Treasure Hunting – Mountain Meadow Preserve

Treasure Hunting – Mountain Meadow Preserve

Where We Went: Mountain Meadow Preserve / Williamstown, MA & Pownal, Vermont

When We Went: Last day of August

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : 0.5 Boot – 1 Boot

Trail Length: 4.1 miles of trails – Trail surrounding Mountain Meadow is less than 1-mile loop

How Long it Took Us: 2 Hours

Overview: 180-acres of fields and reforested woods make up Mountain Meadow Preserve with portions located in both Williamstown, MA, and Pownal, Vermont. It is owned and maintained by the Trustees of Reservations.

Grace Stoddard Niles spent her childhood exploring that land and in 1902, published The Origin of Plant Names, adopting Greylock as her middle name (from Mount Greylock and Chief Gray Lock). In 1904 she published Bog-trotting for Orchids with her own illustrations. She continued to publish articles on local history and nature. In 1918, at the age of 54, Grace settled on her family’s land but by 1921, her behavior became erratic, and she began harassing her neighbors, culminating in the seemingly deliberate burning down of her own house.

As a result, she would live out the rest of her days at the Brattleboro Retreat (a Vermont mental health facility), and her contributions have been widely forgotten. The well-mowed Niles Trail, Grace’s namesake, leads to the 690-foot elevated grassland where one can gaze across diverse wildflower fields. Spend some time soaking in the spectacular views of Mt. Prospect, Mt. Greylock, and the Taconic Range, that surround this massive meadow. Few landscapes can match the fiery patchwork that transforms the horizon during peak fall.

What We Dug: The short walk from the trailhead to the meadow was filled with excitement. Everywhere we turned, we discovered something new. Monarch caterpillars enjoying the milkweed, gnarled vines to swing on, and a hopping toad hurriedly crossing our path. Autumn days were far from our minds as we marched into the wild expanse of goldenrod and asters, banked among crimson sumac. It was fun telling the kids about an old goldenrod superstition. It’s been said that a person who carries goldenrod with them is destined to find treasure, being a symbol of riches and good fortune. This resulted in a scurry of hands and yellow clutchings, and we spent generous portions of this adventure “treasure hunting” and then doggedly trying to define “superstition” to a 6-year-old – *face palm* (did I say fun?).

Continuing our slow amble around the field; monster grasshoppers, butterflies, and dragonflies galore surprised us at every turn. Veda, our 2 year old, found herself in flower heaven. Stopping to smell the roses (or in this case, the purple asters), takes no prodding when you’re only knee-high. Mason (6), was more difficult to impress. Throughout the hike, he had mentioned (read: repeated every 3rd step), how MUCH he’d LOVE to see a praying mantis. Neither Dan or myself had ever seen a mantis and not knowing much about them (habitat, lifespan, etc.), we did what any sane parent trying to avoid a massive let-down would do – SNACK TIME! This redirection didn’t last (it never does), and before long we were back to muttering our mantis mantra. And ya know what guys? It worked. I shit you not. Somehow that kid conjured a mantis out of the sky. Flying (they fly!) down in front of us was what looked like a white dragonfly. The creature landed on a large stalk and upon further investigation – there. it. was. MANTIS. We could not believe our eyes! It was quite a while before we abandoned our new friend and got back to the trail. Talk about speaking something into existence!

On this brilliantly blue day, the views of the Hoosac Valley and Mt. Greylock were breathtaking. At the top of the meadow the billowy sea of clouds hung almost motionless over the grand hills. With summer swiftly fleeing, you couldn’t help taking the extra time to drink it all in. We followed the loop back to the parking lot and vowed to return in the fall.

Lapses in parental judgment be damned, Mountain Meadow came through with the real treasures that day. Gold is for fools, nature is the infinite prize.

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir

What We Could Do Without: Muddy in spots. If it’s been raining in recent days before your visit, be sure to wear appropriate footwear. Be sure and tuck in your pants and do the pest prevention dance – fields and long grass can be tick-city.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For: Goldenrod, asters, grasshopper, crickets, mantids, monarch caterpillars & butterflies

Must Know Before You Go’s : Great Birding Locale, No Facilities, Leashed Dogs OK, Cross Country Skiing, Snowshoeing, and Picnicking Permitted, No Bicycles.

