New Marlborough, New Marlborough, New Marlborough just try saying that three times in a row. I was practicing yesterday as I was exploring this new-to-me area of the Berkshire Hills, and finding it one tricky tongue-twister. New Marlborough is a conglomeration of 5 tiny villages, Mill River, Southfield, Hartsville, New Marlborough, and Clayton. There’s not much here, but the appeal is strikingly cozy.
And as usually happens, a perfect Rodney Atkins song came on the radio for me to sing along to…
And it makes me wanna take a back road
Makes me wanna take the long way home
Put a little gravel in my travel
Unwind, unravel all night long
It’s still freezing cold here, but I’m determined to keep exploring. I am brave in many ways and a complete wimp in others. Driving in snow equals wimp! Even with my new snow tires, I find that I am hindered in what I am willing to risk. There was no snow where I grew up so there was no practice doing 360’s, or digging out of a snow bank. Consequently, the back roads I look forward to exploring turn into white teeth ready to gobble me down their gullets in the winter.
My first effort at finding a hike called Dry Hill (how NOT “dry” can you be?) was met with turning around when things got a bit too slippery so I never made it there. Next up…Umpachene Falls…failing yet again, because of a bridge being closed and nowhere to park.
I decided to throw in the towel on the hike idea and head to the Southfield Store for lunch. Finally hitting the sweet spot, this is a darling cafe, with great food, a cute green door, nice coffee and amiable ambience. I sat there and had a wonderful BLT with carrot soup, looking at where I might venture next.
There are beautiful white churches to admire, but what I’m really looking for is outdoor adventure. Back in the car I make it around to Mill River where there is a library and an old general store. The store houses the post office window and is the social hub of this quaint vill. Is that a word? Short for village, hey, Mr. Shakespeare I can make up words too!
I am tickled by the walls and pillars of mugs with names painted on them and ask the proprietor about it. He said that for five bucks you can join the Coffee Club and you get a mug with your name on it and free coffee for the first 30 days. After that, coffee is free every Friday and maybe Sunday, I got lost in following all the rules, and they keep the mug there on the premises hanging from a hook. He stressed that you can’t take it home. They even had a row of mugs saved from members that have passed away, an uncommon, touching memorial to loved ones lost. I wished that I lived closer because this is a club I would join in a heartbeat, not the deceased one, but the living….well, you know what I mean.
Mill River has a simple-life feel, going back to basics, unpretentious, natural and quaint in a sweet way. As I chatted with the owner I asked him about hikes and he pointed me in the direction of two. One to my left and one to my right. The first was back to the falls that I tried to get to with the closed bridge and he said you just park on the other side and walk across. So back I went to Umpachene Falls this time approaching it from the west and enjoyed the short, icy stroll around the frozen falls, but it still wasn’t quite what I was looking for.
Next up was Questing, yep, now there’s a good name for the end of this day’s adventure. I drove up a hillside and shimmied my way into the snowy parking lot and strapped on my yaktrax and away I went. It was a quiet, beautiful hike, a fine place to see the sun go down while standing in a snow-covered pasture and…
Get lost and get right with my soul
Makes me wanna take, makes me wanna take a back road
“The greatest delight…which the woods minister…They nod to me and I to them. The waving of the boughs in the storm is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher thought or a better emotion coming over me…” (Emerson)