A Dream Forgotten – Getty Memorial Conservation Area

A Dream Forgotten – Getty Memorial Conservation Area

Where We Went: Getty Memorial Conservation Area & adjacent trails, in between Nessacus Middle School & Wahconah High School in Dalton, MA

When We Went: Late May & August (school WAS out!)

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10): 0.5 Boot / 1 Boot

Trail Length: Undetermined / shortest trail to conservation area is about 200 yards

How Long it Took Us: 2 hours

Overview: Alright. Ready? I’m gonna attempt to break this area down and also serve it the long-forgotten justice it deserves, SO – bear with me. If you’re looking for just the basics of this hike, skip down to What We Dug. Otherwise strap in, ’cause off we go…

In 1972, Raynard Getty, a high school science teacher, began developing 50 acres behind the Dalton school into a conservation area. In conjunction with classroom studies, Wahconah students, alongside Getty, worked on extensive plans to create a wildlife refuge, 4 1/2 miles of nature trails, two tree farms, a large fieldstone fireplace, and a small pond. A teacher truly ahead of his time,

Getty described his vision as, “a quiet area where students can go to think and meditate.

Students constructed a 22-foot bridge over a drainage ditch that same year. In 1975, the U.S. Navy “Seabees” helped the students dig a 1/2 acre farm pond. Maple, chestnut and other trees were planted with intention of fostering a tree nursery. It’s aim was two-fold, to provide replacement trees to the town and give young people the knowledge of tree care from the ground up. Seven large fieldstone planters were built by students and filled with numerous flower varietals they had been consciously raising indoors. Brush was cut and cleared (teenagers with chainsaws!), benches built, and large stones were relocated to create stone walls. All of this structured towards specific goals, but with kids being the integral part of the program.

Then in 1981, at the age of 52, Getty passed suddenly of a heart attack. He may have only succeeded in developing 20 of the 50 acres planned, but his gifts to the community far exceeded that. What he left behind were inspired students who had learned everlasting skills of perseverance, consideration, and stewardship to take with them into adulthood. An enormous feat for a man with just a humble plan. Later that year, various science classes conceptualized and created a nature trail in Getty’s honor. Together they located, identified, and described 21 different points of interest within the conservation area and trail. Trail markers were built and erected and informational pamphlets were made and distributed at the area’s memorial.

It’s been said that, to hear is to forget, to see is to remember and to do is to understand.

Mr. Getty organized and bonded with these students to give them a chance to work outdoors and learn first-hand about caring for the environment. He helped them build something of value, transforming and nurturing the woods surrounding their school.

With the Earth’s current environmental future in a precarious balance, let this serve as a reminder to how impactful a mentor can be.

Over the years, much of this area has not seen the level of care intended for it, nor have steps been taken to complete Raynard Getty’s vision. The pond is overgrown, trails are no longer marked, and any points of interest have been reclaimed by the woods. Most recently, local Eagle Scouts cleaned up the main conservation area. Led by high school senior Jack Minella, they also built new benches and additional raised beds. With the new school year just beginning, perhaps new efforts will be put forth to rejuvenate such a unique and worthy space. Maybe all it’s waiting for is that one special voice to spark change.

With all of this (so much this), being said, do not expect one of those map at the trailhead, blazes on every 8th tree, kinda hike. For this one, you’ll have to use a tiny amount of self-navigation but your efforts will be well rewarded. The main trails here are wide, well-trodden, and generally all circle back around to one school or the other. But be aware that they are not marked! Even if you can’t find your way out of a paper bag, the conservation area alone is worth the trip. Pull up a bench, take in your surroundings, and meditate for a minute on what one man’s fleeting influence can do for the world.

What We Dug: We drove to Nessacus Middle School and chose to drive around to the back of the school, past the basketball and tennis courts, where a few parking spaces face a large wooded area. (School was out for the summer). Once out of the car, you’ll see a large open space containing a drainage dug-out to the right of a utility garage. We spent some sunshine-y minutes rolling down this grassy hill and picking dandelions. After getting good and dizzy (1 roll was all it took, holy motion sickness batman!), we started off down a familiar ramble. Most Daltonians know of the path I’m referencing, a shortcut taken by many on Friday night during football season. For others, if you stand in the field with your back to the school, the trail I speak of will be facing you and difficult to miss.

Following a (very) short trek, the trees will begin to open up and you will find yourself in the wide open green of the Getty Memorial Conservation Area. If you continue straight over a small wooden bridge you will see Wahconah High School and it’s football field directly in front of you.

