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.
The Crafts of Colrain Studio Tour has always had something for everyone and this year, while we hunker down in the pandemic, the tour (mostly) moves on-line over the weekend of November 14 and 15. For those renovating their homes, learning new crafts, learning to cook from scratch, looking for children’s activities and wanting to keep warm, the artisans have updated websites and Etsy shops to show and sell their work. Links to all of the sites are found at CraftsOfColrain.com . Although most of the artisans will offer their work only on-line, several of the studios will be open, weather and COVID restrictions permitting. The website will provide up-to-date news.
Cooks will relish wooden spoons and other useful kitchenware from new members Neil and Rosemary Stetson, an enticing array of chicken potholders by Jen Kapitulik in brand-new fabrics, inlaid cutting boards by Al Ladd and classic toast tongs by Ken Noyes, who will display his work outdoors at his workshop. For those embarking on home renovation, hand-forged iron accessories from nails and hooks to sconces and lamps at Morrell Metalsmiths, photographic art from nature from another new member, Mason Willard, photos of Franklin County settings and railroad themes by Joe Kurland, and Peggy Davis’s calligraphy of inspirational words and images will bring a fresh perspective to a home.
Being home has taken on greater meaning these days, and Crafts of Colrain artisans will help one stay warm and busy. Of course, Moonshine Design with its mohair socks, knitted hats and woven wraps and throws by Cynthia Herbert is a popular destination. She plans to be open under tents on the Tour weekend. Artists and crafters will find supplies for felting, knitting, weaving, rug-hooking and spinning at Keldaby and from Carole Adams and Jen Kapitulik.
And while all the artisans have gift-worthy items at their sites and in their studios, special gifts for the season are featured in Inge Jockers’s Etsy shop. She works with gold, silver, bronze and gemstones to create delicate contemporary jewelry inspired by nature and antique designs. Marilyn Beals’s natural-dyed silk scarves, Peggy Davis’s upcycled cloth accessories,
many inspired by Japanese designs, and Carole Adams’s herbal salves, kitty toys and lavender heating pads all make wonderful presents.
Many local businesses continue to support the Crafts of Colrain tour and they are listed on the website. The tour is on the weekend of November 14—15, 10—5 p.m. A link to a sale coupon on the Tour website good for those two days only. http://craftsofcolrain.com
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
2020 Festival has been canceled due to COVID-19.. Visit the Green River Festival website fpr online content.
Summer wouldn’t be summer without the Green River Festival, a three-day feast of music and hot-air balloons on the scenic Greenfield Community College campus.
Now more than three decades old, this festival evolved from a one-shot, fifth-anniversary party in 1986 to celebrate a progressive music station, now called “The River.” The music of 10,000 Maniacs and NRBQ drew about 2,000 people to that first event. Since then, thousands have come for such headliners as Dr. John, Taj Mahal, Beausoliel, Norah Jones, Arlo Guthrie, Mavis Staples, Lucinda Williams, and the Avett Brothers.
This music festival is becoming legendary in its own right, combining a line-up of 30 to 40 acts on stage, local foods, beer and wine, handmade crafts a dance tent and plenty of activities for children.
It was included as one of 50 essential summer festivals in the New York Times and was also mentioned in Rolling Stone Magazine as a “must-see” music festival in 2015. Your seat is your picnic blanket or a lawn chair on the sprawling fields of the college campus.
By Diane Broncaccio
Several hundred people satisfy their spring-fever wanderlust with a scenic drive through “pottery country,” during the annual Asparagus Valley Pottery Trail weekend in Western Massachusetts.
The free, self-guided tour takes visitors throughout Pioneer Valley to see the work of roughly two dozen potters in nine local potter’s studios.
The studios are located along the Connecticut River Valley, but the changing list of guest potters each year come from all over the country.
“We’ve had great potters come from all over the country,” says Tiffany Hilton, who is one of the artists who helps to promote the event. “It’s a great way for people to see where the creative process takes place – and (to see) the lifestyles of our artists. We also have a lot of hobby potters and student potters come around to get inspiration,” she said.
Nestled in the hills and along the rivers of Western Massachusetts you’ll find creative craft beverage producers offering small batch liquid art using the freshest local ingredients. Make an afternoon of drinking at the source. Meet the producers at some of our favorite cozy Franklin County tasting rooms and see how your libations are made. Roll the windows down and take a slow ride through landscape that yields what may become your next favorite drink.
March is Maple Month in Massachusetts and Franklin County sugarhouses are yielding the first taste of spring as the maple sap begins to flow. Whether you kick off spring with breakfast at a sugarhouse or pick up fresh maple products including syrup, candy, spread, or other maple items, there are delicious options awaiting.
With Franklin County’s rural landscape featuring more than 75 percent of its acreage in forest and open land, it is no surprise that winter recreation abounds. Whether your destination is a resort or multi-activity facility or a quiet pond, the most rural county in Massachusetts is sure to please. From downhill and cross-country skiing to snowshoeing and snowmobiling, we’ve got your winter adventures covered. Bring your sports equipment and hit one of the many state forest trails, or travel light and check out the full-service options at Berkshire East or Northfield Mountain. Make it a weekend and stay at a cozy inn or rustic cabin and dine out for delicious meals of locally sourced foods and be sure to sample local micro brews, wine, or spirits.
By Cori Urban
Matthew Cavanaugh photo
Almost a dozen years ago Bruce D. Lessels traveled with his wife and two daughters to Chile — where 22 years earlier he had trained for the U.S. Whitewater Team. When he stepped off the bus in the same town, the first person he saw called to him by name.
Perhaps it was a coincidence, but for Lessels, co-founder and co-owner with his wife, Karen J. Blom, of Zoar Outdoor Adventure Resort in Charlemont, it was memorable. It was through his passion for whitewater racing that he developed connections to Chile and to people there, and it is because of that passion that he hopes to help people connect to one another and to nature at ZOAR.
By Ben Watson
When Judith Maloney arrived in Franklin County with her husband Terry back in 1972, they had no idea they were going to settle down here. The couple had been living in San Francisco, where Terry had just completed his medical training at the University of California, and Judith had gotten her teaching certification.
“We figured this was just the cross-country road trip that everybody takes once in their lives,” Judith says.
But in this back-to-the-land era the young couple wound up buying a piece of land and settling in the town of Colrain, eventually building a post-and-beam house from timber harvested on Catamount Hill.
By Cori Urban
TURNERS FALLS—John D. McNamara has spent years hunting for treasure, and when asked what his favorite find has been, he smiles. It’s not an interesting industrial steel mold or a well-worn workbench or even drawings of silverware from the former Lunt Silversmiths.
“Erin,” he replies simply, looking at Erin K. MacLean, his business and life partner.
She blushes, and they laugh, the comfortable laugh shared between people who enjoy each other’s company and know each other well.
But if pressed for a favorite “thing,” he has found for Loot Found + Made, the business they run in Turners Falls, McNamara gives the nod to eye glass and fork and spoon super-sized steel or epoxy dies. “They are super decorative,” he says of the finds from about a dozen years ago.