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


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Winter Tree Week

Winter Tree Week


 It’s no secret. Trees are my favorite. Nature and the outdoors are my jam, but trees hold the wooden key to my heart. Strong, silent, and crucial to life-sustaining oxygen, like Richard Power’s wrote, ““This is not our world with trees in it. It’s a world of trees, where humans have just arrived.”

If you love ’em so much, why don’t you marry them?” Maybe I will friend, maybe I will. Google marry a tree, it’s a thing.

Sylvan nuptials aside, we all stop and take notice of these stoic sentinels during their colorful fall transformations, when we’re seeking the summer shade, and maybe even during their spring rebirth.

But it’s during stick season, that trees are often overlooked. When we slow down and take notice, we can discover the subtle changes of the dormant dendrites as they branch out under the winter sky, quiet, lying in wait for the earth’s axis to tilt towards the sun.   

This week we’re celebrating the trees of winter, taking time to notice the typically overlooked. This observation requires you to up your perception from low-res to high, to perceive things that may have been invisible to us, and to “break bud” with our tree friends, as we all wait for the promise of spring. 

 This week, join us as we go for a sky swim, go burl-unking, learn the 3 B’s of winter tree ID, hunt for Bulkeley’s big Berkshire trees, clear up conifer confusion, and notice, shift, & rewire our mindset with tree silhouettes. It’s gonna be tree-mendous!


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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

Wolf Trees on a Wolf Moon – Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary

Wolf Trees on a Wolf Moon – Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary

 

 

 

Where We Went: Mass Audubon Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary / Worthington

When We Went: January 10th, 2020

Difficulty/Boots 1-10: 2 Boots

Trail Length: 1 mile

How Long it Took Us: 2.5 Hours

Overview : January 10th – it’s 5PM and the moon is full. We spent some evening time in our backyard, marveling at the moon’s brightness, absorbing it’s brilliance before heading inside for dinner. The very first full moon of 2020. The Wolf Moon.

Why is the new year’s moon called the Wolf Moon? There are so many ancient ties between wolves and January’s full moon, it’s hard to nail down a specific origin. The Gaelic word for January, Faoilleach, comes from the term for wolves, faol-chù. The Saxon word for January is Wulf-monath, or Wolf Month. The festival of the Japanese wolf god, Ooguchi Magami, is held in January and the Sioux tribe called January’s full moon the Moon Where Wolves Run Together. A medieval favorite has roots to the days of Odin, Loki, and Thor. 

In this Norse myth, two wolves – Skoll and Hati – spend their lives chasing the sun and moon across the sky. On the day of Ragnarok, the Norse apocalypse, the wolves were said to finally catch their elusive prey, with Skoll swallowing the sun and Hati gobbling the moon, plunging the cosmos into darkness.

Rewind the day’s clock 6 hours and you’d find us outside on another, separate wolf adventure.

Wolf Tree in Lanesborough

 If you’ve ever taken a walk in pastoral New England and spotted a large, low-branched tree that looks strangely out of place in its surroundings, you’ve probably seen a “wolf tree.”

Also called legacy or pasture trees, the term “wolf tree” was most likely coined by foresters stumbling upon these lone wolves in the woods. Often left uncut in open fields to provide shade for grazing livestock, many are found near remnants of stone walls because of an old “rule” that you didn’t cut down trees along your property boundaries.

Much like the Norse wolf Skoll, these wooden wolves also had the ability to “eat” the sun. Left all alone in abandoned fields, these alpha trees monopolized nutrients and prevented the growth of other trees. Today, it’s important to understand how much these giants now benefit their surroundings. Michael Gaige, a conservation biologist who studied the use of wolf trees by wildlife, found that the trees are favored over more typical forest trees. Birds and mammals both frequently utilize wolf trees, Gaige “concluded unequivocally that wolf trees are a boon to wildlife.” You can read more about wolf trees and his findings here. 

At Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary in Worthington, the wolves are out in full force. Ancient sugar maples line the access road, showing their age in the splintering limbs and deep cavities. Within the woodlands, look for these solitary giants providing critical nesting sites for area birds. Conserved and protected by Mass Audubon, Road’s End is a typical abandoned farmstead. The forest may be coming back, but the clues to it’s former past linger everywhere. Go hunting for wolves, full wolf moon optional.

What We Dug: Road’s End has all the distinguishing characteristics of land that was once used for agricultural and lumbering purposes, now being reclaimed by the forest. Rock walls, cellar holes, and the mixture of old growth and new growth woodlands. It’s the perfect spot to put your land use detective skills to the test! As we walked, I tried to get the kids to imagine what the land used to look like, asking them to picture sheep and cows grazing in the fields (with the snow as a mental roadblock, this lasted approximately 25 seconds). The Nancy Weiss Trail was the perfect mix of flat area sidling along next to a freshly awakening brook.

Syncing up with the wolf moon, we spent some time hunting for wolf trees, but this is an activity you can do anytime. Check out this link for a FREE printable wolf tree activity!

Another fun activity to try when you’re walking amongst a grove of pine trees is to try and count their age. As a pine tree grows each year, new branches form a circle, or “whorl”, around the trunk. These branch “whorls” each signify one year of growth. The number of whorls is an approximation of the age of the tree. By counting from base to crown, you can estimate how old the tree is. This can be difficult on older trees. Although it’s not a wholly accurate indicator of age, it is fun for kids to guess-timate and practice their counting skills.

For the older nature sleuth, or my fellow adult investigator, I can’t say enough about terrestrial ecologist Tom Wessels and his books, “Reading the Forested Landscape” or “Forest Forensics“, both invaluable resources on deciphering the past lives of New England’s landscapes. If you’re more of a visual kinda person, the 3-part video done by New England Forest is available, FREE, here on Youtube. Skip to 13:35 on Part 3 for his input on wolf trees.

What We Could Do Without: See those snow slugs? Yea, those slugs are mine. Truth be told, the kids were not thrilled on this hike. Even with activities prepared, they were over it 5 minutes in. Sh*t just be like that sometimes. With some bribery and mild threats, we made it through and chalked it up as an off day.

 Due to the mild day, snow was melting and Corbett Road was pretty muddy. Definitely wouldn’t attempt during real Spring thaw unless you have a car with the ability to traverse deep mud.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For: cellar holes, wood frog, spotted salamander, bear claw marks on American beech trees, old rock walls, white pine, wolf trees, apple trees, sugar maple, beaver and beaver ponds, mink, otter, muskrat, wood duck, nuthatches, woodpecker, deer, porcupine, black bear

Must Know Before You Go’s: In the winter months, the parking area is not plowed. Parking is allowed at the end of Corbett Road and then walk to the trailhead. Leave pets at home. Refrain from running, bike riding, or driving motorized vehicles. No fishing, hunting, or trapping 

Directions: From the east: Take the Mass Turnpike (Rt I-90) to exit 4 (Rt I-91 north) to exit 19 (Rt 9). Follow Rt 9 west through Northampton and Williamsburg. Take a left onto Rt 143 west and follow it for approximately 12 miles to the intersection of Rt 143 and Rt 112 (Clark Road). Take a right onto Rt 112 north and a quick left onto Corbett Road (dirt road). The sanctuary is located at the end of Corbett Road. Corbett Road is impassable during the winter and mud season.

From the west: Follow Rt 9 east to the intersection of Rt 9 and Rt 143. Turn right onto Rt 143 east and follow it to the intersection of Rt 143 and Rt 112. Turn left onto Rt 112 north and follow directions above from “Rt 112 north.”