Now you’re probably thinking, “that’s it?” “Less than a 2 minute walk?” WAIT. There’s more. We spent some time exploring the conservation area. At that time it hadn’t undergone any maintenance and the pond bridge and other parts were overgrown. After a snack (BECAUSE ALWAYS), we took a left onto a wide trail. There are no markers or blazes on these paths and many offshoots. However, it would be VERY (not impossible, but…) difficult to get lost. With the two school bookending this forested space and the Housatonic river cutting through to the east, regaining your bearings is fairly simple. Most of the trails spit you out at the backside of one school or the other.

In recent years, the trails have seen the addition of outdoor exercise equipment distributed within the woods. Pull up bars, parallel bars, and balance beams became instant jungle gyms for the kids. Searching for the next one kept attentions from flagging. Winding around the side of the schools is the East Branch of the Housatonic river. Through a dense and impressive pine grove you can (carefully) climb down a small embankment to the gravelly-edge of the river. Here we skipped stones and examined abandoned stonefly nymph exoskeletons that they leave stuck to sunny rocks. Heading back to the trails and we found ourselves back at Nessacus, at the edge of an expansive soccer field. To round out a low-impact adventure, the kids chose to run around the basketball courts. Far be it from me to refuse an opportunity to release some MORE energy (like, how. is. it. possible.)

What We Could Do Without: The lack of defined and marked trails make this less accessible for anyone who may be unfamiliar with the area. It would be so wonderful to see Raynard Getty’s full vision brought to life.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For: Hemlock, white pine, milkweed, monarchs, crayfish, stonefly nymphs

Must Know Before You Go’s: There are no trailheads. No markers or blazes. Be aware that barring summer months, both schools are in session. Wahconah High School is currently undergoing construction. Parking there is not recommended. Due to Covid-19, re-opening of these schools is still unclear, but use sound judgement. Summer and weekends are the best time to explore these trails. No facilities.

Directions: 35 Fox Rd, Dalton, MA 01226 (Nessacus Middle School)

150 Old Windsor Rd, Dalton, MA 01226 (Wahconah High School) Be advised that Wahconah High School is currently undergoing massive construction and parking there is not recommended.

*Entrances to all trails are towards the back ends of both schools.

Scroll through for more photos of our Gettys Conservation Area Adventure!

Community FB page

The Caveman Cometh – Tory Cave Falls

The Caveman Cometh – Tory Cave Falls

Where We Went: Tory Cave Falls – October Mountain State Forest, Lenoxdale, MA

When We Went: Mid-June 2020

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10): 2 Boots, (3 Boots to get to the cave)

Trail Length: Just over 0.5 miles roundtrip

How Long it Took Us: 1.5 hours

Overview: According to writer and connoisseur of the Berkshire unusual, Joe Durwin, the use of caves as refuge was in fact, not unusual. “Caves were the original literal criminal underworld. Berkshire County has more active or “live” caves than any area in the Northeast. Tories, counterfeiters, bootleggers, “wild men” and others have all recycled them for their needs.”

And in 1776, no one needed a rocky refuge more than Stockbridge resident, and local tavern owner Gideon Smith. Smith was a Tory, a loyalist to the British crown, and his tavern (located where Wheatleigh stands today), was a popular rendezvous spot for Tory messengers passing through from Albany to Springfield in the 18th century. Then in May of 1776, Smith harbored a British POW, Captain McKay, in his home and the neighboring rebels were out for blood.

So what’s a British loyalist to do? Break for the hills and hunker down in a cave until you’re in the clear. Rumor has it that the Mohican’s brought him food and that his wife would travel nightly four miles by arduous route to parade the children by the cave on a daily basis, just to show him they were well and safe. But clear never comes for Gideon. Foolishly sticking his head out of the cave one day, he was discovered! Caught and captured, he was put to the noose three times. According to “A History of Berkshire County,” “Having fastened a halter around his neck, he was attended with due solemnity to a signpost, pulled up and suffered to remain until nearly defunct.” Told he must renounce his Tory ways, Gideon held on until the third time, saying he would “swing his hat in favor of the Colonial cause.”

The deHeredia’s, former owners of Gilded era mansion Wheatleigh, found the original Smith tavern sign on the property and gifted it to the Stockbridge Historical Library in 1902. In 1782, Gideon left another mark, purchasing a grassy knoll on Mahkeenac Road for the use as a family burial ground. Quietly overlooking the Stockbridge Bowl, it’s curious that he is not among the 22 burials and his final resting place is unknown. Gideon was 98 when he died in 1838.

