Where We Went : Widow White Reservation – Lanesboro, MA
When We Went : Early April & again in Late May
Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : Steep in places, but mostly easy walking on wide wood roads 2.5 Boots
Trail Length : NO MARKED TRAILS, wood roads are generally clear enough to follow
How Long it Took Us : 2.5 Hours
Overview : A revenge rock and a cave – two things you wouldn’t be expecting to see on a walk in the woods, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at Widow White Reserve in Lanesboro, MA.
What’s a revenge rock, you ask? Well, it’s apparently how you express yourself when you’re an scorned windbag with some mean chiselin’ skills. Meet Captain John Brown. Born in Cheshire, Brown was a hot-headed stonemason. He was leader of the Cheshire militia in the 19th century. That is until he disbanded said militia because at a meeting he wasn’t called on first to speak…just to give you an idea of what we’re dealing with here, Petty with a capital P.
Enter Susan Baker. This gal was the richest woman in Lanesboro for many years. She owned Baker’s Tavern on Greylock Road, a popular stage coach inn frequented by travelers over Brodie Mt. highway. Susan also owned a multitude of marble and wood rich acres on Potter Mountain (location of Widow White). At 81 when 69 year old John Brown came ‘a courtin’, old Sue probably couldn’t bring the hammer down fast enough! I mean, the man had 10 children for pete’s sake – if he’d been more transparent he’d be cellophane. Now I ain’t sayin’ he’s a golddigger. But yes. Yes I am.
Johnny had his pride bulldozed and instead of shooting his shot and taking it on the chin, Mr. Brown decided to go for the King’s crown of pettiness – packing his trusty chisel and a whole bag full of bruised ego, he walked from Cheshire to Lanesboro, to the edge of Susan’s property and on an errant boulder chipped away this message:
“Capt. John M. Brown, Born at Stafford’s Hill, Cheshire, Mass., Oct. the 1st, 1808; inscribed upon this rock, April the 2d, 1878. May God bless Susan and all her barren land and when she gets to heaven, I hope she will find a man.”
Whewww, SNAP! Can you taste the bitterness…
Brown’s Boulder in the 1970’s (Berkshire Eagle)
Brown’s Boulder Present Day (BFH)
Four years later, Susan died, aged 85 and completely unbothered (my assumption).
But do you know who wasn’t?
YUP. Old John “dog with a bone” Brown, that’s who. He wrote a follow-up to his original inscription. Although he never took the opportunity to gouge it into stone for all eternity, his family saved the verse and I offer it to you now:
“Now Susan has gone to her long home. It makes me sad, it makes me mourn. What a mighty shock, when I view this rock, to know that I am still alone.”
Good call, Sue – safe to say you dodged a bullet on that one.
(North Adams Transcript)
On the uphill path to Brown’s Boulder, you’ll pass by Baker’s Quarry Cave near a stand of white birches. Named for village belle Susan Baker, this modest hole in the ground doesn’t look like much. But for a spelunker like Clay Perry, caves like this were an underground wonderland. Clay Perry was an author and journalist, a transplant from Wisconsin who moved to the Berkshires in 1912.
An avid cave crawler, Clay explored over 200 Northeastern caves, wrote three books on the subject, (“Underground New England” “New England’s Buried Treasure” and “Underground Empire”) and even coined the term “spelunker!” (Note : If anyone has a copy of one of these books, please contact me! For armchair spelunking only.) Baker’s Quarry was Perry’s favorite cave and he led many conventions here for other cave-crawling enthusiasts. The cave stretches 150-feet and has been visited since 1847 if the inscriptions carved into the walls are any indication. The cave entrance was likely discovered when marble quarrying was done on this property, remnants of which you can also find. The brook nearby is aptly named Disappearing Brook, which disappears and reappears six times over a mile stretch.
