Calm Against Confusion – Diane’s Trail

Calm Against Confusion – Diane’s Trail

Where We Went : Diane’s Trail – Monterey, MA

When We Went : First of March

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : 1.5 Boots

Trail Length : 1.5 mile loop trail

How Long it Took Us : 1.5 Hours

Overview :

In 1913, social reformers Agnes and William Gould, moved to Monterey and founded Gould Farm. Gould Farm was the first residential therapeutic community that focused on helping adults with mental illness move towards health and recovery, through rural community living and meaningful work.

In a 1921 New York Times article, William Gould said, “Too often had the mistake been made of taking people out to the country and leaving them there in the hope that just the change of environment would work a miraculous cure. What people needed, especially people who were unhappy and depressed, was to have the country interpreted to them by showing them where they fitted into the scheme of things.”

The Gould’s were dedicated to this idea of helping people find their place in the world. Their mission was to assist others in regaining their sense of belonging and discovering their purpose. Tragically, William Gould would lose his life in service to his community, dying of a heart attack in 1925 (age 57) while fighting a fire that broke out on the farm. Agnes would carry on the torch.

This message was important to another influential figure during that time. If you’re familiar with the Appalachian Trail, you may have heard the name Benton Mackaye. How did the paths of the Monterey Goulds cross with ,wilderness contemporary and ,father of the A.T. Mackaye? MacKaye’s sister Hazel, was a guest at the farm in 1927 after suffering a nervous breakdown. She would stay on into the 1940s and during her time there, Benton was a frequent visitor. On walks with his sister, he came to appreciate the healing nature of the Farm’s forest and natural setting.

After Will’s untimely passing, Mackaye would assist Agnes Gould on the management of the Farm’s forestland. MacKaye emphasized the forest’s value to the Gould mission,

For purposes of psychological rehabilitation, the forest influence is uppermost. It is the environment of calm as against that of confusion. To obtain this fully on any given acreage of woodland requires keeping the forest canopy intact and letting the best trees grow to their climax in old age – I should think that an interesting forest program could be developed and made a valuable asset.

MacKaye called their unique therapeutic approach “forest mindedness,” and said, “Gould Farm is no mere ‘charity’; it is a potent social force.,”

When we revisit McKaye’s 1921 proposal for the Appalachian Trail, its similarities with the Gould Farm philosophy are striking.

MacKaye’s proposal stated that, “…oxygen in the mountain air…is a natural (and national) resource that radiates to the heavens its enormous health-giving powers…Here is a resource that could save thousands of lives.” He believed that anyone suffering from what he called, “the problem of living,” could not be cured solely by treatment but through immersion in the natural world. Speaking of those suffering, “They need acres not medicine. Thousands of acres of this mountain land should be devoted to them with whole communities planned and equipped for their cure.” Visiting Gould Farm in 1927, MacKaye must have seen this full manifestation of his dream for the A.T. – a community that revolved around reconnecting with nature, communing with others and finding one’s purpose of mind, body and soul.

“Diane’s Trail,” is named in memory of Diane Rausch, late wife of Gould Farm’s longtime Forest Director Bob Rausch. Mainly a wetland trail, this unique habitat is open to the public. If MacKaye & the Gould’s walked it today, they would surely see that their beliefs live on amongst the whispering pines. It is truly an environment of calm against confusion.

When you visit, take with you MacKaye’s intentions for the A.T. :

The ultimate purpose? There are three things: 1) to walk 2) to see 3) to see what you see.”

What We Dug : This hike happened to fall on my 33 birthday and I couldn’t have asked for a better gift. The day was chilly but the sun was shining brightly. As we walked it was easy to see why this trail is so special. A wooden footbridge runs adjacent to Konkapot River, still asleep under a thin layer of ice. ,A forest, composed of white pine, red-oak, and northern hardwoods, covers 500 acres of the property, the last portion of Diane’s Trail meanders alongside Rawson Brook before returning to the trailhead. The

What We Could Do Without : I had read about the interpretative trail guide and was looking forward to following along but unfortunately there weren’t any guides at the trailhead. We still made a game out of spotting each numbered post on the trail, but it would have been great to learn more about the surrounding environment. Looking forward to returning!

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For : Note: This is a tremendous spot for bird-watching. Bird watchers have seen the following birds at Diane’s Trail

Must Know Before You Go’s : Parking is across the street from the trailhead. After turning off of Curtis Road, you will see the trailhead on your left. Continue up Gould Road 50 feet for the parking area on your right. Cross an open field to arrive at the trailhead.

