Take a Hike to Honor Native American Heritage Month

Take a Hike to Honor Native American Heritage Month

Among other things, the month of November marks Native American Heritage Month.

Colonization has led to the erasure of this land’s first inhabitants, their stories, their heritage, and reinforced a misconception that generations of their ancestors are no longer here. 

It is more important than ever to connect, discover, and amplify the full and first histories, to acknowledge that the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians were pushed from the Eastern seaboard across half a continent, forced to uproot and move many times to their present Land in Wisconsin, and that the Muh-he-con-neok, meaning “People of the Waters That are Never Still,” are still here. 

For those who live in New England, you may be unaware that beneath your feet lies thousands of years of history. The Mohicans inhabited the Hudson River Valley for thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans. They hiked and hunted the woods, fished the waterways, and planted the soil with corn, beans, and squash. They created beautiful, artisanal things, from pottery to decorated clothing. In wintertime, they hunkered down in their wigwams alongside their families and told stories. In spring, they emerged and gathered sap to make maple syrup. To read more, check out this brief history written by Dorothy David, Native American educator and author, member of the Stockbridge-Munsee Tribe of Mohican Indians.

The Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians has worked tirelessly to preserve, protect, and repatriate their culture and their homelands. Since 1969, well over twenty research trips have been made in order to collect maps, letters, books, genealogy reports, artifacts, photos, and more. The Arvid E Miller Library & Museum is an incredible resource for anyone interested in learning more. In 2020, they opened a historic preservation extension office in Williamstown, MA (watch more about that HERE).

 One way you can actively connect and honor the land and its original inhabitants is to learn its history and then walk it with mindful intention.

These six routes were initially traveled by those who created the paths for travel, trade, and spiritual connection long before European settlement. Pick one and walk in the footsteps of this land’s earliest inhabitants, surrounded by history. While you hike, think about how the trail came to be, or who may have walked these paths before you. 

 

Thomas and Palmer Brook Reserve

Great Barrington / 0.5 miles

Thomas and Palmer Brook Reserve is now conserved, but, like all land in the Berkshires, it is part of the original territory of the Mohican people. The lands in the Berkshires continue to be of great significance to the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican people. Forced into diaspora they currently reside reservation lands in Wisconsin since an 1856 treaty. This year, BNRC opened an accessible trail at Thomas and Palmer Brook.

Umpachenee Falls

New Marlborough / 0.5 miles

This beautiful waterfall bears the name of Aaron Umpachenee, a Mohican Sachem who fished in these waters and all along the Housatonic River Valley. The Umpachenee River spills over the falls before merging with the Konkapot River (named for Chief John Konkapot) south of Mill River village. There are trails to walk and rocks to sit and contemplate what life was like here in the early 1700s. 

Jug End Wildlife Refuge

South Egremont / 2 miles

Skatekook, the last Native American village in the Berkshires, ran from the crux of the Green and Housatonic Rivers, through present-day South Egremont and into New York. It was here that Lt. Umpachenee and four other families lived tenuously until their removal in 1734. At Jug End Wildlife Refuge, hike or snow shoe on part of this former land. The Jug End Loop Trail runs 2 miles through a mix of open fields and woodlands. 

Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary

Pittsfield / 3 miles

This Mass Audubon property was once the summer hunting and fishing encampments the Mohican established in the wildlife-rich Housatonic Valley.

Pittsfield historian J.E.A. Smith wrote, “upon the eastern bank of the river, rises a knoll which was once used as a burial-place by the Mohegans, who, after they were collected in one community at Stockbridge, were accustomed to make pious pilgrimages to this spot, leaving the birch-canoes, in which they had ascended the river, in the Meadows to which they thus gave name.”

Walk the easy 30-45 minute trail along the Housatonic River, past an old oxbow pond, Sackett Brook, and West Pond. 

Monument Mountain

Great Barrington / 3 trails, all under 3 miles

Trustees-owned Monument Mountain is a famous landmark that looms large in the history of the Berkshire Mohicans. Running alongside Route 7, which was originally a major Indian trail known as the Old Berkshire Path. Along the trails, you can still find remnants of paths that once connected Mohican communities to one another, to important natural resources, and to sacred sites. There is also an offering place or “wawanaquasick” as The Mohicans had a cultural practice of leaving stones to commemorate significant events.