Another tale, more interesting to me than Gideon’s, is about the Caveman & his sweetheart. In 1932, the cave was used as a trysting spot for two star-crossed lovers, Lenoxdale’s own Bonnie & Clyde. Sixteen-year-old Myra Holmes and eighteen-year-old Albert Felix ran away from their homes one a Friday evening in May and were missing for a week. Extensive searches were held but only glimpses of the fugitives were to be had. One Eagle headline read, “Youthful Caveman Raids Iceboxes to Bring Back Food For Young Sweetheart.” A diary was found inside Tory cave detailing the story of the couple’s escapades, including Felix’s clandestine trips to “Shacktown to get some bread, coffee, sugar, and milk.”

They were eventually found in Albany on June 3rd and returned home to their parents.

But young hearts can’t be broken. And on July 2nd, 1932, the pair ran away again!

This time they took refuge in the partially finished James Brattle Burbank house on Williams Street in Pittsfield. As icebox items started to go missing in the neighborhood, the jig was up. On July 5th, police officers raided the residence where they found Myra and Albert armed with both rifle and revolver. After a short stand-off, both were arrested and charged with various crimes, including Myra’s additional charge of “being an exceptionally stubborn child.”

For another caving adventure, check out “Gold-Diggers & Cave Crawlers

What We Dug: If there are hiking and history involved, you know I’m thrilled. Tory Cave did not disappoint. The trail to the waterfall and cave was mild and mostly easy walking. Some portions of the trail were washed out from recent rains and there were a few fallen branches to navigate around. As the path starts to go uphill, you will pass a trail for Dewy Hill on your left-hand side. Just after this path on your right, is a footpath that goes down to the stream. Be cautious! Although short, the path down can be fairly steep and unreliable for sure-footing. The cave is not visible from the trail and we found we had passed right by it. Farther up the stream were easier access points where the kids enjoyed wading and rock climbing before we turned around and hit the cave.

Calling it a cave nowadays seems overly generous. In 2013, the rain from Hurricane Irene flooded Roaring Brook and eroded any remaining cave that was left after the landslide. The area is a little tricky to get to but the beauty makes it worth the fumbling footwork. I can almost see Myra and Albert splashing each other at the edge of the pool, wary of snapping twigs coming to interrupt their idyllic getaway. I wonder what happened to those two…if they ever ended up together or were doomed from the start.

What We Could Do Without: It was hot and humid. Add water to the mix and you’ve got mosquitoes. Buzzing, bloodthirsty blaggards, impervious to the densest plumes of repellent. I actually think some of them like it. Skeeters put a damper on shit for sure but we just keep marinating in citronella and hoping for the best.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For: Walking ferns, hemlock, pine, red efts, wood frogs, mountain wood-sorel, water striders, rainbow and brook trout

Must Know Before You Go’s: Parking and trailhead are just before a small bridge. There is no parking area so use caution when parking on the shoulder. Trailhead heads east upstream along Roaring Brook. No facilities. Leashed dogs okay.

Directions: From Route-7 in Lenox, turn onto, heading east on New Lenox Road for 1.8 miles. At the intersection of East New Lenox Road and New Lenox Road, turn right onto Roaring Brook Road. Head south for 0.4 miles, just before a small bridge. Trailhead is to your left. GPS: N422316.08 -W731416.17

Website: October Mountain State Forest

Resources: lenoxhistory.org, “History of Berkshire County” by Godfrey Greylock, Berkshire Eagle Oct. 31, 1976, Berkshire Eagle May-July, 1932, These Mysterious Hills – Joe Durwin

Mom’s Day Out – The Mount

Mom’s Day Out – The Mount

“…the Mount was to give me country cares and joys, long happy rides and drives through the wooded lanes of that loveliest region, the companionship of a few dear friends, and the freedom from the trivial obligations which was necessary if I was to go on with my writing. The Mount was my first real home…”

Edith Wharton

Oof. I don’t know about you, but this mama is tyyy-eerd. Lately, it feels like I’m endlessly oscillating between humid days spent meeting the needs of uhh…everyone; to sleepless humid nights worrying if I met the needs of uhh…everyone. Most of the time I don’t even remember to check in with myself. Sound familiar to anyone? Cut to Friday last week. The kids were happily playing at a family members, (thank god for pandemic pods!) and I had 4-wheels and 5 hours ahead of me. What was a girl to do? Go grocery shopping??! NAH, let ’em starve! (I jest! But I actually did do that after…’cause mother guilt is like a real medical condition y’all, or at least it should be.)

