Sunday, September 12, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 68: Sutton, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 68:  Sutton, Massachusetts
August 18, 2010

            I did not know much about the Blackstone River Valley before my recent trip there.  Now it has become one of my favorite spots I have seen thus far.  The scenic beauty is something that I was not prepared for and it blew me away.  Sutton was very special because of its amazing natural wonder known as Purgatory Chasm which I will delve into later.
The beauty of the Blackstone River Valley
            Though there are many historic sites and some amazing farms to see I feel that as hard as I may try to paint a picture there is no substitute for being there.  Sutton, and all of the towns I visited in the Blackstone River Valley, fall into the category of ‘you have to be there.’  However I will still try my best to detail what a wonderful time I had out there.
            As much as there are historic sites and natural beauties to see in Sutton there are a few other spots that are feasts for your stomach as well as your eyes.  Keown Orchards is a gigantic farm known mostly for its apples but not exclusively.  The 175 acre farm was purchased by Arthur and Alice Keown in 1924 and you can watch the apples get brought in from the fields; not to mention the rows and rows of trees.  The sheer size of the orchard is amazing, teeming with apples, nectarines, apricots, peaches, and more.  The farm stand is open from July through Christmas Eve.  Keown Orchards is definitely a place to stop and pick up fruits and veggies that are as fresh as can be.
            Another delicious stop is Eaton Farm Confectioners.  They make their own homemade chocolates and candies and it absolutely lived up to the hype for me.  The story of the business goes back to 1892 when Ira M. Chute took forty-one dollars he had saved and opened his own candy store called Chute’s Candies.  The store and recipes were passed down from Mr. Chute to his son and eventually to Lynwood Eaton who purchased the store in 1974 and moved it to the Eaton Farm.  I was in awe of the chocolates I saw.  Their most well known creation is the Peanut Butter Lust Bar which includes peanut butter, chocolate chips, cashews, marshmallows and rice crisps.  It is all coated in gourmet chocolate and is as delicious as it sounds.  They are open year round and also sell their tremendous items at their website which is in my ‘reference’ section below.  Eaton Farm Confectioners is a must stop destination in Sutton.
Purgatory Chasm
            In keeping with the farm theme there is also Waters Farm on Waters Road.  This spot was closed when I arrived, closer to sunset.  That did not spoil my time there as the setting sun gave some of the old buildings a beautiful orange and yellow hue that seemed more magical when combined with near total silence around me.  Waters Farm’s origin dates all the way back to 1757 and the historic homestead built by Stephen Waters which overlooks Lake Manchaug.  The farm’s 120 acres of protected watershed land was donated to the town by Dorothea Waters Moran in 1974. 
            So many of these places that I visited in Sutton had an added bonus, that being the drive to them.  The Blackstone River Valley is an amazing area and I found myself losing the road at times as I gazed upon the rolling hills of green that would stretch out behind buildings and homes along my route.
            The final place I visited in Sutton was a one of a kind.  Purgatory Chasm State Park was hyped up to me by my friend Keisha who lives twenty minutes north of Sutton in Worcester.  After seeing and experiencing it for myself I will say that it exceeded my expectations.  Basically Purgatory Chasm is believed to be the result of the sudden release of dammed glacial water at the end of the last Ice Age approximately 14,000 years ago.  It is a quarter mile rock climber’s paradise.  The ‘trail’ through the Chasm is marked by a blue line, but there are rocks of all shapes and sizes littering the path which makes even the marked path a workout.
Purgatory Chasm
            The granite rock faces on either side rise as high as seventy-feet and some of the spots have been named.  I got to see ‘His Majesty’s Cave,’ ‘Lover’s Leap,’ ‘Devil’s Pulpit,’ and ‘Devil’s Corn Crib.’  There were many people climbing the rocks although I would only recommend it if you are in reasonably good condition.   However, that should not stop any and all visitors from taking in this incredible natural wonder. 
            Sutton, and the entire Blackstone River Valley area, is a place that needs to be seen.  The breathtaking views offered nearly everywhere you drive will make even the trips between spots meaningful.  As the fall approaches there will be unbelievable foliage to see but this is an area to visit at anytime.  Partake of the delicious chocolate at Eaton Farm Confectioners, or enjoy the fresh fruits and veggies at Keown Orchards.  Afterward make sure to take the time to visit the incredible natural wonder that is Purgatory Chasm, there is no way you will be disappointed.  Sutton is definitely a highly recommended town in my opinion.  Have fun and happy traveling!

For a short video of my trip to Purgatory Chasm click here: Purgatory Chasm, Sutton, Ma. - YouTube

DirectionsPurgatory Chasm:  Take I-90 to Exit 10A for Rt. 146.  Take Rt. 146 south to Exit 6, Purgatory Road.  Turn right, visitor’s center is ¼ mile on the right.
Keown Orchards:  Take I-90 to exit 10A, take Rt. 146 South to Central Turnpike East, take your second left at Dodge Hill Rd to your first right on McClellan Rd.  Look for Blue Attraction signs which designate the Orchard.
Eaton Farm Confectioners:  Take I-90 to Exit 10A for Rt. 146.  Take Rt. 146 south, turn right at Boston Rd.  Turn right at Burbank Road.  The farm is on the right, Eaton’s Drive.

            Eaton Farm Confectioners
            Sutton, Ma. - Official Site

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