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Dinosaur footprint

boardDinosaur Footprints Reservation

Remember as a child, when you probably loved dinosaurs and were fascinated by those ancient creatures? Well, in Massachusetts there’s a special place where you can see their footsteps and imagine herds of dinosaurs roaming along the swampy river.

The fertile Connecticut River Valley in USA was once the haunt of dinosaurs and is the best place to find dinosaur footprints. Scientists believe it was a sub-tropical swamp around 200-190 million years ago. Today the area is especially known for its concentration of educational facilities.

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Dinosaur print

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Short trail leading down to the “Dinosaur rock”

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The large rock where visitors can see many dinosaur tracks

Of great geological interest are the fine-grained sedimentary rocks containing the tracks of dinosaurs that roamed the Connecticut River Valley approximately 200 million years ago. These footprints, pressed into the mud on the valley floor and baked by the sun, were later covered and preserved by additional layers of mud. Eventually they became layers of sedimentary rocks, primarily shale and sandstone. Today, these rocks reveal the fascinating story of the region’s prehistoric past. The creatures that once roamed this area were two-legged carnivorous dinosaurs, of different sizes, up to 15 feet long. Dinosaur tracks can be seen in their original formation in various locations.

We found the Dinosaur Footprints Reservation, an 8-acre wilderness reservation purchased for the public in 1935 by the Trustees of Reservations. The Reservation is just off Route-5 near Holyoke, Mass, and is open sunrise to sunset April 1-November 30. A short wood chip trail leads down, to a very large sandstone rock, from the small parking area, more a pull-off actually. It’s a very special place as it has more than 130 tracks in sandstone, apparently made by 3 different types of 2-legged dinosaur.

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Another dinosaur print

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Fossilized ripples

There are information boards about the history of the area and of the fossils in both English and Spanish and one of the boards tells us, “In the early 1970s, Yale University professor John Ostrom identified these tracks as being from three distinct, though related, dinosaurs. The largest prints (11-13 inches long) were from Eubronte giganteus, which stood 15 feet tall and had a 6-foot stride. The intermediate prints (6-8 inches) are from Anchisauripus sillimani, and the smallest (3-5 inches) from Grallator cuneatus. He also determined that almost all of the footprints were part of 28 distinct trackways, leading in very nearly the same direction. The tracks thus documented for the first time that dinosaurs were not always solitary but tended to travel as a ‘herd, pack, or flock’.”

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Dinosaur prints, and ripples

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Vera G, Heather D and Viv  by the Connecticut River

We try to imagine small herds of dinosaurs on the shore of a shallow tropical lake as we get a close-up look at their fossilized prints. Some tracks are more distinguishable than others at the small site that visitors can walk to here—a huge slab of sandstone. These tracks were unearthed when Route 5 was being constructed in the 1920s.

In the area are also many other fossils, of stromatolites, fish and plants, and of ripples in the sand.

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The Connecticut River has many sandstone ledges at this point

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Rod M and Heather D on the edge of the Connecticut River

The wide Connecticut River flows by very close to the reservation. It has many sandstone ledges that jut out into the water, also full of fossils that tell the long-ago story of this area.

If you want information about dinosaurs in this area, this seems to be a reasonable site, http://www.nashdinosaurtracks.com/first-dinosaur-tracks.php

 

 

 

 

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Viv M and Heather D

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If you look really hard you can see two people in canoes

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At this point the river is divided by an island

The Connecticut River is the longest river in New England. It is 410 miles long, the source at the Fourth Connecticut Lake near Chartierville, Quebec, and the mouth at Long Island Sound.

It is named after the Pequot word “quinetucket”, which means long tidal river. It runs through 4 states: New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut. It forms the eastern border of Vermont and the western border of New Hampshire but technically only flows in NH, which has legal claim to the riverbed all the way to the Vermont side. Interesting factoid!

It is wide and mostly slow-flowing due to many dams, so it is very popular with paddlers and canoes etc.