Today, members the Stockbridge-Munsee consider Monument Mountain to be a significant place in their culture and history. They continue to make pilgrimages here after being forced to remove from their homelands.

Hiking trails include the 1.5-mile Indian Monument Trail, where you’ll pass the remains of ancient Native American trails and the 0.62-mile Squaw Peak Trail that connects to the summit and the Indian Monument.

Mahican-Mohawk Trail

North Adams, Savoy, Charlemont, Deerfield / 30+ miles

For thousands of years, Native American groups traveled between the Hudson and the Connecticut valleys along a route that followed the Hoosic River, across the Hoosac Mountains, and along the Deerfield River. Europeans expanded the trail into wagon roads, joining villages and towns of northwestern Massachusetts, southwestern Vermont, and eastern New York. Over time, the trail’s route was modified for vehicles, eventually resulting in the construction of Route 2, known as “The Mohawk Trail.”

In 1992, Williams College students, led by Lauren Stevens, explored the history and began re-establishing the original trail. The Mahican-Mohawk Recreational Trail today follows the original corridor wherever possible. In the Mohawk Trail State Forest traverse a portion of the original Native American trail to the summit of Todd Mountain in the . On this 3-mile stretch of trail, hikers walk in the footprints of the original American inhabitants. The path here is a well documented trail in-use since the 1600s. The forest is also the location of Indian Spring, a resting place for many tribes before heading up Todd Mountain. Hikers can return to the park headquarters via the Indian Trail for a loop. Keep an eye out for the single tallest tree in New England, the Chief Jake Swamp White Pine. 

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Picnics, Paths, & Pebbles – Bullitt Reservation

Picnics, Paths, & Pebbles – Bullitt Reservation

Where We Went: Bullitt Reservation in Ashfield/Conway MA

When We Went: Mid-May 2020

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10): 1.5 Boots

Trail Length: Pebble Trail 0.5 miles, Meadow Path 0.5 miles

How Long it Took Us: 2 Hours

Overview: Bullitt Reservation, owned by the Trustees of Reservations, is over 265 acres of fields and forest on the northwestern edge of the Connecticut River Valley. Once Ashfield’s Town Farm to house the poor, this blend of fields, farm buildings, mixed woodlands, and streams was once home to 13 dispossessed persons before its sale in 1874. This practice was common in the 19th century. Poor farms would frequently provide shelter to the elderly and disabled. The residents often worked the farm and helped raise the livestock with the bulk of the financing provided by town funds. The farms fate would then go from rags to riches, becoming the country estate of the first US ambassador to the Soviet Union, William C. Bullitt and family, renaming the property Apple Hill Farm. Oh the stories we’d hear if this land could talk! Richard Nixon once visited here in the 1950’s, canoeing around Ashfield Pond with Bullitt while he was Vice President! Bullitt’s exploits as ambassador are worth a deeper drive (Click here to read about the infamous Spring Festival at Spaso House), and later in life he would co-write a book with Sigmund Freud slandering Woodrow Wilson!

Bullitt’s daughter, Anne Moen Bullitt would donate their former farm to the Trustees and it would open to the public in October of 2010. Two short loop trails, each about a half-mile long, are perfect for walking and snowshoeing. The Meadow Path, skirts the crest of the hill in front of the barns. The Pebble Trail, is slightly longer, and steeper than Meadow, winding through the woods, fields and a beaver pond along Bullitt Road. 

What We Dug: I don’t think you could there be a more perfect picnic spot than Bullitt Reservation. Between the tree-dotted hillside, the fragrant breeze of the expansive fields, and the plentiful bird sightings, we passed a memorable hour over peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Afterwards, a short path up the hill took us to the head of the Pebble Trail. The trail is named for a sight along the way, a glacial erratic (big boulder), called the “pebble,” hiding among the pine trees. A hit with the kids, they spent most of our hike clambering up rock after rock, and leaping with abandon. There are some impressively large trees scattered along the trail and the views from the top of the meadow are not to be missed. If you’re looking to stretch out your day for a longer hike, the Two Bridges Trail connects to Chapel Brook reservation also in Ashfield. 

What We Could Do Without: The parking lot is small and can fill up very quickly. Bullitt Reservation is a popular place to explore and the trails are narrow. Please follow all guidelines when hiking here. If the lot is crowded, consider heading to Bear Swamp or Chapel Brook instead. Click here for the Trustees COVID-19 hiking best practices. 

