“Our reality has changed. The media has become 3-dimensional, inescapable, omnivorous, and self-referring — a closed system that seems, for many of the kids, to answer all their questions.” David Denby, The New Yorker
Where I Went: Bidwell House Museum. Monterey, MA
When I Went: Late February 2021
Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10): 1 to 2 Boots
Trail Length: Approximately four miles of trails. Lengths between 1/10 mile and up to 3 miles. Option to extend your hike to trails on BNRC’s Steadman Pond. The museum is also in the process of laying out several new trails, adding two more miles to the existing trails.
How Long it Took Me: Almost two hours
Overview: Before recounting a portion of history that stands on this land in Monterey, it is important to acknowledge that we are gathering, learning, and recreating on the ancestral homelands of the Mohican nation, the indigenous peoples of this land. Forcibly removed from their homelands, today their community resides in Wisconsin. It is with incredible gratitude that we continue to acknowledge the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation, the lives and stories that exist on this land and the significance that these ancestral homelands continue to hold. The Native American Interpretive Trail retraces the steps of the first peoples who walked these lands for thousands of years prior to colonization. Learn their stories, their impact on the surrounding landscape, and ways of life.
Nestled away at the end of Art School Road in Monterey is a 270-year-old Georgian Saltbox built for Reverend Adonijah Bidwell by eight members of his parish. The early history of Monterey is embraced in that of Tyringham, both making up Township #1 until 1847, when Monterey would set off on its own as the “Green Woods,” and ultimately named Monterey to honor a war victory in Mexico.
Surrounding the house is 200-acres of fields and woodlands. It is hard to imagine that this house was once the central hub of the town’s activities. One of the hiking trails, the Royal Hemlock trail, was once part of the old post road. The settlers in the Hop Brook Valley (now Tyringham Village) would trudge the two-mile connector road up the mountain to attend Sunday services at the Meeting House.
During his 34 years of ministry, Rev. Adonijah baptized 378 children and adults. He died June 2, 1784 at age 68. To read more about the Bidwell’s history and a particularly interesting descendant, Edwin Curtis Bidwell, I highly recommend checking out Michael Forbes Wilcox’s Blog HERE.
What I Dug: It’s no secret that we’re huge advocates for utilizing the outdoors as a refuge to let loose all of those heavy, hard energies and emotions we’re constantly battling with. Everyone benefits from time in nature, no doubt. But one thing that changed for me this past year is making more time for myself to get outside — solo. All alone, my experience is a much quieter time spent boosting my outdoorphins, but it also acts as a reminder to flip the top lens back down on my double-layered glasses.
This retro re-framing is precisely why this blog exists in the first place.
Let me explain.
On a trip to Tucson in January of 2019 (remember travel?), my husband and I spent an afternoon hiking in the Sonoran desert. Our first trip away post-kids, I spent most of that hike (and trip!) making declarations like, “Wow! That is so cool, M would love that!” or “I can’t wait to tell V what we saw.” — as if the 150 year-old saguaro cactus had grown an arm with the sole purpose of being a future anecdote to amaze my kids. Now I know that’s ridiculous, but I realized as I hiked around the desert in my kid-tinted glasses, that these new lenses had shifted my perspective.
And I haven’t taken them off since.
Remember that Dashboard Confessional lyric, “It seems like nothing’s happened, until I’ve shared them with you.” No? Good, you dodged the high school emo phase then.
For Gen Z, it’s more — “If you didn’t Instagram it, did it even happen?”
A little less sentimental, but it’s like that. Shared experiences can be more meaningful.
As parents, we want to help our children appreciate nature and find a connection to it. But more times than not, they don’t need our prompting. And oftentimes, it is the kids that help us connect to a part of nature that we’ve lost as we age.
Kids will continually surprise you where their thoughts lead. Some of these questions and our attempted answers may inevitably lead us to revisiting things we haven’t thought about in a long time. Kids reframe the world for us, because of their ability to simultaneously see things in two ways, oscillating between big picture concepts to the minute details near-at-hand. It challenges us to explain things at their level of understanding, and while we’re worrying about covering ground, they’re uncovering small wonders that we’ve overlooked.
So what does that have to do with my time at the Bidwell House? I walked those trails alone and reclaimed that perspective. I felt those forgotten lenses flip back down as I read about “bear nests” in Beech trees, as I wandered past the skeletal structure of a wigwam, and as I watched the snow frost the branches of the hemlock-lined paths. I felt that wonder, that child-like magic return, and I couldn’t wait to share it with the fresh eyes of my children.
Walk a place on your own. See what you see. Then come back with your child(ren). And see how much they have to show you.
What I Could Do Without: I missed my kids! And I should’ve brought my snowshoes.
Keep Your Eyes Peeled For: Poet’s Tree, charcoal hearths, cellar holes, stone walls, champion oak, hemlock, beech, cherry, eastern wood-pewees, chestnut-sided warbler, veery, wood thrush, gray catbird, American redstart, spring ephemerals.
Must Know Before You Go’s: Interior tours of the museum are currently closed. The grounds are open year-round for walking, hiking, nature watching, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing (ungroomed). Leashed dogs ok.
Directions: 100 Art School Road, Monterey, MA 01245. Take MA-23 East. In Monterey Village, turn left after the church onto Tyringham Road for 1.5 miles, past Lake Garfield and up the hill. Turn left onto Art School Road. Travel this country lane for 1 mile (turns to dirt halfway up), following the white signs for the Bidwell House Museum, ending at the Museum. Park in the lower field (handicap parking available at top of driveway).
Please note that GPS directions, including Google Maps, can potentially send you on dirt roads that aren’t accessible to all vehicles.
Resources: Outside-the-House Scavenger Hunt for Kids, Outside-the-House Key Map, Outside-the-House History Primer, Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area, Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican, Native American Trail Guide