Ghosts In A Granite Graveyard – Historic Becket Quarry

Where We Went : Historic Becket Quarry

When We Went : Mid-August

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : 1.5 Boots

Trail Length : Varying Lengths – Quarry Trail is under 3 miles round trip

How Long it Took Us : 2.5 Hours

Overview : Along with Autumn’s colorful arrival comes the advent of all things Halloween-y. It got me thinking, fall brings foliage and leaf-peeping excursions, but what about something a little more sinister than chlorophyll deficiency? Something for the spooky season, a haunted hike! New England has more than its share of the paranormal, and the Berkshires are no exception. As I looked back on our adventures, one of our late summer hikes came to mind. And a sentence I had read on the

“…as if the quarrymen had gone for lunch and never returned…”

A certain quiet quarry in the Becket hills is just the place for a weird walk. Rusty trucks and forgotten machinery sits deserted within the site of the Becket Quarry.

Now in a state of arrested decay, the 300 acres was once the thriving site of the Chester-Hudson Quarry, operational from 1860-1947. The large company, once famous for its Chester-blue granite extracted and shipped tons of the stone for tombstones (!!!), memorials and monuments in Chester, MA and the NY area. Even a devastating flood in 1927 didn’t stop operations. Until a seemingly fateful day, when the thundering resonance of machinery screeched to a halt and the last steam whistle blew on almost three-quarters of a century of granite production in Western Massachusetts. What happened? Logical explanations point to financial mismanagement and lack of capital for necessary improvements. But if you let the preserved ruins (and your imagination!) speak to you, maybe you’ll hear a different story…

What We Dug : If you take the

The rebuilt Stiff Leg Derrick site neighbors a beautiful overlook of the quarry itself. The derrick is an impressive reminder of the demanding and dangerous jobs of the men who came to work every day. During a moment of reflection, I stared across the graveyards of granite and felt a shiver run down my back. All that cold, silent stone waiting for the chisel of memorialization felt so lonely and desolate. I’m not alone in my feelings. Other hikers have reported eerie sensations of being watched, apparitions of workers still busily toiling away among the rusted machinery, cold spots, disembodied voices, and sounds of machinery drifting through the trees. The Boston Globe included it in a list of

Oblivious in their innocence, the kids were content to amble over boulders, search for machines, and watch the daring teenagers jump from the quarry ledges (NOT recommended). The view over the 90-foot deep quarry is absolutely stunning, even more so during the fall months, and the trek through a forest slowly reclaiming the imprints of a more modern world is not to be missed. The wind at the quarry seems to echo with the voices of the past.

With 2 kids under 10, we weren’t hyping up the spook factor

(nightmares = no bueno), but if you go looking for it – happy haunting!

What We Could Do Without : As a result of the prior misuse of the land (littering, vandalism, drunkenness, animal cruelty) and the foolish temptation to jump blindly into an opaque pool filled with the remains of old derricks and cables, there is a $10 fee to park. I completely understand and support the town of Becket’s decision to implement the charge to deter bad behavior, ensure safety and preserve the site. I’m disappointed that the need had to arise in the first place.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For: Be sure to grab a map at the parking lot or print one from the Land Trusts

Must Know Before You Go’s : Open from dawn to dusk every day of the year, on-site parking is plentiful and parking along the road is prohibited. Parking is $10 per car on days when a security officer is on duty. The officer ensures the following rules: No diving, No fires, No coolers, No alcohol, Carry in/Carry out. Detailed maps showing both the 

Directions : Take Route 20 to Becket. At the intersection of Route 20, Route 8 North, and Bonny Rigg Hill Road, turn onto Bonny Rig Hill Road. At a 4-point intersection, turn left onto Quarry Road. Continue on Quarry Road, until you come to our signs and parking area on the right. 456 Quarry Road Becket, MA 01223

Website :

Resources :

https://www.thrillist.com/lifestyle/boston/the-most-insane-abandoned-places-in-massachusetts

Scroll through for more photos of our Becket Quarry adventure!