That Friday afternoon, I channeled my innermost country aristocrat. I shook off the trappings of my most trivial obligations, stepped on the gas through the wooded lanes of Lenox, and pulled into the Mount’s iron gates towards freedom.

The Mount was home to writer Edith Wharton. In 1902, she bought the 130-acres for $40,600 and set to work building her country retreat. The Grounds are currently open daily to the public, dawn to dusk, and free of charge. Self-guided tours of the Main House resume July 16th and advance reservations are required.

I parked in the upper lot and started the 1/4 mile walk to the Main House under the gracious shade trees. (Vehicles with handicapped plates may drive down and park in the designated spaces next to the Main House.)

I took a short detour onto the Ledge Walk, beckoned by the umbrella-like Ganoderms waiting for rain. The Ledge Walk is one of 3 short trails on the Mount grounds, which also includes the Woodland Walk and the Beaver Pond Trail, a 4-mile loop with pond views and frequent bald eagle sightings.

After a rather buggy but tranquil jaunt, I found myself back on the paved path, close by the Main House and sprawling gardens. To my left, perched on a small hill, is Edith’s pet cemetery. Edith loved her dogs and six little headstones dot the mound, a nighttime stop on seasonal ghost tours. Admittedly, I have a somewhat strange and eccentric fascination with cemeteries, particularly old ones and I never pass up an opportunity to explore.

Down the hill is the French Flower Garden, bursting with color. It was Wharton’s niece, Beatrix Jones Farrand, a budding garden designer that contributed so heavily to the design of the Mount’s incredible gardens and the fruits of their collaboration are nothing beyond breathtaking. If you crave the shade, you’ll find the Woodland Walk & Beaver Pond Trail close-by.

The Terrace Café had just re-opened the day I visited. To elevate your day out considerably, grab some lunch (or a white-peach Sangria!) and picnic on the grounds. Or you can just head to the sunken Italian Garden and breathe in the begonias.

Wharton scholars say that it was here in Lenox that she felt she could do her best work and I can fully understand why. The peace of the grounds is unbeatable. The views, the smells, the colors, and the quiet make it a true sensory feast. It’s easy to pull up a small alcove, lean into the lushness, and find inspiration.

Which is just what I did. The groceries can wait.

For more information, visit edithwharton.org

The Mount is located at 2 Plunkett Street (at the corner of Route 7) Lenox, MA

Please review and follow the Mount’s Health and Safety Guidelines while on property

Paved & gravel paths accessible for strollers and wheelchairs. Dogs are allowed but must remain leashed.

If you do visit with family, check out this great Outdoor Scavenger Hunt!

Gold Diggers & Cave Crawlers – Widow White Reserve

Gold Diggers & Cave Crawlers – Widow White Reserve

                                             
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…

john brown boulder

Brown’s Boulder in the 1970’s (Berkshire Eagle)

john brown boudler

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.

Widow White in April

Widow White in May

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)

Website : https://www.bnrc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/WidowWhite_TrailMap.pdf

Resources : https://mysterious-hills.blogspot.com/2010/03/recalling-perry-explorer-of-berkshire.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42Ate6oC-Rc

Scroll Through for More Pictures of our Widow White Adventure!

This One’s For Beginners – Old Mill Trail

This One’s For Beginners – Old Mill Trail

Where We Went : Old Mill Trail, Hinsdale MA

When We Went : July 2019

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : 1 Boot

Trail Length : 1.5 miles, up and back (about 1 hour) First 0.7 miles is Accessible Trail, the remainder crosses Route 8 and follows the Housatonic River downstream. We only hiked the Accessible Trail.

How Long it Took Us : 1 ½ hours (30 minutes spent crying)

Overview : This newly opened trail was tailor-made for anyone looking to cut their hiking teeth or has an interest in history. Nature and 19th century textile mills collide in an easily accessible trail at the edge of the Housatonic River. The Housatonic Valley Association installed an interpretive trail that highlights both the natural and mill history of the area. Currently, in the capable hands of Berkshire Natural Resources Council, this proves you don’t need to travel too far to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature.

