Pooled Echoes of the Past  – Duncan Brook Reservoir

Pooled Echoes of the Past – Duncan Brook Reservoir

 

 

Where We Went : Duncan Brook, Dalton MA

 

When We Went : 1st Week of April

 

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : 2.5 Boots (based on lack of trails)

 

Trail Length : No Marked Trails

 

How Long it Took Us : 2 Hours

 

Overview : In 1957, the town of Dalton proposed a public swimming pool on Duncan Brook Reservoir, a 7.6 acre tract of land owned by J. Edgar Bardin, containing a brook and 75-foot dam previously built to provide water to Flintstone Farm.

 

 

Two years and $17,000 later, the project spearheaded by Townsman John Broderick was complete. The new public pool opened for swimmer’s on June 27, 1959. The town of Dalton’s first outdoor swimming area since Weston Beach was abandoned in the 1930’s, Duncan Brook would become a very popular local spot.

 

 

During the summer months, supervised swimming was available after 1pm on weekdays and 10am on Sunday, closing down at 8pm. Boasting a sandy shore, a slide, diving board and ,,bathhouse facilities, it was the perfect spot to cool off, and you’d cool off in a hurry! Notoriously chilly water led to the installation of pipes that siphoned the cold water from the bottom of the pond, diverted it over the spillway, and left the sun-warmed surface water much more suitable for swimming.

 

Popularity would lead the Hinsdale-Dalton Bus Line to run a daily bus special to Duncan Brook Beach. For 10 cents you could catch the 1 o’clock bus at the corner of Park Ave & High Street, swim all day long and hitch the 4 o’clock bus back, right in time for dinner.

 

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The beach at Duncan Brook played host to numerous swimming competitions, fishing derbies, picnics, and even the occasional doll show. (These were a big thing in Dalton, look it up.)

 

 

At it’s peak, Duncan Brook attracted 200-250 people daily for swimming and other activities. At the annual picnic at the close of the 1962 season, there were 300 attendees!

 

Then in 1967, Dalton unveiled the newest swimming locale at the American Legion and Duncan Brook took a back seat. Although still open to swim at your own risk, Duncan Brook became primarily used for fishing derbies and as a day camp for the Camp Fire Girls of Na-Wak-Wa. In 1968, Duncan Brook would cease to be the swimming hot spot it had once been.

 

 

 

Threatened to be sold at public auction in the 1980’s, it was only because of passionate townspeople that it was spared from the auction block. But it would fall into further disuse and disrepair. J. Edgar Bardin offered to buy back the property while still allowing for public use, but that never came to pass.

 

 

In 1983, a group of Boy Scouts and their leaders passed a frigid couple of nights at Duncan Brook. The camping trip was planned as a way to hone their Winter survival skills and boy, were they tested. Temperatures dropped to 6-below zero overnight! Despite the cold, the Scouts kept themselves busy and their spirits high.

 

Maybe it was this triumph of character that prompted the town’s subsequent sale of the property to the Boy Scouts in 1984 for the price of $1.

 

Currently, the property is still owned by the Boy Scouts, but has not been in regular use or maintained in many years. Located off of Route 9, near the former Flintstone Farm, the old swimming pond now resembles a marsh after heavy silt deposits flooded the area from a nearby gravel operation. The bathhouse still stands but bares the damage of frequent vandalisms. There are no trails, but the wooded area surrounding Duncan Brook is easily accessible and is a straightforward tract to tramp around in.

 

 

What We Dug : Garter snakes were out in force, enjoying the mild temperatures and the warmth of the sun. Not your typical harbinger of spring, Garter snakes emerge from hibernation in order to mate in March or April.

 

A common sight in New England, it is easily recognizable by its pattern of yellow stripes against black or brown scales. The pattern can sometimes vary, but it usually consists of a narrow stripe down the middle of the back and a broad stripe on each side.

 

Garter snakes can be found in many different habitats, but never far away from some form of water, and the marshy slopes at Duncan Brook make for ideal conditions.

 

Did you know that garter snakes are ovoviviparous? That means they give birth to live young! Most snakes are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs in a nest. 

 

 

Since being homebound during Covid-19, we have been seizing any opportunity to turn our day-to-day into teachable moments. When we venture outdoors we’re able to capitalize on the world that surrounds us. Duncan Brook offered countless possibilities for us to learn more about nature and wildlife. Snakes, polypores, animal scat; we even stumbled upon a deer’s skull! Or maybe it’s a sheep? We spent some time poking at it with a stick, trying to

 

What We Could Do Without : ,Another local property with so much untapped potential. It’s always bittersweet to walk through a place and picture what once was and imagine what could be. Oh to live a day in the ’60s, hopping the bus to the swimming hole on a sweltering summer afternoon…

 

My mental pendulum swings between the past and the present.

