  There is an observation deck on the second floor and there is an enclosed area at the top of the tower.  The tower offers views of nearby Mount Tom and the Holyoke area.  The views are pretty sweet.  Just be careful if you  do go to the top.  Some of the stairs are missing or have holes in them.

It’s pretty far down from the second floor of the tower.

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The tricky thing about accessing Scott Tower is you have to park at Community Field Park (use the entrance off Cherry St).  The entrance is behind the park.  There is usually a gate up that you can easily navigate around.  You will have to pass under an overpass on your way to the tower.  It is about a mile walk to the tower.  You will see many side trails on your way to the tower but stay on the main trail for the easiest, most direct route.

While I was at Community Field Park before we began the walk to Scott Tower, we saw this beautiful dog.  Remy is a 4 year old Black and Tan Coonhound

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Below are some videos of a walking tour of the tower.  I really had to watch my step in the first video.  So, it’s mostly a video of the stairs and me wheezing.

I had to stop the second video so I could take some photos of the openings in the tower and the walls.

Just as an aside, I am regularly updating my categories at the top and bottom of my posts.  The “fun for one” category at the top simply means it can be fun to do by yourself.  Being a single person, I often take this into account before I decide to photograph or visit places.  I went with my mom this time so it was a lot of fun but it was something you could do by yourself or, better yet, with a dog!

Similar places in New England I have visited:

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Poet’s Tower, Greenfield, MA

bancroft

Bancroft Tower, Worcester, MA

Similar places in New England I have not visited (yet):

scargo

Scargo Tower, Dennis (Cape Cod), MA

newport

Newport Tower, Newport, Rhode Island

 


Dinosaur Footprints Reservation (Holyoke, MA)

Date Visited: May 31, 2016

Location: US-5, Holyoke, MA – it comes up pretty quick (about half a mile from the entrance to Mount Tom on Reservation Rd).

Cost: Free

Hours: Open from dawn until dusk

Parking:  There is room for about 5 cars.

Dog Friendly:  I didn’t see during my visit.  But, yes, they are welcome!

Highlights:  Dinosaur footprints, Connecticut River behind the footprints, active wildlife, very short and easy trail to the footprints and river

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A long, long time ago, the entire Connecticut River Valley, specifically the Holyoke area, was home to a variety of dinosaurs.   And you can still see their footprints in the ancient mudflaps of the region.  There are also remnants of flowers and even ripples of water from the streams that once flowed in the area.

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The prints are believed to have been formed during the early Jurassic period, making them approximately 200 million years old.   Or, about as long as your average RMV/DMV wait time.

The main types of dinosaurs that are thought to have existed in this location are theropod dinosaurs.  Theropod dinosaurs are mainly 2 legged creatures.  Some of the more well-known Theropods are  Tyrannosaurus Rex, Velicoraptor and Torvosaurus (think some of the dinosaurs from the Jurassic Park movies).  It is believed these types of dinosaurs evolved into the birds that we now see so prevalent in the area.

I did see a lot of bird life but I didn’t see any theropods.

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One of the nice surprises was seeing the stream behind the footprints; the Connecticut River.  In fact, although seeing the footprints was cool, this may have been the highlight of the trip for me.

The Dinosaur Footprints Reservation is a great place to visit if you want to check out some cool remnants from a distant era.  But, it is also a nice place to go and sit by the river or go fishing.  Just don’t stay too long if you start seeing the water shaking.  You know, like in the movie.

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Ashley Reservoir (Holyoke, MA)

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Date Visited: February 6, 2016

Cost: Free

Parking is limited.  There are about a 10-20 parking spaces but many people park sideways rather than horizontally since there are not clearly defined spaces in the lot.  So, sometimes only a dozen or so cars can fit in the lot.  It’s best to get there early in the day.

Hours: Sunrise to Sunset

No dogs or fishing are allowed since it is a reservoir.

Ashley Reservoir is a photographer’s dream destination.  You don’t have to try hard to find pretty places to shoot.  One of the things that stood out from my shoot was just how much the weather changed in the hour and a half that we spend there.

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Ashley Reservoir is a 4 mile loop (there is a shortcut you can take that is about 1.5 or 2 miles).  The trails are well defined and, when there isn’t snow and ice on the ground, would be easy to navigate.

 

One of the many interesting parts to the trail are the paths that seem to cut across the reservoir and connect back to the trails.

The photo below was not doctored.  It is the particles in the snow as the sun melted the snow.  But, I thought it looked pretty cool.  The last video posted below shows these sparkles.

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Since it is a popular destination for runners, walkers and nature lovers, the geese, ducks and other birds are not as skittish as they are in other parks and reservoirs.  It was luncj time for the geese.  The last video at the end of the post shows the sparkling snow.

