“We have to look for ghosts in the Hoosac Tunnel while we are in this area,” Mark said, out of the blue, during one of our drives to North Adams, the closest real city to us, about 40 minutes away. As we climbed Whitcomb Hill and mentally prepared for the steep descend, I gave him a puzzled look, “Ghosts? Where?” “Have you never heard of the haunted Hoosac Tunnel?” he asked. How would I? I am not familiar with local legends and folklore anywhere, let alone in Massachusetts. Of course, the notion peaked my curiosity. How could it not? So, yesterday, I added the tunnel to our sightseeing itinerary.
The digging of the 4.75 mile Hoosac Tunnel in the Berkshire Hills started in 1851 and wasn’t finished until 1875. At its completion, the railroad tunnel was the longest in North America and the second longest in the world, after the Mont Cenis Tunnel in the French Alps. To this day, it remains the longest active transportation tunnel (for freight) east of the Rocky Mountains and operates without a schedule. The building of the tunnel, however, was a nightmare of blood, sweat and tears. For 24 years, hundreds of miners chipped away at the rock of Hoosac Mountain and 200 of them lost their lives. When, on different accounts, people heard sounds of eerie voices in distress and saw supernatural shapes moving through the tunnel, the ghost legend was born. Mark Howes’ website is dedicated to the Hoosac Tunnel and provides a lot of information (and photos) about the tunnel, its history and its ghost stories.
Mark, Jenny and I stopped at the West Portal in North Adams and at the East Portal in the town of Florida near the Deerfield River, a great tubing destination. We entered the dark, cold, and wet bowels of the mountain. While it was a respite from the heat, the dripping walls and silent darkness were a bit unsettling. We did not spot any ghosts – Jenny would have chased them off instantaneously anyway – but it was quite bizarre how frigid air at the eastern portal blasted out of the dark hole as if someone had turned the air conditioning on. These were not places to linger long!
Natural Bridge State Park
This State Park on the eastern edge of North Adams contains and presents the only naturally formed white marble arch and man-made white marble dam in North America. The arch, carved out by the force of glacial melt water, is 550 million-year-old bedrock marble. Not surprisingly, the site was an active commercial quarry from 1810 to 1947 for marble used in local buildings and cemeteries. The quarry was producing 200 tons of stone a day when a fire destroyed the structures on the site and all operations ceased. Natural Bridge became a state park in 1985 to preserve its unique geologic features.
This well-maintained, small park ($5 parking fee for MA vehicles, $6 for out-of-state vehicles) is easy and fun to explore. You can walk above and through the chasm, almost touch the natural bridge, stare down the gorge, photograph the dam, circle the former quarry, read interpretive signs, go for a forested stroll, or sit at one of the many shaded picnic benches on a hot summer day. This was Jenny’s favorite activity. She savored the cooler temperature, attention from strangers and welcome rest after a strenuous walk the day before…
Shelburne Stone Fire Tower
On Saturday, the three of us had braved the short (1.25 miles), but very steep climb of 1600’ Massaemett Mountain near the town of Shelburne. Jenny, Mark and I followed the Fire Tower Trail up, up, up to reach an historic rock fire tower at the summit. The stairway is open to the public as an observation tower with views stretching into western Massachusetts, southwestern New Hampshire and southern Vermont. The tower was built in 1909 with stones from the quarry on-site, is 65ft high and is the only continually active lookout in Massachusetts, if not the whole country. Unfortunately, the top platform is locked, so we had to peek through the little windows for the expansive views.
The hike down was much quicker, and once our sweat had evaporated and we looked relatively presentable again, we were ready for our dinner invitation at a friend’s secluded house in the woods of Shelburne Falls. We were welcomed by the two biggest – but super sweet – dogs Mark and I have ever spent time with! I could keep going on writing and posting, but for photos of these 200+ pound encounters, you will have to check out our Roaming About Facebook page…
I wonder whether this blog qualifies for Jo’s Monday Walks next week? 🙂