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For: Deer, fox, coyote, wild turkey, moose, eastern swallow, black bear, orchid, butterfly, sugar maple, apple trees, Valley Forge elm, elderberry, Joe Pye weed, New England aster, Solomon seal, glacier erratics 

Must Know Before You Go’s: Free. Seasonal hunting is permitted at this property subject to all state and town laws.Wear bright colors when hiking in the November to December deer hunting season; avoid wearing or carrying anything that is white. Hunting is not allowed on Sundays. Leashed dogs allowed. Always follow Leave No Trace principles. 

Directions : 332 Bullitt Road, Ashfield/Conway, MA 01330

From Points North: From I-91, Exit 25, take Rt. 116 West approx. 10 mi. through Conway and into Ashfield. Turn left onto Bullitt Rd., proceed approx. 1 mi. (pavement turns to dirt) towards a driveway and white buildings on right where road turns sharply left. Note: Do not take North Poland Road to Bullitt Rd. It is an unmaintained road that is not passable for much of the year.

From Points South: From I-91, Exit 24, take Rt 5 North. After 1.1 mi., turn left onto Rt. 116 West. Follow approx. 10 mi. through Conway and into Ashfield. Follow
directions above from Bullitt Rd. Note: Do not take North Poland Road to Bullitt Rd. It is an unmaintained road that is not passable for much of the year.

GPS 42.502257 -72.756001

Website: thetrustees.org

Resources: Trail Map, “Bears in the Caviar” by Charles Thayer, Master & Margarita

Bullitt, Bears, & Bolsheviks

Spring Festival at Spaso House

The Spring Festival that took place at Spaso House on April 24, 1935 is legendary for being one of the most lavish (and eccentric), parties ever held by a U.S. ambassador abroad. 

Born in 1891 from a prominent Philadelphian family, William Christian Bullitt was a journalist, novelist, and an unlikely diplomat. Bullitt was a tough pragmatist with a hedonistic streak. Virtually forgotten today, Bullitt was perhaps the most important figure in American foreign policy towards Russia in the 20th century. Bullitt worked as a journalist for much of the WWI until 1918, when he was a delegate to the Paris Peace Conference and pushed Woodrow Wilson to engage Soviet Russia as a way to contain the wave of Bolshevism.

Bullitt was appointed the first American ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1933 — a role he enjoyed perhaps too much. Spaso House, located in Moscow, has been the residence of American ambassadors since the establishment of these diplomatic relations and during Bullitt’s tenure, it might as well have been called “Animal House.” 

Indeed, Bullitt’s embassy was one big frat party.

Flirtations with Russian women were so commonplace that the US State Department complained to Bullitt that his staff “drank too much and were ‘pawing women.’” Rumors ran rampant about Bullitt’s own affairs. Russian ballerinas twirled in and out of the embassy at a dizzying rate and were oftentimes violently fought over by Bulitt and his deputies. One deputy, Charles Bohlen, would recall that “I have never had more fun or interest in my whole life…This embassy…is like no other embassy in the world.” 

During the Christmas season of 1934, Bullitt instructed his interpreter Charles Thayer to organize “a real shindig” for all of the American citizens in Moscow. Thayer convinced the Moscow Circus to lend him three seals for the occasion. As the guests gathered in the Chandelier Room that evening, the seals entered with a Christmas tree, a tray of glasses, and a bottle of champagne balanced on each of their noses. The seals then performed a variety of tricks, after which their trainer, who had been drinking, suddenly fainted. No longer under the control of their wrangler, the seals ran amok throughout the house, while the embassy staff attempted to corral them. Fortunately for Thayer, Bullitt had been temporarily recalled to Washington and was not witness to this diplomatic Disneyland disaster. 

The pinnacle of this baroque bacchanalia would occur with the ostentatious Spring Festival at Spaso House in April 1935.

“…he left instructions that three days after his return he wanted a party laid on that would compete with anything Moscow had yet experienced, before or after the Revolution. “The sky’s the limit,” he told me, “just so long as it’s good and different.”