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Now, this is what I call a cluster duck.

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Despite the cold temperature and the icy trails there were several runners out at Ashley reservoir.

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The trees and plant life were grand even during the winter when some of them were bare.

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Check out the videos below for more fun from Ashley Reservoir

 

 

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Mount Tom (Holyoke, MA)

Sometimes you find treasures in the most unexpected places.  Such is the case with Mount Tom.  Tucked away off Route 202 in Holyoke, Mount Tom is a 20 minute drive outside of Springfield, MA, is not one of the first parks that comes to mind when you think of the plethora of state parks in Western Massachusetts.  In fact, it almost seems to pride itself on being a hidden jewel.  Unless you were specifically looking for the park, you could easily pass right by it. DSC_0859 While there is not a designated parking lot for Mount Tom and barriers prevent cars from entering the paved trails, you can usually find parking just outside the park.  Or, since there are various entrances to the many trails, you can find places to park along the side of the road to the main entrance. The first impression of Mount Tom is slight disappointment.   Pretty views of flowers and landscapes are spoiled by chain link fences. DSC_0874 DSC_0871 However, with some effort and ingenuity, you can work around these barriers.  With the aid of some strategically placed rocks and other objects that you can climb, you can get some beautiful, unobstructed views of the park and Western Massachusetts DSC_0881 DSC_0894 DSC_0892 DSC_0891  DSC_0887 Mount Tom is also a popular spot for paragliding (the speck between the two wires is a paraglider) DSC_0908 There are a variety of flowers such as black eyed susans, sumac and daisies .  Although various plants are plentiful, I found many of the flowers and plants to be somewhat drab and not artfully laid out.  I suppose this does give Mount Tom a more natural feel.  But, the colors didn’t pop off like they do at other parks, such as Stanley Park and Prescott Park in New Hampshire just to name a few that I have visited recently. DSC_0915 DSC_0938 DSC_0909 DSC_0111 DSC_0077 There is also a variety of wildlife at Mount Tom.  Both creatures big and small reside at Mount Tom such as frogs, falcons and groundhogs.  There were also some chipmunks and a variety of birds that were too elusive for this photographer to capture. DSC_1001 DSC_1002 DSC_0997DSC_0102 We also spotted fresh hoof prints from an animal, most likely deer, that had recently been in the area. DSC_0049 Along the way , we found some buildings in disrepair and graffiti riddled because, of course, what else would you do to a perfectly good abandoned structured?  Just another example of why we can never have nice things.  The graffiti and vandalism aside, the structures gave a nice backdrop to some of the shots. DSC_0958 DSC_0957 DSC_0972 DSC_0999 Finally, we arrived at the crater like area of Mount Tom.  Although many people lay claim to the inspiration of Mount Crumpit from Dr. Seuss’ Whoville in the story/show/movie How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Squamish in British Columbia for one), Mount Tom is rumored to be the inspiration for the tale.  Since Theodor Seuss Geisel (“Dr. Seuss”) was from nearby Springfield, Massachusetts, it is a good chance this is the place that inspired him.  See for yourself (and these aren’t even the “best side” of the hill). DSC_0012 DSC_0009 DSC_0030DSC_0028DSC_0029  DSC_0027   DSC_0032 DSC_0034 It’s a long way down there.  Be careful. DSC_0015 Satanists in Holyoke.  Who knew? DSC_0008 Having traveled a “good distance” (not to be too precise), we agreed it was time to head back.  Along the way, we saw flowers and landscapes that made for fine landscape photography. DSC_0964 DSC_0994  DSC_0989   DSC_0977 DSC_0970 Bees and butterflies hovered over and landed on the plants, lighting and pollinating them.  The orange looking objects in the photos are not flowers but rather butterflies. DSC_0060 DSC_0061 DSC_0985 DSC_0983 A brook runs through Mount Tom. DSC_0930 DSC_0927  DSC_0931 The cliffs and jagged rock that formed on Mount Tom were formed many years ago from faulting and earthquakes.  This, coupled with the cooling and heating of the Earth’s surface made for some unique shapes and surfaces. DSC_0088  DSC_0085 DSC_0084 DSC_0083 Of course, no blog post of mine would be complete without a photo of a dog.  None were present during my stay at Mount Tom.  So, I made a special stop at Westfield Dog Bark (yes that is the name).  Mollly was my obedient subject.  But, she seemed more interested in something in the distance. DSC_0124 Mount Tom is massive and little did we realize at the time the majesty awaiting us on the other side of the rocky hill.  It was only after I had googled images of Mount Tom that I realize many of the other parts of the park that we did not reach.  That clinched it.  Another trip to Mount Tom is in order.