I would NOT recommend going inside the cave. Cave-crawlers and spelunkers are serious hobbyists and professionals who know the risks and the equipment needed. If you’re curious about what’s inside, check out this video Brad Herder took of the inside in 2013.
What We Dug : Would you believe that we didn’t see Brown’s Boulder or Baker Quarry Cave until our return trip? It’s true. We were on the hunt for both but somehow kept circling around the very things we were searching for. During that first trip the trees were bare and the glacier erratics stole the show. Everywhere we turned there was a bigger boulder than the last, another rock to climb, another outcrop to conquer. When we returned, we were on a mission. It was one we accomplished and truly enjoyed – who doesn’t love a good mystery hunt – but cave or no cave, Widow White is such a cool place to explore.
What We Could Do Without : The first time we visited Widow White, the trees were still budded and the forest floor was mostly clear, save for a few early spring ephemerals. What a difference a month makes! Widow White doesn’t have maintained trails but the wood roads make for easy walking.
Still, when we returned in May, it was full bore glorious spring and we found that the wood roads can get a bit lost underneath the new growth. Beyond being absolutely stunningly green everywhere you turn, it can be easy to get turned around, so please you caution, good judgment and a map.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled For: Captain John Brown Stone, Baker’s Quarry Cave, the remnants of a mill dam on Secum Brook, small quarries and an extensive stone wall, spring ephemerals like trillium and hepatica, jack-in-the-pulpit, birch groves, snails
Must Know Before You Go’s: Hunting is allowed in-season. Wear reflective clothing and take precautions. No Facilities. No Marked Trails. Silver Street is a dirt road and the parking lot is unpaved.
Directions: Widow White Reserve is accessed from an unimproved trailhead off of Silver Street. From the center of Lanesborough: north on Route 7 to a left on Bailey Road. Follow Bailey Road north for 1.0 miles to a left on Silver Street. Follow Silver Street for 0.4 miles to the trailhead, which is at the top of a short steep hill, on a very sharp left-hand curve. Trailhead is on the right at the curve. GPS: 42.5472, -73.2520 (trailhead parking)
Summer Solstice. The longest day of the year is at hand. Taken literally, solstice means that the sun stands still. But like naturalist Hal Borland said,
“There is no standing still in any season. The earth turns, and the year turns, and sunrise changes, and sunset alters, day by day. And neither man nor his affairs stand still. Change is the only constant.”
It’s a good day for reflection. Here’s 10 quotes to get you started :
“Green was the silence, wet was the light, the month of June trembled like a butterfly. ” – Pablo Neruda
“The sun does not shine for a few trees and flowers, but for the wide world’s joy.” – Henry Ward Beecher
“I have only to break into the tightness of a strawberry, and I see summer — its dust and lowering skies.” – Toni Morrison
“Then followed that beautiful season, Summer. Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Summer is a gentleman: slowly warming the earth at length before undressing her in the fall.
– Curtis Tyrone Jones
“It was June, and the world smelled of roses. The sunshine was like powdered gold over the grassy hillside.” – Maud Hart Lovelace
“The first ear of corn, eaten like a typewriter, means summer to me – intense, but fleeting.”
– Michael Anthony
“Summer, after all, is a time when wonderful things can happen to quiet people. For those few months, you’re not required to be who everyone thinks you are, and that cut-grass smell in the air and the chance to dive into the deep end of a pool give you a courage you don’t have the rest of the year. You can be grateful and easy, with no eyes on you, and no past. Summer just opens the door and lets you out.”
– Deb Caletti
“When the sun is shining I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome.” – Wilma Rudolph
“Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this was the first real time of freedom and living; this was the first morning of summer.” – Ray Bradbury
Trail Length : Loop Trail, just under 1 mile (Blue Blazes)
How Long it Took Us : 2 Hours
Overview : Janet Longcope Park is 46-acres of eastern hemlock, pine and oak nestled amongst residences off of Church Street in South Lee. Slowly choking under the weight of invasive Oriental Bittersweet, a plight that in Winter, made an indelible impression.
