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Sean's Blog

Woods, Water, Frogs, and Fowl

Two weeks ago I went for an afternoon ride that followed some more old roads through forests. I actually left the house in the morning, but initially rode into the Mt. Tom State Reservation to meet others for a wildlife presentation there (I’ll write more about that in a separate post). After that, and a picnic lunch, I struck out down the old portion of Reservation Road down into Easthampton. This section is closed off to cars, and is really more of a hiking trail with some chunks of old pavement in it. I rode it once last year, but headed upward at that time. In both directions, some walking of a bike is necessary, as it is too steep to ride.

I passed through downtown Easthampton, then rode up Park Hill Road, which I had not been on before. I took that north, then west, until I got to a point where the pavement ends, and there is just dirt trail going into the trees (click on photo to embiggen):

Asphalt pavement at bottom of the photo, with a dirt trail extending beyond it into the woods.  The words "dig safe" are spray painted on the pavement edge.

I followed this west, as I’d seen on a map that it would come out on pavement again. It did, after maybe half a mile, but there was a point where a large tree had fallen on the path, and so I had to climb through and around some branches with the bike (it was not quite as bad as that sounds).

Once on the other side, I continued on the paved road, which soon came to an end at Glendale Rd. I headed south on that, going down hill, then up again, and passed by a winery there (called Glendale Ridge). Here is the view from the ridge, over some grape vines:

View with grape vines in the foreground, with a field and trees beyond, and further in the background are some hills.

I kept going south on this road and another until I hit Route 10 in Southampton. I turned there to head further south, and for a bit I followed a less busy parallel street: High Street. It runs a bit higher than 10, and at one point I was able to look downhill (east/southeast) toward 10:

Green grass field sloping downward with a vegetable garden to the left,  and trees and houses in the distance.

High St. stopped at Fomer Rd. and I then got back on Route 10 for a bit, before turning onto Brickyard Road. I had been on the other portion of this road back in May (the portion to the east of route 10), but this time I headed southwest, which was all new to me.

It’s a pleasant ride with a bit of uphill, and a bit of down, and eventually the road passes into Westfield, where it changes name to Root Road. I continued following it south, and then it bent southeast, heading toward downtown Westfield. Before I got out of the rural part of the city, I did stop for a moment by a marshy area:

Small marsh with several cluster of lily pads in the water, trees in the background, and reeds and other plants in the foreground.

I could hear, but not see, frogs in the area.

I did not ride all the way downtown. This road eventually ran into Routes 10/202 just south of the Mass Pike, and I jogged onto that road, then onto Holyoke St., which runs east, parallel to the pike. I followed that road all the way to its other end, still in Westfield, at East Mountain Road. Here I went a very short distance north, passing under the pike, and then headed further east where I passed a gate and got onto the old road that I had ridden in May in the other direction.

This time, I was able to find a better path, so that I only had to cross the railroad tracks – I did not have to walk along them. Here is the view along the tracks, looking southwest, then northeast:

Railroad tracks stretching into the distance toward the right, with trees on either side.
Railroad tracks stretching into the distance toward the left, with trees on either side.

I headed across and back onto the “road”, and continued east, but soon came to a blockage. There was a tree down, or perhaps multiple small trees, so I had to make my way around, walking the bike through the underbrush:

Road surface with dead tree branches lying across it, and living trees above and to the sides.

I continued along until I passed the gate that keeps cars out, onto the regular road (Prospect St. in West Springfield). At this point, I turned north, passing around another gate and heading up a completely unfamiliar path/dirt road. The map had shown me that this route should connect to the Ashley reservoir in Holyoke.

After I had gone a ways north, there were a few large, deep puddles in the middle of the road. I thought they looked semi-permanent, and in fact they were home to some number of frogs:

Small frog sitting in a mud puddle, with reflections of the sky and leaves on the water's surface.
Small frog sitting next to a stick in a mud puddle, with reflections of the sky and leaves on the water's surface.

Those were the best photos I was able to take – other frogs moved away when I tried to get pictures of them.

Soon after these puddles, I came to the railroad tracks (same ones I had crossed earlier). I walked along them for roughly 50 feet, and came to a break in the bushes on the other side, where I did indeed descend into the Ashley reservoir land. Here is the reservoir, seen from the south end:

Grassy expanse in foreground, with reservoir pond beyond, and green trees on the far side of the water.

