Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Gay Head (Aquinnah) Light

The Gay Head Light on Martha’s Vineyard, shown above, is also called the Aquinnah Light as the town of Gay Head was changed to Aquinnah in 1998. The new name is really an old name, and bears the Wampanoag heritage of this remote and lovely place.

The first lighthouse here was built n 1799, as the 18th Century passed and shipping around the infamously treacherous waters increased. The current brick tower which stands above the striated colorful clay cliffs was built in 1856.

For more on the Gay Head (Aquinnah) Light, have a look at this website.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Rocky Coasts

New England’s rocky coast is not just a literary device of poets, and it extends to more than just the craggy shoreline of Maine. Here we have the vertical outcroppings along Lake Champlain in Burlington, Vermont, where young, fearless people sometimes jump into the water.

The stone block jetty is on Block Island, and though there are sandy beaches to lounge, these folks are oblivious to the seeming discomfort of sunning themselves on chunks of granite. If it’s one thing New Englanders do well, it’s make do.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


The seagull clomps his big feet on the sand at Mashpee, Massachusetts.

The swan glides regally by some less regal humans on flotation devices in Long Island Sound off New London, Connecticut. The beach is their environment; we are just visitors. Sometimes they like to remind of us this with a squawk, or a nip if we get too close and invade their personal space.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Old Orchard Beach - Maine

At Old Orchard Beach, Maine, the famous pier (current version built in 1980 to replace the former pier lost in the Blizzard of ’78), continues to attract crowds at one of the oldest tourist spots in the country.

Settlers first came to the area in the 1600s, but as early as the 1830s turned the promising stretch of beach into a coastal resort. For many decades since it has been a landmark, the beach, the pier, and the town, for Canadian visitors as well as New Englanders.

For more on Old Orchard Beach, have a look at this website.

Been there? Done that? Bought the T-shirt? Of course you did. Let us know.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Connecticut River Summertime

Here is the Connecticut River along a stretch in western Massachusetts, on the South Hadley side looking toward Holyoke, with Mt. Tom in the background. Summer in the river towns is a thing apart from what we experience along the coast. It is green and lush, dark under a jungle canopy of maples yet to turn, and at times, more humid than along the coast. Terrific thunderstorms occur, fast and furious, causing Mark Twain, who once lived a bit farther down river in Hartford, Connecticut, to note in a speech on New England Weather in 1876:

“When the thunder begins to merely tune up and scrape and saw, and key up the instruments for the performance, strangers say, "Why, what awful thunder you have here!" But when the baton is raised and the real concert begins, you'll find that stranger down in the cellar with his head in the ash-barrel.”

The recent increase in the price of gasoline makes pleasure boating, even in a small craft like this photo, a dwindling activity, but the competitive rowing regattas that have been taking place up and down the river since the 1870s don’t have that problem. Who needs gas when you’ve got eight oarsmen?

The river swells in the spring and rushes with the ice melt, but in summer it becomes a slower, lazier creature, and in winter freezes over, suspending motion, seemingly suspending time. Walkers on the ice dragging sledges was the best mode of travel once. Most of our history, our culture, and certainly our commerce in western New England was brought to us through the past centuries by the river as a conduit. Travel from the older, more established eastern communities on the coast was too difficult, with too much snow in the winter, too much mud in the spring, a dense forest in between with few roads. The growth of western New England ran north and south, which explains the difference in accent from the east. Colonial Dutch traders made their influence felt from Long Island Sound up to the future state of Vermont.

When the English of the Massachusetts Bay Colony decided there was more out there than Massachusetts Bay and began to make their own mark on western New England, the Dutch found greater success along the Hudson River. Where the Hudson has its towns of Peekskill and Staatsburg, the Connecticut River has towns with English names. Two exceptions are Agawam and Chicopee, two of only a few communities in Massachusetts, a state with an Indian name and not an English one, to bear Indian names.

Summer is quieter here on the coast without the weekend traffic of tourists, and though there are picnics on the bank under the trees, you will likely hear cicadas and blue jays above the sound of humans.

For more on Mt. Tom State Reservation, have a look at this website. Enjoy a cruise on the river out of Brunelle’s Marina here.

Been there? Done that? Let us know.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bison Farming in New England

If you’re looking for a little bit of prairie among the rolling hills of western Massachusetts, you can at least pretend a bit at the Long Hollow Bison Farm, where the buffalo roam, if not the deer and the antelope play.

This unusual farm located on Route 9 in Hadley turned its operation over to the raising of bison in 1997 by brothers Fred and Paul Ciaglo, who wanted to keep the family farm thriving in a “pioneering” market and to express their interest in Native American culture.

There are approximately 500,000 head of bison in North America today, according to the National Bison Association, half of which are in the US. (Happily, up from only 1,000 at the turn of the 20th century before efforts to save the species.) About 20,000 of the bison are on public lands. The rest are privately owned. Here in Hadley, there are about 60 of them.

The Long Hollow Bison Farm represents a new trend in agriculture, geared toward specialty items and geared especially towards tourists. The bison require little care, and besides their obvious novelty to tourists, can be harvested for their lean meat (bison has less fat even than chicken).

The farm features a grill where you can sample the product, a gift shop, provides hayrides and space for music concerts. If you’re moseying down Route 9 in Hadley, Mass., have a look at the bison, pardner.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Pemaquid Point Light - Bristol, Maine

The photo above shows the Pemaquid Point Light in Bristol, Maine, long before the restoration work done last year. Restored and re-dedicated, the lighthouse is ready to greet a new host of visitors this season.

A survivor of mid-19th century gales and shipwrecks, even of unromantic progress when it became Maine’s first automated lighthouse in 1934, the lighthouse still stands on its sheet of granite sloping to the sea. The Town of Bristol owns the lighthouse, and there is a small museum on site. The keeper’s quarters are available for weekly rental, if you’ve ever wanted to stay in a lighthouse.

For more on the Pemaquid Point Light, have a look at this website.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Local Militia Parade Ground

It’s not always about fireworks or magnificent and aging monuments, or parades. Sometimes our most profound remembrance of the sacrifices of the rebels in the Revolutionary War can be found on old parade grounds like this. This is Agawam in western Massachusetts.

Agawam, settled first by discontented Englishmen leaving England of Charles II, was part of the Springfield Plantation. Some generations later, her men and boys gathered their local militia here and practiced firing percussion musket volleys to make ready for their armed rebellion on the world’s greatest military power. This was no battlefield during the Revolution, only a practice for the horrors that lay ahead, if such a thing can ever be prepared for, and perhaps it cannot.

Happy Independence Day. Remember the ones who gave it to us.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Ferry out of New London, Connecticut

There are a lot of ways to leave New England. One of the most pleasant in by the M/V John H. out of New London, Connecticut, part of the Cross Sound Ferry company.

One of a fleet of eight, it’s one of the two largest ferries, built for cars and people in 1989. You can watch a movie in the theater cabin to pass the hour and twenty minute sailing time to Long Island, or just cast your eyes over the placid ocean and turn off the cell phone for a peaceful mini retreat.

It’s also one of the nicest ways to arrive in New England.

For more on the Cross Sound Ferry Service, have a look at this website.

Been there? Done that? Waved to everybody lying on the sand at Ocean Beach? Let us know.