GPS: 42.423736, -72.930181

Website : https://www.massaudubon.org/get-outdoors/wildlife-sanctuaries/road-s-end 

Resources : https://www.americanforests.org/magazine/article/wolf-%20%20trees-elders-of-the-eastern-forest/

 https://www.americanforests.org/magazine/article/woodman-spare-that-wolf-tree/

https://northernwoodlands.org/articles/article/a-place-for-wolf-trees 

https://www.13hares.com/moons

https://norse-mythology.org/skoll-hati/

 

 

 

 

Amidst Ancient Air – Bullard Woods

Amidst Ancient Air – Bullard Woods

Where We Went : Bullard Woods Lenox/Stockbridge, MA

When We Went : Mid- February

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : 2 Boots

Trail Length : 1.4 miles loop trail

How Long it Took Us : 2 Hours

“Bullard Woods: A sanctuary for wildlife and human spirit”

Overview : Bullard Woods was once part of East India merchant William Storey Bullard’s estate, Highwood, now a part of Tanglewood. Bullard’s son William Jr., the eldest of five, spent most of his childhood years fishing, picnicking, skating and exploring the wilds of the family’s Lenox “backyard.” Dr. William Norton Bullard would go on to become an esteemed neurologist, serving as President of the American Neurological Association in 1913.

After inheriting the property from his parents, Dr. William and wife Mary Reynolds continued to enjoy the woods for many years. Mary Reynolds continued to live at the manor house after the death of her husband and in 1954 entrusted the estate’s 70 acres to the

Perhaps Dr. William Norton Bullard and Mary Reynolds sensed something special about the air as they strolled beneath the ancient pine sentinels along the shore of Lake Mahkeenac.

Bullard Woods is one of the few remaining old-growth forest areas in Massachusetts. “Old-growth forests” describe natural forests that have developed over a long period of time, generally at least 120 years without experiencing any severe, stand-replacing disturbance like fire, windstorm, or logging.

In 2004,

Writing after a walk in Bullard Woods, journalist Bernard Drew wrote, “Old-growth woods are rare even in the Berkshires, which cut off 99.9 percent of its forests for timber, pulpwood and charcoal in the 19th century.The forests have grown back, but the difference is obvious when you walk among the big trees. The air is different. The lichens are different. The feeling is different.

If you’re familiar with the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, or wood-air bathing, you might have a clearer understanding of what Drew describes. Forest bathing, quickly becoming popular in the western world, is essentially, deep breathing while taking a meditative walk through the forest, and is recommended as a stress-reliever and mood-booster. Take a walk, a few deep breaths, seems like a no-brainer, right?

But there’s much more going on in the forest than just the calming serenity of nature. Inhale under the forest canopy and you’re hit with a sweet, rich, earthy smell. Trees release compounds into the forest air, called phytoncides, from little pockets between their leaf cells. Scientists believe that this is one of the ways trees communicate, passing messages through scents in the air. In turn, we breathe in these molecules and they become part of the air that goes into our lungs, and some of the molecules enter your bloodstream. So when you walk through the forest inhaling that fragrant air, the forest becomes a part of your body. In a healthy environment, with every breath we’re absorbing this scent of well-being.

But there are two sides to this coin. In areas of unstable and threatened forests, where the trees themselves are fragile or endangered, they respond by sending out alarm signals in the same form of chemical defense. We absorb this as well. So if we feel calm and contented after a walk in an undisturbed forest, it’s no stretch to say that we’re also soaking in the distress signals after a stroll in a fragile environment. Ancient areas like Bullard Woods, Ice Glen and portions of the Mohawk Trail State Forest are extraordinarily scarce. It is in our power to help preserve the little that is left to us. In The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben writes, “Walkers who visit one the ancient deciduous preserves in the forest I manage always report that their heart feel lighter and they feel right at home. I am convinced that we intuitively register the forest’s health.

William and Mary Bullard may not have realized the full extent of benefits from their time in their woods, but they must have sensed that the air was different underneath those giant old trees. They left to us the greatest gift – a stronghold of timeworn timber and the space to breathe it all in – a sanctuary for wildlife and the human spirit.