I rode around to the west side, and just before passing out of sight of the water, I spotted a great blue heron, and took some pictures. Not being able to get very close to it, they aren’t very clear. This is probably the best one:

Tree branch with leaves at top of photo, with a great blue heron standing in the water beneath it.  Some grass and weeds are in the foreground.

I rode on to the north, eventually turning east and coming near the water again, and then headed south, where I saw another heron. This one flew away before I could even try to take a picture, but I also saw a cormorant a ways out in the water:

A cormorant sitting on a small branch sticking out of the water.  Water is all around.

From there I headed home on familiar Holyoke streets. The distance for this ride was about 40 miles.

Next ride: the final training ride – BikeFest

Posted by seaking on 09-28-2019 at 08:09 pm
Posted in Biking, Wildlife with 0 Comments

The Levees Were Dry

The next ride I went on this year, in early June, was a brief one, but I explored some out-of-the-way spots in the city of Chicopee. I started by riding across the Willimansett Bridge to get into Chicopee, and then rode on the dirt path along the levee that runs essentially from where I-391 crosses the Connecticut River, down to where I-90 crosses the river. I’ve ridden that path a few times in the past, but when I got to the southern end of it, where one cannot pass I-90 (AKA the Mass Pike), I had always ridden back to main roads.

In this case, I went just a little ways from the river, and then followed a side street that does pass under the freeway. It comes to the gate of the city’s wastewater treatment plant, but then turns west, back toward the river. I followed the road that way, and it goes down to a boat ramp where one can launch into the river. Shortly before going down to the river, though, that road crosses the continuing levee. I started riding along this levee, which bends away from the river toward the east, as there is a brook (which seems to be called Crowfoot Brook) that flows into the Chicopee River, just before the Chicopee empties into the Connecticut.

The levee here had a more substantial seeming dirt and gravel path than the levee to the north of I-90, despite not being marked on the map, the way the previous one is. In any case, here are some pictures I took of the brook/inlet, seen from the levee (click to embiggen):

Waterway and trees, seen from atop a flood levee.
Waterway and trees, seen from atop a flood levee.

I rode a little ways further along this levee, until it ended by some railroad tracks, and I had to exit onto a road again. This brought me out onto Route 116 near an interchange with I-391 (and by the studio of local TV channel 22). From here I was able to ride across the Chicopee River into downtown, and then got on the Chicopee Riverwalk. This is a short piece of paved trail that runs on the south side of the Chicopee River. On that pavement, I encountered a small rabbit (a young ‘un, I think), which seemed surprised and confused by something moving as fast as I was.

Once the pavement ends, it turns into a dirt path that continues through the woods, a bit above the river and behind/below a number of businesses. Here I saw another baby rabbit (which scampered into the underbrush as I approached). I followed this path (another one I had not been on) quite a ways up the river, until it ended on a smallish levee by a parking lot. I rode through the lot and emerged on Main St. and then went over to Route 33 to head north. From there, I rode back up toward Holyoke, and crossed the Connecticut on the Willimansett Bridge again.

The next rides were longer ones, occurring in early July. Stay tuned…

Posted by seaking on 09-19-2019 at 11:09 pm
Posted in Biking, Wildlife with 0 Comments

A Road but not a Road

One of my first significant bike rides this year was on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. I had found what looked like an old, possibly unused, road when looking at maps online, and decided to ride down and follow it.

First I headed west to the Ashley Reservoir in Holyoke, and rode the paths through part of its land. Soon after I arrived there, I found some parents and children grazing (click to view larger version of photos):

Geese with goslings in grass

I rode a loop around the larger part of the reservoir, and then exited at a different point than where I’d entered, and headed south into the city of West Springfield. Soon after passing the city line, I turned west and rode to the end (as far as cars are concerned) of Prospect Rd. There was a gate that I rode around, and then I followed the older portion of the road that was dirt and gravel (and not often traveled by cars).

I passed a few people walking with dogs, but did not see many others using the path. There were some wetlands at points:

Pond with bushes in the foreground, trees in the background

The road was pavement again here, albeit narrow:

Old asphalt road going through the woods

Eventually the road narrowed to a plain dirt path through the woods, and then came out by some railroad tracks. Another cyclist had passed me shortly before I got to the tracks, and I followed him walking my bike along the tracks. At this point I could see the Mass Pike (i.e. the Massachusetts Turnpike) where the tracks passed under it, and I knew that I’d be able to get back onto a road near that rail underpass.

