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Return to Hampshire County, MA

By Tom Richardson; Photos by AJ Derosa
The dirt road that winds along the Westfield River makes for an easy trail ride.

Filming around the summer solstice can be a blessing and a curse: There’s a lot of daylight to work with, but that can make for very long days in the field! Such was the case with our second shoot in Hampshire County, Massachusetts—and we needed every minute of daylight to get it done.

The Rapid Red Ford Explorer proved itself worthy on this shoot.

We started by picking up a new “Rapid Red” Explorer from Marcotte Ford in Holyoke then headed north to Chesterfield Gorge in the town of Chesterfield, where we met with Brian Pearson of Adventure East outfitters. Brian and his team of guides often lead “gravel bike” (a cross between mountain biking and road biking) excursions along the dirt road that starts at the Chesterfield Gorge Trustees of Reservations property and follows the Westfield River south through the Gilbert A Bliss Wildlife Management Area and ends on the flood plain above the Knightville Dam.

A fly fisherman works the pocket water along the Westfield River.

Brian and I sampled a few sections of this beautiful and diverse trail, and it proved a great way to access many different parts of the Westfield River, which changes dramatically as it flows south from the gorge to the flood plain, a distance of seven miles. Along the way, we noted numerous bird species, including at least four different warblers. The flood plain, which is managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, provided the most sightings, as one might expect of expansive wetlands. If you are a birder, I would recommend a visit to this area.

Mountain laurel line the trails in the Gilbert A. Bliss Wildlife Management Area.

But our biking adventures weren’t over yet. Next order of business was sampling a few sections of the Norwottuck Rail Trail, which follows the course of the former Boston & Maine railroad tracks for 11 miles. The paved trail runs through shady woods, wetlands, and over the Connecticut River, and is a well-used resource among area residents and visitors alike.

The Norwottuck Rail Trail crosses the Connecticut River in Northampton.

With scarcely time for a snack, we headed to Belchertown to splash a couple of kayaks and a canoe at the Swift River Boat Launch. The Swift is a remarkably clear and narrow river that flows from the southern end of Lake Quinsigamond, also known as the Quabbin Reservoir. The slow-flowing Swift is as close to paddling through an aquarium you’ll experience north of the crystalline, spring-fed rivers of Florida, and we saw numerous trout—some quite large—milling about the weeds and gravel bottom as we paddled upstream.


Brad Walker of Adventure east snaps a photo while paddling on the Swift River.

It was nearing dark when we finally wrapped our busy day in Hampshire County, but that’s par for the course in a part of Massachusetts that offers so many awesome outdoor activities. Stay tuned for what will be another action-packed episode of ENE TV when Season 3 launches this October.


Cameraman AJ Derosa films the author filming him.
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