As I sit in a dark green lawn chair overlooking the beauty of memorial hill, it’s hard to ignore the thoughts of doubt that creep into my mind. Have I taken advantage of this amazing place in which I live? Am I going to have any regrets? The uniqueness of the Pioneer Valley is one of the main reasons I chose to attend Amherst.
Born and raised in the middle of a city, I knew I wanted to spend my college years surrounded by nature and in a place that offers more than skyscrapers and taxicabs. In four years, I’d like to think I made enough of an effort to explore my surroundings and confirm my expectations. Even though I came to this school in search of a different experience, I fully understand how hard it can be to leave your bed in Pond on a Saturday morning while watching 12 episodes of “Arrested Development” (11 of which you’ve already seen), to venture to new places. However, as hard as it is in the moment to get up, you won’t regret it. For that reason, I thought I would share some of the nearby spots that I have found particularly special. This list is both for fellow seniors who don’t want to wake up in a year wishing they had done things differently, and for underclassmen who need something cool to do on a lazy fall day.
The Quabbin is an amazing reservoir in Belchertown, and is actually the largest inland body of water in Massachusetts. It’s a little bit of a schlep to get to but is totally worth it. If you get there early enough in the morning you can rent a little dinghy with a few friends and cruise around the water. The views are absolutely stunning and you can bring or rent a fishing rod and throw a line out. In addition, the hiking around the Quabbin is great, with tons of paths leading to spectacular views of the park. Also, the last time I was there I was lucky enough to see a bald eagle gliding above me, as the Quabbin has one of the densest eagle populations in the state.
If you are looking for a more relaxed adventure, Tavern On The Hill in Easthampton is a great spot to sit and unwind. It is exactly what it sounds like: a restaurant and bar situated on top of a hill overlooking the entire Valley. Autumn is a great time to check it out, as you’re able to enjoy the gorgeous New England foliage from a unique perspective. My recommendation would be to stop by for a small bite or a beer right before sunset, take it out onto their deck and sit facing the expansive view. It really is a special way to enjoy the sights without having to break a sweat.
An activity to take you back to your childhood is apple picking at the Cold Spring Orchard in Belchertown. The orchard is really cool because it’s a UMASS research facility, concentrating on growing more plants in less space and improving plant disease and insect resistance. The quintessential country activity is great with a team, group of friends, a date or even alone. I was taken here on a pre-freshman year trip and it confirmed my expectations of what New England was all about. Not only is it fun to pick the McIntosh, Cortland and Gala apples that they grow, but the dozens of rows of trees and beautiful views of the Holyoke Range make the whole experience a pleasure.
I’m heading next to the Black Birch Vineyard in Southampton.The boutique winery sits on a hillside in the middle of the Valley, and provides a tasting room with what I’ve heard are delicious wines. If you are not yet 21, they also advertise great picnic spots and idyllic views.
Fall in New England is a truly special time. We have a long, dreary winter to look forward to and soon there will be plenty of time to be cooped up inside. If you get to a couple of the spots on this list before the frost rolls in and your walks around campus are filled with the sting of soy sauce in your nostrils, you can be happy that you took advantage of the gorgeous scenery while you could.