50 Things To Do On The Trail

.thoSometimes keeping spirits up and minds occupied is more exhausting than hiking. These games and activities will help you and your children stay engaged and interested out on the trail. Keep scrolling for all 50!

50 Things To Do On The Trail

  1. Follow the leader – Always a classic, use your imagination to spice it up!
  2. Sing – Any old song will do. Some of our favorites are call & response style; anything Ella Jenkins – check out Jambo & Get Moving.
  3. Bring binoculars, field guides, magnifying glasses.
  4. Appoint “Park Rangers” to help keep trail clear and safe.
  5. Create a scavenger hunt list – this can be done on the fly with general nature items or in advance and more specific to each trail, depending on your level of ambition. For a free hunt printable, click here. To shop our Nature Hunt Inserts & Nature Boards, click here
  6. Play I Spy – Make it more challenging by adding rules like, “pick something that shares your first initial.”
  7. Build a cairn.
  8. If there’s a bridge, play Poohsticks.
  9. Tag blazes or trail markers to “Power Up” when energy lags and a mental boost is needed.
  10. Tell a story or a create a Pass Along” story – Use a pinecone, stick, or acorn to “pass along.”
  11. Allow collecting* – We are always reinforcing Leave No Trace” and earth stewardship, but experiential learning in nature is also valuable. Sometimes just let them take those pinecones home. Use your judgement. This article from the founder of HikeItBaby helped us find balance.
  12. On flats & fields, have a race or play “catch me.”
  13. Measure a tree, try to calculate its age.
  14. Make a bark rubbing.
  15. Listen to a tree, 10 different ways.
  16. Look for mammal tracks, signs, and scat
  17. Stand or sit still for 1 minute, just listening – Setting a timer can help “challenge” fidgety kiddo.
  18. Roll down a hill!
  19. Start a nature notebook or sketchbook – Record your findings and observations.
  20. Hunt for mosses and lichens
  21. Practice wayfinding using a compass
  22. Skip stones.
  23. Use nature to forecast the weather.
  24. Look for catkins – Springtime activity, take your allergy meds!
  25. Learn to identify trees by leaves or bark.
  26. Hunt for woodpecker trees.
  27. Pick some flowers for pressing
  28. Look for squirrel dreys – Another Springtime activity.
  29. Learn to identify different birdsong and calls.
  30. Take a closer look in a pond by pond dipping.
  31. Collect frogs eggs, grow and release – Before collecting from any old pond, be sure to research legalities or contact your local environmental agency. Protected areas need to be left alone.
  32. Have a snail race.
  33. Dig for earthworms.
  34. Find a birds nest – Take photos, sketch or log your findings but do not disturb nests you find!
  35. Collect caterpillars, Watch Lifecycle, and Release – Follow the same principles as frog egg collecting. Be sure to release in the same area you collected from!
  36. Learn to identify butterflies
  37. Take a closer look at an ant colony
  38. Lay down on your back & stare at the sky – Imagine shapes in the clouds!
  39. Collect bird feathers.
  40. ABC game – Starting with “A” identify something in your surroundings that starts with that letter. See if you can make it to “Z”!
  41. Hug a Tree!
  42. Animal Walking – Taking turns, the leader chooses an animal and mimics how they’d “walk,” and everyone else follows suit.
  43. Bring sketchbook & colored pencils – Watercolors if you’re brave.
  44. Rainbow hunt game – Beginning with red, identify objects in your surroundings that match the colors in a rainbow.
  45. Senses Hunt game – Find something you can See, Hear, Touch, Smell, & Taste (bring a snack!).
  46. Geocaching
  47. Paint & Hide Rocks
  48. Bring disposable cameras – Let your child have full reign in what they choose to photograph. Makes for much more fun
  49. Poetry On the Go – Someone starts an easy 1st line like, “I really love to take a walk…” the next person continues with another rhyme, and so on.
  50. “When You Hear…”game – Choose a trigger sound such as a bird chirp. Line up single file while walking. Whenever the trigger sound is heard, the1st person in line has to run to the back. Great for group hikes!

