Top Hikes for Accessibility in the Berkshires

Being outdoors and in nature is beneficial in so many ways. From healing health benefits, building community connections, education, or just having some fun, the outdoors is a gift. And that gift should be available to everyone. But for many people with disabilities, mobility limitations, and even parents with strollers, outdoor recreation can feel preclusive because the expectations are unknown. The thought of getting outdoors raises worries – What is the trail like? Is it paved or gravel? Is there service in case of an emergency? The Berkshires is home to so many incredible outdoors spaces. But how many of them are accessible to all?
This list is in no way comprehensive. It lacks in covering many pertinent details that we have limited to no insight on. It is intended as a starting point for disabled people, friends and family of disabled people, parents of young children, and elderly people. It is up to us to create inclusivity for all – in nature and beyond. We’d love to hear what we can do better and welcome shared experiences and challenges when getting outdoors. Email us at berkshirefamilyhikes@gmail.com or join us in the Berkshire Family Hikes Community Group.

A wonderful resource is Everyone Outdoors, a community resource blog and recreation connection for people with disabilities and their families, friends, and supporters who enjoy the outdoors, are looking for new recreation possibilities, or want to share their experience and expertise with others.


  • Ashuwillticook Rail TrailThe only thing intimidating here is the name! Ash-u-will-ti-cook Rail Trail is an old railroad track converted into a 10-foot wide paved trail. The trail runs 12.7 miles through the towns of Cheshire, Lanesborough and Adams. Various access points and parking lots make for multiple entrances into the outdoors. Cheshire Reservoir, and the Hoosic River offer outstanding views of the scenery and wildlife. We’ve hiked it in the rain and lucked out seeing a snapping turtle!
  • Pittsfield State Forest – Located off of Berry Pond Circuit Road, the paved Tranquility Trail is a 0.6 mile loop. It features a peaceful forest setting and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and nature trips.
  • Old Mill Trail One of our favorites, this unpaved gravel trail is great for beginning hikers, families with young children, strollers, and some mobility limitaions. The first 0.7 miles is an accessible trail that follows the Housatonic river north. The trail continues for another 0.8 miles but is not considered accessible. There is a bridge crossing in the beginning of the trail.
  • Greylock Glen – The Glen Meadow Loop at Greylock Glen is a flat, gravel covered 10-foot wide loop which winds its way around the main part of the Glen for 1.6 miles. According to information from EveryoneOutdoors, “this trail is best accessed by driving past the parking lot on Gould Road (from this access point there is a climb to reach the loop trail) and continue driving uphill around a curve, past the small parking lot for Peck’s Falls on the left, to a second parking area for the loop trail on the right. It’s roadside parking on a hill, so it is not considered accessible, but for some it might be worth it because if you can handle the parking angle, it is possible to pass through the roadside boulders (45″ width” passage) to enter the loop trail area.” The views of Mount Greylock and the surrounding hills are unbeatable as well as the huge willow tree.
  • Mary Flynn TrailThis trail in Stockbridge begins with a 100-foot long boardwalk before continuing on a flat, gravel trail through woodlands of birch, pine, and cottonwood. There are two wooden bridge crossings. At the far end, the trail curves, narrows, and loops back alongside the Housatonic river, crossing two small bridges before rejoining the main gravel trail.
  • Parson’s Marsh – The first 600-feet of Parson’s Marsh in Lenox is crushed stone. Gentle slopes lead you to an accessible picnic table and bench off a short spur near the pond. According to EveryoneOutdoors, “the last section of the trail is 900-feet of curbed boardwalk, with a 41” passable width and grades not exceeding 7%.” The trail ends at an observation platform with views from the edges of the marsh.
