My 10 Favorite Photos From 2019

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! It’s the last “TGIF” of the decade!

I cannot believe that in a few days 2019 will be on it’s way out and we will be welcoming 2020. I am still in the process of *trying* to finalize my New Year’s Eve plans with minimal success- but there’s still a couple of days left to make reservations and book accommodations- so I’m struggling not to lose my mind too much.

I’ll have my annual “Year in Review” post up bright and early on Tuesday morning before I head off to wherever my date for the evening and I end up choosing as our champagne and countdown location- but before I do- I wanted to revisit some of my favorite photographs I’ve snapped over these past twelve months and give a little backstory on each of them!

Narrowing down hundreds of photos from 2019 to just ten was no easy feat- and in-between marveling at just how many interesting places I visited and how many surreal experiences I had this year- I agonized over what pictures to include and what ones to keep in the digital scrapbook.

But I DID emerge with ten photos I am very, very fond of- and am excited to share before I head off for the last round of holiday parties this weekend!

10. Green River Festival (Greenfield – July 2019):

Shortly after moving to the Pioneer Valley in the Spring, I discovered that the famed Green River Festival took place within a short walking/driving distance from my apartment. Having never been but hearing nothing but good things from the locals- I decided to head down on it’s last day to check it out.

I had a great time watching live, local bands/artists perform- eating plenty of snacks from surrounding food trucks and shopping small business vendors who had set up impromptu tented storefronts on the grounds- but the fields itself were vast, rolling, and very picturesque. While looking for some shade so I could sit and listen to the music without getting sunburnt- I snapped this photo of a gigantic tree in the middle of everything- just looming in the distance against the blue sky.

I thought it was absolutely lovely.

9. “Bad Bitch Falls” (New York – August 2019):

When Troy tells you he has a surprise for you and that he’s picking you up for an adventure- you just roll with it. Such was the case in August when, after a successful dance performance in Salem the day before- he thought he’d take me somewhere new and beautiful to celebrate.

Over an hour in the car and one grueling uphill hike over the Massachusetts/New York State Line later- it paid off. Bash Bish Falls remains one of *the* highlights of my Summer and 2019 overall. It was breathtaking, refreshing- and despite there being a ton of people with the same idea coming and going- for a little while it felt like Troy and I were the only two people there.

And that feeling was divine.

8. Hozier, Boston Calling (Boston – May 2019):

After joining the Indie617 on-air team in March- I never in my life expected it would lead to me being considered “MEDIA” at the biggest Boston-based festival of the year. But, sure enough- I was all over the place that weekend- hosting my show from a nearby hotel/restaurant, running around the press area, having drinks with friends and watching some of my favorite artists perform insanely good sets.

I snapped this photo of Hozier from the lighting rig just as the sun was setting- and right before I had to run across the field to catch the opening of Tame Impala’s set from a different stage.

I got plenty of sun, cardio, and possible alcohol poisoning during Boston Calling ’19- and I hope I get to do it again for 2020.

7. Now It’s All Covered in Flowers (Shelburne Falls – June 2019):

The only selfie of 2019 comes courtesy of my best friend Sean, who snapped this photo of me while visiting my new place one weekend during the Summer. While showing him around my neighborhood and surrounding attractions- we stopped at the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls to take photos and dodge a LOT of bees.

While walking near a moss/leaf covered building just across the street from the bridge on our way back to my car- Sean snapped this photo of me in my little black and pink floral dress with the impressive backdrop behind me.

I always liked how bright and vibrant the colors were in this picture- and I wish I could have made it back in the Fall  to see the difference the season made.

6. Spider Gates (Leicester – October 2019):

While highlighting some of the creepier, more notorious areas in New England this past Fall- I made a stop at the famed Spider Gates cemetery as I was en route to visit my mom. One of the oldest Quaker cemeteries in Massachusetts- Spider Gates has a chilling (but long since debunked) history of the supernatural.

When I visited in October, however- I was the only one there- which is highly unusual given it’s a popular attraction leading up to Halloween. The grounds were- admittedly- a little eerie, and I ended up getting out of there a little quicker than normal after I’d snapped some photos.

This one, showing the entrance gates and the alleged “hanging tree” overhead- was one of my favorites.

5. Hiking Mount Grace (Warwick – January 2019):

A few days after New Year’s of 2019, Massachusetts experienced our annual “January Thaw”- where the temperatures get a little warmer than usual and any accumulated snow begins to melt. The result is typically rainy, foggy mornings/afternoons.

I went hiking that weekend at Mount Grace- and captured this photo of myself crossing a rather rickety wooden bridge over a rising stream of melted snow and rainwater with the remnants of the Fall leaves passing through. Out of all the pictures of snow-covered trees, mossy rocks and storm clouds I had managed to collect- this one was my favorite- because it reminds me of my favorite king of weather here in New England.

