Turners Falls, Massachusetts: A Respite from Everyday Life

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Autumn is coming to a close with Halloween and Thanksgiving now far behind us, and Christmas slowly creeping up on us with all its tinsel and flashing lights. As Winter remains hidden, ready to pop out at any moment, we still have time to explore during this lingering season. With the temperate weather still breathing life into the ground, and in some places keeping the grass growing, we venture into Massachusetts along Route Two, through the winding passes, steep inclines, and tree lined roads which cut through the Berkshire Mountains, and find ourselves at the passing of the Connecticut River. Number two on this list of autumnal destinations is the Village of Turners Falls, a pleasant diversion from the busy lives we all lead.

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Meander across the Avenue A bridge from Route Two, and you will cross the Connecticut River, its water contained by a dam on one side, and rushing through a canal on the other side creating a rocky river bed seeming desiccated, as only trickles of water flow in the natural section of this grand leviathan. This does not take away from its natural beauty though, and as you cross the canal water rushes by in one large body, winding its way past the still standing brick buildings of the old mills, no longer occupied for their original intended use.

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Turners Falls reminds me of Bedford Falls from Its a Wonderful Life. Although main street is not a tree lined avenue, there is something quaint in this small sleepy town, which harkens back to old times. You can almost see Ernie, the taxi cab driver, leaning out the window, all the while chewing the fat with Bert, the local police officer. Everything in this town seems to be on a slow schedule, and that is ok. With brick buildings flanking the main street, you get a sense of what its like to live nestled against the somnolent Berkshires.

Along the canal is a walking path with small walking bridges, which cross the rushing water. These old steel structures, suspended over the swift current, stand strong, fastened together by rivet and steel plate, the green paint flaking to expose rusting girder beneath. The wooden decks have seen many seasons, yet still hold strong, not bowing underfoot. Stroll or bike along the Turners Falls Bikeway down to the Riverfront Park along the shore of the Connecticut river and then cross into Deerfield, linking up with the Franklin County Bikeway for a longer ride–the section in Turners Falls is a 3 mile paved path.

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When you have gotten a bit of healthful exercise, find your way into the shops on main street. A quirky little community, Turners Falls will not disappoint the vintage shopper, the art collector, the artist, or collector of industrial antiques. If you are looking for any of this, or just antiques, you have come to the right place. Hidden away in this town is a store called Loot: found + made. I cannot stress this enough, if you are in search of something different, industrial antiques, and at incredibly reasonable prices, you cannot afford to miss out on this store. This unassuming store, with its quirky displays in the plate glass storefront, is worth the trip alone–my friend and I recently traveled down there just to shop for Christmas, taking a three hour drive one way just for Loot. Everything in this shop is unique, different, original, and quirky. Art adorns the walls, industrial springs, gears, and knife blanks litter small bins, while old tool boxes sit stacked on shelves, just ready to be taken home. It isn’t just the belongings, but the employees and owner. John, the proprietor of this wonderful menagerie, was kind enough to approach us and shake our hands, introducing himself, curiously wondering why we travelled three hours to shop there. The conversation was warm and friendly, as if we saw each other passing on the street everyday. He is just one of those guys with a kind smile, and who will go out of his way to make you feel welcome at his establishment. Erin, standing behind the desk, attentively taking objects from us as our hands overflowed with the goods and wares we felt we could not live without, was kind as well, and engaged us in friendly conversations as we ambled around the store. Unique and quirky vintage goods, jewelry and clothing, pleasant conversation, if you are in the market for any of this, just find Loot. Now if Loot isn’t you speed, then walk down the street to Stuff, only a few doors down, for a more modern art feel.

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How can so many interesting stores be on one street, in a sleepy town, at the foot of the Berkshires? Stuff sits only a few stores down from Loot, and its interesting decor, objects, art, and epherma is sure to pique anyone’s interest. Even if you aren’t in the market for a paper mache bullfrog about three feet tall, it is still fun to look at. From art to vintage wares, Stuff has it. There are many good finds in this shop, and again, the prices here seem extremely reasonable. Sometimes I wonder if these aren’t normal prices, but since I live outside of a gentrified city like Portland, I am not exposed to these kinds of deals. Either way, these two shops are incredible and worth seeing. After you have shopped, and worked up an appetite, work your way across the river, to Greenfield, for a pleasant diversion.

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Across the river, just a mile or two west from Turners Falls is Greenfield, another quaint little town with interesting shops, and one of the best brewpubs I have been to in a long time. The People’s Pint sounds like a manifesto of the Communist craft brew party. You expect to see pictures of Trotsky, Stalin, and Lenin hanging on the wall, instead you find a traditional brew pub so reminiscent of New England. The smell of beer lingers on the air, with toasted malts and hops wafting past our noses as we seat ourselves at a booth. The staff was so pleasant and nice, attentive and swift, they made it a most pleasant experience. But you aren’t reading this to find out about the staff, you want to know about the beer. Oh, and it was spectacular. I am a lover of dark beers, porters and stouts, browns and black IPAs, and they did not disappoint. I was amazed, surprised, and my mouth is watering just writing this, thinking about all the different brews. I am not going to list it all, but I did not find a beer that would have fallen below four out of five stars. The food was phenomenal, good, simple, rustic, and prices well below the hip scene of many cities, in which you will pay fifteen dollars for a cheeseburger. Here, everything was cheap, well made, delicious, and with a perfect twist of different, but not straying to far from the original. I know where I will find myself eating next time I am in town, and enjoying a few pints. Get a flight of beer, and try their IPA, one of the best I have ever drank.

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As the day winds down, maybe you will head west toward William and Mary and ascend the peaks of the Berkshire Mountains, or go east, and find the nightlife of Boston, drinking a pint of Guinness at one of the many Irish Pubs. Either way, you will reminisce about the day, and feel a warmth envelop you, as you are already thinking about the next time you will go back to Turners Falls.

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David Jester

About David Jester

David Jester lives in the Midcoast region of Maine. He received a masters degree in American and New England Studies from the University of Maine. David is a full-time firefighter/paramedic and writer, who maintains another blog www.firefighterwithapen.com. He travels the world, but chooses locales that many would never consider for vacation. The world is full of many different and unique places, why not see them all?