Northampton sits in the lush Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts, on the Connecticut River. Home to Smith College and affectionately called Noho by some, this college town is home to a vibrant music scene, fine restaurants and shops. Berkeley of the East, the town also sports a well loved bike trail that connects Northampton to Amherst.
I was visiting my good friend and her family recently and they decided to take me on a bike ride on the stellar Norwottuck Bike Trail, a 9.5-mile path linking Northampton, Hadley, and Amherst. Norwottuck, the Native American name for Northampton means the midst of the river.
We set out on a humid day, ready for a mellow ride, their house was just a block from the entrance to the trail which made departure easy. Living in San Francisco, I’m unused to flat trails and enjoyed the fast and smooth ride and the natural breeze given the weather. Crossing an old train bridge was novel, and with a view of the river it made a perfect rest point and photo op. We passed families, dog walkers, folks of all shapes and sizes enjoying being out and active.
Our journey took us to Hadley where we climbed the dike to the Connecticut River, wildflowers hugging the shore and kayakers paddling in the distance. I was surprised by the huge display of American flags covering the Colonial Houses. It was Memorial Day weekend, but I had assumed that the lefty politics of the area would preclude ostentatious displays of Americana patriotism. Apparently, though, Amherst has a large military population.
It was asparagus season, and I bought a bunch of asparagus grass to bring back to my mom in NYC. I loved the sign on the stand and the honor system of payment.
On the way back, we stopped at a trendy Woodstar Cafe in Northampton. My friends bumped into loads of their friends and colleagues, as I relished the superb coffee. We returned home and soon thereafter I hopped on Amtrak with my bundle of asparagus headed for the Big Apple. Over the years I have written stories about Rails to Trails in Washington DC, Monterey, CA and Boston, it was satisfying to finally enjoy the benefits of this great program.