4. Orchard House (Concord – February 2019):

I haven’t seen the new adaptation of “Little Women” yet (although I’ll probably catch it tonight after work or later on this weekend)– but back in February I decided to visit Louisa May Alcott’s home on a whim for a tour and to snap some photos of it’s gorgeous and historic exterior.

If you’re ever in Concord- which is a beautiful town all on it’s own- this cozy little home is a must see. I’m sure with the success of the revamped movie it’ll see an influx of tourists flocking into town to experience it for themselves- but don’t let that stop you. It’s a piece of history and the staff there are extremely friendly and kind.

3. The Eyrie House Ruins (Holyoke – October 2019):

I love this photo for a lot of reasons. Not only because I love abandoned and creepy places- and not only because the story of how this hotel burned down to nothing but ruins in 1901 is a borderline comedy- but because I almost died hiking to get there and this photo is a sort of testament to my own strength and resilience.

Following a heavy rainfall in October, I began the longest and steepest hike of my life to the summit of Mount Tom to photograph the ruins. Soaked, slipping, and out of breath by the time I got there- I was ready to just collapse and curl up- but the ruins were worth the trouble and I had the best time exploring them and taking photos.

Next time I’m wearing proper hiking boots, though.

2. The Stolen Artwork (Boston – March 2019):

There are a lot of places in the Greater Boston area that I have yet to visit- and in 2019 I wanted to scratch a few of them off my Bucket List- starting with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum where I got to see the empty frames that held still missing artwork- stolen from the museum back in 1990.

Although the museum was absolutely packed the day that I went- I had a wonderful time- and caught this photo without interruption despite the crowds. The galleries are beautiful and I could have easily spent hours longer in there admiring the art and the indoor courtyard- which made even a frigid March day feel like the middle of May.

1. MASS MoCA (North Adams – October 2019):

And finally, on another one of my “Troy said we’re going on an adventure” outings- this shot was taken in the stairwell of MASS MoCA on a rainy October afternoon. Despite all the art, all the intricate paintings and sculptures and prints and designs around the museum- this shot of the building while I stood in the stairwell with Troy was one of my favorite moments of that day and of 2019 because I was so indescribably happy at the time.

That, and MASS MoCA is a beautiful building in a beautiful town.

It had been a perfect day.

________________________________________

And there you have it- my ten favorite photos from 2019!

I’m hoping to have even more photos to choose from in 2020, since I intend to take my camera with me wherever I go- but for now I’m just going to reflect on these ones I’ve chosen for this year and remember how many good times and good trips I’ve had so far.

I’m off to get some work done and prepare for the very, very busy days ahead. Enjoy your weekend, everyone!

I’ll see you all again on New Year’s Eve!

xx

– Ashley –

Halloweekend!

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

Daylight Savings Time has me all mixed up right now, and being back at work so bright and early this morning is just further scrambling my brain- but I’m going to push through, get as much done as I can today at the office- and go home to rest and relax once 5-o-clock rolls around!

I suspected I’d be wiped out this morning, as I usually am following Halloweekend every year. For those who may be unfamiliar with Halloweekend- it’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s the weekend immediately before or following Halloween (depending on what day it falls on) where people get in one final wear from their costumes, have one last party, or do all things spooky before focus shifts to the impending holidays- Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.

It’s a pretty big event for my friends and I every year, so we wanted to do something really special to commemorate the occasion for 2019 given that we’ve all sort of scattered with multiple moves/re-locations. Some of us haven’t seen each other in 5+ months- so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to reconnect!

And we went big- traveling to New Hampshire to visit Haunted Overload at the DeMeritt Hill Farm in Lee, New Hampshire- which has become one of our favorite attractions in recent years. This past weekend marked the final days of the season, and the company opted for a “Lights Out” event for visitors after dark- meaning all the lights were turned off and you had to walk the trail in total darkness.

It was absolute murder on my nerves and vocal chords from screaming so much- but I really did have the best time!

Of course, no trip to the farm is complete without hot apple cider and apple cider doughnuts. Post-trail, our group indulged in both before we all headed back to Boston to turn the clocks back an hour and close out the night with some horror movies and scary video games- which is always the best time.

And now, with Halloweekend over and November in full-swing- it’s time to switch gears and get ready for the impending festive frenzy!

A little later on this week, I’ll have a peek at my Fall 2019 makeup collection, and a visit to some more unique and unusual attractions in the Pioneer Valley before it starts getting too cold to go outdoors!

But before that- I’ve got to get some work done at the office!

Enjoy the start of your week, everyone! Be strong and be brave. We’re going to get through this together!

xx

– Ashley –

Hike to The Hotel…

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

In continuing my “Haunted/Creepy Massachusetts & New England” posts for the month of October- I wanted to share another abandoned location that isn’t too far from where I live now- although you’ve got to hike a ways through the woods and up a mountain (literally) to find it. Be sure to bring some water and a comfortable pair of shoes!

