On the Ridge: Where to spend “the dog days”

Published: 7/10/2019 8:34:27 PM

Whew! As I write this, the heat and humidity have my complete attention. The “dog days of summer” have arrived. But what exactly does that phrase mean?

Wikipedia says: The “dog days” are summers’ hottest, most sultry days. They’re also linked historically with the period following the heliacal rising of the star system Sirius, which Greek and Roman astrology associated with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck. The Ancient Romans called these hot, humid days “diēs caniculārēs” or “dog days.” The name came about because they connected the hottest days of summer with a star in this system, known as “Canis Major,” or large dog star, because it was the brightest star in the constellation. So bright that it was thought to radiate extra heat toward Earth.

Their writings also tell us that the “dog days of summer” occur from about July 17 to around Aug. 24. Well, I’m sure you are not surprised when I say that this definition seems a little over the top to me. Grandpa always said that when Grandma slept barebacked, you knew two things: No. 1, the corn was growing and No. 2, the “dog days of summer” had arrived.

Grandpa’s definitions never quite did it for me either, even though as a boy, I believed everything he said. Today my reliable source consists of “The Old Farmer’s Almanac,” which lists the traditional timing of the dog days of summer as July 3 through Aug. 11. Based on the weather lately, that seems just about right. Summer weather is here to stay for now, though the good news is there are many places to beat the heat while enjoying some of the best recreational fun our region has to offer. I’ve compiled a list of places close to home that are tough to beat for both fun and adventure. But first, a couple of quick reminders.

Last week’s column about crop damage has garnered some attention from both farmers and landowners who are seeking potential help with crop damage. Here is updated contact information if you wish to obtain an application to document any crop damage you may have sustained

• Don Graves (jadeskunk@gmail.com) and Ron Gleason (Gleason.r@comcast.net). The boys say keep those cards and letters coming in.

The 2019 antlerless deer permit application deadline is July 16. If you apply by then, you must check back after Aug. 1 to find out if you have been awarded the ability to purchase a permit. The award period begins Aug. 1 at 8 a.m. You can check the status of your permit through MassFishHunt, or by visiting a MassWildlife office or license agent location. Permits cost $5 if you are a successful applicant.

Places to visit this summer

Clarksburg State Park with over 365 acres of hardwood forest surrounding Mauserts Pond is a great spot for camping, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. Take advantage of foot trails surrounding the pond to look for wildlife, like moose or otters. Ideal for beginner anglers, Mauserts Pond is a 49-acre, shallow, man-made pond offering great warm water fishing opportunities. And, just outside Clarksburg State Park, you’ll find excellent trout fishing opportunities along the North Branch of the Hoosic River.

DAR State Forest in Goshen is a great place to enjoy fishing, swimming, and camping. Whether you’re fishing for trout in Upper Highland Lake, or for largemouth bass and yellow perch in Lower Highland Lake, it is a popular destination all summer long. The 50-site campground is located on a ridge between a scenic wetland where moose, bear, and beaver roam. If you’re into hiking, trails with options for all experience levels will keep you busy. Especially if you make your way up to the DAR Fire Tower for a great mountain view.

Mohawk Trail State Forest is one of the most scenic woodland areas in Massachusetts, covering 6,000 acres of mountain ridges, gorges, and woods where campers enjoy camping, fishing, hiking, swimming, canoeing and kayaking. Trout fishing on the Deerfield and Cold River is always great. You can also fish in the Chickley​​​​​​​ River or Clesson Brook just outside the state forest. 

Tolland State Forest has in its center a 1,065-acre peninsula Otis Reservoir. With a great boat ramp and ample shore access for fishing, anglers will enjoy catching a variety of fish here, including bass and stocked trout. There are campsites available on the peninsula that juts out onto the Otis Reservoir, which provides a unique camping experience. 

Beartown State Forest in Monterey, a 12,000-acre forest, is my favorite no matter the season. Benedict Pond is great for everything. The gravel boat ramp used to launch car-top boats, canoes, and small electric crafts is perfect. Shore fishing is excellent especially for largemouth bass, yellow perch, and golden shiners. In addition, a hike around Benedict Pond looking for wildlife like deer, bobcats, bears, and even moose is often productive.

Joe Judd is a lifelong hunter and outdoorsman. He is an outdoor writer, seminar speaker, consultant and active member of the New England Outdoor Writers Assoc. Joe is also a member of the Quaker Boy Game Calls, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Pro-Staff.


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