We didn't get far today! Saturday, 6/25/16

We have had a ball in Ballston Spa, New York!  Where is that, you ask?  Before coming here, I'd have said, "Search me."  Now I know it's just south of Saratoga Springs.  When we discovered an Elks lodge with an electric hookup in Ballston Spa, we didn't bother trying to locate an RV park on a Saturday.  Electric was important because the temp was high enough to need A/C.  While hooking up, the lady who showed us where to park mentioned that the town was having a fire truck parade at 11:30 -- o boy, I love a parade!  Good thing we only had 20 miles between last night and today, 'cause we got here early ...

... early enough to stop at their farmer's market, where Jimmy got to pet a bunny rabbit, and I got to hold a pullet (young chicken). I'm allergic to bunnies or I would've picked one up, too. The pullet was cuddly anyway.  The lady with the animals was selling eggs and stuff and we bought one package of sweet Italian sausage and one of smoked bacon, both from their homegrown organic piggies. We walked our goodies back to Tergel for the freezer and still had time to line up for the parade. What a sweet picture this is!

We stood next to this HUGE flag atop the ladder on a Hook 'n Ladder fire truck.


The parade was in honor of Eagle-Matt Lee Fire Company's 200th Anniversary, and the turnout was amazing!  It was a way of showing gratitude to the men and women who risk their lives to keep townspeople safe.  Jimmy counted over 50 fire trucks (of every description), old and new.  I took a picture of nearly all of them; here's a sampling only. 

Fire companies from surrounding towns and villages sent trucks of one sort or another, and the line went on and on, and on.  I think the parade was about an hour -- of fire wagons.  It wasn't until the end that a few of them started blowing sirens and horns, which had me backed up against the building, hands clapped over my ears.  But, the whole thing was fun, small-town, good fun. 

Many fire companies sent their best and proudly marched.

Jimmy really liked this one!

The End.

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We had plenty of time to walk around the town, which we liked immediately -- it just had the kind of ambiance that drew us in.  The Methodist Church door was unlocked, so we walked in for a look-see.  Lucky us to have a church deacon give us a tour.  It has quite a lengthy history, but this structure's cornerstone was laid in 1892.  It was beautiful inside, and reminded us of a wooden hulled ship.

This stunning stained glass window had to be 20 feet tall.

We loved walking around, studying the old, graceful homes.

This little place was our favorite.

If you're in town and like bottles, give a visit to the National Bottle Museum.  Director, Gary (above, with Jimmy), gave us an extensive tour and answered our questions.  Most of them he's probably heard before, but he was a gracious guide.

We wore our feet slap out today, but feel like we covered Ballston Spa fairly thoroughly and enjoyed it very much.  We've decided to stick around another night, and see what else the area has to offer.


A change of Pace? Friday, 6/24/16

Leaving behind forested Massachusetts and the Connecticut River Valley, we ambled across the state line into New York and the Mohawk Valley, land of gently contoured hills.  We're on our way west, but have no specific plan or route, so a phone call to Harvest Host member Bowman Orchards netted us a Friday night stay. 

Summer is a busy time of year for farms and Bowman is no exception.  They're more than just an orchard or farm ... they offer tours, a store, U-pick, ice cream (yum), animals, and a wagon ride.  I wish we'd been here in fall -- with 48 varieties of apples, I'd be be in heaven!  As it was, strawberry U-pick was available, but it was late when we arrived and hot, so we picked no strawberries.  We did buy fresh produce in the store, something we like to do.

I figured if I stood on a tiny hill on my tiptoes, I might qualify for a basketball team.  Alas, I think the tree trunk measurement is a bit off.  Bowman is a great place for kids to come as there's lots for them to do here.  They were expecting busloads of school-age kids tomorrow (Saturday).

Only about a month old, this calf was actually kind of cute.  He'd had an injection in his knee, so he was sporting a bright orange band-aid.  He liked having his head scratched, like a dog would.

"Oooh," said the brown Nubian goat on the left, "scratch on top where my horns should be!" The lackluster other guy with the fluffy coat laying next to the fence never moved a muscle, pretending to be asleep, or maybe it was just too hot to participate. 

Apples, ripe and straight off the tree, are one of my favorite fruit.
These aren't ready yet.  Come back in September!

And my all-time fav is the Macintosh apple, so these guys get my vote!

I presume this is the Shepherd house, as the above sign is next to the Bowman Orchard sign by the driveway.  This regal old house is on a knoll, and we parked Tergel on a grassy area below, thankful to have a large shade tree overhead.  Beyond the house is the store, animals and the orchards.  After dusk, through our open door and windows, lightning bugs magically appeared with flashes of light to liven an otherwise dark night.  Been a long, long time since I've seen these guys!

Connecticut River Valley -- Thursday, 6/23/16

While staying at Erving State Forest, we thought to explore some of the surrounding area, including two "falls" we spotted on the atlas.  Off we went in Smartie on the Mohawk Trail -- Hwy 2 West toward Millers Falls.  The scenery was superb, and when we crossed the placid-appearing Connecticut River (below) at French King Bridge, we stopped to admire the north view.

At Millers River (above) we couldn't find a falls.  When we stopped a local fella on a bicycle and asked where the falls was, he looked puzzled and decided we must be lost.  He eventually came up with the suggestion that Turners Falls, further west, was the place we needed.  We thanked him, smiling, and continued on to Turners Falls.

