Morgan Bulkeley’s Big Berkshire Trees — Winter Tree Week

Morgan Bulkeley’s Big Berkshire Trees — Winter Tree Week

Over 50 years ago, prolific writer and avid naturalist Morgan Bulkeley contributed more than 750 articles for the Berkshire Eagle. Under the title, “Our Berkshires,” Bulkeley illuminated the local history, people, and nature of our richly beautiful Berkshire home. 
During the years of 1968-1970, Bulkeley challenged local readers to contribute to a list of the largest and most notable trees in the Berkshires. Responses were swift and steady and 100+ trees were ultimately recorded.
I’d like to find out if any of these trees are still standing. To document the trees still in existence and the fates of the fallen soldiers, or even add a new tree to the list!
I’m asking for your help!
Below you’ll find a spreadsheet of the trees Bulkeley compiled. If you’re a resident (or curious visitor!) to any of the towns listed, head to the location and do some investigating. Keep in mind that references to certain names, homes, & locations may have changed over 53 years and may require some extra sleuthing. (And avoid private property!) Email your findings to: berkshirefamilyhikes@gmail.com
If you have a new big tree to add to the list, check out this link for instructions on how to measure basic tree circumference and email your findings to: berkshirefamilyhikes@gmail.com
In an effort to rekindle and deepen our connection with our natural communities, as well as honoring a man who truly understood what it meant to appreciate earth’s gifts, get outside and look around! Let’s go on a Berkshire county-wide scavenger hunt – a vegetation investigation!

We created a spreadsheet of the 1968-1970 Big Trees that Bulkeley compiled. If you have knowledge of a particular tree still standing, let us know! 

Print out the spreadsheet and join in the hunt! Let us know what you find. Email berkshirefamilyhikes@gmail.com

 Berkshire Eagle Archives 1968-1970


Subscribe below to get the latest delivered to your inbox!

Follow along on all our adventures on Instagram & Facebook.

Conifer Confusion — Winter Tree Week

Conifer Confusion — Winter Tree Week

Spruce, Pine, or Fir? 

Not gonna lie, for the longest time I called all evergreens pine trees. Conifers solely existed in Christmas tree world, and countless holidays went by without realizing that the oh, Tannenbaum I was trimming was actually a fir — tannenbaum meaning fir tree German.

Until the fateful day we brought home a blue spruce for Christmas…

One of the reasons we annually lug a real live tree into our living rooms is the smell, right? That unmistakable sharp, sweet, freshness that conjures up Christmas days of yore, and this tree was no exception — fragrant, shapely and silver-tinged, a holiday shrub that dreams are made of.

And then the needles began to fall, and the dream turned into a nightmare. Have you ever stepped bare-footed on a Lego? Yea, it’s like that, BUT SHARP. Like, an overlooked fragment of glass sharp, just nestled in the deep fibers of your carpet, lying in wait and no vacuum can touch them.

This spruce abuse stuck around for a few seasons and we swore off anything but firs for Christmases to come. But it was this rude introduction that got me to pay attention to evergreens in the first place.

So, How Do You Tell?

The Conifer family include pines, spruces, firs, hemlocks, larches (these are not evergreens), and true cedars. They all bear cones, most have a single, straight trunk, a conical shape, and appear dark green in color. In order to tell them apart, we’ve got to get a little but closer. 

Shake Hands with the Tree

Go on, grab a branch and introduce yourself.

Pine needles are long. They grow in clusters of two or more and the number in a packet tells you the kind of pine. Red pine has packets of two needles, pitch pine three, and if a twig bears needles in packets of five, it’s a white pine. I remember that because “white” has five letters.

PINE: Playful Packets of Pointy Pins

Let’s meet someone else. Spruces can be stand-offish, even stiff, so take care when sidling up to say hi. Pull off a needle, and roll it between your fingers (I dare you). If it rolls easily, it’s a spruce. Careful not to prick your fingers! 

SPRUCE: Spiny, Stiff, Sharp as a Syringe

Fir trees are much friendlier. Fir needles are softer and flat, and cannot be rolled between your fingers. If it feels flat and doesn’t roll easily, it’s a fir.

FIR: Friendly, Flexible with Flat needles

Hemlocks seem shy to me, their branches always drooping towards the earth. Hemlock needles are flat and short, with blunt tips. These needles are attached to the twig by a small peg or “stem,” such that when you pluck one off, it is left behind. 

HEMLOCK: Hanging Hems Have Stems!

Hopefully, this helps clear up any conifer confusion you may have had. Remember, the best way to get to know a tree is to introduce yourself!

