Uncovering the Mohawk Trail's treasures


Photo Gallery | Mohawk Trail Road Trip

To most of the residents of Northern Berkshire, the Mohawk Trail is a means of getting from North Adams to Greenfield and, eventually, Boston. It is to us what the Massachusetts Turnpike is to the residents of central and southern Berkshire County. And when using the northern "MassPike," we're in hurry to get from North Adams and its environs to Boston and only stop along the trail if we need a restroom -- and they can be few and far in between.

The Trail is an historic American Indian foot path connecting the Connecticut and Hudson River Valleys. The Mohawk Trail highway was officially dedicated on Oct. 14, 1914, and celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

On a beautiful July day with lots of sun, a friend and I set out to explore the treasures the Trail has -- and which I have overlooked all my life.

Hairpin Turn

The first stop is the infamous Hairpin Turn. As you pull into the parking lot of the Golden Eagle restaurant, note how the building nestles into a niche carved into the cliffs behind it. The building, originally a gift shop owned by Donald and Lewis Canedy, initially sat on the tip of the U-turn. In the fall of 1958, within a span of 10 weeks, two runaway tractor-trailers missed the turn and crashed through the gift shop. The Canedys rebuilt and had a recess carved into the cliff, and the building has been safe since.

We stopped here now for the coin-operated tourist binoculars situated on the left side of the restaurant's parking lot. A quarter will provide 2 minutes of viewing time of the spectacular bird's-eye view of North Adams, Clarksburg, Adams and Williamstown. Well worth spending a dollar or two on.

Elk Memorial

The Elk On The Trail at the summit of the Mohawk Trail is a memorial commissioned by the Greenfield Elk's Club to Massachusetts Elks who died in World War I. The bronze statue of an elk stands on a rough-cut granite base. The elk, with a full rack of antlers, was cast at the Gorham Manufacturing Company of Providence, R.I., and dedicated on June 17, 1923.

Eastern Summit

The next stop was less than a half-mile away at the Eastern Summit Gift Shop, which turned out to be closed that day. It wasn't a wasted stop though. Off the parking lot, two tourist binoculars ,provide scenic views of the valley on the eastern side of the mountain and maybe even the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire.

Mohawk Trail State Forest

In Charlemont, the state forest offers campsites and cabin for those planning an extended stay, but it is also open for day use (with a $5 per car parking fee). Plenty of picnic tables sit along the Cold River, which flows through the park and is appropriately named, and has clean and modern restrooms to change into swim wear. The river bed is extremely rocky, and water shoes might be in order.

The forest has more than 6,000 acres of mountain ridges, deep gorges and tall old-growth trees and diversity of plant and animal life with trails to explore, and the river offers excellent trout fishing. You can also tube down parts of it.

Hail to the Sunrise

Facing east and overlooking the Deerfield River at the site of the old Indian fordway in Charlemont, Hail to the Sunrise depicts a Mohawk Indian, arms raised in supplication to the Great Spirit and greeting the new-born day.

The monument honors the Five Indian Nations of the Mohawk Trail. An inscription on the arrowhead-shaped plaque at the statue's base reads: "Hail to the Sunrise -- In Memory of the Mohawk Indian." The memorial originally held a reflecting pool, now empty, with inscribed stones from various tribes and councils from throughout the United States. It was erected by the Improved Order of the Red Men and its women's auxiliary, the Allied Councils of Pocahontas of the Old Deerfield conference and dedicated on Oct. 1, 1932.

Avery and Son General Store

Located in the heart of downtown Charlemont, Avery's General Store is the epitome of the old adage of having "everything from a safety pin to a horse blanket." It offers grocery items, hand-cut quarter hinds of beef, sliced dried beef, paint, a full-line of hardware, clothing, and camping and tubing equipment. Items hang from the walls and ceiling and line the packed, narrow aisles.

Karen Hogness and her husband, Dennis Avery, are the ffith generation to run the store, which opened in 1861. Karen believes the store in one of the oldest general stores run by the same family in the country.

Customer Paul Hicks said in passing, "If Avery's doesn't have it, you don't need it."

Bissell Covered Bridge

Who knew there was a covered bridge in the heart of Charlemont? A block or two from Avery's turn onto Route 8A going to Jacksonville, Vt., travel less than a half-mile and there it is. The bridge is sited near an old mill dam and pond, but is not the original, which was constructed in the 1880s. According to a local resident, it is the second replacement of the original. It is listed on the U.S. National Registry of Historic Places.