How nice it is to be free of bugs for now!  In the Boston area, we'd traded those deafening 17-year Periodic Cicadas we found in Pennsylvania for Gypsy Moth caterpillars (ugh!).  Good grief, everything at our campsite and in the entire area was littered with caterpillar droppings ... little tiny poopers.  The day Jimmy and I and Rob went for a bike ride our tires crunched poopers that literally covered the asphalt path beneath the trees.  Here in Northwestern Mass, all is good.

We were surprised to to find an excellent paved walking/biking path alongside the Turners Falls Canal.  Completed in 1798, the canal included a log-crib dam across the Connecticut River at the Great Falls. The canal was 2.5 miles long, had ten locks and a towpath on its eastern shore.

Most northern towns near moving water became home to mills ... saw mills, woolen mills, grist mills, paper mills, etc.  Turners Falls had a number of paper mills, all gone now, but the large smokestacks remain.  Almost all of the beautiful red brick buildings are empty, or have attracted smaller, cleaner industries.

(During the period 1868 – 1897, several mills were attracted to the cheap power available at Turners Falls. The most notable among them was the John Russell Cutlery Company (1868), best known for the production of the Jim Bowie Knife. Other industries that figured prominently in the early development of Turners Falls were the Montague Paper Company (1871), Keith Paper Company (1871), Turners Falls Paper Company (1897), Marshall Paper Company (1895), the Turners Falls Cotton Mill (1874) and Turners Falls Power Company (1885), the forerunner of Western Massachusetts Electric Company.)

All is calm these days.

Milkweed at this latitude is not quite open, but this bee will soon be enjoying nectar.

Several low and old bridges are still being used over the power canal.

A fish ladder was established in 1980, and it's open for public viewing during the height of spawning season from mid-May to mid-June ... too bad it closed the day before!  Shad, lampreys and Atlantic salmon are a few of the fish that can be seen.

Imagine seeing an opening like this, and more than one, that housed old canal passages.

The expanded dam and power canal on the Connecticut River was constructed between 1903-1914. We spent quite a long time poking into nooks and crannies, hiking the power canal trail, followed by a visit to the free Great Falls Discovery Center (below).  This place was a treasure trove of canal and river information.  We love traveling into and investigating these old towns.

* * * * *

Somehow Jimmy and I are fortunate enough to get on roads less traveled and end up in interesting places that amaze us, like Historic Deerfield MA.  In this country alone, we have hundreds of thousands of small towns, new and old alike, bustling or declining, that have stories to tell.  Historic Deerfield is one of those.  We didn't have time to tour the homes inside, but we made time to walk part of the mile-long street lined with stately Maples and the glorious homes of yesteryear.

First Church of Deerfield (founded in 1688) ... this church built in 1824.

Connecticut River Valley -- historic, fertile, productive.  And green.

Sometimes I feel like these sagging shutters.  Know what I mean?


Erving State Forest, Wed/Thurs, 6/22-23/16

Jimmy and I pulled out of Circle C/G in Bellingham MA this morning, leaving behind our Massachusetts family ... and my brother, Rus, still in the hospital.  All of the visiting family scattered, as we're wont to do.  Some had to return home and some just hit the road.

He and I traded in Boston and its hectic pace, for the woods.  While we had no particular place or plan in mind, we wanted to get off the beaten path and onto the scenic route in northern Mass.  Erving State Forest fit the bill even tho we barely made it 100 miles from where we'd been.  This is one more place we'd never heard of prior to showing up, and it's a prize-winner! 

What made this state park so spectacular is the vast amount of blooming mountain laurel. Above, it lines the entrance (the only smooth part of the entrance, I might add) leading up to the check-in shed.

Tergel looks mighty pretty sitting amid the laurel.  The park is hilly and the sites are far apart, with laurel shrubs and trees filling in between.  We picked this site because it was long enough and fairly flat; most sites were otherwise.  And it was all by itself.  We paid $20/per for two nights, which I consider a fairly steep price to pay for a park with no-hookups, but you know what?  It was worth every penny.  Just the place to wind down, rest and relax.  We didn't even bother pulling down shades at night ... we were in our own private cove.  And as quiet as you'd ever want.

When I say rest and relax, I don't mean sit on my butt all day.  It's good to move around some.  We scouted out a trail, which turned into a washed-out dirt road.  After a half mile or so, we turned around, figuring we could do better.

Laurel Lake is so-named because of -- yup, you guessed -- the mountain laurel that surrounds it.  And it's a very lovely lake.

There's a put-in spot for boats, and we saw one speedboat pulling a tube with laughing kids on it, as well as a small, sandy beach for bathers.  We walked down to lake's edge, wondering how those people could stand to be in such cold water.  When we stuck our fingers in to test the water, we realized it wasn't cold at all. That does not mean, however, that it was warm enough for us to go in.  Admire, yes, go for a dunk?  No.   

Across from Laurel Lake, was a hiking trail called, uh-huh, Laurel Loop.  So, we started up, and up and up. Great stands of mountain laurel stood out amid the trees.  The day was warm, not hot, but all I could think of when looking around was snow.

Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) in the heather family.

Laurel Loop led us high on a ridge with a view of Mount Monadnock (3,166'), roughly 34 miles distant.  The mountain is in New Hampshire.

And another view from "lonely rock."

And then we commenced descending, crossing this small creek in the process.

Nearly all the huge shrubs of laurel in the forest were white, and I mean these things were ten feet tall!  Maybe taller.  The spent petals on the forest floor reminded me so much of snow flakes.  Except for this pink stunner at the front of the park.  I've seen laurel, but I've never seen a forest of it, and it was truly a sight to behold.  Like I said, a prize-winner!

We saw a couple of Falls near here on the map.  Tomorrow we'll see what we can discover.