Directions : Williamstown parking area: From the intersection of Rts. 2 and 7 in Williamstown, take Route 7 north for 1.7 miles. Bear right onto Mason Street (steep dirt road uphill), follow to entrance and parking. GPS – 42.7385337,-73.2075694

Alternate Entrance/Pownal, Vt. parking area: From the intersection of routes 2 and 7 in Williamstown, follow Route 7 north 1.7 miles, turn right onto Sand Spring Road, then bear right onto Bridges Road Follow for 0.3 miles, turn left onto White Oaks Road, and follow for 1.1 miles when the road becomes dirt. Continue for 0.4 miles, bear left at the fork onto Benedict Road, and continue 0.1 miles to entrance and parking (eight cars) on left.


More info on the land’s former history here

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In the Shadow of Purple Majesty – Greylock Glen Meadow

In the Shadow of Purple Majesty – Greylock Glen Meadow

Greylock Hiking Berkshires

Where We Went : Greylock Glen – Adams

When We Went : Mid- May

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : 0.5 Boot

Trail Length : Handicapped Accesible Greylock Glen Meadow Loop Trail – 1.7 miles // Moser Farm Loop Trail – 2.2 miles

How Long it Took Us : 2 Hours

“I pointed to a hill at some distance before us, and asked what it was. ‘That, Sir,’ said he, ‘is a very high hill. It is known by the name of Graylock.’ He seemed to feel that this was a more poetical epithet than Saddleback, which is a more usual name for it.”

From the American Notebooks of Nathaniel Hawthorne

Overview : To the first settlers in the 18th century, it was called Grand Hoosuck Mountain. Pittsfield viewers dubbed it Saddle Ball or Saddleback, much to the disapproval of Hawthorne’s stagecoach driver in the quote above. Yet it is here we find the 1st written record of the name “Graylock.” The likely assumption is that the name stems from the rolling haze that constantly blankets its peak. As it is with both history and mountains, things get cloudier the farther you go. In David Dudley Fields’ 1829,

Chief Gray Lock Burlington Vermont Legend of Greylock

But for us romantics in the crowd, consider a popular legend: A forceful chief of the Western Abenaki,

The Greylock Glen has a less notable, more infamous, history of its own. Originally owned by local farmers, during the 1970s, a resort conglomerate by the name of ELCO, attempted to develop the land into a massive condominium complex including a ski resort and golf course. Thought to be the economic savior for a chronically depressed area, after various false starts and attempts at construction, the project was abandoned due to financial issues. The state acquired the land in 1985. These days, plans for the

What We Dug : I’m so excited (and apprehensive) to see this place developed. We fell in love the minute we set foot on the trails. Wide, gravel trails were a bonus for the two miniature sets of legs that always seem to be following us around. We began with a stroll through a lively thicket that surrounds a pond with views of the legendary mountain. The wetland area is home to many migratory birds, and just teeming with diverse plant-life. The sounds of spring peepers were a familiar backing track for such an idyllic walk.

Following the trail into a wooded area, the kids were on high alert for rumored remnants of a ski resort that never was.

Chair lift towers reclaimed by nature couldn’t hide from my two champion seekers. Neither could evidence of busy beaver activity.

Further ambling took us into a magical birch grove and into a meadow. All I can say is: VIEWS. Unbelievably magnificent mountain views in every direction. I was blown away. I still am. I look back at the pictures and want to drop everything and just sit there for hours. I kid you not. It was that good. We happened to visit amidst the sparkling halo of golden hour, a happy coincidence, as Mr. Ross would surely agree. The views of Greylock and the surrounding hills are absolutely breathtaking. Revisiting during autumn months for the seasonal colors is a MUST. The monstrous willow trees are a perfect spot to enjoy an apple, a hot cider, or split the difference and indulge in an apple cider donut (or 2 – we’re hiking here people). I cannot think of a better spot to herald the fall foliage in all of it’s regalia.

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” John Muir

What We Could Do Without : Litter makes the Earth sad, and makes us mad. Pick up yer stinkin’ garbage, ya cretins!