It’s namesake – Janet Percy Dana Longcope -was the only daughter of Paul Dana, noted Gilded Age family and editor of The New York Sun. (FUN FACT: the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center in Central Park is named after Janet’s grandfather) Serving as a nurse with the French Army in World War I, Janet would go on to marry John Hopkins Director of Medicine, Warfield Theobald Longcope. The couple would later move to Lee, settling their family on a tract they’d call Cornhill Farm. Now a seasonal rental property, what remains of the Longcope farm is around the corner from Longcope Park.
Janet, a master bookbinder, had a bindery attached to the house. She took on commissions, taught and trained with famed Arno Werner, whose bookbinding shop was in nearby Pittsfield. After her husbands death in 1953, Janet traveled to countries all over the world, returning to some, such as India, as many as nine times. An avid photographer, she enjoyed giving informal lectures about her travels to places like Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Malaysia, and Lebanon (to name just a few). In 1974, she died at Cornhill Farm, aged 88. Her collection of Asian photographs was later gifted to the Smithsonian.
“The Wings” – Estate of Charles A. Dana on Glen Cove
Oddly enough, while researching Janet Percy Dana Longcope, I stumbled on the very subject that had made our visit to Longcope Park so… bittersweet. (yup. I did it.)
While this other property was nearly 200 miles away, it was the familiarity of the shared Dana name that caught my eye. In 1889, Garden and Forest magazine published a letter to the editor (Charles Sprague Sargent) describing the elegant estate of one Charles A. Dana. (If you recall, the aforementioned is Janet’s grandfather). Charles Dana’s summer estate – “The Wings“- was located on the tiny island of Dosoris in the town of Glen Cove, North shore of Long Island, New York.
The anonymous author goes into great detail about the extensive gardens at “The Wings,” but one sentence in particular stood out :
“A seawall is built all around the island, and it is draped and festooned with Matrimony vine (Lycium barbatum), our native Bitter-sweet, a Japanese species of the same genus (Celastrus articulatus) and Periploca Graeca, which are planted on the top.”
How do you like that? The very problem currently strangling the woods that make up Longcope Park, making their foreboding appearance 130 years ago at her grandpa’s house, no less! It’s ironic that these two members of the Dana family were such ardent fans of all things Asian. Janet capturing her passion through photography and Charles, a notable Asian art collector, owning over 600 pieces in his lifetime. The Chinese oaks that graced the grounds at “The Wings” were planted with acorns purportedly collected from Confucius’s tomb! It seems strangely congruent yet grimly sardonic that this land gifted by Janet Longcope is threatened to be wiped out by an eastern thread, this Asian essence of which she (and Charles) so treasured.
What We Dug : Truth be told, before our visit, I had never even heard of Longcope Park. As a lifetime Berkshire resident, it is always a treat to find these lesser-known plots scattered around the Berkshires. We had no idea what to expect but were pleasantly surprised with an easy-walking loop trail that includes two footbridges crossing a small stream.The downed trees that lay trailside made natural balance beams and the hollow logs were fascinating to the kids as we made our way through the woods. The tall pines were swaying in hushed tones with the cold winter wind. Waterside, we built stone towers and tried to keep dry, penguin-walking over the icy bridges.
After fungi was inspected, ferns were collected and we passed a moment in silence for a fallen friend (the shrew), we were back at the parking lot and now well acquainted with Longcope Park.
What We Could Do Without : This. This thing right here. The serpentine succubus that is Oriental bittersweet. A deciduous, woody, perennial vine that is native to parts of Asia. First introduced to the U.S. around 1870 as a hardy and ornamental cover plant, it is now found virtually everywhere in most eastern states. Bittersweet is considered to be one of our most problematic invasive species. It grows really fast and can quickly strangle and topple trees. It has an extremely high germination rate, even when conditions are poor and sunlight scarce. Because of it’s attractive orange berries, birds and people have aided in it’s spread because neither can resist carrying them around to new places. Bittersweet doesn’t just rely on magpie-eyed humans to ensure its survival, ohhh no, this robo-plant can also re-sprout from its roots, making just cutting back the vine totally futile. It can easily climb trees up to 90-feet tall, literally choking out and girdling any plants that it clings to. (Cue the Jumanji flashbacks)
It’s been observed to have completely covered half-acre wood lots in just 7-10 years.