Click here for more Winter Tree Week activities. 

Subscribe below to get more activities delivered to your inbox!

Be sure and share your projects & experiences with us!

Let’s Go Burl-lunking! — Winter Tree Week

Let’s Go Burl-lunking! — Winter Tree Week

Tree Warts, as my 7-year old calls them, are actually burls. And what exactly is a burl, you ask? A burl is a gnarly-looking, extraneous growth found on a tree.

Scientists are still not sure what causes these bulges to occur, but have theorized that a burl may be made when a tree is experiencing stress, injury, virus, or fungal infection. Other scientists believe that certain trees may have a genetic predisposition to forming burls as a result of certain environmental factors, like pollution or the mineral content in the soil.

Although they seem ugly on the outside, burls are highly prized by woodworkers who know what magnificent designs are often found on the inside. Kevin Smith, a plant physiologist at the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, published a piece in 2012 on burl biology in the newsletter of the Massachusetts Tree Wardens’ and Foresters’ Association. Next to his article was a report detailing several Massachusetts burl thefts, including one where arboreal bandits climbed 30 feet into a “very old sugar maple” to steal two burls from either side of the trunk. 

I’m no burl-poacher, but I will steal a word from Berkshire cave-explorer Clay Perry. Instead of going spelunking, why not try burl-lunking! Skip the cavernous outcroppings, and instead hunt for the burliest growths. Grab a ruler, dive through the winter forest and see who can find the biggest, baddest, burl. (I’m making this up as I go folx, as we do). 

Some great places to go burl-lunking are Golden Hill Town Forest in Lee, Old Mill Trail in Hinsdale/Dalton, Dorothy Frances Rice Wildlife Sanctuary in Peru, Greylock Glen in Adams, Kennedy Park in Lenox and Bullard Woods in Stockbridge. 

 

Want to recreate the swirlicious beauty found on the inside of the burl? Try out one of the painting techniques below! Do a Google image search “inside burls” for inspiration. 

Burl Fork Painting

Materials:

  • Heavier paper or cardstock
  • Paints
  • Paintbrushes
  • Forks

Cut out a loose cross-section of a tree. Do it freehand, trees are all shapes & sizes! (I saved the scraps for another project.)

We taped our paper wood cookie down on the table and started to paint a small section. Then while the paint was still wet, the kids grabbed a fork and created their designs!

Milk Swirl Painting

Materials:

  • Shallow dish
  • Milk (Fuller fat milk works best)
  • Food Coloring
  • Dish Soap
  • Q-Tips
  • Paper

Fill a shallow dish with milk just so the bottom is covered. Choose 3 or 4 colors of food coloring and add a couple of drops of each in the center of your dish. 

Carefully pour one drop of dish soap into the center of the food coloring and observe what happens!

The kids then dipped their q-tips in soap and swirled the food coloring into different designs before it all mixed together.

We dipped a few of our paper scraps into the swirls before they were thoroughly mixed.

 Sources: The Biology of Burls

What is a Tree Burl

Subscribe below to get more activities delivered to your inbox!

Be sure and share your projects & experiences with us! Tag us on Instagram or Facebook @berkshirefamilyhikes

Take a Walk on the Wild Side with Berkshire Natural Resources Council

Take a Walk on the Wild Side with Berkshire Natural Resources Council

Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC) wants you to take walk on the wild side…

at Wild Acres in Pittsfield that is! 

BNRC, the City of PittsfieldBerkshire Family Hikes, and Berkshires Macaroni Kid have partnered together to bring a StoryWalk® to the Berkshires as part of the 10×10 Upstreet Winter Arts Festival

Get out and enjoy the winter with a half-mile hike and learn about animal tracks along the way.

StoryWalks® are an innovative approach to encouraging people of all ages to get out and walk while enjoying wonderful children’s books. Pages of a children’s book are displayed along a family-friendly trail. As you walk, you can read the book one page at a time, all while enjoying being outside. This creative activity provides us all with a new way to see, learn, and experience the amazing world around us.

In this StoryWalk® at Pittsfield’s Conservation Area, Wild Acres, immerse yourself in the world of animals! Animals are all around us, and while we may not see them, often they leave behind signs that they were there. As you read along in English or Spanish to Mary Holland’s book, Animal Tracks and Traces, watch yourself become an animal detective. You will learn how to read the animal signs left all around us — tracks in snow or mud, chewed or scratched bark, signs of dens, even poop & pee! Determined sleuths may even figure out what the animals were doing. This book is suited for grades K-3, but appeals to all ages. Adults are challenged to put their observational skills to the test! 