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For: black cherry, red maple, box elder, quaking aspen, gray birch, paper birch, black willow, musclewood, swamp dogwood, honeysuckle, marsh marigold, cattails, sensitive fern, trout lily, staghorn sumac, blue azure butterfly, red-spotted newt, leopard frog, beaver, american kestrel, eastern kingbird, red-winged blackbird, pileated woodpecker, northern cardinal, american goldfinch, golden eagle

Must Know Before You Go’s : Glen Meadow Loop is a packed gravel, multi-use path for non-motorized recreation. Handicapped Accessible. Moser Farm Loop is not. Parking available. Bathroom Facility, Gazebo with picnic table, Leashed Dogs Allowed.

Directions : In Adams, take MA-116 North and stay on Center/Park St for 2.4 miles. Turn left at E Maple St and continue onto Maple St. Take a left onto Notch Rd and continue onto W Rd. Gould Road will be on the right, keep left to arrive at Greylock Glen.

Website :

Resources :

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Leave It To Beaver – Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary

Leave It To Beaver – Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary

Where We Went : Mass Audubon Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary / Lenox, MA

When We Went : End of June

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : 1 Boot

Trail Length : 7 miles of trails

(All Persons Trail: 0.3 miles)

How Long it Took Us : 2.5 Hours

Overview : Gee whiz, Wally!

Established in 1929 by the Lenox Garden Club, the sanctuary celebrated it’s 90th (!) year this season. The evolution and development that this property has experienced over the last 9 decades is full of inspiring stories of individual stewardship and organized benevolence. Collaborative efforts of 90 years (crazy, right!?) of hard work created a space where nature preservation and environmental education can walk hand in hand.

Many who think of Pleasant Valley do so because of the beavers. One of the more interesting stories is the re-introduction of these animals and the creation of the habitat that we see when we visit today. In October of 1932, Warden Stuyvesant Morris Pell (

Pell, passing at age 38, would never see the full impact of his role in enriching this area. He requested small hemlock trees to adorn his funeral. If you walk the sensory trail around Pike’s Pond, take a moment of gratitude in the hemlock grove for Warden Pell. For a man who thought his education was lacking; much like a beaver transforms their surroundings, he surely left an indelible mark.

Passing into the hands of Mass Audubon in 1950, Pleasant Valley continues to be a driving force in land preservation, environmental education and ecological innovation.

What We Dug : We visited Pleasant Valley at the end of June, as celebrations for their 90th birthday were underway and the mountain laurel was really putting on a show! Bursts of the fragrant pink & white stars were blossoming everywhere, making our adventure one to remember.

We hiked the

The boardwalks and bridges are abundant, letting the kids get up close and personal with the water and multiflora around it. Every viewing platform was an opportunity to relax and drink in the sunshine, and also feed the insatiable horde we brought along with us. At the end of our trek, Mother Nature graced us with a warm summer rain shower.

Don’t miss the Hummingbird Garden at the beginning of the All Persons Trail or the Nature Play Area at the end of the trail!

What We Could Do Without : Pleasant Valley is a widely popular nature preserve. This is not the hike if you’re looking for low traffic, especially in the summer/fall months.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For: BEAVERS, catfish, frogs,

Must Know Before You Go’s : Free for Audubon Members & Lenox Residents, Fee for Non-Members, Facilities include a Nature Center (check website for hours), Restrooms, Universally Accessible Trail, and picnic area – trail materials available in large print, Braille, audio, and tactile formats. Borrow hands-free binoculars, audio players, field guides and walking canes at the main office during open hours.

Directions : From the Mass. Turnpike (Rt I-90): Take exit 2 (Lee) and follow Rt 20 west for 6.6 miles (Rt 20 merges with Rt 7). Turn left onto W Dugway Road and the sanctuary is 1.6 miles ahead on the right. GPS 42.382587, -73.298968

From the North: Take Rt 7 and Rt 20 south from Park Square in the center of Pittsfield for 4.9 miles. Turn right onto West Dugway Road and the sanctuary is 1.6 miles ahead on the right.

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So Nice, We Hiked It Twice – Natural Bridge State Park

So Nice, We Hiked It Twice – Natural Bridge State Park

Where We Went : Natural Bridge State Park (North Adams, MA)

When We Went : Early June – both times!

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : 2 Boots around the Bridges Area – 1 Boot on the Elder Trail (Healthy Heart Trail)

Trail Length : The Natural Bridge “Trail” is a short 0.3 mile – The woodland Elder Trail (Healthy Heart Trail) is about a 0.5 mile loop.