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The former railway bridge is part of the trail

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Our family group on the bridge

Near Northampton in Mass, where we were staying for a few days to visit family, we got to walk over the river as we walked a bit of the Norwottuck Branch of the Mass Central Rail Trail. It’s an 11-mile paved path that links Northampton, Hadley, Amherst and Bechertown along the former Central Massachusetts Railroad Company right-of-way. Passenger service on the railroad ended in 1932 and freight service in 1979.

The Rail Trail was opened in 1994, and our family in Northampton says it is very popular, for walking, jogging, inline skating and cycling. It is also wheelchair accessible.

We started at the Elwell Recreation Area on the edge of bridgeNorthampton and really enjoyed walking along the former railway bridge over the Connecticut River, wide at this point with an island in the middle. It’s a magnificent 1,492-foot iron bridge that parallels Calvin Coolidge Bridge nearby (for vehicles), named for the mayor of Northampton who would become the 30th president of the USA. Woods on both sides here make for a leafy peaceful haven.

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Trail directions

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Harrisville library overlooks the mill pond

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A typical narrow lane

One of the pleasures in traveling is discovering places with local flavor and Harrisville has that in abundance, as we discovered in May.

Nestled in the Monadnock Highlands of southwestern New Hampshire is the tiny brick mill village of Harrisville, where yarn has been spun since 1794. It is about 15 minutes from the town of Keene, and about an hour from Manchester. Some houses cluster in the actual village, but many are strung out along narrow winding lanes through the woods, or around the edges of the many lakes and ponds.

 

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Houses on a lake

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View of Mt Monadnock

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Another view of Mt Monadnock

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Rod M and Veronita G at Silver Lake, a short walk from our hosts’ house

Mount Monadnock (3,165ft) looms above pastoral farmland and tiny villages, such as Harrisville. Hiking to the top of it for the spectacular views became popular in the 19th century and today it still is one of the most frequently-climbed mountains in the world. A monadnok is an isolated mountain, the remnants of ancient crystalline rock more resistant to erosion than the surrounding rock strata. Geographers used the name of Mount Monadnok to describe similar formations elsewhere.

The village of Harrisville was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977. It is recognized as the only 19th century textile village in America that survives in its original form, and some say it’s the most photographed village in the state.

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From the library we look across the mill pond to an old mill building, now Harrisville Designs

 

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Veronita G, Phil G and Claire G (Phil works in the Harrisville General Store)

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Harrisville General Store

Harrisville is a lovely little place and we were lucky to visit with extended family living there (the Gargan family), who were very happy to show us around and tell us about their special place.

For example, Harrisville General Store one of the oldest general stores in continuous use, is perched on a hill overlooking the mill complex. It opened in 1838, but in recent years was facing an uncertain future, due to competition from big-box stores. About 10 years ago, the preservation organization Historic Harrisville Inc. took over ownership and leased it out to new management and M’Lue Zahner and Laura Carden took over. The managers are

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Inside the store

Phil Gargan and Samantha Rule who are committed to selling and preparing fresh local produce. They make pies, soups, sandwiches and salads fresh daily (try their signature kale salad with feta and dried cranberries), have a great pastry selection and also prepare dinner menus to take home. I’m told we shouldn’t miss cider doughnuts and grass-fed burger too. Besides being a popular place for the local community, it’s become a tourist destination in its own right and people are willing to make the detour to visit it, www.harrisvillegeneralstore.com .

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Harrisville library

The library is in a gorgeous old building overlooking the mill pond. It too has become a place to socialize.

Bit of History:

Water power attracted settlers to various remote locations in NH beginning in the late 18th century. In 1794 the first of several mills was built across the Nubanusit River to harness the water-power necessary for carding fleece brought down from local hilltop farms to the village. The Harris family built many of the original mill buildings and houses for their family and workers. Hence the name of the village.

In the mid-1800s the Colony family bought out the Harris holdings and created Cheshire Mills. When that business closed in 1970, a group of citizens and preservationists joined together and formed a non-profit organization called Historic Harrisville Inc. (the same group that saved the General Store). It soon bought several of the main buildings to renovate and lease out to businesses.