Sure enough, just before the Pike, another bit of trail took me back onto a piece of paved road, which I was familiar with from a hike years ago. I rode that street to its end at a more major road, which was at this point in the city of Westfield. I rode south and west on familiar streets to downtown Westfield, and visited the esplanade there which I’d first gotten a look at last year.

It looks much the same – here is the bike/pedestrian bridge over the Westfield River:

Old railroad bridge converted to bike trail bridge, with river flowing below

And the view up river:

View from bank of river, looking slightly upriver

And yours truly with the bridge:

Selfie of Sean with bike bridge and river in background

From there, I went north and west a bit, before turning back east to ride back to Holyoke. Because it was a long weekend, I went for another ride 2 days later. Details on that in the next post.

Posted by seaking on 09-14-2019 at 10:09 pm
Posted in Biking, Wildlife with 0 Comments

Snaking out and Back

On Sept. 15, I had time to go for a longer training ride, and I chose to head out east to Gilbertville (part of the town of Hardwick).  Instead of riding on route 202, which is the way I went in the past, I took various side roads that roughly parallel that highway.  Some of them were roads that I had not been on before, and one thing I discovered is that the route I took involved more hill climbing to get to Belchertown center, compared with 202 (followed by some downhill, of course).

Sometime soon after I crossed the Belchertown line, I came upon a snake enjoying what warmth the pavement had.

I was worried that it was far enough into the road that it might get run over by a car, so I moved close enough to it that it slithered off into the grass.  Satisfied that it was safer, I continued.

From the center of Belchertown, I went east on Route 9, but soon diverted off into the Quabbin Reservoir reservation.  It was a beautiful day at that point, and so I could not resist taking some pictures of the water from Winsor Dam:

    

Here I’m looking along the dam:

I rode across there and then up the hill that goes to an observation tower.  I didn’t go all the way to the tower this time, as I’ve been in it many times before, and wanted to make time.  It’s a long uphill anyway, but then one is rewarded with a lot of down hill before exiting to 9 again.

There are a couple more hills that I climbed in the town of Ware, before I came out on Route 32 and headed north into Gilbertville.  I stopped off for lunch at a bakery/cafe that had been recommended to us – Rose32.  Had a very nice sandwich and a strawberry ginger ale to drink, and then got a box of various pastries to take home.

I retraced my route back to Belchertown, but then headed west on Bay Road, followed by going north on Warren Wright Rd. to pick up the Mass Central Rail Trail (Norwottuck section).  I wanted to make sure to get a significant enough number of miles in, so didn’t want to head home the way I came (taking the trail was less direct).  I rode the trail all the way to Northampton, and then turned south and followed Route 5 back to Holyoke.

My total distance was 70 miles, and despite some of it being bumpy, the pastries survived the trip.

Next post: Bikefest 2018.

Posted by seaking on 09-28-2018 at 11:09 pm
Posted in Biking, Wildlife with 0 Comments

A Bear in Connecticut

In mid-July I went for a ride down to Connecticut, riding on the Farmington Canal Heritage trail.  I’d done the ride twice before, and mostly saw the same sights I photographed the first time.  Hence, I didn’t take many pictures this time.  Like the last time I did it, I rode all the way from our house in Holyoke to Westfield, where the trail begins, and then followed it all the way to Farmington.

I ate lunch there (at this place again), and then headed back.  Overall the ride had been pretty uneventful, but when I was passing back north through the town of Simsbury, a cyclist ahead of me came to a stop, and then I noticed something on the trail quite a ways ahead.  At first I thought it was a large dog, but then realized it was something else:

   

It was a black bear.  As you can see, it was holding up bike traffic in both directions.  I moved forward slowly, and the bear started to move away (that far cyclist backed off to give it room).  After a bit of this, the bear turned off and headed into the woods, and I was able to continue toward home.

When I had just gotten back into the Holyoke city limit, I was climbing a hill, and found a snake lying on the side of the road.  It did not move at all as I took pictures of it, so I suspect it was dead, though there was no obvious trauma to it (and it was far enough to the side of the road that I’m not sure a car would have run over it).

   

I got home without incident, completing what was then my longest riding day of the year (88 miles, just a bit longer than the day I rode up to NH).

Posted by seaking on 09-20-2017 at 11:09 pm
Posted in Biking, Wildlife with 0 Comments

Forest in the City

The first weekend in June this year, I went on my first 50-mile ride of the year.  Much of the route was roads I’d ridden on before.  I rode from Holyoke east into Chicopee, then south through Ludlow and a bit of Springfield into Wilbraham.  I then went southwest to East Longmeadow, rode the Redstone Trail again, and then made my way due west into the town of Longmeadow.