 

What’s next? Thoughts drift to the future and how to preserve the area for the environment, the wildlife, and the community… An outdoor classroom to educate the next generation of nature stewards and caretakers? A woodland haven for open-air hiking, camping, and exploration? Restore it to the golden days of beachside yore? The only thing I know, is that it’s the reminiscing that is the easy part – it’s in the “What’s next?,” that lies the real trouble.

 

 

 

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For : Garter Snake, Abandoned Bathhouse, Remnants of a Diving Board, Pond, and Dam, Striped Maple, Ash, Cherry, Poplar, White Pine, Polypore Fungi, Deer, Rabbit

 

Must Know Before You Go’s : There are no marked trails. This property is owned by the Boy Scouts of America and is not maintained. Please use at your own risk. No facilities. No maintained trails. No hunting.

 

Directions : From Dalton center, travel North on Route 9 (North Street). Turn left onto Chalet Road (dirt road also called Duncan Brook Road). If you pass Holiday Brook Farm you have gone too far and missed the turn. Drive to the end of Chalet Road. You can park your car at the pull off area on your right and walk towards the green shelter.

 

Website : None

 

Resources : https://www.hitchcockcenter.org/earth-matters/garter-snakes-emerge-for-their-grand-coming-out-party-in-march-and-april/

 

https://kids.kiddle.co/Garter_snake

 

https://srelherp.uga.edu/snakes/thasir.htm

 

http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/Thamnophis_sirtalis/

 

 

 

 

Scroll through for more pictures of our Duncan Brook adventure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20 Open-Air Spaces for Berkshire Families

20 Open-Air Spaces for Berkshire Families

With every aspect of our lives suddenly disrupted, nature and outdoor activities provide essential stability, stress-relief and distraction to the current crisis. Lucky for us, the Berkshires is bursting with open-air spaces.

With Spring on the horizon and increasing uncertainties ahead, there is no better time to get outside and let nature work it’s magic.

 

Here are 20 family-friendly hikes we’ve reviewed to jumpstart your adventures.


 

  1. Balance Rock State Park
  2. Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary
  3. Wahconah Falls State Park
  4. Old Mill Trail
  5. Steven’s Glen
  6. Getty Memorial Conservation Area
  7. Mountain Meadow
  8. Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary
  9. Natural Bridge State Park
  10. Greylock Glen Meadow
  11. Historic Becket Quarry
  12. Ashuwillticook Rail Trail
  13. Dorothy Frances Rice Wildlife Sanctuary
  14. Crane’s Pond
  15. Field Farm
  16. Longcope Park
  17. Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary
  18. Thomas & Palmer Brook
  19. Bullard Woods
  20. Constitution Hill

Handmade Nature Boards & Inserts available in our Etsy Shop!

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.
Concerto For A Crisis

Concerto For A Crisis

 

I’ve been struggling with what to write these days. We’re hiking more than ever to fill the empty time, yet when I sit down to write a review, the words feel forced. And not because my heart’s not in it, no – my heart has never before been more tied or in tune with nature and it’s source power – but because the traditional review starts to sound hollow and empty, like something left unsaid.

 

So I do what I always do when my own words fail me. I go searching for someone else’s words to fill the void, someone who made sense of my heart’s feelings, someone who jotted down its similar tune and left them someplace for me to find.

 

I wanted to share some of those words with you today. Maybe you’ll hear the matching melody to your own heart’s song and they’ll help fill a void or feed some part of your soul.

 


 

 

Walter Prichard Eaton lived, breathed and wrote Berkshire County. A resident of Sheffield, Eaton was the first journalist to pen the “Our Berkshires” column for the Berkshire Eagle. A prolific author, he published a collection of essays in 1920 under the title, “In Berkshire Fields.”

 

Uncertain times were a familiar subject for Eaton. The essay, “From a Berkshire Cabin,” was written in August of 1918, and America was deeply embroiled in the hostilities o,f World War I.

 

We may not be in armed combat, but there’s a striking comparison to these current times. ,Although we are living through a different type of global crisis than a World War, the parallels of our own inner and outer turmoil seem to rise to the surface like algae on a stagnant pond. A global spectre, a seemingly undefeatable enemy, and unprecedented carnage. The front lines look different – medical scrubs clothe these soldiers, not fatigues. They wear masks meant to shield microscopic bacteria instead of mustard gas, hoping the heavy antiseptic artillery thrown from the trenches is a efficacious defense.

 

From his, “…peaceful…quietly lonely and lovely spot where my cabin stands…” Eaton conducts a dichotomous symphony. Lilting tones trill out the tranquil beauty of his surroundings. Then the pitch sharply descends into minor key, chanting the intrinsic dissociation and discord that World War I ushered in:

 

I am aware with a pang of almost intolerable sorrow of personal variety. My sin is that I have not worked for others, only for myself. We have struck the pitch of course, in a moment of national stress, when “crowd psychology” plays a large part; there is no sense of denying that. Can we hold the pitch when the tension is relaxed? Can we continue to realize that no individual happiness, no individual attainment of the beautiful, not national prosperity even, is worth much in the sight of the ‘All Beautiful’ unless it is part of a larger world happiness and beauty?

