Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mt. Holyoke

Hiked up Mt. Holyoke today. We have a nifty little book called Hiking the Pioneer Valley, which we have dipped into quite a few times, always successfully. Nifty book, very clear, accurate directions.

This hike was mostly up, pretty steep, and amazing gorgeous views at the top of the whole valley. On a clear day you can see Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire and Hartford to the south. Mt. Holyoke is the tallest in the Holyoke Range, which is just south of Amherst and runs west from the Connecticut River. It was a perfect fall day, leaves starting to drop, the air moist and cool, mostly.

The river is extraordinary spread out before us, looking like something something out of my high school geology text book, with all its bends and turns. It goes on and on and when it overflows its banks, as it did massively in 1984, it spreads all that good silt on the fields and we reap the bounty.

On the top is the Summit House, a former hotel from the early 19th century. Some folks are restoring it and it was cool to walk around and imagine being a lady in all those skirts come to take the country air.

Then we hiked back down, stopping by Devil's Football, a huge basalt boulder just off the road, to see if indeed its iron content threw off our compass (not today) and went over to the Belchertown Fair. This is a wonderful community event, clearly a big fundraiser for school and community groups, and something the whole town not only looks forward to but participates in. The horse pulls were my favorite, these massive animals pulling 12,000 pounds of concrete a couple of feet. It was a lot of fun, the best local fair I've been to, I think, precisely because it was so homespun.

On another note (no pun intended) we've been sad here because we no longer hear our thrush, which Dave says was killed by the neighbor's cat. He says thrush nests are low to the ground and the birds are small, and he came upon Snowball right after he had pounced. I miss it. Lily asked me to post its song for your listening pleasure.

We don't hear nearly as many birds now, and it's not just because it's the first day of fall. I noticed the Hallelujah Chorus, as the previous owners called the morning song bird exaltation, fading out by, oh, July. Then for a while we heard tons of peepers. Then it was crickets and some other insects. We still hear the crickets, but lately I've heard a lot of crows and, most recently, Canada geese. I thought I'd hear song birds, sort of, all summer until they went south or wherever they go. But I guess not. Not so many song birds now. And I do miss our thrush.

Dave and I were commenting today on how alive and changing our woods are. We don't even get into them woods that often, so our observations are based on their presence right up to our door. Watching them through the kitchen and bedroom windows and listening to the changes. We haven't seen bears in some time, not since August when I saw three, including two destroy part of our neighbors' peach tree. Just walking out to get the paper I notice that the air smells fabulous, alive is the word, rich and meaty. I think we'll have to walk to the lake again tomorrow morning. Maybe we'll have to get that dog, a perfect excuse for a walk...

We've decided not to wait and to have our windows redone this fall, as our original, early '70s windows, that are really pretty crappy. It may be in the seventies in January again but you can't count on that, and I don't want to be cold in my home this winter.

Anyway, I mention it because, while we're at it, we're going to put a third window in our bedroom in between the two already there. We moved our bed this week so we now look out the windows when we are lying down. And the new ones will have to be up to code, so lower and larger. I can't wait. It'll be a lovely way to wake up in the morning (thank goodness I'm a morning person).

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