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Harrisville Designs

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Some of the yarns for sale

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One of the looms made by Harrisville Designs

John J. Colony III was very much involved in this venture. He realized that, as the mill buildings were being cleared and machinery was being broken down and sold for scrap metal, textiles would disappear from the village. So he started Harrisville Designs in 1971 to keep the textile tradition alive and to create jobs in Harrisville to help the village economy. Harrisville Designs still makes high quality 100% natural yarns for knitting and weaving, plus they make wooden floor looms in several sizes and styles. We enjoyed looking around at all the goods for sale. They also offer many different workshops and classes, and it’s become a place for locals to socialize too.

Harrisville Lake, which has loons as well as other water birds, has a small beach with imported sand and a nice kids’ playground. Our family there assures us that the water does get quite warm enough to swim. In fact, one family member swims regularly in a small lake near their home on a side road.

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The lake where Claire G swims—she goes across to that rock on the far side

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Harrisville Congregational Church

All around New Hampshire we saw churches with a very typical style of architecture and Harrisville is no exception. Many New England churches gained their familiar front towers and steeples between 1720 and the American Revolution. They were often adapted from the published designs of Christopher Wren and James Gibbs. The Harrisville Congregational Church, the Harrisville Designs building and the old library, all around the mill pond, create a very attractive picture of an early rural mill town—and it’s especially lovely when all are reflected in the mill pond.

Nearby, is Aldworth Manor, an old Italian-style Manor house being renovated as a wedding venue.

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Aldworth Manor

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Blueberry bushes early in the season

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Fiddlehead fern fronds for sale

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Phil G looks for fiddlehead fern fronds in the woods near his home

New Hampshire is well known for maple syrup and for blueberries, and we saw plenty of maple sugar trees and blueberry bushes, although it was early in the season so the bushes had nothing on them yet. It was also the season for fiddlehead fern fronds, which are delicious just lightly sautéed in butter. We saw some for sale in grocery stores, but our host also went foraging out in the woods next to his home.

 

 

 

 

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Harrisville Inn

Where to stay:

Harrisville Inn, 797 Chesham Road, run by Maria Coviello a charming lady originally from the British Virgin Islands, www.HarrisvilleInn.com

Where to eat:

The Harrisville General Store (mentioned above) makes great food, fresh every day. Or drive to the nearby village of Jaffrey to the Kimball Farm Restaurant, which has soups, salads, all kinds of fish dishes and an amazing selection of icecreams. Open mid-April to Columbus Day, Kimballsignhttp://kimballfarm.com/jaffrey/ .

 

 

 

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Sign on the sidewalk: North Adams is very much an “art” town

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Only a part of the eye-catching mural inspired by Egyptian stories

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Another section of this huge mural

Beautiful Murals in North Adams, Massachusetts

As you know by now, I love public art of all forms and we were happy to find lovely murals on our trip to the Berkshires recently. I’ll mention four, although we did see a couple of others.

The town of North Adams in the Berkshires has become an art friendly environment, as artists (both local and international), many local businesses, and the city government try to preserve this old mill town. Many of the old Ebigbirdmill buildings and warehouses are now converted into galleries, shops selling vintage items and plenty of restaurants. Street art has popped up on many of the brick walls too, especially after the public art projects—DownStreet Art, and the Mural Project (2012)—were started. This project was designed to revitalize downtown North Adams, by harnessing art organizations and events already in the city and changing vacant and open spaces into art destinations that make locals proud and attract tourists. Well, they certainly did attract us. We were only in town for a couple of days attending a family wedding, but we managed to find many of the fascinating murals.

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Alaa Awad is obviously a very talented artist

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EanimalsJust down from Public Eat and Drink (a great place to eat) is a long wall of eye-catching color. It’s a nearly 60-foot-long mural on the base of the Route 2 (Mohawk Trail) overpass—it’s beautiful and amazingly detailed. Egyptian artist Alaa Awad created it and gave it as a gift to North Adams. Awad has painted street art in Asia and Denmark and has had exhibitions and murals in Germany and throughout Egypt. This North Adams piece, though, is his first commissioned work in the USA. It was unveiled June 26, 2014. His work is inspired by historical

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A giraffe—I think

Egyptian tomb paintings, and his mural is covered in stylized figures of ancient gods, chimeric beasts, animals and people.

