April 19, 2011

Berkshire Cycling: Algerie Road

11 miles   Paved
Town: Becket & Otis, MA
Parking: Corner of Bonnie Rigg Hill and Algerie Rd            


After a very tedious 3 weeks trying to shake a wretched respiratory bug, I can no longer bear being such a slug. The medical world tells me that I should be “taking it easy and not pushing myself…” well this ride is certainly easy and I didn’t push. I rode. It’s this year's first outdoor ride, off the stationary set-up this year: a month later than last year and six weeks later than the year before. Not good.

The Berkshires Hills are, well, hilly but Algerie Road in Otis offers some of  the flattest cycling found outside the river valleys: not only is it no more than a 4% grade, it is not more than a 2% grade, good for training drills requiring flat terrain, or just for a pleasant, pretty ride. Expect little traffic except the occasional semi-trailers hauling stone to and from the granite quarry.  Chester Granite Quarry is worth a stop and look-around if you enjoy stone, to admire the beautiful granite that they quarry, shape and polish.  
 

The ice remained on some local lakes, ponds and swamps, but it was gone here in Otis. As soon as the ice leaves, the spring peepers arrive. They are little nocturnal frogs, not more than 1-1/4 inches long, with a pointy nose, a tannish color, and large feet designed to grip and climb trees and bushes. They’re cute in a kind of reptilian way. Their whistling calls create a big racket, quite the din, in early spring woods and wetlands. We sometimes hear them from half a mile away, their calls becoming loudest at night. They are a welcome sign of spring in New England.



Coltsfoot is another early spring arrival, the first flower I usually see. Its bright yellow shape appears on a naked, leafless stem (the big leaves arrive later) looking something like a dandelion. The plant is extremely invasive and is especially mobile in disturbed soil, where it is often found on the edge of roadsides in large colonies. Colonists brought it from Europe, for it served them as a herbal medicinal which they used to treat lung ailments. Medieval storefront signs, at least in Paris, were carved or drawn symbols, not written words. For pharmacies the emblem was of coltsfoot leaves. By the way, beavers grazed the twigs in the photo next to the coltsfoot.

The redpolls have left to return to their northern summer homes and our summer birds are beginning to return here, with mergansers, mallards and wood ducks back on the pond nearest my house. Today I saw several year-round residents also: most notably the pileated woodpecker that flew across Algerie Road and the kingfisher hard at work in the brook. Here's a hooded merganser.




Roads: One way ride. Algerie Rd. to Rt. 23 and return.

Berkshire Rides List










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