Trail Mix: nature activities in our area

Catamount Hills hikes

The Deerfield River Watershed Association plans three spring free hikes in the Catamount Hills: April 26, May 3 and June 14.

∎ Saturday, April 26, will be the Earth Day hike of about 2 1/2 miles. Hikers will meet at the top of East Catamount road at 10:oo a.m. and will follow the East Loop out past the Shippee place, a very large cellar hole, then a bit of woods walking without a trail and back to the cave for lunch. After lunch, there will be exploration of the caves and dens so flash lights are desirable. The hike will focus on early spring flowers, rocks, pools and anything else of interest. Bring lunch, flashlights, water and unscented bug repellent. The 1901 Catamount Hill Association reprint will be for sale for $15 and the Puzzle of the Catamounts booklet will be available for $5. To reach the starting point from Route 112 in Grizwoldville, Colrain, take the Adamsville Road a half mile to Lively Road on the left then a quick left onto East Catamount Road (steep and dirt) to the end where there is parking. Please register with the leader, Muriel Russell at 413-6254-3311. Rain will cancel.

∎ On Saturday, May 3, the association will co-sponsor a trip with the Pioneer Valley Institute to visit the historic Conway Station site. The site was important as the junction of the Conway Electric Street Railway serving the industries of Conway by trolley to the New Haven Railroad and later the Boston and Maine Railroad. To make this happen, the New Haven Railroad built a 550-foot bridge 160 feet above the South River and the trolley later built a lower, shorter bridge across the Deerfield River to the Boston and Maine Railroad. Both of these bridges are long gone, but pictures will be available to see. Now there is a new pedestrian bridge over the South River using the piers from the railroad bridge only 30 feet above the river. There will be as much hiking as people wish along the Mahican-Mohawk Trail, which follows the railroad bed and also a side trip to see the dam and power station, which once powered the electric trolley. People should meet at Conway Station at 10:30 a.m. or at the Big Y parking lot at 10 a.m. to car pool.

∎ On Saturday, June 14, to celebrate Flag Day and to raise a new flag at the school house, there will be a walk co-sponsored by association and the Catamount Hill Association. To join this hike, meet at the corner of Route 112 and the Charlemont Road in Shattuckville, Colrain. There will be car pooling to the trail head. The trail ambles up to the Monument to raise a new flag. We will pass the house foundations of some of the families who were at the first flag raising May 1812. We will explore the Farley home and barn foundation and also Dorcas and Peter Shippee’s rock-wall house site. After lunch, we will walk over to the south end of MacLeod Pond and will visit a vernal pool before heading back to the cars via the impressive Holden barn foundation. Please bring water, lunch and unscented bug repellent. Contact Muriel Russell for more information at 413-624-3311.

Northfield hike Sunday

There will be a hike in Northfield State Forest Sunday. Hikers should meet behind the town hall in Northfield for car pooling to the trail head. No further information was available at press time. Contact Sam Richardson with questions: 413-498-5931.

Great Falls Discovery Center

2 Avenue A, Turners Falls, 413-863-3676, Open to the public Fridays and Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. All programs are free to the public unless otherwise noted. Facilities are accessible.

∎ Saturday, April 19, 1 to 2 p.m. Watershed Investigators: A Pool Party for Nature; Vernal Pool Exploration. A monthly child-oriented program that focuses on hands-on discovery of local nature. Explore different ways to look at the natural world around us. Methods of discovery may include crafts, games, stories, and exploration. This program is geared toward grades 2 to 5, but everyone is welcome. This month, explore seasonal vernal pools and the frogs and salamanders that depend on them. This program will likely have an outdoor component so bring warm clothes, waterproof boots and a sense of adventure.

∎ Saturday, April 26, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Winter and Spring Pre-School Series: Salamanders and Frogs. Wetland critters are on the move. Learn about their homes, songs, and habits through stories, crafts, and activities. For ages 3 to 6 with a parent or guardian. Siblings and friends welcome.

∎ Saturday, April 26, 1 to 3 p.m. Swoop into Spring: Learn About and Celebrate Bats. Join students of the Deer Paths Nature Education Center to take a closer look at bats. The program features activities for families with children, songs, skits, displays and a showing of a film regarding the natural history of bats and conservation efforts. Light refreshments provided. There will be a raffle for a bat house and other prizes and all proceeds will be donated to BatCon, specifically to help with White Nose Syndrome. This event is created and hosted by students at Deer Paths Nature Education Center in Wendell as a culmination of their bat studies. For more details, go to or call 978-544-1990. Free admission, but donations will be accepted and all money will be given to Bat Conservation International.

Northfield Mountain

99 Millers Falls Road (Route 63), Northfield. 413-659-3714 or 800-859-2960. Owned and operated by FirstLight Power Resources.

∎ Water Dances. On Saturday, April 26, from 7:30 to 8:45 p.m., come to Northfield Mountain’s Riverview Picnic Area Pavilion on Pine Meadow Road in Northfield for Water Dances. This public sound-and-light ceremony is a gesture of appreciation to the Connecticut River. A collaboration between celebration artist Phyllis Labanowski of Conway, Brazilian sound artist Ricardo Frota of Ware and those who come to dance or watch, the evening will include vibrant, multicultural percussion and illuminated hula hoops. Observers may bring snacks and arrive at the Riverview Picnic Area Pavilion (156 Pine Meadow Road) by 7:30 to watch the sunset and enjoy the transition through dusk into dark. The performance begins at 8 p.m. Bring a flashlight, lawn chair or blanket and an extra layer for possible spring breezes off the river. Event occurs even if some of the water is coming from the sky that evening, but heavy rain will cancel. Call 413-659-4461 after 5 p.m. that evening if weather is questionable. All are welcome. There is no fee but donations are welcome.

∎ Bennett Meadow Blooms. Enjoy an evening immersed in the magic of spring at Bennett Meadow Wildlife Management Area on Thursday, May 1, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. with Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center naturalist Beth Bazler. The diverse habitats there include rich floodplain forests bursting with spring wildflowers, fertile farmland with the hills of Northfield in the distance and beaver ponds hosting nesting waterfowl and spring peepers. The group will wander, watch and chat about plant and animal discoveries unique to this ephemeral season. Collecting and preparing fiddlehead ferns to enjoy with our own picnic supper will provide participants with a true spring tonic. This 2-mile walk may include bushwacking and muddy, uneven terrain to add a little adventure to the evening.

The walk is free and is appropriate for ages 10 and older. Please register by calling Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center at 1-800-859-2960.

∎River Stories; Photography Walk with Beth Reynolds. On Thursday, May 15, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., take a closer look at the human-natural interface at Turners Falls through the camera’s eye. Photographer and teacher Beth Reynolds will coach participants on shooting quality images while packing light and Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center Naturalist Beth Bazler will share information on eagles, river geography and access above and below the Turners Falls Dam. Bring only one camera, a light-weight tripod and one or two lenses — or your point-and-shoot digital camera. The group’s focus will be on learning to pay attention, reading the light and sharing in the observations of other group members to create better photos. Wear an extra layer as the river can be a breezy place on a spring evening. Reynolds, owner of Base Camp Photography, has a Masters of Fine Art in photography from the University of Hartford and teaches photography at Greenfield Community College. This event is for ages 10 and older and is free. Call 1-800-859-2960 to register and to receive directions and a to-bring list.

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