What We Dug : Be sure to grab an interpretive guide and map at the trailhead (or plan ahead and download the app), so you can follow along with the numbered posts along the trail. We used these posts as “Power Up” stations on the return trip. Tag one and energy boost activated! Included in the tour is the remnants of a 1938 Oldsmobile slowly becoming part of the natural landscape. We had fun learning what a “penstock” is (technical term for a pipe that delivers water to a mill), and walking in the trench that housed such a huge piece of equipment. We tried to imagine we were part of the Housatonic rushing down the “pipe” while we made our way down the trench. It was really fascinating to follow along and learn about the history of the areas mill industry. We were also able to get close to the water for a bit and used the bridges as an opportunity to play Poohsticks

What We Could Do Without : Woof. We had the mother of all meltdowns here. Not sure what it was but we barely got 10 feet into the woods and both kids were crying.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For : cottonwood, ash, willow, silver maple, hemlock, Asian honeysuckle, gray-stemmed dogwood, hobble bush, Japanese barberry, common buckthorn, song sparrow, hawk, vole, muskrat, barred owl, red squirrel, chickadees, egret, pileated woodpecker, brown creeper

Must Know Before You Go’s : Free. No onsite facilities. Partridgefield’s General Store is across the street and is a wonderful place for lunch or ice cream (if your kids behaved better than mine).

Directions : From the center of Dalton: take Route 8 south to the Hinsdale line. From the town line, continue 4/10 miles to a left on Old Dalton Road. The trailhead parking is the first, immediate left. GPS: 42.4480, -73.1305

Website : www.bnrc.org

Resources : Download their app by searching “BNRC trails”

Faded Footsteps – Arrowhead Nature Trail

Faded Footsteps – Arrowhead Nature Trail

Where We Went : Arrowhead Nature Trail, Pittsfield/Lenox MA

When We Went : Mid-April

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : 1.5 Boots

Trail Length : 0.5 Mile

How Long it Took Us : 1 Hour

Overview :

“Leviathan, white whale – Call me Ishmael.

Sailor, novelist – A failure until posthumous.

Made a home here in the Berks, Hawthorne put up with my quirks.

Hittin’ up old Greylock, Catch me out at Balance Rock.

Wrote Billy Budd & Bartelby, Even messed around with poetry.

When I say Moby, you say Dick –

MOBY…DICK!

 MOBY…DICK!”

Although Melville wasn’t born in the Berkshires, his Uncle Thomas Melvill’s Pittsfield estate offered a much needed refuge and retreat from the drudgery that he faced in Albany at 13 years old. Herman’s father had died in 1832, leaving his family almost irreparably in debt.

At age 12, Herman found himself employed as a clerk at the New York State Bank, working long hours, six days a week for the next three years.

Excuse me? Can you imagine being 12 years old and suiting up for your job at the bank six days a week?! What…

Reflecting on his childhood in the semi-autobiographical novel ,Redburn: His First Voyage,, Melville wrote:

“I must not think of those delightful days, before my father became bankrupt, and dies, and we removed from the city; for when I think of those days, something rises up in my throat and almost strangles me.”

There’s no doubt that that first Berkshire summer of 1832 – Melville’s first break from the confining and monotonous tedium at the bank – offered him so much more than just a breath of fresh air. We can only imagine the profound impact that those sylvan summer days had on Melville’s soul.

So in 1850, when the wealthy Morewood’s moved to purchase his Uncle’s estate (renaming it Broadhall and the current home of the Pittsfield Country Club) and the surrounding 300 acres for $6500, it seems logical to think that Herman would curse himself for not having the necessary funds to buy it first. It likely stirred a deep-rooted feeling inside, a gnawing desire to break the mold of his destitute father and secure the very thing that impassioned him.

When an adjacent Pittsfield property went up for sale that same year, also priced $6500 (1/2 the acreage), Melville could hardly miss a second opportunity to reclaim his gossamer glimmers of childhood and prove himself as a man. Borrowing heavily from his father-in-law and incurring a mortgage, Herman was able to purchase Arrowhead in a harried fit of nostalgia.

There have been other theories raised to explain Melville’s moment of impulsivity. Michael Sheldon, author of “Melville In Love”

Subject to even more scrutiny is his relationship with Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Some scholars propose that this meeting sparked the impetuous purchase of the Berkshire farm, an attempt by Melville to remain close to his literary guru.

Writings of this odd pair have been scrutinized for decades, Melville the overzealous and infatuated admirer (a 19th-century “Stan” if you will.)

We can never know the true motives behind anyone’s personal choices, past or present, and too often historical conjecture misses the heart of human nature.

