State Route 2 runs the length
of Massachusetts from Boston
Berkshires. The western portion, just below the
southern border of Vermont and New Hampshire, traces
an old Indian footpath and is known as the Mohawk
Trail. The trail was a primary trade route between
the Indian tribes of Upstate New York and those settled
along the Atlantic coast. The English colonists in
Massachusetts and the Dutch settlers in New York communicated
with one another by using Mohawk messengers along
the trail. As both European powers were eager to expand
their land holdings, they seized the opportunity as
Mohawk warriors used the path to attack tribes to
the east, most notably the annihilation of the Pocumtucks.
The late 17th century saw Metacomet use the trail
to move his unified Indian army for attacks on English
settlements during King Philip’s War. The route was
to be used one hundred years later by a younger Benedict
Arnold to recruit additional forces for an assault
on the British at Fort Ticonderoga.
Today, only a small stretch
of the old Indian footpath still exists and can be
hiked in the Mohawk Trail State Forest. The tourists
now come to drive the scenic byway between Orange
and Williamstown to admire the white-steepled churches
dotted among the oranges, reds, and browns of the
turning leaves. We started out early on our drive
to beat the traffic and were fortunate to experience
the serenity of area as the low clouds began to lift.
We pushed on through the small towns and made obligatory
stops at historic Deerfield and French King Bridge.
As the lunch hour struck, we espied the Smoking Hippo
where we dined on spicy BBQ (and I mean spicy) and
the fine products of the Berkshire Brewing Co. while
surrounded by the turning leaves.
We continued down Route 2 towards
the orchards of Bolton and Berlin where families were
out in droves to pick apples, sample cider, and find
that perfect Halloween pumpkin. We discovered the
birthplace of Johnny Appleseed, the legendary name
of John Chapman who spread apple cultivation throughout
the American Midwest. Continuing on Route 2, we would
have passed by Concord and Lexington and ultimately
reached Boston. Instead, we stopped short of Walden
Pond where Thoreau spurned the modern conveniences
of the 19th century to live in wooded solitude.
A church along the trail.
Johnny Appleseed marker.
Deerfield's historic district.