Winter Tree Week

Winter Tree Week


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

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

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

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

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

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


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First Week Hikes 2021

First Week Hikes 2021

First Week Hikes 2021

 

The past few years we’ve celebrated the turn of a new year with a First Day Hike. Read about the changes for 2021 below and then check out this list of family-friendly winter hikes to help you plan your own First Week Hike adventure. 

First Day Hikes were an initiative that began in Massachusetts in 1992, 380 people showed up for the inaugural event at Blue Hills Reservation! Since then, it has spread all over the nation and all 50 states now recognize this tradition as an alternative start to the new year!

For the celebration of this initiative’s 30th anniversary, the DCR invites you to step into the New Year with a First Week Hike, a COVID-19 alternative to the traditional First Day Hikes. 

There are some changes to this year’s tradition in order to keep everyone safe during the pandemic:

  • Extending the traditional one-day hike to any day during First Week 2021, to prevent over-crowding due to COVID-19.
  • Introducing self-guided adventures to ensure safe social distancing
  • Picking a park near you to keep it safe and local,
  • If you can’t get to a state park or have limited abilities, try getting out of doors each day of First Week 2021 for fresh air and movement right where you live—to build a healthy habit this the New Year,
  • Sharing your DCR state park adventure on Instagram and twitter @MassDCR #MAFirstWeekHikes

Additional changes include:

  • DCR visitor centers and rest rooms may be closed due to COVID-19,
  • Hospitality options such as hot chocolate offered in prior years will not be available due to COVID-19,
  • No guided hikes are offered or allowed to prevent clustering of visitors, and
  • Masks or facial coverings will be required at all times in all state parks.

DCR has 150 state parks and thousands of miles of trails. To find an outdoor location near you, visit:  www.mass.gov/info-details/dcr-programs-and-events for a list of recommended self-guided hikes. 

You can find our 2020 hike HERE

Use the hashtags #MAFirstWeekHikes & #BerkshireFamilyHikes to be featured!

12 Winter Hikes for Families

12 Winter Hikes for Families

“Let us not wish away the winter. It is a season to itself, not simply the way to spring. Winter is a table set with ice and starlight.” – Greta Crosby

Winter is a wonderful time of year to hike. Blankets of snow and the crisp, cold air bring a fresh perspective to many of our favorite, familiar places. Views are clearer and unobstructed, bugs are a non-issue, and animal tracks turn us all into snow detectives. Check out some of our favorite spots for Winter family hiking. Pile on the layers and get out there already! Be sure to have the cocoa ready for your return… 

Field Farm, Williamstown

FREE / 316

This Trustees of Reservations property is 4 miles of trails through expansive fields, sculpture gardens, and features 2 historic modernist homes. The day we visited the beavers were very busy preparing for winter.

Suggested routePond Trail: 0.4 miles (around an active beaver pond) Ice Skating Prohibited

Read about our Field Farm adventure HERE

Old Mill Trail, Dalton

FREE / 127 Acres

A Berkshire Natural Resources Council property, the first 0.7 miles of the Old Mill Trail is accessible. Remnants of a 19th-century textile mill are found along the river’s edge. Keep an eye out for hidden fairy stones! Don’t forget to hide them again before you leave.

Suggested route – 3 miles out & back. Be sure to cross Route 8 for the most incredible views alongside the Housatonic River. 

Read about our Old Mill Trail adventure HERE

 

Thomas & Palmer Brook, Great Barrington

 FREE / 219 Acres

Another BNRC property overlooking expansive pasture and woodlands. Climb glacial erratics and contemplate the lives of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation that called these lands home. 

 Suggested Route – 0.5 mile accessible loop trail, continue on the wood road to extend your hike. 

Read about our Thomas & Palmer adventure HERE

Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary, Lenox

FREE / 253 Acres

One of the 1st hikes we ever did was at Canoe Meadows in Pittsfield. This Mass Audubon property offers 3 miles of well-marked walking trails. A wonderful place to birdwatch and test out your winter pishing skills. Don’t forget the binoculars!

Suggested Route – Sacred Way Trail: 1 mile Sometimes flooded by beaver activity.

Read about our Canoe Meadows adventure HERE.

John Lambert Nature Trail, Pittsfield

FREE 

Maintained by BCC Environmental and Life Sciences students and faculty, this trail can be found to the rear of Berkshire Community College and it’s truly a hidden gem. Enjoy the 75-year old white pine stands, bird-watching and glorious views of the Taconic Range and the Berkshire Hills. There’s also a geocache here!

Suggested route – 0.5 mile loop trail

Road's End Wildlife Sanctuary, Worthington

FREE / 190 Acres

Another Mass Audubon gem in Worthington, offering two gentle loops through fields and forest, most of it bordering brookside. Keep an eye out for the large “Wolf Trees.”

Suggested Route – Brookside Trail Loop: 0.5 mile Note: The parking area is not plowed in the winter. Park at the end of Corbett Road and walk to access road to the trailhead. 

Read about our Roads End adventure HERE.

Wahconah Falls State Park, Dalton

FREE

Located off of Route 9 before the Windsor town line, you’ll find a 40-foot waterfall at the end of a short walk. Wahconah Falls can be a magical place when frozen over  but be cautious of your footing as rocks can be slippery or hidden beneath the snow.

Suggested Route – A 0.5 mile trail follows the upper falls to the town reservoir, returns to the parking lot via the dirt road or retrace your steps. 