After my experience with the seals I was a little wary about wild animals, but Irena Wiley, the Counselor’s wife, insisted that there be some animals at least. “Let’s get some farm animals and make a miniature barnyard in a corner of the ballroom. We can call it a Spring Festival.” I knew better than to argue. It sounded easy enough. All we would need were some baby lambs and some wild flowers and a few little birch trees in pots. But we began to run into difficulties with the sheep. A collective farm had agreed to let us have some, but when we tried them out at a dress rehearsal the smell they gave off was too much for any ballroom. We tried washing them, dipping them, perfuming them, but it was no good. Then we tried some young goats. Surprisingly enough they were better but the atmosphere was pretty heavy even with them. We went to our friend the Director of the Zoo. He suggested mountain goats, “They smell less than barnyard varieties and are even more of a novelty.” So he loaned us half a dozen baby mountain goats and we rigged up a little barnyard for them on a platform at the head of the buffet table. But Irena decided mountain goats weren’t enough.”

So Thayer also arranged for an aviary, borrowing a hundred zebra finches that he would contain in a gilded fishermen’s net suspended between two large pillars in the ballroom, along with  a handful of golden pheasants, a dozen white roosters, a sword-dancer, a full Georgian band, a shashlik (shish kebob) pop-up restaurant, and a baby bear…

“When the big night finally arrived Ambassador Bullitt awaited his guests under the chandelier of the main ballroom. To his considerable annoyance he was joined there by one of the zebra finches who had managed to get through the fish net. When I came upon the scene Bullitt and his Counselor Wiley, complete with white tie, tails, and white gloves, were stealthily stalking the finch around the ballroom in a vain attempt to surround it.

The epic evening wouldn’t come to a conclusion until 10:30 the following morning, but not before the baby bear had been bottle fed champagne by one party-goer, and then vomit the spirits down the shirtfront of another guest who overzealously took it upon himself to burp the poor bear. 

 

Thayer goes on to describe the task of clearing up the aftermath…

“When the door closed on the last guest, I sat down and ordered a bottle of champagne. It was the first drink I’d had since the show started. When I’d finished it I started to clear up the shambles. 

The first thing to do was catch the birds in the aviary and put them back into their cages in which they came from the Zoo. I’d caught the pheasants and parakeets and was making some progress with the zebra finches when the champagne plus the evening’s activities caught up with me and I decided to go to bed. Unfortunately though I forgot to fasten the aviary door. 

I’d hardly got into bed before the Ambassador’s valet woke me. “The Ambassador wants to see you at once in the ballroom.” Sleepily I stumbled into some clothes and out onto the scene of the previous evening’s battle. Under the chandelier stood the Ambassador looking more than a little annoyed. The cause of his bad humour was obvious enough when I looked up into the high dome of the room to see a flock of zebra finches merrily skimming through the air. “Well, said the Ambassador, “stop staring and do something about those damn birds before they ruin every stick of furniture in the Embassy.” With that he marched back into his study. 

Obviously I was going to need some expert help so I telephoned the Director of the Zoo and asked him to send his best bird catcher. The bird catcher trundled up the Embassy drive on his bicycle a few minutes later with a net and the disassembled sections of a long handle under his arms. “It won’t be any trouble at all,” he said as he came into the house. “I can catch them in a minute.” “But wait till you see the room…,” I began to explain. “No, it won’t be difficult…” He was screwing the sections of the net’s handle together as he walked down the hall to the ballroom. We got to the door and he looked up at the sixty-foot ceiling and gaped. There was a moment of silence and then the direction of his hands as he wound the parts of the handle reversed. “But why didn’t you tell me it was like this?” he asked plaintively as he disassembled the rod. When the bird catcher had left I wandered around from room to room, puzzled and disconsolate. By this time the flock of finches had split up into a number of sub-flocks which distributed themselves throughout the Embassy. Soon the whole house was filled with their chirpings and droppings. From time to time the Ambassador appeared from his study and glared about him. “Well, he would say, “whatever you’re going to do, you’d better get started. Much more of this and we won’t have a decent piece of furniture left.” 

It was well after dark when I suddenly got an idea. I asked the butler to round up the whole staff and soon every last kitchen maid and yard boy was assembled in my bedroom while I explained the strategy. We turned out all the lights in the house and opened all the windows. On each window sill we put one bright lamp. Then armed with brooms, pillows, and any other throwable object we could find we went from room to room stirring up the birds till they flew toward the light. Once in the window we’d give them a final shoo and chase them into the night. I knew the Zoo Director wasn’t going to enjoy losing his zebra finches but I also knew he had a lot more of them – more at any rate than I had prospects of jobs. For three hours the house was a hubbub of rushing wings and pillows and people but in the end the finches were out and the Embassy liberated. 