In the late 1800s, the Eyrie House Hotel- perched on top of Mount Nonotuck in Holyoke, Massachusetts- was THE go-to spot for travelers and high society. Overlooking the picturesque region below- the hotel featured all the extravagant amenities one would expect to find at a five-star hotel in that day and age.

However, in April of 1901- while cremating two deceased horses on the property- owner William Street accidentally set the hotel and surrounding forest ablaze. The hotel was destroyed, unable to be repaired or replaced given Street’s rather frugal views on insurance policies/premiums- and all that remained was a small section of stone ruins that can now be accessed with a lengthy and steep climb up Mount Nonotuck.

This past weekend, enchanted by the idea of finding the old hotel during one of our famous rainy October days- I embarked on the long, exhausting journey- and wasn’t disappointed when I finally came across the ruins. My photos are below- and you can click on them to enlarge!

Honestly, my legs still feel a little like Jell-O from the hike, but it was so worth it!

But with it being a Monday morning, I’ve unfortunately got to get to work and make sure I’m staying one step ahead of things here at the office. I should be back on Wednesday with more Halloween-inspired fun!

Enjoy the start of your week, everybody! Let’s push through to Friday!

xx

– Ashley –

Paying Respects at Spider Gates…

Good Morning and Happy Monday, everyone!

When I was a kid, “Spider Gates” (officially called the Friends Cemetery) in Leicester, Massachusetts was strictly off limits- both by parents everywhere and by the local authorities who would frequently bust trespassers or party-goers in the middle of the night.

Established in 1740, the Quaker cemetery- literally hidden in the middle of the woods (you need to hike a ways away from the only nearby road and through the forest to find it) has been the subject of urban legends, ghost stories, and paranormal fascination for years. The stories range anywhere from the somewhat believable (someone had hanged themselves from a tree within the cemetery during the 1800s) to the absolutely ludicrous (the gates actually serve as a passageway to Hell.)

The reality is that Spider Gates- while undoubtedly eerie for sure- is actually a pretty peaceful spot to visit and marvel at it’s pristine condition and practically ancient headstones. As part of my project to share some of the more unusual and spooky locations around where I grew up and am currently residing here on “Blondie Birdie”- I made a point to stop by yesterday afternoon and snap some photos.

I was the only one there at the time, which made the experience all the more surreal.

And no, I didn’t get possessed by any ghosts while I was there. Not that I know of, anyway. You can see some of my photos below. Simply click to enlarge!

“Spider Gates” is open to the public now during daylight hours only- but if you plan on visiting- just make sure you wear comfortable shoes and have some bug spray with you. Just in case!

I’ll have more roadside oddities and local creepy-ness to share a little later on this week- but with it being Monday and my being back at work bright and early this morning, I’ve got lots to get done!

Enjoy your day, everybody!

xx

– Ashley –

Autumn Leaves and Arsenic…

Good Morning and Happy Friday, everyone! I’m so thrilled that we’ve made it to another weekend!

Having been born and raised in Massachusetts, and spending most of my time in and around New England- I’m no stranger to the curiosities and oddities that can be found pretty much anywhere if you’re keeping an eye open. We’re well-known globally for our bizarre, sometimes morbid history, unusual landmarks and creepy (and often rumored to be haunted) locations.

In October, I like to showcase some of those bizarre places/things as it seems fitting given the Halloween spirit. I figured for the 2019 season, I’d start with a notorious headstone in a small, Quaker cemetery about 45 minutes away from my apartment- and yesterday, after wrapping up a half day at work- I ventured out to find it in the little town of Pelham, Massachusetts while I was admiring the foliage!

Nobody is really sure what the mystery illness that claimed Warren Gibbs’ life in 1860 was (back when the common cold would pretty much seal your fate)– but his brother, William, suspected foul play and accused his sister-in-law- Mary- of poisoning Warren with arsenic-tainted oysters.

The result of this suspicion was a pretty brutal headstone William erected for his late brother that flat-out blames Mary for Warren’s death with a poem etched into the front. You may not be able to read it in the photos- but it says:

Died by Arsenic Poison

March 23, 1860 Age 36 years 5 mos 23 days

Think my friends when this you see

How my wife has dealt with me

She in some oysters did prepare

Some poison for my lot and share

Then of the same I did partake

And nature yielded to its fate

Before she my wife became

Mary Felton was her name

Erected by his brother Wm Gibbs

The next time you think you’re being petty about something- ask yourself- am I William Gibbs level of petty? Because if you’re not having murder accusations etched onto the deceased’s headstone- you are not petty at. all. This headstone was next level.

Next week, I’ll be putting another unusual, possibly creepy place in the “Blondie Birdie” spotlight. It’s one of my favorite October traditions!

But until then, I’ve got to get some work done at the office and then prepare for a fun and (hopefully) productive weekend. Here’s wishing you all a fun and safe couple of days ahead!

See everyone again on Monday!

xx

– Ashley –