Gold Diggers & Cave Crawlers – Widow White Reserve

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

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

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

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Cattle Calls & Waterfalls – Glendale Falls

Cattle Calls & Waterfalls – Glendale Falls

Where We Went : Glendale Falls, Middlefield MA

When We Went : Mid-March

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : 3 Boots

Trail Length : 1/4 Mile to the base of the Falls

How Long it Took Us : 1.5 Hours

Overview : For a town with a population of less than 600, Middlefield sure has a lot of history.

The first soldier to ever receive a Purple Heart Medal of honor, Elijah Churchill, a Revolutionary War vet, lived and is buried here.

Martha Stewart laid stakes on Clark Wright Road, humbly purchasing an ,1800’s schoolhouse on 50 acres. Living in this modest homestead without a bathroom or running water from 1966 to mid-1980’s, Martha credits this adventure as the catalyst behind her foray into serious DIY like plumbing, electrical work and contracting as well as some of the happiest times of her life.

The main room was very pretty. It was wainscoted, with a soft, beautiful pine floor. The house had no bathroom, no electricity. We bought it for $15,000, and it was a dream for us. That’s where I really learned how to do everything: electricity, plumbing, gardening, painting, spackling. I tried to build cabinet work in the kitchen and found out I am not a very good carpenter. I’m much better at plumbing.

Click here to read a journal entry where she reflects on fond Christmas memories.

Also located on Clark Wright Road, is Glendale Falls. Previously the site of 18th-century’s Glendale Farm, Revolutionary War veteran Captain Nathaniel Wright, settled on its 400-acres and began farming in 1799. It would remain in the Wright family for over a century.

 

Clark Brainard Wright, it’s last “wrightful” owner, would operate the farm from 1842 and into the 1920’s. It was under his guidance that the farm became well-known for it’s herd of shorthorn steers.

Most locals have heard of or attended the Middlefield Fair that began in 1855 and still runs over 3 days in August over 165 years later. It was here that this Durham cattle breed won top marks.

Clark Brainard Wright’s “Glendale Duke” was a magnificent specimen that would win top prizes at the Annual Cattle Show of the Highland Agricultural Society (later shortened to the Middlefield Fair). Middlefield was recognized by the Massachusetts Agricultural College (now Umass Amherst) as a leading breeding area:

The show of oxen and steers was the best I have ever seen at a county show, not for the number and perfection of training, but for the size and early maturity; almost every yoke especially of steers, was remarkable.

 

The cow fair was so legendary that a song was written about it. A lively two-step and male quartet was written by Philip Mack Smith in 1912. It was played at the fair and captures the original essence of the Middlefield Fair as the local folks in attendance must have felt.

 

The farm and falls were purchased by farmer and conservationist Richard Waite. Nicknamed “Waite’s Falls” during his time there, ,he ,allowed public swimming at the falls, until lewd lawbreakers ruined a good thing. Waite sold the falls and surrounding 60 acres shortly thereafter to the

What We Dug : ,Waterfalls are generally a hit with kids (and grown-ups) and Glendale does not disappoint. This is one of the highest, longest, and most powerful waterfalls in the state of Massachusetts, plunging more than 150 feet. Part of the Westfield River, it’s a rare naturally occurring Class III whitewater run. (For a bit of reference, there are a total of 5 classes in rafting).

At the top of the falls there are some wide, level spaces where you can get a good look at the water hurtling downhill. You can stand at the edge and imagine yourself on a raft with ,four foot ,w,aves shooting up ,,on all sides while the boat careens down the narrow passages.

A short trail leads to the bottom of the falls. The various stairs cut into the side of the trail provide additional tactile interest (i.e. lots of climbing) but please be cautious! There are steep areas that can make for tricky stepping.

It’s always nice to have a “final destination” when you’re out with kids. Having an endgame gives them a mental checkpoint and can be a source of encouragement when spirits start to flag. The bottom of the waterfall is a quick trip from the top but the payoff is spectacular. We spent some time taking it all in before trekking back up the way we came. We finished our afternoon with a few lively games of “Pooh Sticks.”

