A Day at Chapel Brook

Welcoming Autumn

Pony Mountain's Ledge Trail. 5 out of 5 Bayne's recommend the Summit Trail. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne

I was a city girl.  We lived in Manhattan when I was child, but my parents were not from there. They were city mice in their own way. They had picked cities to live in most of their adult lives, but had childhoods that included fields, farms, woods as well as the start of sprawling sidewalks. It was the change of seasons that my mother missed the most. Annually in the fall she would take us for a drive, to see leaves, to find a pumpkin, to drink the cider and get apples from a farm in a paper tote.

The heat wave that was the summer of 2010 has given way to cool autumn breezes. On the first crisp morning with leaves blowing down our street, my children brought up the S-word … Santa. My mind was more on school. Each of us are ready, in our own way, to go with the season’s change, to say goodbye to summer and welcome autumn.  I find I still need to wear the boys out, but now I’m worn out from a long summer of being mommy the cruise director. I wanted an adventure that was not too far from home, sure to be a hit and relatively low out put for the parents.

Clambering on the rocks, my youngest child as a blur not touching the earth. He looks like that in person too. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

We’ve been wanting to visit Chapel Brook Falls in Ashfield all summer. With our local drought, we knew the falls would not be rushing in late August. but we heard the scenery was lovely in any weather. The boys love climbing on furniture and scaling walls. I try to replace the furniture with rocks, mountains and streams as often as I can.

Chapel Brook Falls has three potential attractions. It was a cool day, everyone had been a bit under the weather, so we decided to come back another day to actually climb Pony Mountain, or perhaps enter through the DAR trail in Goshen, which would connect to the falls around the base of Pony Mountain.  Saturday’s adventure simply was a small hike down to falls and enjoying the cool air, watching individual leaves float down to the forest floor and rocking hopping over the falls. On a hot day, we will return; late September is sure to bring us a streak of a few hot days. We could see where people might use the rock formations as launching points to enter the cool pools.

The boys scrambled from rock to rock. The place was very quiet on such a cool day so we let them practice skipping rocks in the pools and we followed the path downstream quite a ways until we, of course, got hungry and had to reverse course. The sun peaking through the trees made for the magical sort of light that you always picture deep in the forest – not a bad effect for a three minute walk from the parking lot.

If you are new to the area like me, it might help you to know that the walk to the falls is behind the designated parking area. As you park, you are on a roadway bridge. Crossing back over this bridge to the unmarked road on the other side brings the entrance of the falls into view. This may be more apparent when the falls are roaring, but less so when they are a quiet dribble at the tail end of a very dry New England summer. We walked up Pony Mountain to collect our trail maps. The two routes both advertise a short distance, but the ledge trail – in our effort to wear them out, we walked up the mountain a short ways, requires belay equipment. Should you take this hike with your family, you will want to follow the summit trail, and I plan to do just that in the next few weeks. I want to soak in every moment of the slow transition to Autumn.



Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.

3 Comments on “A Day at Chapel Brook

  1. Chapel’s Canopy: A Guided Tree Hike

    Sunday, September 26th | 10AM – 12 NOON

    Chapel Brook Reservation, Ashfield MA

    Experience this spectacular forest and its trees! Join naturalist Aimee Gelinas for a tree ID and ecology hike as the leaves begin to change at Chapel Brook. FREE. Please call The Trustees of Reservations at 413.532.1631 x13 or email pvregion@ttor.org to register and get information.

  2. This is a wonderful spot to spend the day! We heard about it not too long ago, and made our first (but certainly not last!) trip there with our boys, too. We did not hike that day, but the boys enjoyed playing in all the little pools the falls create. Recommended by our family, too!

  3. I can relate to the story above, as many of our office members can as well. We are primarily all women who all have several children, so bringing them somewhere they can use up their energy with as little influence from technology as possible is important. I’ve lived in Western MA for most of my life and growing up we used to travel New England for different places to take in the environment. I think it is so important to take advantage of places like the trails and Pony Mountain that you have mentioned. Your children I’m sure appreciate the adventures as I know I still hold my “nature excursions” dear to me. :)

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