 

Eaton wondered why we were capable of sending a massive army to fight overseas under the banner of universal humanity, but couldn’t, as a nation, mobilize for a similar ideal on the home front?

 

The forest seems to whisper hope. But it is not going to be easy. Human selfishness, alas! in the form of greed has not always been scotched, even under the stress of war. Its tremendous grip on the world’s affairs in times past, however, as we now see only too plainly, has been in no small measure due to the lazy selfishness of myriads of good people, who would not sacrifice their own comfort, their own delightful leisure in their ivory towers of beauty, to fight for control of the civic machinery, to make what they knew in their hearts to be the right prevail. Those times must pass.

We must descend from our mountain cabins, our towers of ivory; we must come out of our gardens, forgetting our beautiful enjoyments, or our precarious jobs which carry no attendant enjoyments, and remembering only the ideal of beauty in our hearts, the ideal of beauty which means, too, the ideal of justice and mercy and peace and happiness for each and all, demand of what rulers we shall find that they give over to us the machinery which controls our destinies, and the destinies of all our fellows.

The forest seems drowsing in its loveliness, and I am loath to leave it, to descend to the valley road, to dinner – to the Sunday papers. It is hard to come down from a mountain cabin, from an ivory tower, to give up a solitary possession or resign a comfortable privilege!

 


 

 

With Earth Day on the horizon, I happened upon a different “green” holiday, seemingly forgotten.

 

On June 1st-3rd of ,1990, the United Nations introduced the Environmental Sabbath Program.

 

An “International Earth Rest Day,” this interfaith celebration promoted a three-day period of renewal and reflection every June for Mother Earth.

 

The brainchild of 

 

A Prayer of Sorrow

 

We have forgotten who we are
We have alienated ourselves from the unfolding of the cosmos
We have become estranged from the movements of the earth
We have turned our backs on the cycles of life.

 

We have forgotten who we are.

 

We have sought only our own security
We have exploited simply for our own ends
We have distorted our knowledge
We have abused our power.

 

We have forgotten who we are.

 

Now the land is barren
And the waters are poisoned
And the air is polluted.

 

We have forgotten who we are.

 

Now the forests are dying
And the creatures are disappearing
And the humans are despairing.

 

We have forgotten who we are.

 

We ask forgiveness
We ask for the gift of remembering
We ask for the strength to change.

 


 

 

The third and final verse to this literary concerto came as a result of my new job as 1st grade teacher. Wholly unqualified for this position I knew there’d be challenging days ahead, but I never expected to spend a Tuesday morning tearfully blubbering my way through a reading of  “The Giving Tree.”

 

Once there was a tree…and she loved a little boy.

 

One reason why Shel Silverstein’s artfully simplistic story has such universal appeal, is that for everyone, it can be understood differently. There’s no set way to decipher it, no singular moral to glean.

 

One might take this story as the foolish epitome of human selfishness, while another may see this as the sorrowful representation of the lengths someone will go for the things they love.

 

At its core, it’s a profoundly beautiful story about unconditional love and sacrifice, succinctly juxtaposing our sometimes selfish and frivolous human values against the humble goodness of pure, selfless love and limitless kindness. It was the story I didn’t know I needed to hear.

 

It’s been a joy to see people’s outdoor adventures fill up social media, seeing a wave of folks and families turn to nature for something to do, someplace to be. It reaffirms that message that nature is not only the first but simultaneously the final frontier. It began and it is all that remains. We remember it when all else is stripped away from us. Like that little boy on the stump, now an old man.

 


 

During this time of great suffering on Earth we often feel torn between healing ourselves and attempting to cure the social and economic ills that plague our culture. Like Eaton’s cabin, it is easier to construct our little ivory towers of safety and beauty, to live on our own tiny islands and shut out the ugliness. But in doing so we miss the forest for the trees.

One thing I know for certain – if we continue to view ourselves as separate from the rest of the world and not as a part of this living Earth, we’ll never understand that our individual participation extends to the whole, that ,justice and mercy and peace and happiness is intrinsically universal.

Remember to come down from your “mountain cabin” once in a while, remember who we are, and remember what was there for you. Remember that the Earth itself is a healer, full of comfort in wild places, remember to seek songs that make your heart sing, and remember that which we would like to see, we must help bring into being.

Let us try and remember when all else returns.

 

The End.

 

Great Spot! – Kennedy Park

Great Spot! – Kennedy Park

Today my Iphone photos reminded me that we did this hike April 13, 2019.