No trail facilities. Leashed dogs ok. No Fishing or Motorized Vehicles.

The Harvest Barn is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 Hiking Best Practices

  • Check access before you go, many areas are closed during this time.
  • If you or anyone in your group is feeling sick, STAY HOME.
  • If parking areas are crowded, choose a different space to explore.
  • Give a wide berth to other hikers and allow for at least 6-feet for passing.
  • Practice Carry-In/Carry-Out & Leave No Trace rules. Trash receptacles should not be used.
  • Bathroom and office facilities will be closed to the public.

Directions : From Route US-7 S, turn left on Monument Valley Rd, Turn left onto MA-183 S/MA-23 E, continue straight onto MA-23, Turn right onto River Rd, Turn left onto Gould Rd, Trailhead will be on the left, Parking is on the right side, 50 feet up the road.

Website :

Resources :

One Hundred Years of Service Through Community: A Gould Farm Reader edited by Steven K. Smith, Terry Beitzel

Backpacker Magazine’s Guide to the Appalachian Trail

Scroll through for more pictures of our Diane’s Trail adventure!

Where There’s a Hill, There’s a Way –  Constitution Hill

Where There’s a Hill, There’s a Way – Constitution Hill

Where We Went : Constitution Hill, Lanesborough MA

When We Went : Late February

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : 6 Kid’s Sized Boots (I’ll explain.)

Trail Length : 1.7 miles Constitution Hill Trail

How Long it Took Us : 3 hours

Overview : In the current political climate we are constantly under a barrage of doublespeak and misinformation, sowing deep seeds of mistrust and confusion on all sides. Oftentimes it is the constants we cling to for their perpetual reliability in turbulent times – anchors like our Federal Constitution – as a means of safeguarding individual rights and beliefs. But it’s interesting to note that these words, in which we the people hold so dear, were once the very source of national unrest, uncertainty and debate prior to it’s ratification. In fact, if not for Jonathan Smith Jr., a Lanesborough farmer with a knack for oration, Massachusetts may not have sanctioned at all and our rights as we know them may never have been the same.

In January 1788, Smith traveled to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention in Boston as the Lanesborough delegate. Standing tall in Faneuil Hall, Smith began, “I am a plain man and get my living by the plough…I am not used to speak in public, but I beg our leave to say a few words to my brother plough-joggers in this house…..” “he knew “the worth of good government by the want of it.” There was “a time to sow and a time to reap,” and if the Constitution were not ratified now, “we shall never have another opportunity.”

It was his grass-roots speech that swung the independent colony of Massachusetts to adopt the Federal Constitution. The majority of the populace were farmers and the collective mistrust of politicians, lawyers and other elites ran deep. (Shay’s Rebellion of 1786-87 was still fresh in the minds of Western MA). But the common sense of this common man from the Commonwealth struck a chord, echoing the voice of it’s people and uniting universal interests of reason and the common good. After 19 alterations, Massachusetts ratified the Constitution on February 6, 1788 (despite Berkshire County’s 16 – 6 vote against it).

Virginia and New York had patiently waited for Massachusetts vote before casting their own and would ratify of June and July respectively, of that year.

How did Smith mark this tight victory of 187-168 votes? He arranged for a bonfire. There on the highest hill in Lanesborough, 1,680 feet up on former Bald-Headed Hill, a blaze was lit to notify the villagers of the Constitution’s successful ratification.

Renamed Constitution Hill shortly thereafter, the lone red oak that graced it’s summit was struck by lightning in 1903.

It would survive until 1920. The oak had been used as a backlog for innumerable picnic fires, burning a hollow, charred fireplace within its trunk. Weakened, a storm would soon blow it down.

The next year, two twin oaks were planted in it’s place and a plaque was erected to honor the oak, as well as the Lanesborough veterans that served in WWI.

The 303-acre property is currently owned and managed by the

What We Dug : We all know what yellow snow means but black snow is a sight most of us aren’t familiar with. Imagine our surprise when we reached the top of Constitution Hill and found dimples of dark dotting all hillside, like someone had peppered the snow with an overzealous hand.

On a sunny winter’s day you may notice these tiny, dark specks bouncing about on the snow. While they are the size of fleas, don’t worry – they pose no threat to you or your pets!

These hexapods known as “springtails” aren’t really fleas at all, but nicknamed as such for their similar bouncy behavior.

,Snow fleas are beneficial in many ways. They decompose organic matter, making them important for creation of healthy topsoil.