  • Taconic Farm Estate/Tor CourtOnce a mansion home to Warren Salisbury and the site of a manhunt that ended with John D. Rockefeller’s subpoena, this verdant hilltop is now owned by Hillcrest Hospital. Drive around to the back of the hospital where a large parking area gives easy access to a paved path among the trees. The gazebo is not accessible (stairs only) but is a beautiful feature. The paved trail is not very long and you will have to back track in order to return to the parking lot, but the views of Onota Lake and the surrounding woodlands make this a low impact way to get outdoors. 165 Tor Court, Pittsfield, MA 01201 
  • DAR State Forest – This easily navigable trail in Goshen is dirt-packed and shaded, with tranquil views of the water. The trail is 1.1 miles, ending on a paved road. If you are looking to fish, there are three accessible fishing spots along the trail with sturdy metal docks out to Upper Highland Lake. If you will be parking at the DAR State Forest with a wheelchair, don’t use the public beach parking lot (the first lot upon entry). Continue following the driveway until you reach another paved lot on the left, giving you direct access to the trail without a trip around the beach. 
  • Savoy Mountain State Forest – The accessible trail starts from the main parking lot. Pass the closed restrooms you’ll find a paved path through the main area of the park. A left will take you to a picnic area and an accessible path to the beach. A right will take you to the trailhead sign for the accessible woodland North Pond Loop trail. Old stone fireplaces are visible along the trail. At the junction, bear left and loop around back to the paved road, returning to the parking lot via the paved road.
  • Pleasant Valley Wildlife SanctuaryThe All Persons Trail at Pleasant Valley is 1,700 feet in length roundtrip from the main office to Pike’s Pond. It is fully accessible and follows a wide path with a smooth, packed surface before leading to a boardwalk with views over Pike’s Pond. The trail is mostly level with a few moderate slopes. Narrated stops along the way are marked by signs both in print and in Braille. Prior to Covid-19 and the closure of facilities, you could pick up trail information including a guide in printed or Braille format, and a printed or tactile trail map, as well as other adaptive items, including hands-free binoculars (on a tripod), audio players, a large print version of the “Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Birds,” and a walking cane with a small seat. Currently the offices and other facilities are closed. 
  • Mount Greylock State Forest – Sperry Road to Stony Ledge Trail is a 1.9 mile out and back gravel road. Sperry Road is a well-maintained dirt road that takes you to the scenic lookout point offering beautiful views of Mt. Greylock and other mountains. Facilities and campgrounds at Mount Greylock State Forest are closed due to Covid-19. 
  • John Lambert Nature TrailTucked behind the Ralph Hoffmann Environmental Science and Sustainable Energy Center at Berkshire Community College, the John Lambert Nature Trail wanders through open fields. The meadow portion is well-mown but does have some slight grades and curves that make certain types of accessibility more difficult without assistance. The entrance behind the Hoffmann Center is NOT wheelchair accessible. There is a partially paved entry point just across from Melville Hall. This entry has a slope that may effect accessibility. This route will take you to trailhead behind the Hoffmann Center, so it may be necessary to turn around and retrace your route to get back to the parking lot. 1350 West Street, Pittsfield, MA 01201
Non-Accessible Entrance

Non-Accessible Entrance

More Accessible Entrance

More Accessible Entrance

 

 


As more places continue to open, we all must do our part to follow new rules about how to responsibly return to the trails. Though your chance of getting COVID-19 in the outdoors is low, you still need to bring a mask, take social distancing precautions, and wash or sanitize your hands more frequently. If you are feeling sick, please stay home.

20 Open-Air Spaces for Berkshire Families

With every aspect of our lives suddenly disrupted, nature and outdoor activities provide essential stability, stress-relief and distraction to the current crisis. Lucky for us, the Berkshires is bursting with open-air spaces.

With Spring on the horizon and increasing uncertainties ahead, there is no better time to get outside and let nature work it’s magic.

 

Here are 20 family-friendly hikes we’ve reviewed to jumpstart your adventures.