Have any tried and true games or activities you do on the trail? We’d love to hear from you! Share with us in the comments!

 

*These are hotly debated subjects in the Leave No Trace world.

Maple Seed Dragonflies


Helicopters, whirlybirds, twisters, propellers, or whirligigs – whatever you call the seeds of the maple tree, they are a source of fun no matter your age. The scientific term for these flying wonders is samara. 

We have so much fun flying these outdoors! After seeing an Instagram post from one of my favorite accounts @natureplaymothers, I had to try it out!

You’ll need some helicopter seeds and small sticks from the outdoors. The rest of the materials are variable to what you have around the house:

  • Maple leaf seeds (any variety)
  • Small sticks or twigs 2-3 inches work best (we used two larger sticks to make our mobile)
  • String (we alternated from kitchen twine to hemp cording)
  • Scissors
  • Glue (we – and by that I mean ME – used a hot glue gun but a tacky glue would work, drying time would be longer)
  • Toothpick (or anything pointy) for pressing wing into glue
  • Monofilament fishing line (for mobile)

Begin by collecting your materials. Plug in hot glue gun (if using). Let the kids snap the twigs down to size and separate seed pairs. Place a small bead of glue on the back side of a stick and place seed point into glue. Press down with toothpick or some pointy thing (avoid sticking your finger into molten hot glue…it hurts.) The tails are delicate but luckily there’s no shortage if they rip! Place another bead of glue on top of the first seed kernel and glue another wing on the opposite side. Repeat with another set of wings 1/4 inch below. Let dry.

You certainly could stop here if you wanted. The string adds a little more texture, durability, and helps to cover up the glue. Starting at the back, hold the end of your string between both sets of wings. Wrap the string around the front and crisscross it between the wings. Once it is to your liking, you can tie it off, or as we did – cut the string and hot glue it to the back.

https://video.wixstatic.com/video/3087f9_3f7435c31629429d8ab4d7238cf1d789/1080p/mp4/file.mp4

Wrapping the string is a great activity for fine-motor practice and concentration. Perfect for our 6-year old still struggling to tie his shoes. I made plenty of dragonflies so our 3-year old could wrap and destroy to her heart’s content, but she was more interested in the sticks.


You can leave your dragonflies as is or tie them on a bit of clear fishing line to create a flying effect. We left a few loose for Lego superhero transportation, but we had so many, turned the rest into a mobile! Using two larger sticks, we crossed them in an “X” shape, and wrapped them with more string. We tied them at two different heights. It came out so fun!

https://video.wixstatic.com/video/3087f9_968a0e8cd8444c889f9e2972bc35b7d2/1080p/mp4/file.mp4


We’d love to hear from you! If you make this project, tag us on Instagram


Diamond In The Rough – Steven’s Glen

Where We Went : Steven’s Glen – Richmond / West Stockbridge, MA

When We Went : Mid-June

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : 2 Boots

Trail Length : 1.4 miles round trip / 45 minutes

How Long it Took Us : 2 hours

Overview : One of the more overlooked waterfalls in the Berkshires, Steven’s Glen is 129 acres of gorgeous forest featuring Lenox Mountain Brook winding its way through Lenox Mountain. A metal-staired viewing platform showcases the narrow, 40-foot gorge carved into the side of the mountain. The glen is named for Romanzo Stevens, a 19th century, local farmer, turned entrepreneur. In 1884, Romanzo, recognizing the beauty and character of his land, built bridges and walkways, constructed a covered dance pavilion, and charged 25 cents a head for admission. It has been reported that in 1913 a party of 900 people gathered here for a nighttime celebration! In 1919, the pavilion roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow. The area was later donated by the Pryor family in 1995, and is now maintained by

What We Dug : This diamond in the rough, (*Jafar voice*) was not our intended adventure. We had originally planned a trip to

Down a small set of stairs, steps from the road, we found ourselves in the woods at the trailhead. Heading left at the split, we passed through some massive pines, huge moss-covered rocks, a number of water features, and small footbridges. The kids were thrilled to be out of the car and took every opportunity to get their hands in the water. We spent the bulk of our time playing in the pools and streams, pretending to fish and stacking stones. Scattered along the trail are benches perfect for a snack break.

