I’m joining Robin at Breezes at Dawn for her Walktober challenge. Every October Robin sets forth the challenge to post a walk we have taken, then she links them all together at the end of the month for a cross-blog stroll. It is a great way to see beautiful autumn scenery from all over without leaving your armchair.
I’ve visited this site many times since I was a child and am glad that this unique geological wonder always will be preserved from development and open to everyone to explore and enjoy.
We start our walk at the lowest end of the property on North Poland Road in Conway. A discontinued dirt road leads straight up a hill for about a half a mile, leading directly to Chapel Falls. Instead, we choose an optional side trail that veers off to closely follow Chapel Brook through the woods. Boulder-strewn, it splashes and babbles, with pools hidden by overhanging trees and shrubs ablaze with the colors of autumn.
Feet crunch and swish through fallen leaves as we walk along. A small tributary joins the brook and two foot bridges connect a trail that leads to the Bullitt Reservation that I wrote about for last year’s Walktober. The elevation slowly increases as the trail hugs the edge of the ravine above the stream.
In spring, these are torrential, but on this day, they are quietly soothing.
There are three large cascades, the middle of which empties into a deep pool that has delighted and cooled many swimmers on hot summer days over the years. The water has worn the rock smooth and algae makes them very slippery. It’s a natural water slide.
I will always remember the first time I came here at the age of perhaps twelve with a friend. The water was so cold as we sat on the edge along the top, scared to venture over the slide. Eventually she pushed off and I followed, bumping along the slippery surface until I was plunged into the pool below. I bobbed up like a cork, gasping with the shock of the icy water, but I was hooked. Discovering that water slide was the best thrill of our summer.
Crossing the Williamsburg/Ashfield Road that splits the property, we encounter the second half of the reservation that rises steeply to a granite outcropping 1,420 feet in elevation called Pony Mountain.
At its base, a 100-foot cliff face favored by rock climbers, rises in a sheer vertical; years ago, my spouse brought our boys here to enjoy this challenge. However, being extremely afraid of heights and fearing for their lives, I refused to witness it.
There are three ways to get to the top: straight up for the adventurous; the strenuous, boulder-stepping trail that skirts the edge (which my spouse talked me into – phew, what a workout, Wren loved it), and the gentler trail that winds around the back. The latter was the way we came back down.
Looking up, the tree canopy was painted in golds, reds and oranges, made all the more beautiful by the contrasting blue sky beyond. Ravens ‘cronked’ as they wheeled high above and chipmunks by the dozens scolded us as they went about their foraging for winter stores. Never before have I seen so many chipmunks in one place. The acorns, beech and hickory nuts must be plentiful this year.
Once we reached the top, we were treated to a far-reaching view of the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains. The sun was warm on the exposed granite ledge and the smell of pine filled the air.
Sitting here in the sun, a nap seems like a good idea after that hike up. I could have sat there for hours, soaking up the warmth while enjoying the view and the chirps of birds. The workaday world felt very far away and I was reluctant to return to it.
Eventually, we made our way back down, enjoying the soft tread of pine needles and moss, the smell of freshly fallen leaves crushed underfoot, reveling in nature’s art – bleached white ferns against a lichen-encrusted stone wall and the brilliant foliage surrounding us.