And here I sit, one year to the day wondering why I never put this review down on paper. It’s a rainy day, much like the one that brought us to Kennedy in search of the red-spotted newts. But like Olaf keeps reminding me, “…the wind blows a little bit colder / And we’re all getting older…” and we decided to stay in and watch Frozen 2, again, instead of venturing out. So I dusted off the files and got to writing. Timing is a funny thing.


Where We Went : Kennedy Park – Lenox, MA

When We Went : Mid-April

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : Varies, Our hike was 1.5 Boots

Trail Length : Varying Lengths

(There are A LOT. We walked Cold Spring Trail, Woolsely Trail, Aspinwall & Bridges.) See map below

How Long it Took Us : We meandered. Spent about 3 hours wandering and hunting for newts!

Overview : The Aspinwall Hotel opened its doors in 1902 and immediately became the queen bee of Lenox resorts. Each of it’s 400 rooms featured a fireplace and boasted an in-residence orchestra. Perched high above the town at 1,460 feet above sea-level – the view was spectacular and it was the place to stay for nearly three decades.

On April 25, 1931, it would burn to the ground. A mile away, a policeman out on his front porch saw the flames and raised the alarm that would leave a 1 million dollar pile of rubble on a Lenox hillside.

“The hilltop seemed to be completely enveloped in flames — shooting upwards and licking the ebony heavens with their carmine tongues. The sparks flew in all directions, showering the town and threatening hundreds of homes,” an Eagle reporter on the scene wrote. “In the crowd who watched were noctambulists who had not gone to bed, out to parties and dances, they were homeward bound when attracted by the spectacular blaze.”

In the 1950’s, Lenox turned the abandoned land into a huge reserve of cross-country ski and hiking trails. Re-named John D. Kennedy Park after the man who was pivotal in it’s preservation. Today it occupies 500 acres of forest, ponds, and hillsides.

What We Dug : Much like the symphony of wood and peeper frogs, one of the most iconic signs of Spring in the Northeast is the appearance of the red efts or eastern newts.

(Please, if you see a newt on the move try not to touch it unless you are sure your hands are free from chemicals and you have the ability to wash afterwards. Especially, during this time of health uncertainty, it is best practice to let wildlife alone.)

Still not fully understood by scientists, at some point, a red eft will stop wandering about, mature into its adult phase and finish their life in a pond or lake. As a grown-up their skin changes to yellowish-brown but they maintain the telltale red spots!

On this soggy day in April we encountered so many along the paths that we turned it into a competition! Their bright orange bodies shone like a beacon on the muted forest floor.

We each kept a running tally and the person who spotted the most EFTS got the last snack!

(Not to brag…but I was the winner – with 26 spots – but I shared my snack with everyone.)

What We Could Do Without : The trails are constantly crisscrossing each other. Blazes are scarce. There are signs at some junctions. The paths are well-worn and easy to follow but it can be easy to get turned around on a multitude of switchbacks and intersecting trails. There are so many access points at Kennedy Park and a lot of trails. This is a wonderful thing in terms of space and access – allowing people the ability to spread out and try diverse trail – however it can easily get confusing for someone unfamiliar with the area. BRING A MAP.

A good entry point and the hike we did on this trip was from the parking area off of West Dugway Road. From there we take the Cold Spring Trail til it meets with the Woolsey Trail. Then we branched off for an abbreviated walk on the Aspinwall Trail, back down Woolsey Trail and returned by the Bridges Trail.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For : Red Efts, Wood Frogs, Peeper Frogs, Cold Spring, Ruins of Aspinwall Hotel, Old Stone Walls, Trillium, Columbine, White Oak, Red Oak, Ash, Beech, Balance Rock

Must Know Before You Go’s :, There are multiple access points: Adjacent to the Church-on-the-Hill in downtown Lenox – Parking Lot off of West Dugway RoadReservoir RoadLenox Shops entry point, and through the Arcadian Shop lot (Store is CURRENTLY CLOSED), Each of these access points is going to offer different portions of the trail. Because Kennedy Park has such a numerous amount of trails, it is important to have a map and an idea of your bearings. It can be an easy place to take a wrong trail and get turned around. No Facilities. Mountain Biking Allowed. No Motorized Vehicles or Hunting. Leashed Dogs OK

Directions : Many ways to access – To get to West Dugway Road Parking Lot, Follow ,Route 7 from Pittsfield into Lenox and turn right onto West Dugway Road. Parking is your first left.

The Arcadian and Lenox Shops are directly after West Dugway Road off of Route 7.

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.

Website :

Resources :

https://www.alltrails.com/parks/us/massachusetts/kennedy-park

https://nhpbs.org/wild/easternnewt.asp

Scroll Through For More Pics From Our Kennedy Park Adventure!