MAdventuring – Hawley, MA
During our long winter I hatched a plan to visit all the towns of Massachusetts and blog about it. We frequently drive around aimlessly just to enjoy a nice day and put a few miles on our old Saabs. I had a look at the last census to see how we could approach the challenge. I thought it would be good to start small. Gosnold is the smallest town in Massachusetts with just 75 residents, however it’s an island off Martha’s Vineyard and will take some planning to visit, so for now we’ll start with contiguous towns of Massachusetts. We landed on Hawley for our first trip. It’s a town in Franklin County up in Northwestern MA with a population of 337 (the 7th smallest town in the state). What drew me on googling around was Hawley Bog which is a preserved New England bog set in a deep glacial depression.
The entrance to the bog preserve is located at the old Hawley Town Common. Signs and a walking trail around the old common have been nicely done by the Hawley Historical Commission. Apparently the common was moved due to changes in the stage coach route, the need to build a new hall due to separation of church and state laws, and the temperance movement which brought an end to the taverns at the site. The placard for the site of the Sanforn Tavern euphemistically put it, “[the taverns] accommodated travelers and served as venues for male socializing outside the home.”
To access the bog, you follow the trail through the woods. There’s a sign-in box and shortly after you start walking on planks to go down through the bog. Because the bog is a very fragile ecosystem they ask that visitors stay on the planks, no dogs allowed, and groups of more than 10 should register in advance. Olive had to hang out by the car with us while we took turns walking down through the bog. The site is owned by the Nature Conservancy and the Five Colleges Consortium. More about the bog is posted on the Nature Conservancy website.
The flora was indeed lovely and unusual. A mix of woodland and wetland findings. The color of the pitcher plants was spectacular. And the water arum is so pretty, I couldn’t resist a Georgia O’Keefe-esk closeup. Others have seen orchids, but I think we were just a few weeks too early for those beauties. The peat moss was really lovely to see up close and is supposedly 30 feet deep in spots. Having the planks to walk through it is an amazing way to view it up close. (Just watch your step!)
If you don’t mind taking a short stretch of dirt road, you can take Forget Road and find SideHill Farm. There you’ll find a farm shop that’s open 9am-7pm daily with local dairy products, meats, and a few other products from their farm and other locals. We got ourselves a pint of maple ice cream and some Hosta Hill kimchi. We ate the Gray’s maple ice cream right there. Local cream + milk + maple syrup = exquisite. Maple syrup seems to get a more complex finish when it’s crystallized. So you get all that maple flavor as in syrup, but you get that extra taste at the end like a maple sugar candy. Only encased in cream. A rich natural cream that entirely coats the roof of your mouth. Simply delicious on this warm day.
Over several hours we meandered our way back home through back roads; route 62 is looking particularly spectacular. We bought some asparagus on the side of the road (the best kind – honor system coffee can, a few bunches in a bucket on a card table in front of someone’s house) and stopped along a lake for a quick walk with Olive the road dog. It was a successful first day-trip of the season – Old Blue is running great and the weather couldn’t have been better. You’ll notice that Saab rally legend Erik Carlsson rides along with us – Peter met him a few times over the years, and in 2005 Erik signed the glovebox of Old Blue. Sadly, Erik passed away earlier in the week, but we’ll think of him for miles to come.