A fairy-like spur trail leads to the gorge viewing platform. For those who may not know, a “spur” is a trail that branches off of a main trail and typically leads to a point of interest (i.e. waterfall) and (usually) a dead end.

The loop’s spur is marked with a sign that points to the Glen, and magical stone steps lead you uphill. All the lush moss made it easy to pretend each log and crevice was a winged creature’s home. The kids left acorn cups full of water for the fairies to drink!

Take the metal stairs down to the overlook platform to see the tall, narrow falls in the crevice of the rocks. There’s a bench that’s great for quiet gazing (or loud whining) before you embark on the return trip. You’ll have to double back on the spur to return to the loop.

This is an impressive trail with great rewards for the entire family. The short length is perfect for small legs and equal attention spans. Truly a hidden gem, this is not a heavily trafficked spot. It is well marked and appropriate for almost anyone.

What We Could Do Without : Bugs can be obnoxious, so take precautions!

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For :

Must Know Before You Go’s : The “parking lot” is the widened shoulder of the road, by the Steven’s Glen sign. It can sneak up on you pretty quick! The trailhead is down a few wooden stairs.

At the trails split, we opted to go left to start the loop and the trail starts descending immediately. (If you go right, you will spend the end of the hike climbing uphill for a bit.) Overflow parking available down the road. Free. No facilities. Maps available at the trailhead.

Directions : From Pittsfield, take Route 20 West and a left onto Lenox Road. Turn right onto Lenox Branch Road. After 0.6 miles, lot is on the right at the sign.

GPS: 42.3505, -73.3484 (Trailhead parking)

Website :

Resources :

*We made it back to Pleasant Valley later this summer and it was a great hike! Review coming soon.

Scroll through for more photos of our Steven’s Glen Adventure!

Tall Tales & Torrents – Wahconah Falls State Park

Where We Went : Wahconah Falls State
Park – Dalton, MA

When We Went : April 2019

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 5) : 2 Boots

Trail Length : 0.6 miles up and back / 45
minutes to 1 hour

How Long it Took Us : 2 hours

Overview : A wide, unmarked road leads to the base of Wahconah Falls, a 40-foot tall cascading waterfall that sits on Wahconah Falls Brook. From there an unblazed but well-worn footpath leads uphill along the brook to the top of the lower falls. It’s a short walk to the upper falls and the jumble of boulders that make it up. A few yards east are the ruins of the Booth Talc Mill, built in the early 1800s. Follow the path along the stream back to the lower falls. Wahconah Falls are named for a Pequot Native American maiden and her tragic legend.

What We Dug : The recent snowmelt had the falls raging and the deafening roar impressed us all. It’s short walk to the upper falls and the mill remnants. Our 2 year old loved the other spot we walked to. Follow the lower falls downstream to a tiny beach with calmer waters. perfect for skipping stones. It was a cold April day, (it snowed while we were there!) but on a summer afternoon it is a terrific place to dip your toes. Check out the gallery below for the treasure we stumbled upon while there. Pause and build a cairn, have a snack, or pack some rocks of your own to hide!

What We Could Do Without : Litter makes us sad 🙁

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For : Cathedral pine & hemlock groves,

Must Know Before You Go’s : No trail maps on site or blazes on trails. Bathroom facilities unreliable. Rocks in and around the falls can be slippery, use caution. Swimming is prohibited, so be careful if you decide to take a dip! Dogs allowed.

Directions : From the junction of Routes 8 and 9 in Dalton, bear left onto Route 9. Follow for 2.9 miles to North Road. Turn right onto North Road and drive for 0.1 mile to where Wahconah Falls Road bears right. Follow for 0.3 mile to the parking area on the right.

Website :

Resources : Check out this great book