Springtails breathe through their skin and are vulnerable to drying out. They hop around to find moist, sheltered places as well as things to eat. Unlike true fleas that use their toes to jump, snow fleas either crawl along or use their tail-like appendages to bounce.

Not one of us had ever seen snow fleas before so this was a cool first for us all! It was wild to watch them popping all over the place, en masse.

During warmer months snow fleas and other springtails are even more active than in winter, although without the stark white of the snow they’re harder to see. Springtails can be found throughout the forest canopy and on water, where the surface tension keeps them from sinking. Take a flashlight out to a pond in June and watch the springtails bopping about on top of the water.

What We Could Do Without : Guys. Let me tell you…we’ve been doing this for some time now and while it’s not uncommon for the kids to get gripe-y and ready to quit mid-hike, we can usually redirect them or keep ’em moving with a quick snack.

This was not one of those times.

Being unfamiliar with this hike and a series of mistakes led to a knackering 3-hours in the woods.

It had recently snowed, covering the slick parking lot below and one of our littles face-planted on the ice before we even hit the trail, bloodying her chin. The fresh snow would soon plague us again. Perhaps we should’ve taken the wound as a sign and packed it in – let’s call that Mistake #1.

We continued uphill to the upper parking lot kiosk, where the blue marked loop trail begins and you have the option to take a right or left from there. We went left…or as we call it – Mistake #2.

GO RIGHT. The right side of the trail heads up to a power line crossing, and open-sky views east and west. Had we taken a right, we would have climbed steeper conditions for a short period right from the start. Instead, we sluggishly plodded through unpacked snow for over a mile before we can began our climb to the top of the hill.

It was strenuous for the adults and a killer for the 8 little legs trying to keep up.

Mistake #3 occurred the moment I chose this hike but neglected to check the total gain. Total gain or elevation gain is the sum of all the uphill segments along a particular route. At 400-feet total gain, Constitution Hill is pretty moderate. Yet coupled with the lack of snow pack and route we chose, the kids (and adults) doggedly trudged to the top. We did make it and our perseverance made reaching the top all the more satisfying. Each time we hike we learn something and this was a crash course in our limits and patience.

Here’s a few things we learned :

Do your research. Don’t just check the current days weather, check the previous few days. Have the last 48 hours been rainy? Dress for mud. Know the elevation gain.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For : Snow Fleas, Tree Carvings, Slag Glass, Old Stone Wall, Josh Billings Homestead, Deer, White & Yellow Birch, Dutchman’s Breeches, Constitution Oak, Quartz Boulders, Views of Mt. Greylock & Farnham Hill

Must Know Before You Go’s : Two Important Notes!

1. Timber harvesting is ongoing through 2021. Logging machinery is present on the lower (west) trail and near the parking area. Equipment operators will be cautious of hikers. Please park in the designated areas. Trails are open, but PLEASE USE CAUTION.

2. During spring thaw, road conditions at the end of Bridge Street can deteriorate, making the trailhead at Constitution Hill difficult/impossible to reach. If you encounter poor road conditions (i.e. deep mud, ruts, erosion) on Bridge Street, please consider turning around and visiting another time. Please respect any “Road Closed” signs. Consider the trailhead closed if only accessible via the closed road; parking on the side of the road is not an alternative.

Horseback Riding, Skiing, Snow Shoeing, Mountain Biking Allowed. Hunting permitted subject to MA laws. Leashed Dogs OK. No Motorized Vehicles.

Directions : From Pittsfield: Take Route 7 north into Lanesborough. Just past the Lanesborough Police Station turn left onto Bridge Street. If you pass The Old Forge you have just missed it. Follow Bridge Street to the end, past the BNRC sign, to the large parking area with a kiosk. The trailhead is about 0.8 miles from Main Street.

GPS: 42.5238, -73.2423 (trailhead parking)

Scroll Through For More Pictures of Our Constitution Hill Adventure!

Website :

Resources :

Additional Photos by Kira Smith

Air Bug & Bee – Indoor Nature Connection Day 7

Air Bug & Bee – Indoor Nature Connection Day 7

Do bugs shelter in place?

You better bee-lieve it!

Their reasons may be a little different than ours but they too need a safe nook to nest and hibernate.

We can help our insect pals by building them a bug hotel.

Hang it in your garden or backyard, just don’t expect any rent!


Clean Tin Can (Be careful! Make sure there are no sharp edges.)

