SHELBURNE FALLS -- The town of Shelburne Falls, located just off the Mohawk Trail (Route2), is home to an active artists' colony, the Bridge of Flowers, Glacial Potholes, Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum and many small shops, galleries and eateries that beg to be explored.
Before exploring the many delights the town has to offer, take time to pick up a map of the town (available at the tourist booth at 75 Bridge St. and many of the local shops) and take note of the buildings marked with green roofs. These buildings are the site of 12 mosaic murals portraying neighboring towns, the Deerfield River and the Native Americans who once inhabited the area.
The Bridge of Flowers
In the center of the village lies the Bridge of Flowers, built as a bridge over the Deerfield River for trolleys in 1908 and abandoned in 1928 with the passing of the trolley line. The 400-foot, five arch concrete bridge was purchased by the Shelburne Falls Woman's Club in 1929 and is still under its leadership.
The bridge features over 500 varieties of annuals and perennials, which are identified with small markers. Benches are located sporadically along its span, providing ideal spots to read, meditate of just gaze at the river and flowers. Definitely worth the visit! And it's free, although donations are welcome.
The potholes, a couple of blocks down the street from the Bridge of Flowers, began to form after the last glacier age when the Deerfield River first started to flow over the rocks -- a mere 14,000 years ago, give or take a few thousand years. The formation of the river-eroded holes is due to a great glacial lake, Lake Hitchcock, that once filled the Connecticut Valley and extended into the lower Deerfield Valley.
While the area that would become Shelburne Falls was not under the lake, it was under the sediments of the river that built a delta into the lake. When the lake drained, the river cut into the delta sediments. During the erosion process, the river flowed on the top of the bedrock and started eroding holes, which continues to this day.
The holes are amazing and the colors of the rock are incredible. Swimming is not allowed at the potholes.
47 Bridge St.
The perfect place to plan your day is Mocha Maya's, which owners/brothers Chris and Bruce King bill as a coffee house, tap room and music hall. It's dark-red painted walls feature artwork by local artists. There are 10 or so tables and a small counter that overlooks the barista's working station. In addition to fair trade coffee, cappuccino, lattes and other specialty coffee drinks, it offers smoothies and pastries. Later in the day, craft beers and wines are available.
Live music is offered Friday and Saturday, beginning at 8 p.m. There is no cover charge, but there may be a pass-the-jar to help pay the musicians. Chris King said a poetry series is on the first Thursday of the month and a documentary series is in the works.
It is open daily 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and to 11 p.m. on music nights.
(Chris King, the on-duty barista when I was there, noted two movies had been filmed in town. "Labor Day" starring Kate Winslet, which was filmed two years ago, and the upcoming "The Judge" with Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall, which will be released this fall. King said Winslet and Downey were partial to the iced coffees and lattes at Mocha Maya's.)
Molly Cantor Pottery
20 Bridge St.
Potter Molly Cantor said she was drawn to Shelburne Falls about 18 years ago because it was "a rich area for artists' and because of its natural beauty. She sells her own pottery and that of featured artists.
She offers 10-week pottery classes for children in the summer and adults year-round. Classes are offered on Monday or Wednesday nights at 6. The next series begin the week of Sept. 8. Advance registration is required; call (413) 625-2870.
It is open daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer.
10 Bridge St.
A visit to the bookstore is highly recommended -- if not to browse the books, then to meet the bookstore's namesake, Boswell the cat. Nancy Eisenstein, who has owned the shop with her husband, Ken, for 2 1/2 years, said the current Boswell is the fifth cat in the store's 30-year history.
The bookstore offers new and used books, puzzles, games and crafts. It hosts author events (recent guest authors had included Ralph Nader, Joyce Maynard, Jeff Grader, Norton Jester and Joseph Ellis) and sponsors a book club.
It is open every day, 11 a.m. to 6 or 7 p.m.
