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We'd heard that there was a beautiful rail trail out in the Northern Berkshires of western Massachusetts. And an attendee at a Rail Trail presentation in Amherst confirmed this. A little research on the Internet turned up the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, which runs through the Hoosic River Valley parallel to Route 8 through the towns of Lanesborough, Cheshire, and Adams, between the Mount Greylock and Hoosac Mountain Ranges.
Ashuwillticook (ash-oo-will-ti-cook) derives from the Native American word for the south branch of the Hoosic River and literally means "at the in-between pleasant river," or in the common tongue, "the pleasant river in between the hills." That name is certainly well chosen as there is a beautiful stretch of class two river along the trail which whitewater kayakers would find very inviting. It was indeed very pleasant and scenic riding through that section of the trail in the cooling shade of the forest.
Our original plan was to find lodging in the North Adams area, go up early and check-in, get on our bikes and ride down to Adams, where we would ride both ways on the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail and then ride the additional 5 miles to North Adams if we felt up to it and spend the afternoon at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art — MassMoca — in North Adams. After looking at several inns on the Internet, we opted to stay at an inn halfway up to North Adams called Jae's Inn.
A rainy morning changed our plan and by the time we drove over, the plan had turned into relaxing at the inn until dinner, and then riding the Ashuwillticook on the following morning.
The hour long trip by car out from Amherst on Route 116 to Adams was an enjoyable and very scenic drive through the hills rising out of the Connecticut River Valley toward the Berkshires.
Jae's Inn was a pleasant surprise, more of a mini-resort than a typical bed & breakfast inn. We had a great room set off in a corner with a private entrance. Nicely decorated and with a jacuzzi tub and small refrigerator, it was quite comfortable. Some of the onsite amenities included a wonderful restaurant serving delicious Asian cuisine, including sushi, a spa featuring Aveda products and various modalities of massage, a sauna, a pool, a tennis/basketball court, and a smallish but nicely appointed gym in an outbuilding. Tuesday nights are "Sushi Night" when all sushi is half price. It's very popular so book a reservation in advance. The same advanced booking advice applies to the spa services which are by appointment only.
What wasn't so pleasant in terms of bicycle riding was that on Route 8 on the way up from Adams to the inn, there is a large "mill" company called Specialty Minerals nestled into the mountainside whose product is calcium carbonate, used in antacids and food supplements as well as paper whiteners and for other purposes. The stretch of road near Specialty Minerals is a fairly industrial area where their big trucks come and go, and everything on the mill property — buildings and roads — is dusted white from the calcium carbonate. Having said that, though the air does seem clean, it's just not exactly a scenic spot. That stretch of Route 8 is fairly busy so we decided that we would drive down to the trailhead the next day instead of riding our bikes.
After enjoying a great meal of a variety of different types of sushi and a couple of glasses of sake, we turned in for the evening eager with anticipation of the coming day's ride.