“It was the last party the Ambassador ever asked me to organize – I like to think it was because I was getting too valuable in other lines of diplomatic work.”

Despite, or perhaps because of, his social activities, Bullitt became increasingly disillusioned with Stalin’s Russia. By the time he left Moscow, in 1936, Bullitt saw the Soviet Union as the greatest threat on earth to American interests. Engagement should continue, he maintained, but with extreme caution—Russia should be treated as a trading partner and as a dangerous rival. 

It is argued that Bullitt deserves credit for prophetically urging the United States to adopt a position of caution toward the Soviet Union. 

But despite the fawning praise Bullitt heaped on FDR, the president continued to view Stalin as “Uncle Joe,” the friendly dictator and ally, throughout the war. Bullitt’s views went widely ignored. He briefly served as the French ambassador in 1936 until irreconcilably falling out with FDR in 1940. Roosevelt suggested to Bullitt to run for Mayor of Philadelphia as a Democrat in 1943, but Roosevelt secretly told the Democratic leaders there to, “Cut his throat,” and Bullitt was defeated. He turned to writing as an outlet, penning dozens of stories on the dangers of communism. Dying in France in 1967, the end of Bullitt’s life was a starkly sad and uneventful contrast for such an unusually bullish and sociable man.

Personal Account of Charles Thayer’s Memoirs of the Spring Festival at Spaso House taken from “Bears in the Caviar.

Haunted Hikes of the Berkshires

Haunted Hikes of the Berkshires

For a county as old as the Berkshires, it would be impossible not to have our share of the paranormal. With well over 116,000 acres of the region conserved for public land use, it’s also no surprise that many of these spooky encounters occurred during recreational activities like hiking. At Berkshire Family Hikes we’re always looking for inroads to get more people exploring their outdoors, and maybe a jaunt with the things that haunt our local woods is precisely the adventure you’ve been waiting for. 

Historic Becket Quarry
  1. Historic Becket Quarry

    This abandoned quarry in the hills is just the place for a brush with haunted history. Rusty trucks and forgotten machinery sit deserted making it one of the more interesting hiking trails in the Berkshires. 

    Now in a state of arrested decay, the 300-acres was once the thriving site of the Chester-Hudson Quarry, operational from 1860-1947. The wind at the quarry seems to echo with the voices of the past.

    The company once shipped tons of stone used for  tombstones (eek!), memorials and other monuments in the area. Even a devastating flood in 1927 didn’t stop operations. Until a seemingly fateful day, when the thundering resonance of machinery screeched to a halt and the last steam whistle blew on almost three-quarters of a century of granite production in Western Massachusetts. What happened? Logical explanations point to financial mismanagement and lack of capital for necessary improvements. But if you let the preserved ruins (and your imagination) speak to you, maybe you’ll hear a different story…”…as if the men had gone for lunch and never returned…”

1-2 miles of trail, moderate

456 Quarry Road, Becket, Mass

Click here to read our full review of Becket Quarry

Historic Becket Quarry

2. UFOs at Sheffield Park

Take a spooky stroll through the Thom Reed Memorial UFO Monument Park in Sheffield, the spot where Thom Reed, his mother, grandmother, and brother had their now infamous 1969 encounter with extraterrestrials. The quaint area has now become a destination for UFO hunters and enthusiasts of historical landmarks (the Sheffield Covered Bridge is practically next door). It’s recent feature on an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” has helped to boost its notoriety. Strange lights, orbs and unusual shadows abound, but be sure to keep an eye to the sky!

No trails.

Covered Bridge Lane, Sheffield, Mass. 

Historic Becket Quarry

3. Ghosts of Bash Bish Falls

Bash Bish Falls is not only the highest waterfall in the state of Massachusetts but it may also be the most haunted. Mohican legend tells of a woman named Bash Bish who was accused of adultery. As punishment, she was to be tied to a canoe and dropped down the 60-foot falls to her death. On the morning of her execution, a cloud of butterflies appeared. Surrounding her, Bash Bish had time to escape. She jumped in the falls and was never seen again.

Bash Bish had a daughter named White Swan. Shortly after her mother’s disappearance, she married. White Swan was infertile, so her husband took another wife who could have children. Heartbroken, she started to have visions of her mother. Summoned by the spirit of Bash Bish, White Swan also jumped into the falls. Her body was also never seen again.

