Roaming About

A Life Less Ordinary

(Super) Natural Wonders around Us

Hoosac Tunnel

“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.

Approaching Hoosac Tunnel from the east

Approaching Hoosac Tunnel from the east

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? 🙂

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23 Comments

  1. Wonderful pictures… I may use that railway tunnel in a future story! 🙂

  2. Thank goodness I’m out of that tunnel again! 24 years!!! Nightmare 🙁

    • I wish I had the guts to walk in further and find out about all that ghost stuff. But, really, I was too cold in there! 🙂 I forgot to link to your blog earlier on, Jo. All done now. 🙂

  3. I’m so glad you guys are doing your house sit in Massachusetts — the state of my birth. It’s been years since I’ve been back to visit family and it’s clear there’s a lot more to it than Plymouth, Salem, Gloucester, Rockport and Fall River. And Jo’s Monday Walks sounds like a blog hop made for me! I’ll have to check that out.

    Stephanie @ SV CAMBRIA

    • Massachusetts is our “home base” state for over a decade, because Mark’s family lives there and that is where we “crash” when in limbo. But, it is at the eastern end of the state, very different than here. Although I am getting pretty familiar with the US, it still boggles my mind how much there is to see and do everywhere, and so many parks and hiking trails. Amazing! I’m sure it is the same in Canada, but not so much in Belgium. Yes, check out Jo’s Monday Walks. I was going to refer you to her when I read your multiple beach walk a little while ago, but I must have forgotten. She is a great person.

  4. I would like the other two activities better than the tunnel! 200 men killed, that’s awful, I’m not surprised there might be ghosts.

    • And some of the deaths were not accidents… If we would have gone into the tunnel a bit more, we might have found those ghosts. But, the train tracks were level, while the walk to the tower was very steep and strenuous! 🙂

  5. Jenny sure is getting a workout with you guys! We took Hastings on a ghost walk in Charleston, and he reported it was all made up for tourist dollars. Dogs are very perceptive!

    • Are you sure Hastings didn’t sniff out a ghost and gobbled him up? Dogs are the perceptivest of them all! 🙂 But, mostly, “our” Jenny doesn’t care where we walk, as long as it is not too hot (she has a low tolerance to temperatures above 70F having lived in a cool house her whole 12 years!) and there are lots of good smells and cooperative chipmunks to chase. Looks like all three of you are enjoying the road trip. Enjoy Colorado!

  6. The pictures of your backyard are gorgeous, but then you live in The Berkshires now. I do love North Adams. I was not aware of the haunted tunnel and would have been totally scared to hike through their on my own…so luckily you had Mark and Jenny to take you through. 200 deaths is an amazing number.

    PS – the picture that made me laugh out loud was the one with Jenny smiling and Mark looking a bit exasperated.

    Hug

    • Haha. Yep, Mark has a hard time smiling in photos. I think he familiarized himself with that attitude and habit during the last year on our boat. We are so fortunate with Jenny. She is a great and happy dog. Not into cuddling much, but happy to be in our presence. She reminds us a bit of our female dog Kali; a great personality. Hope Darwin, the boat and the Aussie interior are treating you well. Aw.. Now I am missing our other dog, Darwin, as well.

      • I am glad that your new life allows you to spend time with new canine companions that evoke thoughts of love for friends of old. Now you’ve got me missing my former ‘first mate’ 🐾🐾 Nelson. I miss having a pup around.

        • Having pups around is so great. But, yet, now that we don’t have our own yet, I do appreciate the freedom it comes with. We do bond really well with all the dogs we pet sit, which is awesome. The downside is that we will miss them (and maybe they us?) once we leave. But, to experience so many wonderful creatures with different personalities is really one of the joys of house and pet sitting!

  7. That tunnel looks and sounds kinda creepy. Thank goodness for Jenny! It is interesting how places with dark histories retain an energy that can be sensed or felt, so much later in time.

    I love the rock wall of the old marble quarry. That is very beautiful and seems like the kind of place one could spend hours or days in.

    You guys have a lot of stamina!!!!

    Peta

    • Peta, it’s good that you never hear me puff and sigh when climbing a hill. Luckily, Mark’s pace is faster, so he is not annoyed by it. He does wait at intervals for me and Jenny. I am finally reading “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson and there is no way I could hike the whole Appalachian Trail. I really liked that rock marble wall as well; it was a man-made thing that was quite pretty for a change. While my sense for adventure would have loved to wander further in the tunnel, it just didn’t make sense (for many really good reasons). 🙂

  8. I tried to leave a comment on this before but the internet keeps dropping so it’s probably lost in cyberspace somewhere 🙁 I don’t mind ghosts as long as they’re the friendly kind. The problem is you don’t always know if they’re friendly or not until it’s too late.

  9. I wouldn’t dare to enter the tunnel if there are already talks about ghosts. Yet, if have a company I might give it a try like scary kid 🙂

    • That would be pretty bold, VE. Maybe a topic for your blog? You should venture into a dark tunnel one day (with company, of course) and see how it goes! 🙂

      • Ahh Thank you very much. Now that’s a motivation, I will look out for such place closer to my town. I am gonna try it 🙂

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