Amidst Ancient Air – Bullard Woods

Amidst Ancient Air – Bullard Woods

Where We Went : Bullard Woods Lenox/Stockbridge, MA

When We Went : Mid- February

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : 2 Boots

Trail Length : 1.4 miles loop trail

How Long it Took Us : 2 Hours

“Bullard Woods: A sanctuary for wildlife and human spirit”

Overview : Bullard Woods was once part of East India merchant William Storey Bullard’s estate, Highwood, now a part of Tanglewood. Bullard’s son William Jr., the eldest of five, spent most of his childhood years fishing, picnicking, skating and exploring the wilds of the family’s Lenox “backyard.” Dr. William Norton Bullard would go on to become an esteemed neurologist, serving as President of the American Neurological Association in 1913.

After inheriting the property from his parents, Dr. William and wife Mary Reynolds continued to enjoy the woods for many years. Mary Reynolds continued to live at the manor house after the death of her husband and in 1954 entrusted the estate’s 70 acres to the

Perhaps Dr. William Norton Bullard and Mary Reynolds sensed something special about the air as they strolled beneath the ancient pine sentinels along the shore of Lake Mahkeenac.

Bullard Woods is one of the few remaining old-growth forest areas in Massachusetts. “Old-growth forests” describe natural forests that have developed over a long period of time, generally at least 120 years without experiencing any severe, stand-replacing disturbance like fire, windstorm, or logging.

In 2004,

Writing after a walk in Bullard Woods, journalist Bernard Drew wrote, “Old-growth woods are rare even in the Berkshires, which cut off 99.9 percent of its forests for timber, pulpwood and charcoal in the 19th century.The forests have grown back, but the difference is obvious when you walk among the big trees. The air is different. The lichens are different. The feeling is different.

If you’re familiar with the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, or wood-air bathing, you might have a clearer understanding of what Drew describes. Forest bathing, quickly becoming popular in the western world, is essentially, deep breathing while taking a meditative walk through the forest, and is recommended as a stress-reliever and mood-booster. Take a walk, a few deep breaths, seems like a no-brainer, right?

But there’s much more going on in the forest than just the calming serenity of nature. Inhale under the forest canopy and you’re hit with a sweet, rich, earthy smell. Trees release compounds into the forest air, called phytoncides, from little pockets between their leaf cells. Scientists believe that this is one of the ways trees communicate, passing messages through scents in the air. In turn, we breathe in these molecules and they become part of the air that goes into our lungs, and some of the molecules enter your bloodstream. So when you walk through the forest inhaling that fragrant air, the forest becomes a part of your body. In a healthy environment, with every breath we’re absorbing this scent of well-being.

But there are two sides to this coin. In areas of unstable and threatened forests, where the trees themselves are fragile or endangered, they respond by sending out alarm signals in the same form of chemical defense. We absorb this as well. So if we feel calm and contented after a walk in an undisturbed forest, it’s no stretch to say that we’re also soaking in the distress signals after a stroll in a fragile environment. Ancient areas like Bullard Woods, Ice Glen and portions of the Mohawk Trail State Forest are extraordinarily scarce. It is in our power to help preserve the little that is left to us. In The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben writes, “Walkers who visit one the ancient deciduous preserves in the forest I manage always report that their heart feel lighter and they feel right at home. I am convinced that we intuitively register the forest’s health.

William and Mary Bullard may not have realized the full extent of benefits from their time in their woods, but they must have sensed that the air was different underneath those giant old trees. They left to us the greatest gift – a stronghold of timeworn timber and the space to breathe it all in – a sanctuary for wildlife and the human spirit.

What We Dug : The day was hazy but the path was wide, and as we walked the trail leading from the parking area, the towering trees swallowed us in their immense shadows. We took some time identifying a few trees, including a mature shagbark hickory. A massive snow-covered trunk became a perch for two snacking children. Over footbridges of icy streams we made our way to the shoreline. The Bowl was frozen over and we sat awhile watching the a group ice fishing across the way. At the edge of the bank there were hundreds of ramshorn snail shells, abandoned by their former residents. The view across the lake was beautiful, the mountains purple in the winter gloom. We continued our way around the lake, passing young beech trees stalwartly clinging to their leaves. Evidence of an old stone wall ran parallel to the meadow, and remnants of stone foundations deeper in the woods. Crooked branches dangling from snags took the form of screeching dinosaurs and eel-like creatures.