     

    1. Balance Rock State Park
    2. Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary
    3. Wahconah Falls State Park
    4. Old Mill Trail
    5. Steven’s Glen
    6. Getty Memorial Conservation Area
    7. Mountain Meadow
    8. Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary
    9. Natural Bridge State Park
    10. Greylock Glen Meadow
    11. Historic Becket Quarry
    12. Ashuwillticook Rail Trail
    13. Dorothy Frances Rice Wildlife Sanctuary
    14. Crane’s Pond
    15. Field Farm
    16. Longcope Park
    17. Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary
    18. Thomas & Palmer Brook
    19. Bullard Woods
    20. Constitution Hill

    Handmade Nature Boards & Inserts available in our Etsy Shop!

    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.
    Great Spot! – Kennedy Park

    Great Spot! – Kennedy Park

    Today my Iphone photos reminded me that we did this hike April 13, 2019.

    And here I sit, one year to the day wondering why I never put this review down on paper. It’s a rainy day, much like the one that brought us to Kennedy in search of the red-spotted newts. But like Olaf keeps reminding me, “…the wind blows a little bit colder / And we’re all getting older…” and we decided to stay in and watch Frozen 2, again, instead of venturing out. So I dusted off the files and got to writing. Timing is a funny thing.


    Where We Went : Kennedy Park – Lenox, MA

    When We Went : Mid-April

    Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : Varies, Our hike was 1.5 Boots

    Trail Length : Varying Lengths

    (There are A LOT. We walked Cold Spring Trail, Woolsely Trail, Aspinwall & Bridges.) See map below

    How Long it Took Us : We meandered. Spent about 3 hours wandering and hunting for newts!

    Overview : The Aspinwall Hotel opened its doors in 1902 and immediately became the queen bee of Lenox resorts. Each of it’s 400 rooms featured a fireplace and boasted an in-residence orchestra. Perched high above the town at 1,460 feet above sea-level – the view was spectacular and it was the place to stay for nearly three decades.

    On April 25, 1931, it would burn to the ground. A mile away, a policeman out on his front porch saw the flames and raised the alarm that would leave a 1 million dollar pile of rubble on a Lenox hillside.

    “The hilltop seemed to be completely enveloped in flames — shooting upwards and licking the ebony heavens with their carmine tongues. The sparks flew in all directions, showering the town and threatening hundreds of homes,” an Eagle reporter on the scene wrote. “In the crowd who watched were noctambulists who had not gone to bed, out to parties and dances, they were homeward bound when attracted by the spectacular blaze.”

    In the 1950’s, Lenox turned the abandoned land into a huge reserve of cross-country ski and hiking trails. Re-named John D. Kennedy Park after the man who was pivotal in it’s preservation. Today it occupies 500 acres of forest, ponds, and hillsides.

    What We Dug : Much like the symphony of wood and peeper frogs, one of the most iconic signs of Spring in the Northeast is the appearance of the red efts or eastern newts.

    (Please, if you see a newt on the move try not to touch it unless you are sure your hands are free from chemicals and you have the ability to wash afterwards. Especially, during this time of health uncertainty, it is best practice to let wildlife alone.)

    Still not fully understood by scientists, at some point, a red eft will stop wandering about, mature into its adult phase and finish their life in a pond or lake. As a grown-up their skin changes to yellowish-brown but they maintain the telltale red spots!

    On this soggy day in April we encountered so many along the paths that we turned it into a competition! Their bright orange bodies shone like a beacon on the muted forest floor.

    We each kept a running tally and the person who spotted the most EFTS got the last snack!

    (Not to brag…but I was the winner – with 26 spots – but I shared my snack with everyone.)

    What We Could Do Without : The trails are constantly crisscrossing each other. Blazes are scarce. There are signs at some junctions. The paths are well-worn and easy to follow but it can be easy to get turned around on a multitude of switchbacks and intersecting trails. There are so many access points at Kennedy Park and a lot of trails. This is a wonderful thing in terms of space and access – allowing people the ability to spread out and try diverse trail – however it can easily get confusing for someone unfamiliar with the area. BRING A MAP.