What We Dug : The day was hazy but the path was wide, and as we walked the trail leading from the parking area, the towering trees swallowed us in their immense shadows. We took some time identifying a few trees, including a mature shagbark hickory. A massive snow-covered trunk became a perch for two snacking children. Over footbridges of icy streams we made our way to the shoreline. The Bowl was frozen over and we sat awhile watching the a group ice fishing across the way. At the edge of the bank there were hundreds of ramshorn snail shells, abandoned by their former residents. The view across the lake was beautiful, the mountains purple in the winter gloom. We continued our way around the lake, passing young beech trees stalwartly clinging to their leaves. Evidence of an old stone wall ran parallel to the meadow, and remnants of stone foundations deeper in the woods. Crooked branches dangling from snags took the form of screeching dinosaurs and eel-like creatures.

Coming to the meadow the kids raced to the swing suspended from a hulking red oak tree. The cold air brushed our faces as we swung. We stashed some shells at the base of the tree, treasures for another to stumble upon, and headed back towards the forest. The trail concluded shortly after and we reached the car feeling revitalized and joyful.

What We Could Do Without : There is no trail map for Bullard Woods besides the hand drawn illustration at the trailhead. We were unsure where the Tanglewood Connection to Gould Meadows was located. The parking lot is not plowed in the winter and is closed to vehicles. Please be extra cautious parking along the roadside. Many vehicles passed us carelessly and fast while we were getting out and back into our cars. The access road to the parking lot is steep and spring mud may make travel difficult.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For : Massive Red Oak, Hawthorne’s Little Red Farmhouse, Mountain Views, Stockbridge Bowl, Cellar Holes, Stone Remnants, White Pine, White Ash, Hemlock, Tulip Trees, Shagbark Hickory, Black Cherry, Black Birch, Sugar Maple, Beech, Ramshorn Snail, Red Eft, Warbler, Pileated Woodpecker

Must Know Before You Go’s : Parking lot is closed during the winter. Use caution if parking on the shoulder of the road. Note that directions can be confusing because Hawthorne Road intersects with Hawthorne Street. If you continue over a footbridge that fords a stream in the woods, you can continue your walk through the woods, across the Tanglewood connector and on to Gould Meadows, exiting on Route 183, across from Kripalu. No Facilities. No Campfires. No Motorized Vehicles. Leashed Dogs.

Directions : Next to Camp Mah-kee-nac and accessible from Lenox, MA. Located near Tanglewood at the conjunction of Hawthorne Road and Hawthorne Street.

Website :

Resources :

Hawthorne’s Lenox: The Tanglewood Circle

Among The Ancients – Joan Maloof

Shinrin-Yoku: The Art and Science of Forest Bathing

Forest Bathing Retreat – Hannah Fries

The Hidden Life of Trees – Peter Wohllbenen

Bernard Drew

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Scroll through for more pictures of our Bullard Woods adventure!

Calm Against Confusion – Diane’s Trail

Calm Against Confusion – Diane’s Trail

Where We Went : Diane’s Trail – Monterey, MA

When We Went : First of March

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : 1.5 Boots

Trail Length : 1.5 mile loop trail

How Long it Took Us : 1.5 Hours

Overview :

In 1913, social reformers Agnes and William Gould, moved to Monterey and founded Gould Farm. Gould Farm was the first residential therapeutic community that focused on helping adults with mental illness move towards health and recovery, through rural community living and meaningful work.

In a 1921 New York Times article, William Gould said, “Too often had the mistake been made of taking people out to the country and leaving them there in the hope that just the change of environment would work a miraculous cure. What people needed, especially people who were unhappy and depressed, was to have the country interpreted to them by showing them where they fitted into the scheme of things.”

The Gould’s were dedicated to this idea of helping people find their place in the world. Their mission was to assist others in regaining their sense of belonging and discovering their purpose. Tragically, William Gould would lose his life in service to his community, dying of a heart attack in 1925 (age 57) while fighting a fire that broke out on the farm. Agnes would carry on the torch.

This message was important to another influential figure during that time. If you’re familiar with the Appalachian Trail, you may have heard the name Benton Mackaye. How did the paths of the Monterey Goulds cross with ,wilderness contemporary and ,father of the A.T. Mackaye? MacKaye’s sister Hazel, was a guest at the farm in 1927 after suffering a nervous breakdown. She would stay on into the 1940s and during her time there, Benton was a frequent visitor. On walks with his sister, he came to appreciate the healing nature of the Farm’s forest and natural setting.