What We Could Do Without :

This certainly can be a busy destination. Given that there is only one trail up and down the falls it makes “social distancing” or simply enjoying the area on your own next to impossible. If you’re looking for time alone in the woods, this is not the place. Also, if you are bringing along a spirited toddler, be aware that the trail makes it’s way down the side of the cascade. Not so close that there’s fear of toppling in, but for us it certainly was somewhere we had to keep eyes on our kids at all times, not a place to let them run free to roam.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For : ,Remnants of an 18th-century grist mill on the north side of the waterfall, Hemlock, Birch, Beech, Maple, Hornbeam, Witch Hazel, Shadbush, Mountain Laurel, Painted Trillium, Hobblebush, Warblers

Must Know Before You Go’s : ,No facilities. Seasonal hunting is allowed. A Trustees permit is required. Mountain biking is not allowed. Dogs must be kept on leash at all times.

When enjoying these properties during the Health Crisis, The Trustees asks that visitors follow social distancing guidelines for the health and safety of all, and to help keep properties open in these challenging times:

  • Limit visits to open Trustees properties in your respective town or neighborhood;
  • Stay at least six feet from other visitors, including stepping aside on the trail to let others pass;
  • Please keep dogs leashed and away from other visitors at all times;
  • If a parking area is full, please come back at a less busy time.

Directions : From Pittsfield: Follow Rt. 8 South approx. 5 mi. Turn left onto Rt. 143 East. Follow for 8.1 mi. Turn right onto River Rd. (becomes East River Rd.) and follow for 5.6 mi. Turn right onto Clark Wright Rd. immediately after bridge and proceed 0.4 mi. to entrance and parking (7 cars) on right. Clark Wright Road Middlefield, MA  01243

GPS 42.349, -72.969

Website : www.thetrustees.org/glendalefalls

Resources :

THE MIDDLEFIELD FAIR: A Case Study of the Agricultural Fair in New England (Nineteenth Century)

https://marthamoments.blogspot.com/2015/12/25th-anniversary-countdown-to-christmas_18.html

Scroll through for more pictures of our Glendale Falls adventure!

Pooled Echoes of the Past  – Duncan Brook Reservoir

Pooled Echoes of the Past – Duncan Brook Reservoir

 

 

Where We Went : Duncan Brook, Dalton MA

 

When We Went : 1st Week of April

 

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : 2.5 Boots (based on lack of trails)

 

Trail Length : No Marked Trails

 

How Long it Took Us : 2 Hours

 

Overview : In 1957, the town of Dalton proposed a public swimming pool on Duncan Brook Reservoir, a 7.6 acre tract of land owned by J. Edgar Bardin, containing a brook and 75-foot dam previously built to provide water to Flintstone Farm.

 

 

Two years and $17,000 later, the project spearheaded by Townsman John Broderick was complete. The new public pool opened for swimmer’s on June 27, 1959. The town of Dalton’s first outdoor swimming area since Weston Beach was abandoned in the 1930’s, Duncan Brook would become a very popular local spot.

 

 

During the summer months, supervised swimming was available after 1pm on weekdays and 10am on Sunday, closing down at 8pm. Boasting a sandy shore, a slide, diving board and ,,bathhouse facilities, it was the perfect spot to cool off, and you’d cool off in a hurry! Notoriously chilly water led to the installation of pipes that siphoned the cold water from the bottom of the pond, diverted it over the spillway, and left the sun-warmed surface water much more suitable for swimming.

 

Popularity would lead the Hinsdale-Dalton Bus Line to run a daily bus special to Duncan Brook Beach. For 10 cents you could catch the 1 o’clock bus at the corner of Park Ave & High Street, swim all day long and hitch the 4 o’clock bus back, right in time for dinner.

 

,

 

 

The beach at Duncan Brook played host to numerous swimming competitions, fishing derbies, picnics, and even the occasional doll show. (These were a big thing in Dalton, look it up.)

 

 

At it’s peak, Duncan Brook attracted 200-250 people daily for swimming and other activities. At the annual picnic at the close of the 1962 season, there were 300 attendees!

 

Then in 1967, Dalton unveiled the newest swimming locale at the American Legion and Duncan Brook took a back seat. Although still open to swim at your own risk, Duncan Brook became primarily used for fishing derbies and as a day camp for the Camp Fire Girls of Na-Wak-Wa. In 1968, Duncan Brook would cease to be the swimming hot spot it had once been.

