We headed out to the Brimfield area for a bike ride recently, an overcast weekend morning. We hoped to find the Grand Trunk Trail parking area in Brimfield to be mostly empty. Despite the unfavorable weather, more cars than we were comfortable with had beaten us to the trail, so we moved on to Plan B–road biking a little farther west just off Route 20.
We found an unobtrusive place to park, assembled our tandem bicycle, and headed out. The foliage, while not “peak,” is absolutely stunning already. It feels early, and we suspect the drought conditions being experienced throughout the state are stressing the trees and causing them to take on their fall colors earlier than normal.
We pedaled along quiet roads, starting at Haynes Hill Road, near a small brook. On our return, we had climbed to the top of Haynes Hill and descended back down the hill to our starting point, taking in gorgeous views along the way.
Much of our route abutted the Brimfield State Forest, offering both woodland and small streams, some of them dammed by industrious beavers.
We caught the scent of wild grapes, and when we passed back by that area, we paused. Yes, some luscious large Concord grapes quite ripe, almost overripe, were within easy reach. What a wonderful addition to the lunch we’d packed to enjoy on the road.
In Wales, we came across a horse watering trough, erected in the late 1800s. I was sorry not to get a picture–one side was for horses, and the other side, quite low to the ground, had an additional receptacle designed to allow for dogs to slake their thirst. It was truly adorable.
Once we wrapped up our sixteen mile bike ride we headed a little farther west. We stumbled across the Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary, which was closed the day we visited. It certainly deserves a return trip. The trails look inviting, and the holdings for this sanctuary are impressive (8000 acres from our reading).
We found a picnic spot at Conant Brook Dam, an Army Corps of Engineers property in Monson. We did not make the time to explore the trails on our visit, but headed down near the water to have a late lunch. Beware, if you visit, the wasps near the trail kiosk near the parking area–they were quite persistent.
The foliage throughout this trip was startling, deep hues of burgundy, orange and bright yellows. The hillsides offered perfect backdrops for the splashes of color that dotted each slope. Apple trees are loaded with fruit, some bright red, while other varieties are green.
We ended our explore at the banks of the Chicopee River in Wilbraham, underneath the MassPike. It was an easy place to pull off and grab a river view. No paddling for us this trip, but the views, wherever we stood, were wonderful. Happy trails!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress. She is a co-author of the recent community history, Bellingham Now and Then.