Some people “bag” peaks. We may give that a try sometime, but for now we’re “trail bagging” around Amherst.
Being out in nature is supposed to be good for our mental and physical health. And we both like to walk. So we have resolved to take weekly hikes on nearby trails.
Our guides are Amherst Conservation Areas and Trails, (1988) and Amherst Literary Trails, (2007). The Amherst Conservation Department in Town Hall sells a map of all of Amherst’s conservation areas and trails.
This week we started with some trails near Puffer’s Pond in North Amherst. The Ray Stannard Baker Trail, though short, provided an initial uphill climb to get our heart rates up. I spotted foliage of lady slipper and wild lily of the valley on the forest floor and a number of mountain laurel bushes, hinting at great springtime beauty.
Part of the Helen Hunt Jackson Trail skirts the north side of Puffer’s Pond, also labeled “Factory Hollow Pond” on our map. On our early-morning hike, the glassy surface of the pond was undisturbed by ripples from human activity. We watched in awe as two great blue herons took flight over the water.
We noticed that extensive work has been done on this heavily used trail, including conservation plantings. Unfortunately, some of the new bushes appear to be dying, perhaps due to the severe drought this summer.
Last, we climbed an uphill section of the Robert Frost Trail going from the pond to Pulpit Hill Road. As we walked we got curious about these places and place names. We already knew something about Ray Stannard Baker, the muckraking journalist who moved to Amherst in 1910. He wrote philosophical tales of country life published under the pen name David Grayson.
But why did someone call this eminence we were climbing “Pulpit Hill?” What kind of mill was powered by the water in Factory Hollow Pond?* Who was Helen Hunt Jackson and what did she write?
Seeing all the questions that arose in our minds on this brief excursion, I was imagining what an educational adventure it would be to hike each of the 14 Amherst Literary Trails and then read something written by each author.
So much to learn! So many trails to explore! Who needs Pokemon Go when curiosity can conjure an underlay of past times and ghosts of those who came before, even as we walk through today’s landscape?
This is a good life, indeed.
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*Reader Elisa Campbell says that mills powered by the waters of Factory Hollow pond included cotton, several kinds of paper and later, railroad equipment. She recommends a number of historic works with further information.