Against the bare winter landscape, the orange fruit of the bittersweet stuck out EVERYWHERE. And like a ligneous brown boa constrictor, we could see it’s smothering damage all over Longcope Park.
Must Know Before You Go’s : Although the temperature was below 30F during our visit, (and colder in the woods!), many portions of the trail were pretty muddy and wet. There was ample room to go around the muddy areas, but keep this in mind as Spring gets closer and the snow melts.
The entrance to the parking area off of Church Street can sneak up on you, so don’t be surprised if you drive right by and have to turn around.
No facilities on property. Leashed dogs only. No mountain biking, motorized vehicles or xc-skiing.
Directions : From US-7 S in Lenox – Follow US-7 S for 2.5 miles. Turn right onto W Road and follow for 1.6 miles. W Road becomes Church Street and Longcope Park will be on the left.
2020 rushed in and we kicked off the 1st day of the New Year with…what else?! A hike!
Joined by my sister and her family, our group headed back to Glen Meadows for some bracing air and open sky. We got both in spades, along with a fresh perspective.
Armed with a special scavenger hunt, the kids were motivated and ready to take on the trail. On the lookout for –
they had their work cut out for them. Not only did they find all 6, but they hiked the whole trail. No small feat for 8 small feet!
If you recall, we had previously visited (and reviewed!) Glen Meadow in full-bore Spring fever. Mid-May had us head over heels, soaking up the dramatic views and the blossoming landscape.
Fast- forward 8-months : January. The skeletal flip-side to the beaming face of Spring.
Now barren and bleached, we found the landscape had changed more than expected.
Back in May, we gawked at the meadows immense black willow trees. Like IIvermorny’s own Whomping Willow, the largest’s limbs and leaves stretched crooked fingers towards Greylock. On our Winter return, the Whomper lay bowed and broken. The entire front portion of the tree had split away, most likely during a wind storm.
Used historically for both for medicinal purposes and weaving, willow trees have symbolized both healing and flexibility. In the Spring, we had sat under those giant branches, refueling and breathing in the mountain views. It had calmed our energies.
Although in Winter those branches were found rent and fractured, the willow now let us climb and explore.
Black Willow’s Lesson : Take 5. Breathe. Be flexible – bend – and if it breaks, improvise.
Within the paper birch grove, we found less profound change, but still an altered landscape.
Birch is a cold-climate tree, hardy and adaptable. The grove was stripped, all it’s golden leaves long gone. Against the starkness of the snow, the paper birch trunks leapt out like icicles in a dull landscape. The steely, dark mountains loomed in shadow, creating a sharp, wintry vignette. Birch trees are one of the first to sprout on bare ground, providing protection for other species to grow and are often some of the first to bud after a forest fire.
Birch trees symbolize new beginnings, regeneration, hope, and the promise of things to come. Winter can seem long and drawn out, with it’s stillness and dormancy reigning supreme. But life lurks just under the surface, biding its time; waiting for the lengthening of days and the returning warmth; to bust out and show it’s stuff. As the naturalist Edwin Way Teale said, ” The stillness, the seeming death of winter, is but an illusion. Life retreats and is triumphant again.”
Paper Birch’s Lesson : Dream big. Lead with love. Take your time. Stay true to your roots and trust in the journey.