Native Views

What's not to like about a retro-looking gift store with a huge American Indian, bear and teepee out front? I've loved the American Indian statue since I was young, and I was excited to finally take time to explore it. There is a small section of the shop, formerly known as the Big Indian Shop, devoted to American Indian crafts, but it also seems to sell handcrafts from Tibet, Nepal, and India. The clerk on duty didn't speak English and was unable to explain what the shop was all about. It was still fun to poke around and look at the merchandise.

Mohawk Trading Post

Down the road from Native Views, this gift shop in Shelburne has all things American Indian and caters to tourists and traveling American Indians alike. Laurene York-Risse, herself an American Indian, has owned the shop since 1985 and said it is best described as an American Indian specialty shop. We saw moccasins for the whole family, T-shirts, pottery, beading supplies, books, CDs, jewelry and children's toys. It also has American Indian-made jerky and salt-water taffy, and herbs and feathers for American Indian ceremonies. Lilting American Indian music plays in the background and Laurene is a friendly source of all kinds of information.

Hoosac Tunnel Eastern Portal

We took the scenic route back to North Adams and turned right onto Zoar Road just before the Mohawk Park campground. We followed the road past the Zoar Picnic Area (lots of tables and grills -- porta-potties, too!) and stayed on the road past Whitcomb Hill Road and to the entrance of the Hoosac Tunnel, where the tracks cross the road.

I have been to the western entrance off South Church Street in North Adams countless times, but it was the first time at the eastern end. My traveling partner, a longtime resident of the town of Florida, claims there are ruins of the workers' house a short hike from the tunnel.

Golden Eagle Restaurant

After a long day discovering the treasures along the trail, it seemed appropriate to stop at the place where we began -- the Hairpin Turn. What could be nicer than drinks and an appetizer on the second-floor veranda of the restaurant as the sun sets? Owner/Chef John Morris, who has been with the restaurant since it opened in 1982, said the restaurant offers fresh beef and seafood in addition to vegetarian dishes and gluten-free wraps. He added it was a destination for visitors to Mass MoCA in North Adams and stays open in the winter for its many local customers.

There are many other treasures waiting to be discovered along the Mohawk Trail, and some day I plan to go back to Shelburne Falls to poke around the many shops, art galleries and bookstores. There are also many eateries there to be tried and I didn't get to the Trolley Museum. There's also supposed to be homes in the Charlemont area that were part of the Underground Railroad. More exploring is definitely in the cards!

If you go ...

Mohawk Trail State Forest

Where: 175 Mohawk Trail, Charlemont

Hours: 9:30 a.m. to &:30 p.m. (No alcoholic beverages allowed)

Information: (413) 339-5504

Hyytinen Hollow Tube Rentals

Where: 7 Tea St. Ext., Charlemont

Hours: Memorial Day to Labor Day, daily 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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Information: (413) 339-4786 or hyytinenhollow.com

Avery & Son General Store

Where: 127 Main St., Charlemont

Hours: Monday through Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Information: (413) 339-4915

Berkshire East Zip Line Canopy Tours

Where: 66 Thunder Mountain Road, Charlemont

Hours: Vary according to tour availability. Reservations recommended.

Information:berkshireeast.com or (413) 339-6617

Zoar Outdoor Whitewater Rafting and Zip Line

Where: 7 Main St., Charlemont

Hours: Office/outfitters, daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., tours leave 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations necessary.

Information: (800) 532-7483 or zoaroutdoor.com

Crab Apple Whitewater

Where: 2056 Mohawk Trail, Charlemont

Hours: Full-day tours leave 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.; half day tours run 1-6 p.m.; Stand-Up Paddleboards, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Reservations required.

Information: (800) 553-7238

Bridge of Flowers

Where: Downtown Shelburne Falls

Hours: Early spring to late fall

Information: bridgeofflowersmass.org

Native Views

Where: 2217 Mohawk Trail, Shelburne Falls

Hours: Thursday through Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Information: (413) 625-2333, shelburnefalls.com

Mohawk Trading Post

Where: 874 Mohawk Trail, Shelburne

Hours: Summer - Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday, noon- 5:30 p.m., closed Tuesday; foliage season - extended hours; January-April -- Friday through Monday, 10 to 5 p.m., Sunday, 1-5 p.m.

Information: (413) 625-2412, mohawk-trading-post.com

Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters

Where: 1207 Mohawk Trail, Shelburne

Hours: Open Monday-Thursday, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 6 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m.

Information: (413) 625-0116, shelburnefallscoffee.com

Skip's Roadside Diner

Where: 24 French King Highway, Gill

Hours: Open Monday-Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Information: (413) 863-9991


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