Coming to the meadow the kids raced to the swing suspended from a hulking red oak tree. The cold air brushed our faces as we swung. We stashed some shells at the base of the tree, treasures for another to stumble upon, and headed back towards the forest. The trail concluded shortly after and we reached the car feeling revitalized and joyful.

What We Could Do Without : There is no trail map for Bullard Woods besides the hand drawn illustration at the trailhead. We were unsure where the Tanglewood Connection to Gould Meadows was located. The parking lot is not plowed in the winter and is closed to vehicles. Please be extra cautious parking along the roadside. Many vehicles passed us carelessly and fast while we were getting out and back into our cars. The access road to the parking lot is steep and spring mud may make travel difficult.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For : Massive Red Oak, Hawthorne’s Little Red Farmhouse, Mountain Views, Stockbridge Bowl, Cellar Holes, Stone Remnants, White Pine, White Ash, Hemlock, Tulip Trees, Shagbark Hickory, Black Cherry, Black Birch, Sugar Maple, Beech, Ramshorn Snail, Red Eft, Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker

Must Know Before You Go’s : Parking lot is closed during the winter. Use caution if parking on the shoulder of the road. Note that directions can be confusing because Hawthorne Road intersects with Hawthorne Street. If you continue over a footbridge that fords a stream in the woods, you can continue your walk through the woods, across the Tanglewood connector and on to Gould Meadows, exiting on Route 183, across from Kripalu. No Facilities. No Campfires. No Motorized Vehicles. Leashed Dogs.

Directions : Next to Camp Mah-kee-nac and accessible from Lenox, MA. Located near Tanglewood at the conjunction of Hawthorne Road and Hawthorne Street.

Website :

Resources :

Hawthorne’s Lenox: The Tanglewood Circle

Among The Ancients – Joan Maloof

Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing

Forest Bathing Retreat – Hannah Fries

The Hidden Life of Trees – Peter Wohllbenen

Bernard Drew


Scroll through for more pictures of our Bullard Woods adventure!

Rocks & Recollections – Thomas and Palmer Brook

Rocks & Recollections – Thomas and Palmer Brook

Where We Went : Thomas & Palmer Brook – Great Barrington

When We Went : Early February


(Boots 1 – 10) : 1 Boot

Trail Length : .5 mile Pasture Trail / About a mile up wood road

How Long it Took Us : We were there almost an hour before M dunked himself into an icy stream. We backtracked to the car carried on wails hypothermic, otherwise we would’ve spent significantly more time and attempted to hike up to the high point. (an unmarked wood road connects to the east side of the pasture path and heads upwards through the forest).

Overview : One of my favorite parts about writing these hike reviews is the research I do to uncover the history behind each area. I love to read and research and could (and do) spend many happy afternoons hurtling down historical rabbit hole after historical rabbit hole.

Re-tracing the grown-over paths of our ancestors is a fascinating thing, offering so much more than just historical study. I hope you enjoy these journeys into the esoteric nooks and crannies of New England life as much as I enjoy uncovering them.

Thomas & Palmer Brook is no different. Berkshire Natural Resources Council preserved the 219 acres of wetlands, meadow and upland forest in 2015. Aside from the nearby Green river, the Housatonic receives several small tributaries in the town of Great Barrington, the principal of which is Thomas & Palmer Brook, which has its source in the mountains to the south of Three Mile Hill.

The Berkshires were first inhabited by Mahican Native Americans, part of the Algonquin nation. Prior to 1680, there was a substantial Native American population in the area of present-day Great Barrington before the arrival of Europeans. The Mohican nation made their principal homes along the banks of the Hudson, and the Housatonic valleys were primarily used as seasonal hunting grounds. European arrival in the early 17th century heavily contributed to the decimation and diaspora of these native people. By 1730, the Mahicans – population reduced by 90% – were living in two small villages, one at Stockbridge and one at Skatehook (present day Sheffield). Following the Revolutionary War they were forced into Oneida County of NY and eventually into a reservation in Wisconsin. The ancestors of these original inhabitants make up the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe now located in Wisconsin.

Any of our readers fellow Outlander fans?

