Today, the pavement linking the Massachusetts-New York border to the Connecticut River at Millers Falls is the 63-mile East-West highway we call the Mohawk Trail, a focus for history and natural charm along Route 2. The actual foot path continued to the Hudson River, the trade route connecting New England tribes with those in upstate New York and beyond.
In an earlier exploration of ‘The Indian Path,' one of the oldest designated scenic routes in the country, we visited historic and natural locations from Hopkins Forest in Williamstown to the Natural Bridge in North Adams, Clarksburg State Park, the Savoy State Forest in Savoy and Monroe State Forest -- with a view of Bear Swamp Pump Storage, Rowe and Florida.
Now we continue the journey east from there.
Mohawk Trail State Forest
This State Forest in Charlemont has 56 of the nicest wooded campsites in Massachusetts, including six year-round overnight cabins. The area is also one of the most scenic, with more than 6,000 acres of mountain ridges, gorges and old-growth trees growing in places so inaccessible, they have never come under the woodsman's axe. This forest also contains groves of mature second growth trees.
"As an example, the three tallest accurately measured [white pine] trees in New England all grow in Mohawk," said Robert Leverett, co-founder and Executive Director of the Native Tree Society. "In addition, Mohawk has the largest collection of trees over 150 feet in height in the Northeast."
Here you can find a continuation of the Mahican-Mohawk Trail that passes the Hair Pin Turn and West Summit near North Adams.
Bissell Covered Bridge
Most of the covered bridges remaining in Massachusetts are closed to traffic, unable to carry the heavy loads of today's vehicles. Not so with the new one that opened in the summer of 2009 on Route 8A North in Charlemont. It replaces a couple of covered bridges that have crossed Mill Brook since 1880. The first bridge was condemned in the 1940s and replaced in 1951 with a modern structure that was closed to vehicular traffic in 1995. We wish the current structure a long and safe life.
High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary
Within its 600 acres, this Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary between Routes 112 and 2 on Patten Road in Shelburne is renowned for its Lady Slippers in June. Its four loop trails cover four miles and can be confusing, so it helps to have a map. As the name suggests, slopes are moderate to steep approaching the high ledges with pleasant views of the countryside including Mount Greylock and the Deerfield River Valley. We followed Dutch and Mary Barnard Trail -- formerly named the Lady's Slipper Trail and renamed after the donors of the original 400 acres. This is the most popular trail on the property.
Poet's Seat Tower
Built in 1912 this sandstone observation tower was named to honor the poets who traditionally were drawn here, particularly the local poet Frederick Goddard Tuckerman, who referred to the perch high above the town as "Poet's Seat" in about 1850. Today, in addition to the 360 degree view, the tower has lovely polished stone, possible Goshen Stone, benches for visitors to relax on, poets or not. The tower is only a small part of Rocky Mountain Park in Greenfield containing three trails that are part of a local and regional network.
Greenfield lies at the confluence of the Deerfield, Green, and Connecticut Rivers, and the eastern terminus of the Mohawk Trail.
Along the way ...
The Elk Monument
Ever wonder why the elk monument in Florida is on the Mohawk Trail? Certainly not because of the elk's presence in Massachusetts, but as a memorial erected in 1923 to all the members of the Elks Club who died in world War 1. On May 27,1973, it was rededicated The Elk on the Trail Memorial, "In memory of our Brothers who offered, or gave their lives in all wars, and to peace. May this memorial continue to inspire the passerby with the deep sympathy that all Elks hold for their departed Brothers," said John E. Fenton.
Hail to the Sunrise Monument
This eight foot bronze figure in Charlemont, made in 1932 to commemorate the five Indian nations surrounding the Trail. He faces the east welcoming the Great Spirit of the East. It remains today a popular rest and picnic lunch destination.
Bridge of Flowers
Open through Oct. 30, when frost intervenes, this oasis of color has one path along the middle of the world famous 400-foot concrete bridge that once carried trolleys across the Deerfield River in Shelburne Falls. Here, a variety flowering bulbs, numbering in the thousands, perennials, annuals, flowering shrubs and vines provide a blast of shape, color, and fragrance throughout the growing season.
Glacial Potholes and Salmon Falls
It all began about 14,000 years ago as the glaciers melted. The Deerfield River began flowing over the bedrock, eroding fascinating holes into the hard gneiss. Once native peoples fished salmon at these very same falls. Stop at the Visitor Information Center at 75 Bridge St. in Shelburne Fallsfor information and directions, within walking distance from the Bridge of Flowers.