3 Toilet Paper Tubes

Sticks, lots of sticks



Take your toilet paper tubes and fit them snugly into the tin can.

This will form the structure for your sticks to fit into.

Measure the height of your sticks to the top of the tin can and break off the excess.

Keep breaking down sticks until you have a good sized pile.

The sticks and twigs don’t need to be all the exact same length. It won’t hurt that some are a touch bigger or smaller.

Now fit the sticks into the toilet paper tubes. Keep adding sticks until they are snug, but not too tight that they cannot move at all.

We doubled wrapped some string around the can and ta-da!

A staycation home fit for a queen…bee!

We hope you enjoyed this week of Indoor Nature Connections as much as we did.

Thank you for all the love & support.

We’ll keep getting outdoors and sharing out adventures with you!

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Eat Like an Insect – Indoor Nature Connection Day 6

Eat Like an Insect – Indoor Nature Connection Day 6

Today we’ll be investigating how different kinds of insects eat and how their mouthparts are specially adapted to eat the food in their environments. This interactive activity allows kids to try to eat like different insects and learn how their unique mouths dictate the type of food that they can consume.


  • Tweezers, Pliers, Tongs, Or Clothespins
  • Straws
  • Cups – 1 shorter, filled halfway with water or other drink // 1 taller and longer, filled halfway
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Sponge – small piece with a straw sized hole cut out
  • Paper cut in a leaf shape
  • Food items like cheerios, goldfish, or other small pieces (cereal works great!)
  • Plastic Bugs (Optional)

After gathering your materials, cover the shorter cup with plastic wrap and secure with a rubber band. Take one straw and cut a sharp angle on one end. Cut a small piece of sponge and squish it into the end of another straw. With two or three other straws, push them into one another to make one longggg straw. Set up a couple plates with your food items.

We discussed different types of insects and the way their mouthparts looked physically.

This chart was a handy visual and the plastic bugs we dug out of the cavernous toy box were helpful to understand the different parts and what they look like.

After that we dove right into the mouthpart mayhem.

We started our activity with Siphoning.

Adult butterflies and moths have siphoning mouthparts. A flexible tube slips into flower cavities and sucks up fluids, like nectar. When not in use the tube rolls up like a party favor!

Looking at the materials spread out on the table, I had the kids choose which item looked most like the feeding tube or proboscis of a butterfly. They found this one right away. Then we imagined we were a hungry butterfly perched at the top of a deep flower. How would we ever get to the nectar at the bottom?!

Next we looked for Mandibles. Insects such as beetles, grasshoppers and caterpillars have mouthparts that are like pruning shears. Their jaws, called mandibles, chew through leaves by moving from side to side. I asked the kids to find what item on the table was mandible-like?

They used the pliers and tweezers to grind and “chew” the leaf shaped paper. Clothespins or tongs could also be used.


A large group of insects, like mosquitoes, stink bugs and cicadas, have tube-like mouthparts that pierce into their food source first and then suck up its juices. This one was funnnn.

I asked them to think like a mosquito. What item would you use to “bite” and suck blood? They grabbed the pointed straws and pierced the plastic wrap “skin.” I ended up rewrapping the cup multiple times because they got such a kick out of playing mosquitoes.

Lastly, we explored Sponging. Certain types of flies have mouthparts that are like bits of sponge. They must wet their food by regurgitating saliva that allows the food to dissolve. With the straw that had the sponge placed on the end, I instructed the kids to take a sip of water and get the sponge wet. Then to hold some of that water in their straw before moving it over their plate of food and releasing the water on top. Ewww. Another hit with the kids though! They waited until the cereal got soggy and then tried to suck it up the straw.

The kids had fun eating like different insects and it was interesting to learn that insects are limited to foods that their mouthparts and digestive systems can manage, a lot like people.

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Spring-O! Indoor Nature Connections Day 5

Spring-O! Indoor Nature Connections Day 5

It’s officially Spring and nature is bursting with change!

Tree buds are on the verge of opening and numerous

Ever smelled the rotten odor of the skunk cabbage?

Or see the earthworms resurface after a Spring rain?

How many signs of Spring have you experienced before?

Find out while playing a game of Spring-O!

Print out this FREE Spring-O Board

Now circle the things you haven’t seen.

Next time you head outdoors, challenge yourself to find those you’ve missed. (Maybe skip the bear though…)

Spring is such a fast season and if we don’t slow down and take some time to experience it, we wind up missing out on so much. When we’re mindful of the natural world around us, it’s magic reveals itself. Happy Spring!

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