Have you been to the Turners Falls canal -- which I think of as a little slice of Venice in western Massachusetts? I first experienced it on a magical, moonlit stroll with friends after one of the legendary fashion shows at Suzee’s Laundromat. However, I soon found that the canal is equally enchanting by the full light of day. Whether for exercise or enjoyment, biking or birdwatching, leaf-peeping or lounging, you need to make the canal connection. Best of all, the canal is only part of the package.
Franklin County is a treasure trove for bicyclists, but its crown jewel may be the beautiful 3.7-mile-long Canalside Rail Trail, built partially on old railroad beds. You can begin "riding the rail” at either McClelland Farm Road in Deerfield or Unity Park in Turners Falls. Parking is available at either end if you’d like to drive your bike to a trailhead. I tend to start at the Deerfield end, mainly because the parking lot is adjacent to the East Deerfield Train Yard. If you’re a trainspotter like me, you’ll love this picturesque spot for watching locomotives and freight cars. The McClelland Farm Road bridge over the Boston & Maine tracks at the west end of East Deerfield Yard provides the perfect perch for photographing trains.