A few months ago, I did some research about interesting sites in our current area of the Berkshire Mountains in Western Massachusetts. Tannery Falls in Savoy Mountain State Forest seemed like a great afternoon excursion. Especially after driving by the State Forest sign on Route 2 – also called the Mohawk Trail – frequently when running errands in North Adams, I moved the trip higher on my list of “Things I want to do before we leave Heath”.
Mark and I decided to make the trip to Tannery Falls the day after we attended the annual reggae festival in Charlemont. After an afternoon of great music, warm weather, and secretly drinking volumes of our non-allowed, but widely tolerated BYO drinks (How could they not sell alcohol at a music festival?), we thought a short hike down to the falls and back, would be the perfect antidote to an irie, but lazy Saturday, and would offer the right amount of exercise while feeling a bit jaded.
The short-cut from Charlemont would have brought us to our destination in 20 minutes, but, unfortunately, that road (Black Brook Road) was closed. This meant we had to drive all around the State Forest and enter at its opposite end, a 45-minute endeavor. There is an $8 parking fee ($10 for non-MA resident cars) for the day use area at North Pond, where there are camping facilities as well, but everywhere else (including the falls) parking and visiting is free. The roads in the park are mostly gravel, but our little Prius managed to bring us to Tannery Road. Then, the “trouble” started with a warning sign and a potholed road resembling a motor cycle circuit. The only way to reach the parking at the falls was to leave our extremely low clearance car near the sign and walk the 2 miles of dirt road. So much for a quick visit.
Walking along a road did not sound very appealing. I had brought a printed map of the park and we soon found a more attractive alternative. We walked the 3-mile Tannery Trail, which winded through the shady forest, along some giant mud puddles and over a slightly descending path to the main parking area for the falls. Due to its remote and relatively inaccessible location, the walk down to the river and the falls was not busy.
In about ten minutes, Mark, Jenny and I reached the bottom of this short, well-maintained trail. While taking a break and a sip of water on the rocks, we admired tall Tannery Falls, plummeting down in different tiers. The pool underneath the falls offers some welcome refreshment on hot days. That Sunday, it was cloudy and relatively cool: a perfect day for a hike. Jenny enjoyed a drink of clear, cold river water. She prefers natural water, whether in rivers, lakes or mud puddles to our tap water from home.
We explored the valley floor a little bit more to find another set of waterfalls where the river forks: Parker Brook Falls. This area was pretty scenic as well, but the falls did not carry a lot of water. In the past, you could have a peek down from the top of Parker Brook, but now you are discouraged to do so.
The climb back up to the falls parking lot was not a big deal. We still had some energy left, so instead of following the bumpy dirt road back to where our car was left, we took a trail across the street that appeared more attractive. Ross Brook Trail follows the stream with the same name. Just when I thought we had gotten away with some easy hiking and no sweating, the trail climbed gradually to hook up with Tannery Road again, half an hour or so later. It does feel good to get the heart pumping and to realize you did some exercise, even when you weren’t meant to be!
Before walking the last stretch of Tannery Road back to the car, we made a slight detour to check out “Balanced Rock”, a giant boulder and remnant from the ice age, in the middle of the woods. Another one was located within sight… as if a giant had dropped the two massive nuggets precariously amidst the trees.
Our planned walk had turned into a much longer hike than anticipated, but we were all pleased to have hit the trails. The end destination had been worth it. Tannery Falls is a nice excursion that could be made even better with a dip in the pools. Bring your swimsuits in summer!
For more walking (and) fun, check out Restless Jo.
Have you gone on a hike recently? Are there many trails near your home town? Has the weather been pleasant enough to do outdoor activities where you live?