Awad aims to celebrate humankind and make Egyptian heritage known as a source of pride for Egyptians, and instill ideas such as “peace, mercy, justice and balance.”

Awad is a graduate and a faculty member of the Luxor Faculty of Fine Arts and Egypt, and he teamed up with fellow artists to use art to protest censorship, social injustice, and civilian lives lost during the revolution in Tahrir Square in 2011.

On the opposite side of the street is another large bright mural, this one very abstract. It was done by Maya Hayuk in 2012.

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Much more abstract

And on the back of the Mohawk Theater nearby is a huge colorful mural by Spanish art collective Muralismo Publico. It seems to have a flamenco/Spanish dance theme.

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In MassMoCA

In the lobby of MassMoCA (and therefore free to view) is a fascinating 120-foot-long mural by Barbara Takenaga, called “Nebraska”. She presents an image of the wide-open plains of her home state. Pulsating lines of white dots, repeated 14 times, radiate out from a horizon line, making us think of neat rows of corn extending as far as the eye can see, and an infinite canopy of stars above.

 

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Deer on a wall near Renee Restaurant

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Monkey on an underpass pillar

 

 

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hailsignHonoring the Mohawk Native Americans

Reaching out with Hope

When we attended a family wedding in the Berkshires this October, one of the things I was determined to do was visit the “Hail to the Sunrise” Statue on the Mohawk Trail. Luckily we were staying nearby, so it was quite possible. And we were not disappointed.

The Mohawk Trail is a 63-mile winding road stretching east from the Massachusetts/New York line, close to Williamstown, to Millers Falls on the Connecticut River, just beyond Greenfield in Massachusetts. It runs through part of the well-known Berkshires, and is especially beautiful to drive in fall when the fall colors are truly glorious.

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You can just see the Chief directly behind the circular pool

chiefRodThe Mohawk Trail began as a trade route for the Native Americans of the Five Nations and connected Atlantic tribes with tribes in Upstate New York, hundreds of years before European settlers arrived. They used it to pass between the Connecticut and Hudson Valleys. It followed the Millers River, Deerfield River and crossed the Hoosac Range in the area that is now northwest Massachusetts.

Hail to the Sunrise” is a lovely monument just outside the town of Charlemont, Mass, about halfway along the Trail. The Monument consists of a prominent statue of a Mohawk Indian and a reflecting pool, and is the main feature of Mohawk Park, a roadside park on the Mohawk Trail. It was sponsored by The Improved Order of Redman, and Degree of Pocahontas.

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The monument honors the peoples of the five Mohawk Nations that inhabited western Massachusetts and New York State. The Mohawks who traveled this trail were said to be friendly to while settlers. Today the monument is a reminder of the area’s Native American heritage.

The bronze statue depicts a Native American man in traditional garb

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Note the arrowhead-shaped inscription stone

looking eastward across the Deerfield River with his arms uplifted in supplication. He faces the direction of the rising sun and is greeting the Great Spirit. The bronze statue, created by sculptor Joseph Pollia (1893-1954), rests on a 9-ton boulder. It was unveiled in October 1932, attended by more than 2000 people. The arrowhead-shaped tablet on the base of the statue reads: “Hail to the Sunrise—In Memory of the Mohawk Indian. The Mohawks of the Five Nations began to settle in New York State in 1590 and for 90 great suns they fought the New England tribes. The New York Mohawks that traveled this trail were friendly to the white settlers.”

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One of the inscription stones

The pool is lined with 100 inscribed stones from various tribes and councils from throughout the US. The grounds are open to the public and the park is a welcome stop along the scenic highway. It’s a great place to stop and contemplate Native American culture and history and how these peoples were so badly treated overall by the white settlers. For me, the man’s pose gives cause for hope, like he’s reaching out for a better future.

Charlemont is an old town, first settled in 1749. Every summer, the Mohawk Trail Concerts take place in the old, acoustically-perfect Charlemont Federated Church. They have been held here since 1970, founded by Arnold Black, a violinist.

 

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