Glen Meadows wasn’t better during our warm Spring visit, no more so than January’s Winter adventure overtook May’s. Much like the seasons we visited in, each offered us different opportunities for a unique perspective. When we stopped to be still in our present moment, the beauty of each vantage point was revealed. Revisiting natural environments throughout all four seasons can help to remind us to look outside of our stagnant views and embrace inevitable change.
With a goal for 50 hikes in 2020 laid out on our horizon, the achievement is the easy part. The real challenge lies in the present moment. It’s easy to get caught up in a numbers game and checking off of boxes. Experiencing the here and now becomes the true test. Winter in its vast vacancy reminds us to keep it simple. The restrictive boundaries we set up for ourselves are currently borderless, blanketed in limitless snow. While the hills are naked and the blue sky is wide, seek clarity, not completion, in your aims and explorations.
Scroll through for more pictures from our First Day Adventure!
“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a big hearty yes to your adventure.” – Joseph Conrad
I’ve never been much of a resolution maker, let alone a resolution keeper. January 1st would arrive with the usual, “eat better, exercise, drink more water” and I’d down 40 oz. of H2O just long enough to wonder if the hydration to bathroom ratio was really worth it (it kinda is).
Everyone looks at resolutions differently. Some ignore the practice altogether, shunning the “new year, new me” mentality as a lesson in futility. Some see it as a fresh start, a time to make actionable goals or resolutions for your future self. Others choose to set “intentions,” a method of focusing on who you are at present moment and highlighting certain personal values as inspirational and motivational reminders. Regardless of our approach, they can all leave us feeling unfulfilled when we don’t follow through.
2019 was different. This year we embarked on this Berkshire Family Hikes journey, and my, what a year it’s been.
January came and I set my intention. I asked myself: What traits within me could I cultivate this year? The words that kept popping up were Balance, Joy, and Space. I wanted to create more of those in my life.
The next step was to give those three words actionable power. Again I asked myself: What ways can I integrate these values in my daily practice? I ran through a list of goals, asking myself if they matched the intent behind each one of those words. Would it bring balance? Would it spark joy? Would it create more space? Most missed the mark and while some matched with one or two intentions, I was hard pressed to find something that simultaneously met all three.
Down at the bottom of the list, haphazardly scribbled under “start a workout routine” and “more QT with the kids” was “get outside more“ – and BAM – lightning struck. Checking all three boxes, we made our commitment, put one foot in front of the other and soon we were walking out that door (think: Winter Warlock style).
In its intrinsic simplicity, that basic goal of just getting outside more became the key to unlocking so. much. more.
We gained more confidence outdoors than we ever had.
Our relationships became tighter, more fulfilling and that “QT time” I was looking for – BINGO
They tell you that being out in nature positively effects your mood AND IT DOES. Hiking made us happier, more peaceful, gave us more energy, helped us “tune-in.”
We got active (workout routine not required) and saved some dough.
We got better at being flexible (NO EXPECTATIONS) but also better at planning ahead.
We learned A TON about the world around us and it’s sparked so much more curiosity.
We took time away from our regularly scheduled programming and our devices and enjoyed the ride.
It led to new goals, ideas, opportunities, connections, and inspirations.
Check out a few of our favorites :
Family Favorite Hike 2019
Field Farm, Williamstown MA
One Word: BEAVERS
Dad’s Favorite Hike
Steven’s Glen, Richmond MA
“From soup to nuts, this hike’s got it all.”
Best Hike Beyond the Berkshires
Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, Easthampton MA
There’s a treehouse!
Still To Review Hike
Kennedy Park, Lenox MA
Red newts coming soon…
Best Place for A Trailside Meltdown
Old Mill Trail, Hinsdale MA
A hike to remember.
Twenty-six hikes later and it seems like with that one step we spanned the globe. This deceivingly small adjustment had such a waterfall effect on our every piece of our lives in 2019.
Thank you to all of you who joined us on our adventures, in-person or from cyberspace.
Our goal for 2020 is to complete 50 hikes!
Drop us a comment below with your hike ideas and/or thoughts.