By Elizabeth Farnsworth Gazette Contributing Writer
Ah, spring in New England: an 80-degree day following a chilly night. After a long winter of hibernation, I am ready to emerge from my den, go for a brisk walk on a favorite trail, breathe the invitingly warm air, and … take a nap! I love to engage in a peaceful, leisurely celebration of the first balmy days of the season by stretching out in a warm ray of sunshine and drifting languorously off to sleep. Perhaps that sounds under-achieving: Shouldn’t we be cleaning out winter’s cobwebs, mowing the lawn, or planting seedlings? But there will be time for all that activity, after … (yawn) …
Wikipedia identifies an actual syndrome, Frühjahrsmüdigkeit, marked by unexpected sleepiness that accompanies the onset of warm weather. Yes, there is a term for everything and it makes me drowsy just trying to pronounce that one. Perhaps rapid temperature changes cause the blood vessels to dilate, hormones to fluctuate, or the body to get short on protein. Whatever the cause, I am happy to give in to the feeling of relaxation and post-winter relief.
I have written a few books about lovely places, and have joked with friends about coming up with a field guide titled Best Nap Spots in the Pioneer Valley. These special sites would be rated by restfulness, with one “z” (snore) denoting a pretty but not especially calming rest stop and three z’s being the epitome of a napper’s paradise. Since a publisher may never run with this idea, I will share with you three of my favorite 3-Z valley snooze spots and encourage you to find your own.
Buffam Falls, Pelham: Park in a small pull-out off North Valley Road and walk northeast along the road to the trailhead. Follow the trail downhill across a bridge and along Amethyst Brook; the footpath merges with the newly-minted, white-blazed New England National Scenic Trail. A series of small cascades beckons you toward the confluence of Buffam and Amethyst brooks. Water slides over tilted layers of bedrock, and you can choose any of a number of flat ledges that overlook the placid falls. The ground here is made all the softer by the hemlock needles, and the big trees provide shade and coolness even on the hottest of days. The burble of the water is as calming as a fountain, never rushing or turbulent. As you fall still, even the red squirrels will cease their chattering as they get used to your quiet presence. Soon, you will find yourself drifting off …
Mount Tom, Holyoke/Easthampton: The brick-colored basalt peaks of the Metacomet Range absorb the sun’s warmth, so these outcrops heat up faster and earlier than the surrounding landscape in early spring. Make like a lizard and lie out on one of Mount Tom’s dramatic overlooks near Twin Rocks or Goat Peak. A southern exposure provides the most warmth, along with spectacular views of the Connecticut River and— if you’re lucky—glimpses of migrating hawks and other raptors returning to the Valley. Before you know it, you’ll put those binoculars down and rest your weary head …
Notchview Reservation, Windsor, Conn.: Nestled in the southern Hoosac Range, this 3,000-acre property covers rolling hills of dense forest and open fields. Since it’s best known for its ski trails, Notchview tends to be quiet and uncrowded in the spring. Ramble along the Bumpus Trail southeast from the parking area, and soon you’ll come upon the Pierce Shelter and surrounding meadow, with lovely views of distant hills to the east. Admire the butterflies and bluebirds, and have a lovely picnic, followed by a snooze …
Power-napping, of course, requires its own special equipment. You’ll want a picnic blanket, of course, and perhaps a soft pillow that tucks readily into your backpack. Some water to whet the whistle will be welcome when you wake up. A well-broken-in floppy hat to cover your eyes and protect against sunburn and the occasional fly-up-the-nose is a must. You could bring an especially boring novel to induce sleep, but I prefer to let the sounds of a babbling brook, wind teasing pine needles, or distant chirping birds do the trick. Sweet dreams, and happy spring!
For more information on the sites mentioned, visit the following websites:
Mount Tom State Reservation:
When she’s awake, Elizabeth Farnsworth is Senior Research Ecologist at the New England Wild Flower Society, teacher, and scientific illustrator.
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