 

 

 

Threatened to be sold at public auction in the 1980’s, it was only because of passionate townspeople that it was spared from the auction block. But it would fall into further disuse and disrepair. J. Edgar Bardin offered to buy back the property while still allowing for public use, but that never came to pass.

 

 

In 1983, a group of Boy Scouts and their leaders passed a frigid couple of nights at Duncan Brook. The camping trip was planned as a way to hone their Winter survival skills and boy, were they tested. Temperatures dropped to 6-below zero overnight! Despite the cold, the Scouts kept themselves busy and their spirits high.

 

Maybe it was this triumph of character that prompted the town’s subsequent sale of the property to the Boy Scouts in 1984 for the price of $1.

 

Currently, the property is still owned by the Boy Scouts, but has not been in regular use or maintained in many years. Located off of Route 9, near the former Flintstone Farm, the old swimming pond now resembles a marsh after heavy silt deposits flooded the area from a nearby gravel operation. The bathhouse still stands but bares the damage of frequent vandalisms. There are no trails, but the wooded area surrounding Duncan Brook is easily accessible and is a straightforward tract to tramp around in.

 

 

What We Dug : Garter snakes were out in force, enjoying the mild temperatures and the warmth of the sun. Not your typical harbinger of spring, Garter snakes emerge from hibernation in order to mate in March or April.

 

A common sight in New England, it is easily recognizable by its pattern of yellow stripes against black or brown scales. The pattern can sometimes vary, but it usually consists of a narrow stripe down the middle of the back and a broad stripe on each side.

 

Garter snakes can be found in many different habitats, but never far away from some form of water, and the marshy slopes at Duncan Brook make for ideal conditions.

 

Did you know that garter snakes are ovoviviparous? That means they give birth to live young! Most snakes are oviparous, meaning they lay eggs in a nest. 

 

 

Since being homebound during Covid-19, we have been seizing any opportunity to turn our day-to-day into teachable moments. When we venture outdoors we’re able to capitalize on the world that surrounds us. Duncan Brook offered countless possibilities for us to learn more about nature and wildlife. Snakes, polypores, animal scat; we even stumbled upon a deer’s skull! Or maybe it’s a sheep? We spent some time poking at it with a stick, trying to

 

What We Could Do Without : ,Another local property with so much untapped potential. It’s always bittersweet to walk through a place and picture what once was and imagine what could be. Oh to live a day in the ’60s, hopping the bus to the swimming hole on a sweltering summer afternoon…

 

My mental pendulum swings between the past and the present.

 

What’s next? Thoughts drift to the future and how to preserve the area for the environment, the wildlife, and the community… An outdoor classroom to educate the next generation of nature stewards and caretakers? A woodland haven for open-air hiking, camping, and exploration? Restore it to the golden days of beachside yore? The only thing I know, is that it’s the reminiscing that is the easy part – it’s in the “What’s next?,” that lies the real trouble.

 

 

 

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For : Garter Snake, Abandoned Bathhouse, Remnants of a Diving Board, Pond, and Dam, Striped Maple, Ash, Cherry, Poplar, White Pine, Polypore Fungi, Deer, Rabbit

 

Must Know Before You Go’s : There are no marked trails. This property is owned by the Boy Scouts of America and is not maintained. Please use at your own risk. No facilities. No maintained trails. No hunting.

 

Directions : From Dalton center, travel North on Route 9 (North Street). Turn left onto Chalet Road (dirt road also called Duncan Brook Road). If you pass Holiday Brook Farm you have gone too far and missed the turn. Drive to the end of Chalet Road. You can park your car at the pull off area on your right and walk towards the green shelter.

 

Website : None

 

Resources : https://www.hitchcockcenter.org/earth-matters/garter-snakes-emerge-for-their-grand-coming-out-party-in-march-and-april/

 

https://kids.kiddle.co/Garter_snake

 

https://srelherp.uga.edu/snakes/thasir.htm

 

http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/Thamnophis_sirtalis/

 

 

 

 

Scroll through for more pictures of our Duncan Brook adventure!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!