NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Tramel New England travelblog: Don't forget Massachusetts

An overlook just outside North Adams, Massachusetts. (Photo by Tricia Tramel)
An overlook just outside North Adams, Massachusetts. (Photo by Tricia Tramel)

Massachusetts is the forgotten New England state. Vermont and New Hampshire, everyone thinks of automatically. And, of course, Maine.

Then Connecticut and Rhode Island are notable for their tiny size. The Oklahoma City metropolitan area is 6,359 square miles; Connecticut’s is 5,567. Twelve Oklahoma counties are bigger than Rhode Island (1,214 square miles).

But Massachusetts? Massachusetts is Boston, that big, historic city with the rich accents. We don’t think of Boston when we think of New England, and we rarely think of Massachusetts when we think of New England.

But we should. Massachusetts, at least in the western half, is every bit the New England experience as its iconic neighbors to the north and south.

Trish the Dish and I drove through Massachusetts on Sunday, on the Mohawk Trail from Greenfield to Williamstown. It’s about a 55-mile drive through the Berkshire Mountains, and it was glorious.

The colors were not as stunning as in New Hampshire, but they might not be as stunning in New Hampshire. We’re getting a little past peak.

I finally figured out how to describe peak. Think of them as college football uniforms.

You’ve got your vibrant looks. Nebraska red. Oklahoma State orange. Baylor neon yellow. Then you’ve got a little more moderate colors -- Tennessee pale orange, OU crimson, Iowa State goldish yellow. Finally, you’ve got the deepened colors -- Texas burnt orange, Texas A&M maroon, Notre Dame gold. All mixed in with Michigan State deep green and Oregon lime green.

That’s what New England leaves look like. A kaleidoscope of college football uniforms.

So Massachusetts didn’t have a ton of Nebraska/OSU/Baylor. But it still was beautiful.

Compared to New Hampshire, the Massachusetts foliage drives seemed a little more modern. That’s up to you whether that’s a good thing. Just the businesses and the towns and the roadside scenes. Still quaint. Still charming. Just a little updated, it seems, from New Hampshire.

We saw cows -- never saw a cow in New Hampshire; a few horses, but no cows -- and a corn maze.

The Mohawk Trail was great for several pull-off-the-road views of magnificent valleys. Remember the hike we took on Saturday to get a quintessential New England photograph from a mountaintop? Wasted energy. Those photos were in abundance on the Mohawk Trail, 15 feet from Highway 2.

The towns were charming, all with lovely rivers flowing right through town, particularly Shelburne Falls, which sits on a hillside and attracts weekend tourists who roam the streets and frequent the shops of the vintage town.

North Adams is a blue-collar town of about 12,000 people that clearly was a big manufacturing center in the old days but has been remade into a center of tourism, culture and recreation. It is home to Mass MOCA -- the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, America’s largest contemporary art museum in America.

And Williamstown is a lovely college town. Maybe the most picturesque town we’ve seen. Home of Williams College, which since 2004 has every year been ranked the No. 1 liberal arts college in America by U.S. News & World Report.

Williams College’s campus and downtown Williamstown are pristine, and the town seems lush everywhere, with immaculate houses and grounds. 

We were scheduled to stay in Williamstown and make that our base, but COVID regulations intervened. Massachusetts’ protocols required us to get another test, in addition to the one we got before leaving Oklahoma, so we changed our reservations. Bummer. Williamstown was great.

A rock bridge sits in the background of this New Hampshire setting. (Photo by Berry Tramel)
A rock bridge sits in the background of this New Hampshire setting. (Photo by Berry Tramel)

To reach Massachusetts, we cut through southwestern New Hampshire, only slightly retracing our steps from earlier in the week. But we found new treasures. A fabulous rock bridge, made without mortar and two centuries old, going over a waterfall. Lake Granite, which sits in an almost-hidden valley and is circled by a small road with cabins and houses. I’m telling you, New Hampshire is fabulous.

We ended up crossing the Connecticut River into Brattleboro, Vermont, in the far southeastern corner of that state. Brattleboro, just a few miles north of Massachusetts on Interstate 91, is a bustling arts and tourist town of 12,000. Its unique downtown -- two- and three-story buildings, some of them brick -- is compacted into a few blocks that was full of tourists Sunday. Probably a place we need to visit again.

We turned back into Vermont north of Williamstown and took Highway 7 north toward Burlington. Highway 7 hugs the Green Mountain National Forest, so we saw a significant slice of Vermont.

Armstrong Farms welcomes visitors to Vermont. (Photo by Tricia Tramel)
Armstrong Farms welcomes visitors to Vermont. (Photo by Tricia Tramel)

We stopped just across the state line at Armstrong Farms outside Pownal Center, which was decorated for autumn with a pumpkin patch and which sells a variety of Vermont goods. We bought a bunch of maple syrup.

It was beautiful, just not quite as beautiful as New Hampshire. The villages not quite as charming, the towns not quite as quaint. The settings were a little more pastoral; more open fields around the forests. But also more rundown properties than we saw in New Hampshire. That changed a little as we got closer to Burlington.

And we saw far fewer political signs in Vermont and Massachusetts. They were everywhere in New Hampshire. I guess that’s why New Hampshire gets that first primary.

The sun was setting when we reached Middlebury, Vermont, but I had to stop. My former boss, the late Bob Colon, loved Vermont and he loved Middlebury. Bob is the person who brought me to The Oklahoman 29 years ago. He was a cycling enthusiast and loved to come to Vermont to cycle.

Middlebury was his favorite place, and he loved Middlebury College, a school of about 2,500 students that also is among the nation’s best liberal-arts institutions. It was founded in 1800 by Congregationalists and has a proud history -- Middlebury was the first American school to bestow a bachelor’s degree to an African-American, Alexander Twilight in 1823, and also was one of the first formerly all-male colleges to admit women, in 1883.

Middlebury’s campus is superbly classical. Maybe the most collegial place I’ve ever seen. And the town around it was mesmerizing. I could see why Bob loved coming here. I’ve thought of him often on this trip.

With the sun down, we zipped into Burlington and found a great Italian place, Pulcinella’s, in an old, huge house. Our dinner was great, but we got bad news even before we had ordered.

I had royally screwed up. I’m usually good at trip organization, but when I rebooked our hotel, I put us in Plattsburg, New York, just across Lake Champlain from Burlington.

I knew there were ferries and a bridge between the two, but I didn’t know how inconvenient it was to travel between the cities. Only one of the three ferries was open Sunday night. And the bridge across Lake Champlain is 37 miles north of Burlington. I was sitting in South Burlington, maybe 25 land miles from our hotel, and it was going to take us another 83 minutes to get there.

If we could have hit the hourly ferry a little better, that could have cut some time off. But we didn’t. So we drove all the way to virtually the Canadian border, finally crossed the massive lake and came into New York at Rouses Point, about 100 yards from the Canadian border customs house and border patrol. Then back down to Plattsburgh.

Lake Champlain is 107 miles long and at times 14 miles wide. You can cross the lake where we did, or you can cross at Chimney Point, just west of Middlebury. That’s 81 miles between lake crossings, unless you use the ferry. 

Think of it this way. That’s the distance between Guthrie and Pauls Valley.

Oh well. Live and learn. We’ll navigate the lake via ferry or bridge for a couple of days. New England’s on the other side. We’ve got no other choice.


Related Photos
<figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - " title=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - " title=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - " title=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - " title=""><figcaption></figcaption></figure>
Berry Tramel

Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,... Read more ›