After Will’s untimely passing, Mackaye would assist Agnes Gould on the management of the Farm’s forestland. MacKaye emphasized the forest’s value to the Gould mission,

For purposes of psychological rehabilitation, the forest influence is uppermost. It is the environment of calm as against that of confusion. To obtain this fully on any given acreage of woodland requires keeping the forest canopy intact and letting the best trees grow to their climax in old age – I should think that an interesting forest program could be developed and made a valuable asset.

MacKaye called their unique therapeutic approach “forest mindedness,” and said, “Gould Farm is no mere ‘charity’; it is a potent social force.,”

When we revisit McKaye’s 1921 proposal for the Appalachian Trail, its similarities with the Gould Farm philosophy are striking.

MacKaye’s proposal stated that, “…oxygen in the mountain air…is a natural (and national) resource that radiates to the heavens its enormous health-giving powers…Here is a resource that could save thousands of lives.” He believed that anyone suffering from what he called, “the problem of living,” could not be cured solely by treatment but through immersion in the natural world. Speaking of those suffering, “They need acres not medicine. Thousands of acres of this mountain land should be devoted to them with whole communities planned and equipped for their cure.” Visiting Gould Farm in 1927, MacKaye must have seen this full manifestation of his dream for the A.T. – a community that revolved around reconnecting with nature, communing with others and finding one’s purpose of mind, body and soul.

“Diane’s Trail,” is named in memory of Diane Rausch, late wife of Gould Farm’s longtime Forest Director Bob Rausch. Mainly a wetland trail, this unique habitat is open to the public. If MacKaye & the Gould’s walked it today, they would surely see that their beliefs live on amongst the whispering pines. It is truly an environment of calm against confusion.

When you visit, take with you MacKaye’s intentions for the A.T. :

The ultimate purpose? There are three things: 1) to walk 2) to see 3) to see what you see.”

What We Dug : This hike happened to fall on my 33 birthday and I couldn’t have asked for a better gift. The day was chilly but the sun was shining brightly. As we walked it was easy to see why this trail is so special. A wooden footbridge runs adjacent to Konkapot River, still asleep under a thin layer of ice. ,A forest, composed of white pine, red-oak, and northern hardwoods, covers 500 acres of the property, the last portion of Diane’s Trail meanders alongside Rawson Brook before returning to the trailhead. The

What We Could Do Without : I had read about the interpretative trail guide and was looking forward to following along but unfortunately there weren’t any guides at the trailhead. We still made a game out of spotting each numbered post on the trail, but it would have been great to learn more about the surrounding environment. Looking forward to returning!

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For : Note: This is a tremendous spot for bird-watching. Bird watchers have seen the following birds at Diane’s Trail

Must Know Before You Go’s : Parking is across the street from the trailhead. After turning off of Curtis Road, you will see the trailhead on your left. Continue up Gould Road 50 feet for the parking area on your right. Cross an open field to arrive at the trailhead.

No trail facilities. Leashed dogs ok. No Fishing or Motorized Vehicles.

The Harvest Barn is currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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.

Directions : From Route US-7 S, turn left on Monument Valley Rd, Turn left onto MA-183 S/MA-23 E, continue straight onto MA-23, Turn right onto River Rd, Turn left onto Gould Rd, Trailhead will be on the left, Parking is on the right side, 50 feet up the road.

Website :

Resources :

One Hundred Years of Service Through Community: A Gould Farm Reader edited by Steven K. Smith, Terry Beitzel

Backpacker Magazine’s Guide to the Appalachian Trail

http://www.forestguild.info/MF_Gould

https://theberkshireedge.com/forest-mindfulness-and-liquid-gold-at-gould-farm-its-sugaring-season/

https://utd-ir.tdl.org/bitstream/handle/10735.1/5394/ETD-5608-7474.04.pdf?sequence=5

Scroll through for more pictures of our Diane’s Trail adventure!