In 1758, General Jeffery Amherst marched four regiments from Boston to NY during the French & Indian wars. When the troops reached Three Mile Hill, they beat and bushwhacked through, straightening and flattening the old path into a military road wide enough for soldiers to march 3-4 abreast and for the horse-drawn supply wagons. After crossing the hill and dales, the forces encamped for two nights near the Green River. One of these units was the 78th Highland Regiment of Foot commanded by Colonel Simon Fraser, Master of Lovat. His father, also Simon, (nicknamed “the Old Fox”) is best known for picking the wrong side in the Jacobite Rising of 1745. He was executed as a traitor, becoming the last man in Britain to be publicly beheaded. In the Outlander novels by Diana Gabaldon, the cinnamon-haired Jaime Fraser, is a fictional grandson of Simon Lovat Fraser. As a gigantic fan, I was fair puckled! If you are a lover of historical novels, this series is bloody brilliant, blending oodles of facts with the most bonnie fiction.

The division of roads at Belcher Square branches off onto today’s Route 23. First and foremost an ancient Indian trail, it became a New England fur trade route, then the “Great Road to Boston and Albany”as well as part of the 300-mile Knox Trail.

In January of 1776, Henry Knox used this route to transport 62 tons of artillery from Fort Ticonderoga in NY to the Continental Army’s encampment outside Boston. Through snow-covered hills and valleys they slid cannons and mortars in just 56 days. General George Washington’s troops were now able to force the evacuation of British troops and capture the city of Boston, achieving the Continental Army’s first victory of the war.

Originally called Pixley Brook, the land east of the Housatonic, extending across Route 23 and around Belcher Square was once called “Brooklyn.”

In 1730, Joseph Pixley and his family of 10 settled on a 1,200-acre land grant from King George II that extended from Belcher Square east along Route 23 to Three Mile Hill. Stockbridge Road was formerly called Pixley Street and Thomas and Palmer called Pixley Brook or Pixley Mill Brook.

Charles Pixley, a relative, moved his entire house from the front of his lot, to the rear in 1899, “to use for other purposes.” This neighborhood around East Mt. was called “Brooklyn” for many years.

The brook gets its current name from two enterprising gentlemen, who started a lumber business in the 1880’s. Edgar B. Thomas and Frank A. Parker procured a sawmill on what is now Brook Lane, at the midpoint of Pixley Brook. In 1955, S. Blair Thomas told this story about his grandfather’s sawmill:

“The company owned an amazing horse named ‘Ol’ Peter.’ Workers at the mill would load a wagon with freshly sawed wood, point the horse toward Route 7 and crack him on the rump with a whip. Without a driver, Ol’ Peter would take the road from the sawmill, proceed down State Road to Main Street and finally to the Rosseter Street (lumber) yard! After the wagon was unloaded the horse would return on his own to the sawmill.”

Thomas retired in the 1920s and the sawmill closed soon after in 1926. No word on what Ol’ Peter got up to in his later years.

Agriculture and cattle-raising has a long history in Berkshire pasture lands.

The fields and meadows that make up Thomas and Palmer Brook were once grazing land for Herefords and

Holsteins at “Su-Cray Farms”. Owned by Harry and Irene Moskowitz, Harry came to Great Barrington in 1932 and established a thriving dairy farm/cattle dealership on the property. He brought in ponies from Scotland and much of the Moskowitz steer came from Wisconsin (full circle irony amirite?) Moskowitz, it seems, was also a man of burgeoning technology. In 1949, shortly after their invention, he had a telephone installed in his car!

Fire would destroy much of the property in 1966. Afterwards, there were talks and plans for an apartment complex called “Three Mile Park” but it would never materialize.

What We Dug: WOW. So the that got long in the tooth, sorry – I won’t be held entirely responsible for my meandering nature, but I will attempt to impose some brevity on the rest of this review. Startingggggg NOW.

Glacier Erratics. ALL OVER. So many massive boulders and the kids (and dog!) had a blast climbing them all. The trail around the pasture and meadow was flat, wide but pretty short so we quickly made our way up the wood road. We didn’t make it too far since a one of us decided to go swimming in frigid water, but the trail was wonderful. Two members of our group forged ahead up the wood road and later told us that although it gets a little steep, the view was well worth it!

Keep your eyes peeled for a massive white pine on the edge of the trail.

