A Walk in the Tall Grass

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Nestled in Longmeadow, MA is a place called Fannie Stebbins Memorial Wildlife Refuge. It is a wonderful sanctuary with hiking trails, marshland, ponds and lakes.

I first went here last Summer. A friend of mine told me that he had heard that this is a great place to find all kinds of birds and that he wanted to go check it out. He was nice enough to take me with him.

The Refuge was established in 1951 and contains over 330 acres providing habitat for a large variety of rare plant and animal species. You can do lots of activities there such as birding (you will rarely go there without seeing people with cameras), snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

There really is something for everyone here.

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I had to laugh. On our way there we actually drove past the street that leads to the entrance. We had to turn around. You see, this place is so big but you wouldn’t know it from the main road. It is hidden at the end of a long street.

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There is a map at the entrance to the nine  hiking trails to help you find your way around. My advice is to take a picture of it with your phone. Why? Well, unfortunately a couple of the trail signs we found while hiking were in need of some paint touch ups and were a little hard to read. Not a bad thing, just wanted to give you all a heads up in case you are directionally challenged like me.

We decided to just take off and see where the trail would take us. I should note that you will be walking through tall grass (it got higher than my knees at some parts) so I would be hesitant on wearing shorts while walking through. If you do, wear strong bug and tick repellent.  And good boots are a must, too. Things like flip flops are just a bad idea.

I would also bring a camera and some binoculars if you have them so you can see all the birds flying by. Birds such as eagles, owls, hawks and assorted woodpeckers have been spotted there.

 

You can also see plenty of deer tracks in the grass. I saw a bunch while I was there, but unfortunately no deer themselves. Hopefully one day.

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In one of the fields you will see a bunch of bird houses. They are for the blue birds that are there. I am told that the local boy scout troop put them up and maintain them and I believe they also helped put up some of the bridges and walkways that are there, too. Unfortunately we didn’t see any blue birds while we were hiking.

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There are train tracks that run through the refuge. Trains do run on them but not too often that you can’t walk on them.

We walked around for a while more and decided to stop for a break. We had been hiking for about an hour and a half and started to get hungry. We got a little distressed when we remembered that we had only packed a couple of bottles of water and some granola bars (we didn’t think we would be exploring for so long).

As we were complaining about our lack of proper planning we suddenly got a whiff of something. Something delicious. We started to search in vain for the source of this wonderful aroma. A few minutes later we finally found them.

 

Wild seeded concord grapes. We gorged ourselves on them. Trust me when I say that grocery store grapes are not even in the same league as these fantastic grapes! They were so juicy and sweet. I took my camera out of my bag and proceeded to run around filling it with as many grapes as possible. There was no way I wasn’t taking some of them home with me for the next day.

After our snack we headed back. We wanted to see the animals at the giant pond further up the road from the entrance. This is the spot you will see all the birders and their cameras and note pads chronicling their finds for the day.

As we were leaving the hiking trails I was met with this wonderful view of a little pond.

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It was so simple but very beautiful.

The pond has a large variety of animals there, such as herons (I saw a blue one while there), a family of swans, ducks, blue jays, cardinals and reptiles of all kinds.

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I loved watching this little family of swans. They had a little baby with them but he or she kept hiding from view to get a good enough picture. Hopefully I will get one next time.

We watched the ducks and other birds for a about a half an hour more and decided to pack it in for the day.

This place is a definite must for birders and hikers alike!

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60° in February!

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Today was a lovely day. It was sunny, warm and 60°. It feels weird writing that. It should be cold outside.

After I had gotten some chores done I decided to go out some where and enjoy the warm weather.

I called up my Mom and suggested we go feed the ducks at Stanley Park. She loved the idea so off we went to the store to buy some bread.

With several loaves of bread in hand we drove to the park.

When we got there we discovered that we had worn the wrong foot attire. Why? Because all the snow and ice that was there had started melting because of the warm temperature and neither one of us had worn snow boots. Oops!

We were undeterred, though. We had bread and by golly we were going to feed those ducks!

It took us a while but we finally trudged (and slid at times) our way to the duck pond. Surprisingly there wasn’t many people there so the ducks were very happy to see us.

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They went nuts when we started feeding them. They merrily quacked away as they eat.

As I got down to my last few pieces of bread a little boy and his Grandpa came up next to me. The little boy was just delighted by the sight of so many ducks around. He giggled as he threw the pieces of bread his Grandpa gave to him.

It was great to watch this little guy have so much fun doing something we adults might find boring. It was definitely a little lesson to slow down and enjoy the simpler things in life. To just relax and take in everything around you.

After some walking around and visiting the surrounding area (as much as we could) we decided to head home. Our shoes were wet and we had a craving for some coffee.

I hope you all enjoyed your day where ever you may be!

 

A Lazy Sunday

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One lazy Sunday last Summer a friend and I decided to go out for a ride. We had been visiting lots of forests and hiking trails as of late and had a desire to find something new.

“Why not find some waterfalls” my friend suggested. So after a quick internet search we found one not too far away.

In the cozy town of New Marlborough, MA is a beautiful waterfall called Umpachene Falls. It is open from May 1st to Oct 1. The Umpachene River dumps into the Konkapot river, which flows around the park.

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It is important to note that the Falls are for the residents and friends of residents of New Marlborough, but if you ask politely the grounds keeper shouldn’t have a problem with you having a short visit.

On the day that we went there was no grounds keeper and the few people that were there didn’t seem to mind us looking around.

There is a small parking lot to park in and plenty of tables and swings so you can sit and have a small bite to eat. The park does have a rule that you respect the park by leaving NO trash there or consume alcohol while visiting. The park closes at 8 pm.

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You can see the Konkapot River right from the parking lot. It is a very quiet area. It might have been because there was only a handful of people there that day, though. Since the last few places we had visited had been packed with people it was nice to have the place basically to ourselves.

We were surprised to find out that the path to the falls was very short. As in right off the parking lot. You walk up a small hill and there it is! What a treat it was to not have to hike a long way to see something.

 

What a view! It is absolutely gorgeous! To this day I still can’t believe that there wasn’t more people there.

The people that were there were of the older crowd and a couple with their young son who was elated to see such a pretty sight. He was playing in the water and having a grand time!

Swimming is allowed there at the swimming hole but there are no life guards so be very careful when doing so.

One older gentleman had brought a lawn chair with him and was sitting down reading a book. I am not gonna lie, I was very envious of him! That seems like a perfect way to spend the day. And what a location to do it at.

I sat down on a rock that I found and just sat there with my eyes closed listening to the sound of the water. I wish i could have made a recording of it! A little loud but nice and peaceful.

After a few minutes I got up and took a few pictures. I surprisingly didn’t take as many as I normally do when I visit somewhere new. This time I just wanted to take it all in and enjoy it while not having to take a hundred pictures or worry about things like “is my light ok” or” what f-stop number should I use”. It may sound a bit corny but sometimes it is just nice to just live in the moment and enjoy it!

We stayed there a little while longer and decided it was time to go (it was getting a bit too hot).

On our way back home we stopped at a place called The Southfield Store. If you haven’t heard of this place you really need to visit it! It is a cafe’ and bakery. They have home made pastries, pies, tarts and cakes (which are fantastic and mouth watering when you first see them). They also have sandwiches, chips and a assortment of drinks.

It is also a casual late week dinner option from mid-May till Nov 1st.

For more information you can visit:

www.oldinn.com

www.newenglandwaterfalls.com