Today, visitors claim to see the outline of a woman standing behind the falling cascades. Is it White Swan or Bash Bish?

Bash Bish Falls is also considered one of the more dangerous waterfalls in the country. A chilling 25 people have died in falls here. It’s no surprise that there may be spirits lurking nearby.

 Bash Bish Falls Trail, 2.1 miles, moderate

Bash Bish Falls State Park, Mount Washington, Mass

Historic Becket Quarry

4. Departed Spirits at Shaker Mountain

 In the 1830s, Berkshire County was home to a thriving Shaker community. In 1842, the Shakers consecrated high points of holy land in which to conduct seasonal pilgrimages. The sites were chosen by Shakers guided by the holy spirit. The Hancock Shakers dubbed their holy ground Mount Sinai and in the spring and autumn they would walk from the meeting room of the Brick Dwelling, through the woodlands, until they reached the “sacred lot” at Mount Sinai. Non-Shakers were not allowed to step foot in the clearing, but could watch from a place outside the fence.

In the center of the clearing stood a fountain stone, a monument offering the “water of life.” The location of the fountain stone is a mystery, disappearing a decade after the Shakers ceased their ceremonies here. Some experts believe the Shakers buried it somewhere on the mountain 150 years ago.

This daylong spiritual journey was punctuated by inspiring testimonies of departed spirits revealed through Shaker instruments (the dead would speak through the living), as well as songs and dances that were sacred to the occasion. “Spirit spectacles” were handed out to the Shakers, meant to give a better view of the mountain’s ghostly guests.

Observers of the “mountain meetings” describe the participants, “some were reeling and stagering; some leaping and skiping, some rooling upon the ground…”

The Shakers would return home physically exhausted and spiritually refreshed.

Tread carefully over this ancient sacred ground and be sure to bow seven times before entering.

Shaker Mountain Trail Loop, 2.9 miles, moderate. Round Trip Loop to Holy Mountain, 6.5 miles, moderate

Route 20, Hancock, Mass

Historic Becket Quarry

5. Bellow’s Pipe & the Old Coot at Mount Greylock State Park

Mount Greylock may be well known, but the forlorn ghost that wanders around the bottom of the Bellows Pipe Trail may be less so.

Long ago nicknamed the “Old Coot”, the ghost is Williams Saunders, a North Adams farmer who left his wife and children in 1861, to fight for the Union army during the Civil War.

Saunders’s was injured and after two years with no word of his whereabouts, his wife remarried a local man she had hired to help run the farm in her husband’s absence. 

In 1863, the war had ended, and a tired, bearded stranger returned home only to find his wife standing outside happily in the arms of another man, a man his children were calling, “daddy.”

Heartbroken, William Saunders retreated to the nearby woods of Mt. Greylock. He built himself a shack along the Thunderbolt Trail, living there for years, surviving by taking odd jobs on farms, including his own, never revealing his true identity.

One mid-January morning hunters found Saunder’s lying in his shack dead. They searched his papers and the mystery was revealed. Right before their eyes, a dark shadow left Saunders’s body and darted into the woods. He’s said to be lurking there ever since.

Ghost hunters in the 1930’s and late 70’s have fueled the flames of his existence with sensational photographs of the shadowy figure, but we dare you to hit the trail and decide for yourself.

Bellows Pipe Trail, 6.1 miles out and back, Difficult

Gould Road, Adams, Mass

Historic Becket Quarry

6. Pet Cemetery at the Mount

The Mount — Edith Wharton’s former Lenox estate — has been a constant hot bed of hauntings, attracting ghost hunters and others looking for a thrilling night out.

From floating faces to inexplicable orbs, most curious are the reports of canine spirits flitting about. From a third-story bedroom window you can see the dotted hillside. Six little stone markers reside over Edith’s furry friends. They provided her with comfort through her troubled marriage, a possible nervous breakdown, a brief affair, frequent trips back and forth to Europe, and divorce.

Ghost tours always include a stop at the pet cemetery, where guides briefly retell “Kerfol,” Wharton’s story about a pack of ghost dogs who haunt a house where they were murdered, and in turn avenged their murder and the cruel treatment of their beloved mistress.

Although reports of ghostly animal activity are scant compared to other haunted happenings, visitors have caught two interesting photos, both of which can be seen by clicking the link above. 

The Mount grounds include various short trails. 

