Holiday leaf peepers travel the Mohawk Trail
The view of Greenfield from Route 2 on Columbus Day. Purchase photo reprints »
Hager's Farm Market on Route 2 in Shelburne. Tourists came for shopping and apple picking during the Columbus Day holiday. Purchase photo reprints »
Amber Browning sells fried dough at Hager's Farm Market on Route 2 in Shelburne. Purchase photo reprints »
SHELBURNE — Leaf peepers, apple pickers and fall lovers swelled the Mohawk Trail — shrouded in crimson foliage, intertwined with mountain streams and smelling of sweet maple syrup and hot apple cider — on Columbus Day.
Over the peak foliage weekend, city dwellers and fans from the eastern part of the state headed west on a backed-up Massachusetts Turnpike to get a glimpse of the brightly colored Berkshires and foothills.
The Mohawk Trail ran more smoothly than the Interstate, police reported Monday.
In Shelburne Falls, photographers and sightseers crowded and crossed the Bridge of Flowers. Full of the wafting smells of waffles, pure maple sugar candy, corn fritters and hot apple cider, Goulds Sugar House welcomed visitors for the 53rd year. “It’s been a wonderful holiday,” Linda Gould, daughter of owner, Helen Gould, said. “If you’re coming along the trail, you’re coming to Goulds.” At the entrance of her restaurant, her mom greeted every customer.
Taking a bite of maple drizzled and buttered waffles, Joe Tilly said he had traveled from Readsboro, Vt., for 17 consecutive days for the taste of Gould’s old-fashion battered breakfasts.
“I’ve been coming here for years and it hasn’t changed,” Tilly said.
On Monday, Tilly and his friend, Donna McCaul, of West Springfield waited a half-hour for a table.
At Hager’s Farm Market, an organic fruit retail store where people can buy ice cream, whoopie pies, and maple syrup, lines of customers filed throughout the store. The market sold fried dough over the weekend, attracting more visitors.
Outside, tourists climbed in the apple orchard to pick their own apples.
“It’s been a good weekend,” Chip Hager, owner of the farm, said. “People are looking for apples this time of year. Pick your own is getting better.”
Many local orchards’ apple harvest were dismal this season due to the late April frost that chilled the growing crops. Hager’s produced less than half of its crop — 2,000 bushels compared to its usual 5,000 to 6,000 bushels. Despite this, Hager said is store is doing well, relying on its retail market.
The weekend proved a success when compared to last year, when Hurricane Irene flooded the county and cut off the Trail between Shelburne Falls and North Adams.
“It’s been good especially compared to last year when the road was closed. We didn’t get rained out,” said Joyce Root, owner of the Mohawk Trading Post. This weekend the popular item at the Native American store was moccasins.
In the southern part of the county, cars filled the parking lot at Yankee Candle in South Deerfield throughout the three-day weekend as people gathered for hayrides, pumpkin painting with Santa Claus, train rides and candles.
“We are thrilled to see crowds coming to our store,” said Karen Woods, director of public relations. “It continues to be one of the most popular weekends. This is the time of year we look for large crowds.
Yankee Candle’s restaurant, Chandler’s, was also full to capacity every day as it drew in walk-in eaters.
Candle shoppers also showed up in droves at Kringle Candle Company in Bernardston.
“We are very, very busy,” said Tim O’Brien, a spokesperson for the two-year old candle company owned by the son of Yankee Candle’s founder. “We’re pleased with the response.”
O’Brien said customers have traveled from Hartford, Albany and Boston for a sweet scent of Kringle’s candles.
However, one popular Columbus Day destination, the Deerfield Inn on Main Street in Deerfield, is still suffering from last year’s fall storm.
Last year, Tropical Storm Irene sent water from the Deerfield River flooding into the historic inn, inundating it with 5 feet of water and drowning the basement and guest rooms.
Though the inn has reopened 12 guest rooms in the Carriage House, the 11-room main building and the abutting Champney’s Restaurant and Tavern remained closed for what is normally the 128-year-old inn’s busiest weekend of the year. On a normal holiday, the restaurant would serve 100 meals a day.
“This year we’re full to capacity because we’re at 50 percent of what we normally are,” Innkeeper Karl Sabo said. “It is not as good as previous Columbus Days.”
The restaurant and remaining 12 guest rooms are undergoing renovations. Sabo said the restaurant hopes to transition from fine dining to a casual restaurant, where local residents can grab a bite to eat after work.
The completion date remains unknown.
“It’s all speculative now,” Sabo said.
Kathleen McKiernan can be reached at email@example.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.