The StoryWalk® will be on display for a self-guided adventure from Saturday, Feb.13th– Sunday, Feb. 21st (dawn to dusk) at Wild Acres Conservation Area in Pittsfield.

Be sure to also check out the author Mary Holland’s incredible blog, Naturally Curious.

Wild Acres Trailhead, South Mountain Rd, Pittsfield. Remember to practice social distancing, giving others 6 feet of space, and follow CDC, state, and local guidelines.

Visit Berkshire Natural Resources Council for more information. For a Spanish description of this event, haga clic aquí.

Since March of 2020, Berkshire Natural Resources Council has installed eight StoryWalks in Berkshire land preserves.

Previous StoryWalks:

Whose Tracks Are These? 

Written by Jim Nail

The Boulders Reserve, March 2020

Ferdinand Fox’s First Summer 

Written by Mary Holland

The Boulders Reserve, July 2020

Animal Mouths

Written by Mary Holland

Housatonic Flats Reserve, September 2020

The Universe Is Rooting for You

Written by Dan Sadlowski

Old Mill Trail Reserve, October 2020

Ferdinand Fox’s First Summer

Written by Mary Holland 

Hoosac Range Reserve, October 2020

Otis the Owl

Written by Mary Holland

The Boulders Reserve, November 2020

Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner 

Written by Janice N. Harrington

Thomas & Palmer Brook Reserve, November 2020

Berkshire Natural Resources Council, 20 Bank Row, Pittsfield

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 Berkshire Natural Resources Council. The entire trail is 2.5 miles and if not for our own series of unfortunate events on this fateful day in February, makes for a great hike. 

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.

https://video.wixstatic.com/video/3087f9_48b25549c4d84900ad1e29ac9d567210/1080p/mp4/file.mp4

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. Maybe don’t bring four undersized children trudging through hip deep snow and expect a good time. 

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, Red Oak, Eastern Hemlock, Hop Hornbeam, Partridgeberry

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 :

https://www.bnrc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Regional_Lanesborough.jpg

https://www.bnrc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Constitution_Hill_trailmap.pdf

https://www.bnrc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Constitution_Hill_Topo.jpg

Resources :

https://northernwoodlands.org/outside_story/article/springtails-tiggers?gclid=Cj0KCQjwu6fzBRC6ARIsAJUwa2S55EmIWnpglxT-KOCp_LfqTd31ws-O3iKBu8NXhWtF1MqBAGLWaXUaAsPSEALw_wcB

https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=85175

https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1279

https://archive.org/stream/historyoftownofl01palm/historyoftownofl01palm_djvu.txt

Additional Photos by Kira Smith

First Week Hikes 2021

First Week Hikes 2021

First Week Hikes 2021

 

The past few years we’ve celebrated the turn of a new year with a First Day Hike. Read about the changes for 2021 below and then check out this list of family-friendly winter hikes to help you plan your own First Week Hike adventure. 

First Day Hikes were an initiative that began in Massachusetts in 1992, 380 people showed up for the inaugural event at Blue Hills Reservation! Since then, it has spread all over the nation and all 50 states now recognize this tradition as an alternative start to the new year!

For the celebration of this initiative’s 30th anniversary, the DCR invites you to step into the New Year with a First Week Hike, a COVID-19 alternative to the traditional First Day Hikes. 

There are some changes to this year’s tradition in order to keep everyone safe during the pandemic:

  • Extending the traditional one-day hike to any day during First Week 2021, to prevent over-crowding due to COVID-19.
  • Introducing self-guided adventures to ensure safe social distancing
  • Picking a park near you to keep it safe and local,
  • If you can’t get to a state park or have limited abilities, try getting out of doors each day of First Week 2021 for fresh air and movement right where you live—to build a healthy habit this the New Year,
  • Sharing your DCR state park adventure on Instagram and twitter @MassDCR #MAFirstWeekHikes

Additional changes include:

  • DCR visitor centers and rest rooms may be closed due to COVID-19,
  • Hospitality options such as hot chocolate offered in prior years will not be available due to COVID-19,
  • No guided hikes are offered or allowed to prevent clustering of visitors, and
  • Masks or facial coverings will be required at all times in all state parks.

DCR has 150 state parks and thousands of miles of trails. To find an outdoor location near you, visit:  www.mass.gov/info-details/dcr-programs-and-events for a list of recommended self-guided hikes. 

You can find our 2020 hike HERE

Use the hashtags #MAFirstWeekHikes & #BerkshireFamilyHikes to be featured!