    A good entry point and the hike we did on this trip was from the parking area off of West Dugway Road. From there we take the Cold Spring Trail til it meets with the Woolsey Trail. Then we branched off for an abbreviated walk on the Aspinwall Trail, back down Woolsey Trail and returned by the Bridges Trail.

    Keep Your Eyes Peeled For : Red Efts, Wood Frogs, Peeper Frogs, Cold Spring, Ruins of Aspinwall Hotel, Old Stone Walls, Trillium, Columbine, White Oak, Red Oak, Ash, Beech, Balance Rock

    Must Know Before You Go’s :, There are multiple access points: Adjacent to the Church-on-the-Hill in downtown Lenox – Parking Lot off of West Dugway RoadReservoir RoadLenox Shops entry point, and through the Arcadian Shop lot (Store is CURRENTLY CLOSED), Each of these access points is going to offer different portions of the trail. Because Kennedy Park has such a numerous amount of trails, it is important to have a map and an idea of your bearings. It can be an easy place to take a wrong trail and get turned around. No Facilities. Mountain Biking Allowed. No Motorized Vehicles or Hunting. Leashed Dogs OK

    Directions : Many ways to access – To get to West Dugway Road Parking Lot, Follow ,Route 7 from Pittsfield into Lenox and turn right onto West Dugway Road. Parking is your first left.

    The Arcadian and Lenox Shops are directly after West Dugway Road off of Route 7.

    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.

    Website :

    Resources :

    https://www.alltrails.com/parks/us/massachusetts/kennedy-park

    https://nhpbs.org/wild/easternnewt.asp

    Scroll Through For More Pics From Our Kennedy Park 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!

    Roots Both Bitter & Sweet – Longcope Park

    Where We Went : Longcope Park – South Lee, MA

    When We Went : Early January

    Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : 1.5 Boots

     Trail Length : Loop Trail, just under 1 mile (Blue Blazes)

    How Long it Took Us : 2 Hours

    Overview : Janet Longcope Park is 46-acres of eastern hemlock, pine and oak nestled amongst residences off of Church Street in South Lee. Slowly choking under the weight of invasive Oriental Bittersweet, a plight that in Winter, made an indelible impression.

     It’s namesake – Janet Percy Dana Longcope -was the only daughter of Paul Dana, noted Gilded Age family and editor of The New York Sun. (FUN FACT: the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center in Central Park is named after Janet’s grandfather) Serving as a nurse with the French Army in World War I, Janet would go on to marry John Hopkins Director of Medicine, Warfield Theobald Longcope. The couple would later move to Lee, settling their family on a tract they’d call Cornhill Farm. Now a seasonal rental property, what remains of the Longcope farm is around the corner from Longcope Park. 

    Former Cornhill Farm – Now Jacob’s Tanglewood Ranch

     Janet, a master bookbinder, had a bindery attached to the house. She took on commissions, taught and trained with famed Arno Werner, whose bookbinding shop was in nearby Pittsfield. After her husbands death in 1953, Janet traveled to countries all over the world, returning to some, such as India, as many as nine times. An avid photographer, she enjoyed giving informal lectures about her travels to places like Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Malaysia, and Lebanon (to name just a few). In 1974, she died at Cornhill Farm, aged 88. Her collection of Asian photographs was later gifted to the Smithsonian.

     “The Wings” – Estate of Charles A. Dana on Glen Cove

     

    Oddly enough, while researching Janet Percy Dana Longcope, I stumbled on the very subject that had made our visit to Longcope Park so… bittersweet. (yup. I did it.)

    While this other property was nearly 200 miles away, it was the familiarity of the shared Dana name that caught my eye. In 1889, Garden and Forest magazine published a letter to the editor (Charles Sprague Sargent) describing the elegant estate of one Charles A. Dana. (If you recall, the aforementioned is Janet’s grandfather). Charles Dana’s summer estate – “The Wings“- was located on the tiny island of Dosoris in the town of Glen Cove, North shore of Long Island, New York.