When I walked the trail behind Arrowhead I was walking in Herman Melville’s footsteps, maybe even Sarah Morewood’s and Hawthorne’s too. But try as I might to put myself in each of their shoes, my takeaway can only be personal. And there is one thing I know for certain. Whether you grew up in the Berkshires, like me, or you’ve been a visitor to these rolling hills and dales, you know all too well the mark they leave on you. And for any writer, is there ever a greater muse than the one you’re living in?

What We Dug :

While this makes an unparalleled accompaniment for the adult explorer, for the shorter set, try out the BHS Stanwix’s Scavenger Hunt! With two different versions, kids can feel challenged and engaged during their easy trek through the woods.

We printed off both versions and M & V each did one, then swapped and did each others!

The trail itself is easy to follow and equally easy walking. From the parking lot we crossed to the mown meadow path and upwards into the woods. Following the white arrowhead signs serving as trail markers, we searched high and low for the items on Stanwix’s Lists and found much more than we bargained for. A cache of wild ramps was hiding just off the path and our resident eagle eye spotted scarlet elf cups under a stand of birches. You can imagine young Malcolm (Melville’s eldest son) and little Stanwix running amok through the woods and catch a glimpse of the former Morewood property at the border of the neighboring golf course. Bring binoculars for meadow-side bird watching and don’t forget to look for the whale!

What We Could Do Without : Bittersweet strikes again…If you hike often, it’s likely you’ll see this serpentine strangler. Sometimes we see it just taking hold, while other places we see the devastation that occurs as a result of this merciless invasive. Melville’s woods are in the unforgiving grip of Celastrus orbiculatus. It hasn’t quite reached the levels that we saw at Longcope Park in Lee.  

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For : Purple Trillium, Trout Lily, Wild Ramps, Crinkleroot, Scarlet Elf Cup, Wood Anemone, Foamflower, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Blue Cohosh, False Solomon’s Seal, Garlic Mustard, Springtails, Wood Thrush, Oven Bird, Gray Catbird, Downy Woodpecker, Goldfinch, Blue Jay, American Redstart, Common Buckthorn, Beech, Black Cherry, Hemlock, Hop Hornbeam, Red Oak, Sugar Maple, White Ash, White Birch, White Pine

Must Know Before You Go’s : Parking is in the rear behind the Red Barn. No Facilities. Arrowhead is currently closed for tours. No Hunting, No Mountain Bikes or Motorized Vehicles, Leashed Dogs OK

FOR HIKING GUIDELINES DURING COVID-19 PLEASE REFER TO THIS HELPFUL LINK FOR MORE INFORMATION – HELP KEEP OTHERS SAFE & FLATTEN THE CURVE!

Directions : 780 Holmes Road Pittsfield, MA.

From the Massachusetts Turnpike(I-90), take Exit 2 (Lee). Follow Route 20 West for 8.5 miles; it will merge with Route 7 North. Turn right onto Holmes Road at the traffic light. Arrowhead is 1.5 miles ahead on the left.

From points north: Route 20, Route 9, and Route 7 all lead to Pittsfield and intersect with major interstates. Consult your own maps for reaching Route 7 from where you are. Once you are on Route 7 South, follow Route 7 South until you cross the Pittsfield-Lenox town line. Turn left onto Holmes Road at the traffic light. Arrowhead is 1.5 miles ahead on the left.

Website : www.mobydick.org

Resources : https://berkshirehistory.org/visit-us/house-landscape-tours/

Power of Place by Marianna Poutasse

Scroll through for more pictures of our Arrowhead adventure!

Faded Footsteps – Arrowhead Nature Trail

Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo.

Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt. Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam aliquam quaerat voluptatem.

Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihi.

Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos qui ratione.

Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo.

Dolor Amet

Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem.

Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt.

Ut enim ad minima veniam, quis nostrum exercitationem ullam corporis suscipit laboriosam, nisi ut aliquid ex ea commodi consequatur? Quis autem vel eum iure reprehenderit qui in ea voluptate velit esse quam nihil molestiae consequatur, vel illum.

Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam, eaque ipsa quae ab illo inventore veritatis et quasi architecto beatae vitae dicta sunt explicabo.

Nemo enim ipsam voluptatem quia voluptas sit aspernatur aut odit aut fugit, sed quia consequuntur magni dolores eos qui ratione voluptatem sequi nesciunt. Neque porro quisquam est, qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit, sed quia non numquam eius modi tempora incidunt ut labore et dolore magnam.

Join

Work With Me