I had not biked through Longmeadow this way before, but my objective was to head to a part of Springfield that I hadn’t previously visited.  Heading north into Springfield, I rode into Forest Park.  I’ve known about this large park in the city for years, but only finally got around to visiting.

I didn’t ride through all of the park – mostly the western section.  There I found a large pond:

   

The pond, as you might expect, attracts waterfowl:

   

Apparently that one goose prefers the company of ducks to that of its own species.  Birds, like humans, have different orientations, it would seem.

I passed by the old carriage house that is now used as an event space, and walked up a little hill to view the fancy mausoleum of the Barney family.

   

It’s fenced in, so the general public can’t climb all over it (or to keep people from defacing it, I suppose).

I exited the north side of the park and went to have a burrito for lunch.  I then, as a couple times in the past, rode up Springfield’s riverside bikeway, though that path currently has a discontinuity.  The portion of it that traveled on a bridge over railroad tracks is closed and under construction – part of the larger reconstruction being done on Interstate 91.  So I had to ride on downtown streets for a ways, then go back to the path.

After reaching the northern end of the bikeway, I headed through Chicopee and back to home.

Next: a weekend bike trip to another state.

Posted by seaking on 09-16-2017 at 11:09 pm
Posted in Biking, Wildlife with 0 Comments

Post-Easter Eggs

Another post involving pictures from this past spring – this time from early May.  Around that time, a few bird nests got built on and around our front porch.

There were some finches who initially were determined to build a nest inside a light fixture on the porch, but every time they tried to bring twigs and stuff inside, the materials would just fall out the bottom.  We ended up hanging a small basket from the light, and eventually they successfully built a nest in the basket.

Here are the eggs that were laid, which were a pale green color:

fincheggs

Eventually we saw 3 baby birds that had hatched and who eventually left the nest.

In a couple of bushes by the porch, robins nested and laid eggs.  Here is one of the robin nests:

robineggs2014

Some of the ones in this nest were successfully hatched and raised, though I don’t recall how many.  Unfortunately, the other nest, which was in the holly bush, ended up being abandoned with a few eggs in it.

Posted by seaking on 11-23-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Wildlife with 0 Comments

Still Life with Bird

In this case the still life was the bird.  Back in the late spring, I looked out on the deck one day and saw a mourning dove just hanging out.  It was, in fact, a juvenile dove (you can tell it’s not a full adult because it’s all gray, and not the slightly brown color of adult doves).

juvie-dove

It just sat there while I took its picture through the glass door, and for quite a while afterward.  Nothing better to do, I guess.

 

Posted by seaking on 11-22-2014 at 10:11 pm
Posted in Wildlife with 0 Comments

Government, Religion, and Science

Second day in London: I took the bus to Westminster, getting off right near the houses of Parliament.  I first walked around looking for breakfast, and ended up getting pastries (including a pecan roll) in a sandwich shop.  Then I took pictures of some oft-photographed stuff.

Like this place:

parliament1

I took pictures of it from the other side, as well, standing on Westminster Bridge:

parliament2

parliament3

Here’s the view upriver, alongside Parliament:

thameswstbrg

And here is the London Eye, on the downriver side of the bridge:

londoneyeday

There are various statues in this area.  Of course, in England you would expect to find a statue of Abraham Lincoln:

lincolnstat

There seem to be a few leaders from other countries there, actually, such as Mandela:

mandelastat

And there is the obligatory statue of Mr. Churchill:

churchillstat

This memorial has an interesting way of depicting its subject (click to enlarge):

womenww2

I also wandered by Westminster Abbey, and thought about going in, but it would have cost £20, so I contented myself with taking pictures of the exterior:

westabbey4

westabbey5

westabbey3

westabbey2

westabbey1

This column was near the abbey:

abbeycolumn

After walking around there, I took the underground a few stops west, and then walked to the Museum of Science.

On the way there, I spotted this sign:

amphotel

which I thought was an odd name for a hotel.

