The Norwottock Rail Trail sure has become popular in the last year or so. In fact it's losing some of its attraction for me, because it's getting so crowded. On weekends it's beginning to get absurd how many people you encounter in walking just a short distance. I'm glad to see the trail become a success, but there is also such a thing as becoming too successful.
In my hikes I've confined myself to sections of the trail located between Amherst and Northampton. I've walked the entire distance all at once only twice. Once to prove to myself that I could, and another time I did it involuntarily when I missed the last bus out of Hamp so it was walk to Amherst by the rail trail or sleep on a bench in Pulaski Park. That was especially interesting because it was about ten at night when I started and fully dark. I was alone for nearly the entire walk, but was never really nervous, encountering about half a dozen people total and all of them friendly. A few I suspect were more afraid of me than I was concerned about them. Like I say, an interesting experience but not one I would repeat voluntarily.
Most people are unaware that there is another section of the trail that runs from Amherst into Belchertown. For years I've intended to explore it, yet never got up the ambition to actually do it. But now with the main part of the trail becoming overrun with hikers and bikers, I thought I should give this trail less traveled a chance. On this occasion I didn't go all the way to Belchertown, but I was very much impressed by the portion of the trail I did see.
The Amherst/Belchertown trail begins where the Hamp/Hadley/Amherst trail exits into downtown Amherst.
However, instead of exiting, you want to bear left and pass beneath the tunnel from which this cyclist in a bathrobe has just emerged.
On the other side of that tunnel you will find yourself by the Amherst Farmer's Supply Company.
There is a nice little country store as part of the Amherst Farmer's Supply complex, where you can buy beverages and snacks for your walk or ride.
The trail initially goes behind the Amherst College athletics facilities, separated by a large stream.
The stream itself is slow moving to the point of near stagnation, with all this green gunk floating on top.
There was a long stretch of peaceful woodlands along the trail until suddenly I spotted this country lane and turned down it to investigate.
There I encountered this sign explaining that it was some sort of Amherst College bird sanctuary.
Sure enough, there were these man-made bird houses spread out all over the terrain.
I wonder what kind (or kinds) of birds were living in them?
Continuing to stroll past tranquil woodlands, I came at last to this stone bench by the side of the trail.
Beside it was a stone marker, which read "Grandpa's Bench."
I don't know who the Grandpa was that made that bench, but he surely built it at the right location for enjoying the magnificent view.
It is sights like that which remind me of why I love our Valley so. Can you imagine what this view will be like when everything turns green? You can be sure that I'll be back to capture it with my camera this summer, and again at the peak of the fall foliage.
The weather was odd that day. It was warm, almost too warm, but with a brisk wind that was neither warm nor cold, but just right. As I sat on Grandpa's bench I was inspired for the first time this year to take my shirt off outdoors. I was shocked in the bright sunlight to see how pale my Irish skin had become over the winter, as white and clammy looking as a frog's belly. The sun on my body felt almost as if it were a physical touch, a warm caress for my sun starved skin that was almost erotic.
Unfortunately at that point I had to start walking back if I was to make it to downtown Amherst by dark. But I will be back to explore further, although if you are impatient for me to get around to it, why not explore this section of the wonderful Norwottock Trail yourself?
No sooner did I start to leave the bench than I heard a pounding sound coming towards me. Realizing what it was, I quickly whipped out my camera and made the following video. Unfortunately the sound was ruined by the wind.
Finally, I ran into Seamus and his mom in Barnes and Noble the other day. He was anxious to pose for a picture with the things he bought, but he didn't much like the flash going off in his face.
That is why it looks like he was showing me his stuff while sleep-walking.