2 Plunkett Street, Lenox, Mass

Historic Becket Quarry

7. The Devil’s Altar at Wizard’s Glen

Hit up this high point on Gulf Road smack between Dalton and Lanesborough. The name Wizard’s Glen links back to a Native American legend that recounts the time a shaman offered human sacrifice to Ho-bo-mo-ko, the Spirit of Evil.

According to a tale told in J.E.A. Smith’s “Taghconic,” a 1770 Dalton deer hunter named Chamberlain, had slain his long sought quarry nearby Wizard’s Glen. While Chamberlain was dressing the animal, a fierce thunderstorm suddenly arose. Chamberlain tucked the deer carcass under a boulder and sought shelter beneath another.

While waiting out the storm, a brilliant flash of lightning illuminated an unearthly celebration. Every cleft among the boulders held macabre spectres, with a Satan-like figure appearing in the center, dripping blood. Another flash of lightning and the phantoms began to chant, dance and a maiden was dragged towards the altar and prepared for hatchet sacrifice.

In an effort to save the girl, Chamberlain removed a Bible from his pack and held it out, crying the Lord’s name. A colossal crash of thunder ended the storm and the unholy spectacle, disappearing in a flash of light. Shaken and exhausted, Chamberlain went to collect his venison, and it too was gone. The giant rock became known as the Devil’s Altar Stone and the area is said to emanate an icy chill even on the hottest and stillest summer afternoons.

No marked trails, use caution on the rocks.  

Gulf Road, Dalton, Mass

Historic Becket Quarry

8. Camp Windigo at Windsor Jambs State Forest

Take a trip to the Windsor Jambs State Forest and see what remains of a 1940’s summer camp with a now sinister reputation. Camp Windigo was in operation until the 1980’s and most former campers remember the place with fond memories.

After 30 years of rotting abandon, new rumors about the camp started to take root, a grisly tale of murder that no one can seem to verify. 

“This is a camp that may have been up in the 1980’s and is haunted by 6 little girls and a crazy woman.  The story is that a camp counselor went crazy and hung 3 girls in a barn on the property and drowned 3 more in a tub then she went and killed herself.”

Several amateur ghost hunters have investigated the story and describe mysterious shadows, orbs, and “child-sized” handprints appearing on windows. The buildings are no longer standing, but you can still walk to what remains of the camp, a short hike from the waterfall at the top of the Jambs. 

Whether it’s fact or fiction, whatever  you decide remains to be seen

Windsor Jambs Trail from River Road, 2 miles, Intermediate 

River Road, Windsor, Mass

Historic Becket Quarry

9. Haunted Hoosac Tunnel – East Entrance

The East Portal of the Hoosac Tunnel is located in Florida, MA, and if you dare to visit, the first thing that will hit you is the dark, damp chill.

Construction on the tunnel began in 1851. Over the twenty-three years that it would take to finish the 4.75 mile track, it would claim the lives of two hundred miners. Commonly referred to as “the bloody pit,” most died in horrific explosions, fires, and drownings. Since it’s completion, there has been no shortage of strange reports, disappearances, weird sounds, apparitions and chilling tales.

Trains are still active at this location, so visitors should not enter the tunnel at this portal. 

Close-by is the unmarked Cascade Brook trailhead, just to the right of the tunnel, over the stone wall, beyond the entrance.

1/2 mile trail to the base of the waterfall, steep & narrow, moderate.

239 River Road, Florida, Mass.

Historic Becket Quarry

10. West Branch Chapel Cemetery at October Mountain State Forest

Hidden deep in the woods of October Mountain State Forest is an abandoned cemetery. Somewhere in this reclaimed wilderness, lies Anna Pease, age 10. Anna died on January 22, 1829 and though her short life remains a mystery. Her presence as a ghost is infamous. Reports of a ghostly spectre seen wearing a white dress haunt the area, as well as strange humming noises.

The surrounding lands were once the retreat of William C. Whitney, the secretary of the navy under President Grover Cleveland. Here he owned 14,000 acres, making him the largest landowner in Massachusetts. Whitney built a massive game reserve in the October Mountain woods and since its abandonment, it too has become a hot spot of paranormal activity. Vampire bats, “horned devils” and glowing-eyed beasts are among the ghastly sights. Some claim they’re the descendants of Whitney’s game escapees roaming the woods, while others say Whitney himself still haunts the ruins of his old estate, forever hunting the forests for big game.

