Sunday, July 20, 2014

Anniversary Adventures: Mount Norwottuck and Jacob's Pillow

July 17, 2014 was Seth and my 4-year anniversary. To celebrate, we took the day off from work and spent a lovely day enjoying the wonderful weather and each other's company.

One of our main activities for the day was a lovely hike along the M+M trail up Mount Norwottuck. Amherst and the surrounding towns boasts a ton of conservation land and loads of trails. For example, the Robert Frost Trail is less than half a mile away from my door, and I run along there all the time. I was excited to check out some new trails in the area.

We started our hike at the Mount Holyoke Range Notch Visitors Center.

We took a quick tour of the Visitors Center, which offered some brief exhibits, before beginning our hike. We had plans to climb to the top of Mount Norwottuck, the highest point in the Mount Holyoke range at 1,100 feet. We were starting at probably around 800 feet, so this would be a relaxed and fun hike.

We planned to take the M+M trail up the mountain and come back a different way, taking the M+M trail father out past the summit, walking through the Horse Caves, and then returning back to the Notch along the Robert Frost Trail. The hike would be around 3.5 miles through some lovely trails.

Our relaxed hike went great. The trails were easy to follow and perfect for someone wanting a nice walk without too much difficulty.

It took us around forty minutes to get to the summit. The views were amazing! We could even see the UMass library clearly in the distance.

One of the most exciting parts of our hike was the return trip which took us through the Horse Caves. These were more of a rocky outcropping than deep caves where one might go spelunking, but it was a very cool area to get to explore and climb around.

We returned from our hike at around 1:00 and were ready for some lunch. We decided to head up to Mount Pollux, where we had a picnic lunch.

Mount Pollux is another conservation area in Amherst and one of the most lovely spots around. For the non-hiker, you can drive right up and enjoy the sights and scenery without any extra effort.

We finished our anniversary with a lovely dinner at the Lumber Yard restaurant in Amherst and a movie at the Amherst Cinema. A wonderful day!

Our second adventure of the week happened yesterday. The long-awaited trip to Jacob's Pillow. Located about an hour away in the town of Becket in the Berkshires, Jacob's Pillow is home to the oldest dance festival around. It's also a mecca for dance with educational components, such as classes, and rehearsal space for dance troupes to come and do retreats.

We had tickets to see Ballet 2014, a performance put on by some of the best New York City Ballet dancers coordinated and featuring Daniel Ulbricht, a NYC Ballet principal dancer. The show was at 2:00 p.m., but we arrived a little bit early so that we could walk around and enjoy the area.

Our trip to Jacob's Pillow was during the dance festival. There were lots of free things to enjoy. We got to check out an exhibit of old movie posters that featured dance.

During the festival, there are free talks and free outdoor performances in addition to the performances you can purchase tickets for. After wandering around, we headed back to the Ted Shawn Theatre to take our seats for Ballet 2014.

The performance was absolutely amazing! Seth said it was the best ballet he had ever seen. He's used to seeing a lot of the classical ballet (think Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, and ballerinas in tutus) and was really excited to see some slightly different and more modern works.

The performance was about an hour and a half, including an intermission. The first half of the program featured five shorter works. Furiant, Pas de Duex from Two Hearts, Liturgy, Opus 19 Andante, and Sunshine. The most stand out pieces were the pas de duex from Two Hearts and Sunshine. The pas de duex was amazingly emotive and flawlessly performed. The music was a very interesting almost folk-inspired song with words. I am not a ballet critic by any means, so it's hard for me to describe how excellent this piece was. The performance of Sunshine by Daniel Ulbricht was a ball of energy and technically masterful. It was a short piece, but I think it stole every one's breath!

The second half was one ballet, Fancy Free, which was a fun and energetic story about three sailors on shore leave. The ballet had been performed in the mid-40s and not since. It was a fun period piece with a lot of lighthearted humor, seemingly well suited for a summer show at Jacob's Pillow.

After Ballet 2014, we headed over to the Inside/Out theatre, where you can see performances for free. The group there (which I believe was from the school at Jacob's Pillow) was performing some very modern ballet with "Thriller" inspired music and zombie-like moves. It was very interesting to watch.

I cannot say enough about the fantastic trip we had to Jacob's Pillow. I definitely want to go again next year. I know that they offer discounted tickets to individuals under 35 for Friday night performances, so I might look into that for next year. Jacob's Pillow certainly seems like a very special place and a must-see location for anyone who enjoys dance.

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