Outdoor adventures in under an hour

August 27, 2012

At American International College, we like to strategically balance our work and play (usually 70/30…but sometimes the ratio can slip to 60/40, given the right conditions). That's why, on a particularly resplendent summer day, when the temperature crested 90 and the sun was abundant, we decided that a little time in the Pioneer Valley's great outdoors was in order.

However, even in play our intellectual curiosity gets the better of us…and what better way to combine the two than with (wait for it) dinosaurs. Any six-year-old would agree. So off we went to check out the dinosaur footprints fossilized along the shore of the Connecticut River in nearby Holyoke, Massachusetts. These leathery treads embedded in sandstone were left by a pack of indeterminate dinosaurs some 190 million years ago. In fact, Holyoke's prehistoric footprints, known as eubrontes, mark the first discovery of dinosaur remains in North America. (It pays to read the informational plaque. You know, for parties.) Paleontologists are unsure exactly what species created the tracks, but they likely belong to an ancestor of Tyrannosaurus Rex, which is Latin for "Not Allowed in the Bouncy House."

As we lounged on the river's edge, trying to regain our breath from all of the excitement, our attention was drawn to an imposing white structure visible atop Skinner Mountain in the near horizon. Deciding that curiosity had worked out for us so far, we decided to keep our outdoor adventure rolling for a bit longer. Off to Skinner Mountain!

Now, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you may be familiar with our habitually dismal timing: visiting the Worcester Art Museum on the one day it's closed, showing up at the Springfield Farmer's Market just as the kettle corn sold out…the list goes on. So it was not entirely a shocker to us that the "imposing white structure," a.k.a. the Summit House, had been closed for massive renovations, which seemed to leave the path to the mountaintop inaccessible. But we at AIC are nothing if not tenacious, and we continued to explore the network of trails that crisscross Skinner Mountain. In no time, we had found an alternate route to the summit and were looking out on a fabulous vista of the city of Northampton, not even 20 miles from the college campus. Church steeples, the unmistakable twist in the Connecticut known as the Oxbow, and traffic meandering along Route 91: all of these features sprawled out in the valley below.

Clearly, we had managed to find a fabulous way to spend a summer day--exploring one of the many outdoor discoveries found in Western Mass. And, to be fair, we made up for our playtime the next day (it was an 80/20 Thursday), but well worth it!

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AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL COLLEGE | 1000 State Street | Springfield MA 01109 | 800.242.3142 | TRANSFORMING LIVES SINCE 1885