Here are some photographs of last Sunday's adventure.
Skirting the rocky spine of the Berkshires, twin steel rails thread a path westward between Tekoa Mountain Range and the Westfield river, miles and worlds away from their Boston beginnings. On May 24, 1841, the first locomotive climbed into hilltown Chester from downriver Westfield, and by 1842, under the auspices of the Western Railroad Corporation, Chester had linked with Albany, New York. The advent of rail travel was a quantum leap in the transportation of freight and passengers across the unforgiving Western Massachusetts landscape.
The Mass Turnpike (I-90) bridge looms overhead as the swollen Westfield River mounts an assault on its stalwart foundation in an annual Spring ritual. The fishing is good along this stretch of the river when the current calms a bit, with plenty of parking along Route 20. B & G Sporting goods is nearby if you don't feel like digging worms.
A slab of stone alongside the rails hosts the determined etchings of hands now long at rest.
New growth sprouts from the charred trunk of a pitch pine tree. A fire in early April, 1999, claimed 1200 acres of the Tekoa Mountain Range and the life of 64 year-old John Murphy, the town of Russell's dedicated deputy fire chief, who made the ultimate sacrifice while battling the blaze.
A train rolls westward toward Springfield, the smoke from a distant fire billowing across its path. The John S. Lane & Son sandpit on Pochassic Road in Westfield is prominent in the center of the photograph. Glaciers grinding through the metamorphic rock of Western Massachusetts left plenty of sand and stone in their paths, much to the delight of quarrymen, and quite to the disdain of gardeners.
The graceful spans of the I-90 turnpike bridge lend an industrial elegance to this bird's eye view. Route 20, also known as Russell Road, parallels the Westfield River, seen here passing beneath the Pike on the far bank. The section of 20 known as Jacob's Ladder begins around here for travelers headed west through Huntington, Beckett and Lee and points beyond. It is a beautiful ride any time of the year. For folks interested in going a little further afield, I-90 west will take you clear out to Seattle. Send us a postcard, will you?
The Berkshire mountains: Blue and brown and gray. Spring comes a little later to the higher elevations of Western Massachusetts, bearing gifts of muddy roads and raging brooks. An old Strathmore Paper mill smokestack reaches skyward from the valley floor in the distance, dwarfed by surrounding sentinels of stone. Tekoa Mountain is about 1,130 feet at its summit. In comparison, Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts, is 3,491 feet tall at its summit, in the northwestern town of Adams.
Tekoa Mountain is home to many kinds of wildlife, including deer, bear and coyote. It is also populated by timber rattlers, a fact that is important for visitors to be aware of. They are mostly dormant in cooler weather, but a rise in temperature will bring these poisonous sun-worshipers out to the rocks to bask in the warmth of old Sol's golden rays.
For an assortment of maps of local concern, check out EWM's 'Trails, Rails & Roads: Maps' link, always available in the right sidebar. One interesting source is Maptech's Historical Topographic Maps web site, which includes mid-20th century maps of Western Massachusetts and many other locales. Here is a link to the Woronoco, Massachusetts Quadrangle from maps created in 1942 and 1951 from 1937 and 1951 surveys. The southwest quadrant shows Tekoa Mountain Range.
To find out more about the Berkshires, and to order a free, printed copy of the Official Visitor's Guide, which is a great way to seek and schedule fun events throughout the year, visit the web site, The Berkshires (berkshires.org)
As always, thanks for stopping by and take care.
Directions to Tekoa Avenue, Russell, Mass. via Google Maps: http://goo.gl/maps/43sO
Directions to Reservoir Road, Westfield, Mass. via Google Maps: http://goo.gl/maps/Bqmb