    The anonymous author goes into great detail about the extensive gardens at “The Wings,” but one sentence in particular stood out :

    “A seawall is built all around the island, and it is draped and festooned with Matrimony vine (Lycium barbatum), our native Bitter-sweet, a Japanese species of the same genus (Celastrus articulatus) and Periploca Graeca, which are planted on the top.”

    How do you like that? The very problem currently strangling the woods that make up Longcope Park, making their foreboding appearance 130 years ago at her grandpa’s house, no less! It’s ironic that these two members of the Dana family were such ardent fans of all things Asian. Janet capturing her passion through photography and Charles, a notable Asian art collector, owning over 600 pieces in his lifetime. The Chinese oaks that graced the grounds at “The Wings” were planted with acorns purportedly collected from Confucius’s tomb! It seems strangely congruent yet grimly sardonic that this land gifted by Janet Longcope is threatened to be wiped out by an eastern thread, this Asian essence of which she (and Charles) so treasured. 

    What We Dug : Truth be told, before our visit, I had never even heard of Longcope Park. As a lifetime Berkshire resident, it is always a treat to find these lesser-known plots scattered around the Berkshires. We had no idea what to expect but were pleasantly surprised with an easy-walking loop trail that includes two footbridges crossing a small stream.The downed trees that lay trailside made natural balance beams and the hollow logs were fascinating to the kids as we made our way through the woods. The tall pines were swaying in hushed tones with the cold winter wind. Waterside, we built stone towers and tried to keep dry, penguin-walking over the icy bridges.

    After fungi was inspected, ferns were collected and we passed a moment in silence for a fallen friend (the shrew), we were back at the parking lot and now well acquainted with Longcope Park.

    What We Could Do Without : This. This thing right here. The serpentine succubus that is Oriental bittersweet. A deciduous, woody, perennial vine that is native to parts of Asia. First introduced to the U.S. around 1870 as a hardy and ornamental cover plant, it is now found virtually everywhere in most eastern states. Bittersweet is considered to be one of our most problematic invasive species. It grows really fast and can quickly strangle and topple trees. It has an extremely high germination rate, even when conditions are poor and sunlight scarce. Because of it’s attractive orange berries, birds and people have aided in it’s spread because neither can resist carrying them around to new places. Bittersweet doesn’t just rely on magpie-eyed humans to ensure its survival, ohhh no, this robo-plant can also re-sprout from its roots, making just cutting back the vine totally futile. It can easily climb trees up to 90-feet tall, literally choking out and girdling any plants that it clings to. (Cue the Jumanji flashbacks)

    It’s been observed to have completely covered half-acre wood lots in just 7-10 years.

    Against the bare winter landscape, the orange fruit of the bittersweet stuck out EVERYWHERE. And like a ligneous brown boa constrictor, we could see it’s smothering damage all over Longcope Park.

     

    Keep Your Eyes Peeled For: Eastern Hemlock, White Pine, Beech, Polypody Fern, Mountain Wood Fern, Acadian Fly-Catcher, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Winter Wren, Woodpecker, Chickadee, Nuthatch, Red Squirrel, Red-backed Vole, Smoky Shrew, White-footed Mouse

    Must Know Before You Go’s : Although the temperature was below 30F during our visit, (and colder in the woods!), many portions of the trail were pretty muddy and wet. There was ample room to go around the muddy areas, but keep this in mind as Spring gets closer and the snow melts.

    The entrance to the parking area off of Church Street can sneak up on you, so don’t be surprised if you drive right by and have to turn around.

     No facilities on property. Leashed dogs only. No mountain biking, motorized vehicles or xc-skiing.

     

     

    Directions : From US-7 S in Lenox – Follow US-7 S for 2.5 miles. Turn right onto W Road and follow for 1.6 miles. W Road becomes Church Street and Longcope Park will be on the left.

     Website : https://www.mass-trails.org/towns/Lee/longcopeproperty.html

     Resources : https://www.lee.ma.us/sites/leema/files/uploads/lee_land_trust_trail_guide.pdf

     

    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!