How Long it Took Us : We spent 2 hours exploring on our 1st trip and 4 hours, on the 2nd (including a picnic lunch!)

Overview : Natural Bridge State Park is home to the only naturally occurring, white marble arch in the US. According to geologists, the park’s namesake natural bridge, was created when glacial melt water made its way through a fault in 550 million year-old bedrock marble, carving a 30-foot cleft right through it, over 13,000 years ago. Today, the bridge traverses the gurgling Hudson Brook, whose waters torrent and pool in the many crags and fissures, while falling into a steep 60-foot deep gorge. Said to be one of the best demonstrations of glacial erosion in New England, the park also houses the only white marble dam in North America. From 1810 – 1947, it supplied power to a marble factory that operated until multiple fires ceased operations.


Nathaniel Hawthorne, wholly unknown in 1838, enjoyed solo skinny-dipping sojourns in the deep chasm during his 6-week stay in North Adams.

From 1950 – 1983, the bridge remained a popular roadside tourist attraction off of the scenic Mohawk Trail, and in 1985, it officially became a state park and historical site.

During park hours, stop in the Visitor’s Center for extensive and interactive information about the geology and natural history of the area.


What We Dug : Initially, we decided to take Mason here for a rare trio outing, but returned a week later with Veda and Mimi in tow. On our 1st visit, we spent the majority of our time exploring the nooks, crannies, and stairs that make up the arch, bridge, and dam area. We climbed glacier erratics, investigated factory ruins (you can still see where factory employees etched their names in some of the marble, bring paper and crayons to take a rubbing!), and got our feet good and wet creekside. During our time, we saw some college kids playing frisbee in the field below the quarry and immediately made plans to return to this perfect spot for a picnic.

On our 2nd visit, because we brought along Veda, our 2 year old, we were less keen on spending so much time around bridges and precipitous ledges near the gorge. Since Veda’s been mobile, I now fully understand why parents insist on “harnessing” their children. Quick, gimme the leash! Luckily, there is so much more to explore than just the incredible geologic wonder. First order of business was lunch. Let me just say…picnicking in a gorgeous field, under early summer sun, at the base of an 80-foot tall marble wall was pretty freakin’ spectacular. The expansive green space gave the kids plenty of room to run amok.

After lunch, we took a walk. Around the left side of the Visitor’s Center you will find signs for the Elder Trail, a “Heart Healthy Trail,” named for prior owner and geologist Edward Elder (not indicative of the path’s intended demographic). An easy, flat path, we found many points of interest along the way. About a minute into the woods we discovered play structures built from stray sticks, a large tire suspended between trees, and a stump throne fit for knee-high royalty. The trail winds itself around the back of the Visitor’s Center and back towards the park road. If you cross over the road and climb a short hill, you’ll find a small sculpture park and a few picnic tables. We completed our Natural Bridge redux

with a quick nip to the riverside,

stacking marble stones and cooling our toes.

What We Could Do Without : If you’re anything like me, somewhat adverse to heights and experience anxiety when your kids are nearing edges of things…I know…I’m trying to reign it in – the wide open area of the quarry, the forest trail, and the sculpture garden make it still worth the trip. Just go slowly and use caution – or a leash! I won’t judge you. Promise.

Consider yourself forewarned that you cannot remove any marble from the property, my dreams of ferrying out new marble countertops dashed.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For: Remnants of marble quarry and factory, glacial erratics, glacial potholes, hemlock, spruce, white cedar, bulbet fern, cattails

*If your visit coincides with the sunset, a sensory point of interest to experience is the

Must Know Before You Go’s : The park gates close at 5pm, but you can still park at the end of the road and walk up. There is a parking fee for both MA/Non-MA residents during open hours. No swimming. Dogs must be leashed. Bathroom facilities during park hours. Carry in/Carry out policy in regards to trash.

Directions : Drive a mile (1.6 km) along MA Route 8 northeast from the center of North Adams MA. Just past the Beaver Mill, turn left (west) across a bridge, then follow the signs 1/2 mile up a narrow, winding road across a one-lane bridge, past the marble quarry (where the marble factory was) to the Visitor Center and parking area.

McCauley Road, off Rte. 8, North Adams, MA 01247

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