Drive to the reservoir on top of the mountain and park in the parking lot. The path to the cemetery is across the road. The trail will take you by an old stone foundation of an old home and the cemetery is a little way up on the right.

Unmarked trails. Use at your own risk.

October Mountain, West Branch Road, Washington, Mass

Historic Becket Quarry

11. Sinister Springside Park

According to local journalist and master folklorist Joe Durwin, Pittsfield’s Springside Park has it share of the macabre.

“I grew up around Springside Park, so there were a lot of stories about Springside. There was a lot of stuff we talked about as kids. That park has a lot of lore, some of it sweet, some of it kind of scary.”

In the 1970’s and 80’s, multiple killings of animals in the park’s petting zoo were reported in the Berkshire Eagle. Among the more horrible incidents, were those of 1972, when a baby pig was stabbed to death, a goat crippled and a peacock’s feathers were pulled out. Later chalked up to “vandalism” in the 1980’s, these disturbing acts and others ultimately closed the Springside Children’s Zoo.   

In These Mysterious Hills, Durwin’s extensive historical blog of the Berkshires, he tells of another gruesome crime that occurred at Springside in the 19th century. 

“…few recall that, in the late 19th century, the dismembered torso of a human corpse was found not far from the Springside House, then called the Elmhurst House. The body was never identified and the killer never apprehended, but the crime may have left some lasting residue on the area. A local woman of exceedingly solid character shared with me the story of how, some decades ago, she and her boyfriend were walking down the circular drive of Springside House when what they then thought to be an uprooted tree stump suddenly began lumbering toward them. Later, when they heard of the murder, they speculated that it might actually have been the hands and feet of the unfortunate victim. And reports have continued to trickle in over the years of a horrific floating head, which has been seen by many residents of the west side of North Street, across the street from the Springside house. “The Head,” as it is often called, is usually described as a ghastly skull with bits of decomposed skin still clinging to it. It is interesting to note that these houses stand on land that was once a landfill.”

Springside Park has numerous hiking trails and rotting relics of its past. Ask a local for the location of the abandoned petting zoo. Explore at your own risk.

874 North Street, Pittsfield, Mass 

Historic Becket Quarry

12. Ashintully’s Egyptian Curse

Walk the grounds of the former 120-acre estate of Robb de Peyster Tytus. In 1910, this politician and Egyptologist built a white mansion that would come to be known as the “Marble Palace.”

Tytus didn’t enjoy his beautiful estate for long. Shortly after its completion, Tytus succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 38. His death was the first in a series of misfortunes that led many to believe that the family was cursed. In 1928, his wife Grace died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism and 5 years later, their 28-year old daughter Mildred was killed in a car accident driving home from the Ashintully. An article written in 1951 discussed the dogging rumor that the family had incurred the wrath of Egypt’s dead kings by disturbing their sleep in the search for ancient relics. When the estate burned to the ground in 1952, those rumors stuck forever.

Easy trails through the mansion foundations and gardens.

Sodom Road, Tyringham, Mass

Historic Becket Quarry

13. Bigfoot at Felton Pond in October Mountain State Forest

Bigfoot lives in the Berkshires!

Sightings of the burly biped date all the way back to 1765. One of those most significant sightings occurred in the late summer of 1983. Four friends were enjoying a cookout near Camp Eagle, an abandoned Boy Scout camp on the shore of Felton Pond, when suddenly the night was interrupted by a large rustling in the distant brush. Hoping that the noise was a nosy bear, they ignored it and went back to enjoying their night. After a couple hours passed by and the noises had not let up, two members of the party went out to investigate. What they saw less than 100 yard away was definitely not just a curious bear. 

“It stood on two legs, silhouetted on the trail in the moonlight, and it was huge.” Durant told the Berkshire Eagle a few days later, “I don’t scare easily, but it scared me.” 

Though this is perhaps the most famous record of a “Bigfoot sighting” on October Mountain, it is certainly not the only one. The mountain has been the focus of paranormal investigations, spooky documentaries, and eyebrow-raising stories of weird and wild creatures. See the above info on the West Branch Chapel Cemetery for more information.

Various trails, including Felton Pond Connector Trail and Gorge Trail, Intermediate to Difficult

October Mountain State Forest. 317 Woodland Road, Lee, Mass

Huge shout out to journalist & folklorist Joe Durwin, whose site, These Mysterious Hills is a veritable treasure trove of Berkshire lore and history.

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!

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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

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