Herb Walks in Western Massachusetts

Clearpath Herbals and Local Harmony kick continue our series of nature and herb walks in western Massachusetts Friday, July 29, from 3pm-6PM. Owen Wormser and I invite you to join us for a unique series of walks along the trails of one of New England’s natural treasures, Mount Toby State Forest, located in Leverett, MA. Among the many beautiful small mountains and hills that make up the Metacomet Ridge, Mt. Toby stands out as a unique (to the surrounding mountains) and diverse (of itself) ecosystem. I feel fortunate to have it just down the road from Clearpath Medicine Gardens, and I am excited to finally be offering it as part of Clearpath School of Herbal Medicine’s on-going classes and curriculum, so that I can share with others what I have come to know and love so much about this place.

Unique Geology Supports Impressive Plant Biodiversity

The Metacomet Ridge is a three-tier ‘layer cake’ of rock strata that erupts diagonally and dramatically out of the Pioneer Valley. Distinct and younger than the Appalachians to the West, most of the Metacomet peaks and ridges that rise from the fertile Connecticut River basin are comprised of basalt, better known as traprock. Mt. Sugarloaf — just to the north of Mt. Toby — is comprised mostly of sandstone. Mt. Toby, however, is comprised of the upper layer of the cake, a sedimentary composite known as Mt. Toby Conglomerate. This unique geology, coupled with an ample supply of water, supports a diversity of flora that dwarfs most of the surrounding area.

MtToby waterfall

I make it a point to walk its trails several times a year, and I am still awed by the number of spring ephemerals and other native plants that I can find in one general area. If you are a fan of native plants, especially ferns and orchids, most can be found among the ecosystems of Mt. Toby. On top of that, it is the highest of the Metacomet peaks in Massachusetts (1,269 feet), it sports a kettle pond, a one-hundred foot waterfall (impressive during spring thaw and after a heavy rainstorm), and caves created from sandstone erosion and earth movement. Not bad for one little mountain.       

Co-Teacher Owen Wormser

I am psyched to be co-leading these walks with my good friend and colleague, Owen Wormser. Owen currently lives in the shadow of Mt. Toby and wanders its rifts and ridges on a regular basis, and he has been an avid explorer of its diverse flora for the fifteen-plus years that he has lived in the Pioneer Valley and worked as a landscape designer (Abound Design). Plus, growing up off the grid in rural Maine has ingrained Owen with a quiet comfortability in nature that I rarely encounter in others. (For a rare and superbly written accounting of such a life, look up The Road Washes Out in Spring, a family memoir written by his poet father, Baron Wormser). It is always a treat for me to walk in the woods with Owen, even and especially when rarely a word is spoken. That is usually when the magic happens, and it is something we hope to facilitate at certain moments during these walks. Mt. Toby offers inspiring settings to practice these sensory awareness and mindfulness skills. And I will not be able to stop myself from sharing information and stories about many of the medicinal plants we happen upon.        

Seasonal Herb and Nature Walks at Mt. Toby State Forest

One of my favorite past-times living in rural Massachusetts is to pick a trail or area and explore it many times over a year’s span. Watching the unfoldment of nature from spring thaw through winter snowfalls teaches me a lot about the world around me, about the life spans and habits of the animals and plants, and about myself. It never ceases to surprise me, even after twenty-one years living in this area. It is a pleasure and honor to be able to share this with people who have a similar natural curiosity and wonder about the natural world.

There are amazements all around us, hidden in the many shades of green, and minor miracles happening all the time, inviting us to take the time and allow our busy minds to clear and slow to that of Gaia’s pace. Sunday will no doubt reveal spring surprises for all of us. I am looking forward to it, and to the other three walks at Mt. Toby later in the season. Hope to see you there.  

The cost for the walk is $50. To register, email Chris at chris@clearpthherbals.com.

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