The Baker Pharmacy
52 Bridge St.
The Baker Pharmacy, which first opened in 1867, is an old-fashioned "drug store," featuring a soda fountain and sundries, including "penny candy," which now costs a little more than that. Part of the Downey movie, "The Judge," was filmed around the pharmacy.
Chester Zagrubski, a town resident since 1938, said he was a lifelong customer, adding the store was "pretty much the same" as when he first started patronizing it.
It is open Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Foxtown Diner
25 Bridge St.
The Foxtown Diner, owned by Judy and Toby Gardner for the past three years, is another throw-back in time. Judy Gardner said she gets up at 3:30 a.m. to make the homemade doughnuts (plain and sugar-cinnamon), pies (three were on the menu that day), cakes and puddings.
The breakfast menu is served until 11:30 a.m. Lunch and dinner includes typical diner fare -- grinders, salads, burgers, wraps, fries and onion rings, in addition to daily specials and homemade soups.
The diner is open Monday through Friday, 5 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 5 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Lindsay's Emerald Store & Confections
1 Deerfield Ave.
If you resisted the homemade desserts at the Foxtown Diner -- or even if you didn't -- walk around the corner to Lindsay's, "the home of the Grammy cream puff," which owner Wendi Warger said is her mother's recipe.
Warger does all the baking in the shop, which is named after her daughter, using locally produced ingredients. She creates the Grammy cream puff and two or three other specialty cream puffs each day. The others that day were orange-vanilla cream and cherry chocolate. She recently provided 440 cream puffs for a town dinner that runs the length of the town's famous Iron Bridge.
All of the gifts and food products in the shop are produced in Massachusetts. Another must-try are McCrea's caramels, which she offered as a sample.
Lindsay's is open six days a week, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. It is closed on Wednesdays.
Mo's Fudge Factor
9 State St., Buckland
Across the Deerfield River, directly opposite the entrance to the Iron Bridge, is Mo's Fudge Factor. There are tables in the windows to enjoy the ice cream cones, sundaes and milkshakes and an old-fashioned claw-foot bathtub filled with salt-water taffy. Bins of candy, too many varieties to list, line one wall. A glass-enclosed counter provides a look at the many handmade chocolates and on another counter, under glass domes, sit mounds of Mo's gourmet fudge in at least eight flavors. Whoopie pies and fresh-squeezed lemonade are also offered.
It is open seven days a week.
Lamson and Goodnow Factory Outlet Store
45 Conway St., Buckland
Lamson and Goodnow, "The resource place for gourmet cooks," offers cutlery and kitchen tools made on site. It is the oldest cutlery manufacturer in the United States, established in 1837.
The outlet shop features its world-famous cutlery, including more reasonably priced seconds, kitchen tools and gadgets, wood utensils and cutting boards and gourmet food items. Looking for a great bridal shower or wedding present? This is the place to find it!
The outlet is open seven days, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. When visiting, make sure to walk to the back of the parking lot for an up-close view of the dams on the river and the Glacial Potholes.
Salmon Falls Artisans Showroom
One Ashfield St.
Overlooking the village from a hillside across the river, Salmon Falls Artisans Showroom is a fine arts gallery that represents 100-plus artists from within a roughly 50-mile radius of Shelburne Falls. Both the building, a former grain depot and the business are owned by renowned glass artist Josh Simpson.
Currently on view is the exhibit "Glass Bash," featuring the works of glass artists, including the multi-dimension globes created by Simpson. The gallery features fine gifts, jewelry, glass, Persian rugs sculptures, painting and more.
Donna Gates, gallery director/curator, said the gallery will participate in a village-wide Artswalk on Sept. 13 and "Moonlight Magic," scheduled for Nov. 28.
The gallery is open seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., June through Dec. 31, and four days a week January through May .
Smoky Brothers BBQ
Alas, although I was geared up for some roadside barbecue for an early supper, it wasn't to be. Smoky Brothers BBQ is only open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holiday Mondays, noon to 7 p.m. -- and I was there on Thursday. It offers pulled pork, chicken and beef and numerous side dishes. Next road trip for sure