I spent most of the afternoon at the Science Museum, as there was plenty to see.  It included several early steam engines.  This is an early locomotive:

locomotive

This began a long hall that followed the development of technology over the past 2 centuries.  Also in the beginning of that hall was a piece of Charles Babbage’s difference engine:

diffengine1

(more Babbage stuff later)

A lighthouse lens:

lighthouselens

Planes and cars:

britbiplane

planeandcars

There were a few computer exhibits near the end, including an Apple I:

apple1comp

The NeXT machine that was used as the first world wide web server:

nextwebserv

and a Cray supercomputer:

craysection

On an upper floor was a hall of math and computing, and it included a larger difference engine model:

diffengine2

diffengine3

diffengine4

As well as a model of the analytic engine:

analyticengine

with punch cards for programming it:

enginecards

In another display case was a portrait of Babbage, some of his notes…and his brain:

babbagebrain

When I had finished at the museum, I got dinner at a nearby Mediterranean place (lamb with couscous, and an orange-almond cake for dessert), and then rode the subway back to Westminster.  I walked north to look around St. James Park, since it was still light out.  This park has a small lake in it, and has many, many waterfowl, some of which were imported to it by the royal family.

Here are a number of the denizens:

stjamesbirds

There were black swans:

blackswan1

and gray swans:

grayswans

And coots, which have neat feet:

coot1

I don’t know what these red birds are (and did not get a good picture of them):

redbirds

I thought this bicyclist was topiary at first:

bikeplant

but it’s actually some kind of vine on a frame.

As it got dark, I saw a fox bound across the path I was walking on, so I followed it for a bit, but could not get a good photo.

I made my way back to the Thames, and took a night picture of the London Eye:

londeyenight

As well as this walking bridge (the Golden Jubilee bridge):

jubileebridge

I’d had enough walking for the day at that point, so I hopped on a bus and headed to the airbnb apartment and bed.

 

Posted by seaking on 11-18-2014 at 12:11 am
Posted in Science, Travel, Wildlife with 0 Comments

River Tour

On my second day in England, I returned to Oxford and took a boat tour of the Thames River (the waterway also known in that city as the Isis).

I walked down to the tour place a bit early and bought my ticket, and then walked around until the departure time.  Here’s the river, seen from Folly Bridge, right near the tour boat launch:

thamesfolly

I walked down near the river and saw a bunch of geese feasting on bread someone had thrown there:

thamesgeese1

thamesgeese2

I walked south from there, away from the river, and in front of a house I saw some birds I did not recognize.  I found out later that these are magpies:

magpie1

magpie2

I noticed a path that went off the road alongside some athletic fields, and saw that the sign indicated that it was a public path that went through to the river.  So I walked through there and came out on the Thames Path.  Looking up river there were several University boathouses:

boathouses1

Here’s the view downriver from the same spot:

thamespath1

I followed the path upriver, back toward the tour place.  On the way, I saw several houseboats that were moored by the side:

thameshouseboats

Some of which had a lot of plants on them:

houseboatplants

Apparently there are a lot of river sections where the public can moor for a few days at a time.

Here’s a view of a park across the river:

thamespark

I got back to the boat launch and soon was able to get on board the small boat.  There were about 8 other passengers, and fortunately there was a canopy over most of the boat, as it was quite sunny.

First the boat headed downriver.  Here’s a building near Folly Bridge:

thamesbldg1

We passed the boathouses I had seen from the shore, and a few more.  These are the oldest ones, apparently:

boathouses2

We turned around at Iffley Lock and then headed upriver for the major portion of the tour.

This included going through a lock, where the boat pilot got out and operated the controls to close the doors and fill the lock.

Here we are heading into the lock:
thameslock1

thameslock2

As the water filled it, there was a duck floating there with us:

thamesduck

And here is the lock open for us to continue upriver:

thameslock3

At one point, a person on the shore was taking our picture.  I tried to get a photo of him while he was doing so, but I wasn’t quick enough:

thamesphotog

Some other views on the sides of the river:

thamestrees

thameswoodbridge

The north end of the tour was at Port Meadow, which is common land in Oxford (and also a floodplain).  There were a whole lot of birds there:

portmeadow1

Also horses grazing and drinking:

thameshorses

That swan kept dunking its head when I wanted to take its picture.

I did get a closeup of this heron, though:

thamesheron

Here’s a building I thought was neat looking as we were headed back downriver:

thamesbldg2

An obelisk along the bank:

thamesobelisk

I think this is a train bridge:

thamestrainbridge

After the tour ended, I walked back toward the train station, happening to pass Oxford Castle on the way:

oxfcastle1

oxfcastle2

And this is a canal that flows through the city:

oxfcanal

I took the train back to Didcot, where I collected my luggage from my friend’s place, and then boarded another train to head to London, where I would spend the next 5 days.

Posted by seaking on 11-15-2014 at 11:11 pm
Posted in Travel, Wildlife with 0 Comments

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