What We Could Do Without: I had to say “I told you so” the whole ride home – the burdens of parenthood, man.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For: Glacier erratics, American woodcock, blue-winged warbler, chestnut-sided warbler, eastern towhee, chickadee, purple finch, wood turtles, red efts, beaver activity, red pine, white pine, hemlock, red oak, apple tree, charcoal and structure remnants, cellar holes

Must Know Before You Go’s: Enjoy this property on foot, skis, or snowshoes. Dogs are welcome. They must be under your immediate control and local leash laws apply. Hunting and fishing are permitted, subject to MA state regulations. No motorized vehicles are allowed. No Facilities.

Directions : Parking area is located between 301 and 309 State Road (Route 23) in Great Barrington. Across from the Koi Restaurant.

GPS: 42.1955, -73.3370 (trailhead parking)

Website :

Resources :

History of Great Barrington – Charles Taylor

Great Barrington, Great Town, Great History – Bernard Drew

East Rock is Falling – Bernard Drew

Scroll through for more pictures of our Thomas & Palmer Brook adventure!

5 Activities for Winter Tree Week

5 Activities for Winter Tree Week

No one can walk in a road cut through pine woods without being struck by the architectural appearance of the grove, especially in winter when the bareness of the trees show the low arch of the Saxons. In the woods on a winter afternoon one will see as readily the origin of the stained glass window…in the colors of the western sky seen through the bare and crossing branches of the forest.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

1. Practice ID-ing Trees by Bark & Bud

What do you do in the winter when there are no leaves present? You learn to identify trees by their most stalwart characteristic – the bark! This type of identification is also helpful when the leaf canopy is too high up for proper recognition, no matter the season. If you practice, you begin to see patterns. Beech bark has distinctive smooth, gray bark. Shagbark hickory is just that, shaggy. White ash’s arrow shapes can be easily remembered by A = Arrow = Ash. Hornbeams or “musclewoods” will make you think you stumbled into Planet Fitness with their ropey brawn. Some say that the bark of older Black Cherry trees looks like burnt potato chips. The dormant buds and

Some great resources include

2. Go Burl & Cavity Hunting

A burl is a gnarly-looking, extraneous growth found on a tree.

tree is experiencing stress, typically an injury, virus, or fungal infection. Although they seem ugly on the outside, burls are highly prized by woodworkers who know the magnificence on the inside. (

Just like a rotten tooth, a cavity is a hollow, dark crevice – but that’s where the commonalities stop. Most of these nature cavities are found in “snags”or standing dead/dying trees and they’re beneficial, unlike those tender crannies in our mouths. These nooks provide life-saving shelter to so many animals during the winter months. Birds and small mammals sublet these sylvan condominiums,

3. Start a Nature Journal with Tree Silhouettes

Keeping a nature journal is wonderful hobby. Author Clare Walker Leslie describes it as, “your path into the exploration of the natural world around you, and into your personal connection with it.” In her books, “

This book by Julia Kuo is also AMAZING


When you were a kid maybe you passed a summer afternoon laying on your back, finding shapes in the clouds. For most of us, we can’t remember the last time we slowed down enough to do this (or if we could let our imaginations still “find” anything at all)! This practice, referred to as

With the absence of leaves, the forest canopy becomes a topographic map. The contour lines of the bare branches stretch across a sea of blue. Take a minute. Look up – and let your imagination unfurl. Better yet, pack a blanket or tarp, lay down and “go swimming.” It may be cold, but I have yet to find a simpler way to shift perspective.

5. Create a Slime Mold, Lichen, Moss & Fungi Gallery

Although there are numerous differences in lichens, mosses, fungi and slime molds; many are similar in that they find a host on tree trunks and rotting logs. With so many varieties – there are more than 900 species of slime molds found all over the world – wild formations, and colors; going searching for these unique organisms is so much fun. The white winter backdrop can make the all the different colors really POP! Take some pictures or draw what you see. When you get home, try to identify and keep a list of the varieties you’ve seen!

Please make this a “Hands Off” activity – Fungi are wonderful to look at but can be very poisonous so please don’t touch any!

Moss & Lichen ID PDF

Common Tree Fungus

Lichen Land from Oregon State University

Hunting Slime Molds

Share your favorite Winter activities with us in the comments!