Read about our Wahconah Falls adventure HERE.

 

Greylock Glen Meadow, Adams

FREE / 1,063 Acres

 One of our all-time favorite places to get outdoors with the kids. We reviewed this trail in May and returned again January 1st of 2020 to kick off the New Year. We even made a custom scavenger hunt for our adventure, the kids loved it!

Suggested Route – Glen Meadow Loop 1.57 miles

The Glen has multi-use trails for hikers, naturalists, skiers, snowshoers, mountain bikers, and snowmobiles.

Read about our Greylock Glen adventure HERE.

Dorothy Frances Rice Wildlife Sanctuary, Peru

FREE / 300 Acres

Woodlands, meadows and a pond are featured on six different colored trails. There is a well-detailed map at the cabin area to assist in navigating the trails, each of which is a half-mile to one-mile long. Check out the trail log for photos of wildlife that roam the area. 

 Suggested Route – Take the 0.5 mile Yellow Trail off of the wood road where you park, it will take you to the caretaker cabin and the map/intersection of all trails.

Read about our DFR adventure HERE.

Hopkins Memorial Forest, Williamstown

FREE / 2,600 Acres

If you enjoy walking through the woods on winding trails, then Hopkins is a great spot. The trails are wide and well-maintained and there are several options, from a short to longer loops. The HMF contains about 15 miles of trails open to the public for walking, skiing and snowshoeing. 

Suggested RouteThe Nature Trail 0.75 miles, or the Lower Loop Trail 1.5 miles

Bullard Woods, Stockbridge

FREE / 52 Acres

 Visit a rare stand of old-growth forest along the shores of the Stockbridge Bowl. The woods were originally part of the estate surrounding the Highwood manor house, now part of Tanglewood. Hiking trails lead to the shoreline, and a brief walk through the woods, connects to trails at Gould Meadows.

Suggested Route – 1.25 miles of easy walking trails

Read about our Bullard Woods adventure HERE.

Eugene D. Moran Wildlife Management Area, Windsor

FREE / 1,462 Acres

 Located just north of Windsor town center, sits this hilly nature & wildlife conservation area, a great place to visit in the winter. A former dairy farm, it is home to 99 breeding bird species and other wildlife species, and offers views of Mount Greylock. Visitors can see diverse habitats including emergent freshwater marshes, spruce stands, and shrub habitats.

 Suggested Route – 1.4 miles of public trails

Trekollections 2020

Trekollections 2020

What a year. Full of hardships, heartache and buzz words like “unprecedented,” “new normal,” and “abundance of caution.” But as silver linings go, coupled with the universal closures of the entire world, it left one thing open — the outdoors. A place that happens to be our favorite place of all, and a place that we were lucky enough to enjoy to the fullest. 

We had set a goal to do 50 hikes & we went way beyond that, doing over 65 hikes in 2020!

We did some challenging hikes, revisited some old favorites and experienced other trails in seasons we hadn’t experienced before. This year we saw Berkshire Family Hikes blurbed in a local newspaper and magazine, organized a successful trail clean up, featured in a recurring column on Berkshires Macaroni Kid, reached 1000 followers on Instagram and was suggested by some of you asking for hiking recommendations. Thank you all for your tremendous support over the past few years! I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels!

Heading into 2021, I’ve never been more excited for the possibilities. We have a website revamp on the horizon, a GIANT list of hikes to tackle, and the workings of a book are starting to come together!

We are also excited to be participating in the 52 Hike Challenge and encourage you to join us!

Keep scrolling to see some of our favorite hikes from 2020!

Family

Favorite Hike

The Pines
High Street, Dalton

Biggest Challenge

Lye Brook Falls
Manchester, VT.

Dad’s

Favorite

Old Mill Trail
Route 8, Hinsdale

Beyond the Berkshires

George Aiken Wildflower Trail
Bennington, VT.

Favorite Waterfall

Glendale Falls
Clark Wright Road, Middlefield

Best Meltdown

Constitution Hill
Bridge Street, Lanesborough

Spring

Hike

Pittsfield State Forest
Cascade Street, Pittsfield

Summer Hike

Chapel Brook Falls
Williamsburg Road, Ashfield

Fall

Hike

Shaker Trail
Route 20, Hancock

Winter

Hike

Dorothy Frances Rice Wildlife Sanctuary
South Road, Peru

Favorite Moment

Monk’s Pond
Richmond Mt. Road, West Stockbridge

Mom’s Most 

Memorable

Diane’s Trail
Gould Road, Monterey

Cold Weather Walk – Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary

Cold Weather Walk – Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary

Where We Went : Mass Audubon Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary / Pittsfield, MA

When We Went : February 2019

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : 1 Boot / 1.5 Boot with snow on the ground

Trail Length : Sacred Way Trail 1.2 miles / 1 hour

How Long it Took Us : 2.5 hours

Overview : Canoe Meadows is 262 acres of field, forest, and wetland bordering the Housatonic River, just a mile from the center of Pittsfield, open year round. three miles of well-marked walking trails include two loops that you can explore.

The famed poet and essayist Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. inherited Canoe Meadows in 1848 and built the house that still stands (privately owned) on a knoll that overlooks the Housatonic and the meadows. He punned that “The best tonic is the Housatonic.”

What We Dug : Canoe Meadows got its name because the Mohicans beached their canoes on the meadows along the river. This name appears in the early historical records of the city of Pittsfield. We had fun pretending our sled was a canoe and we were dragging it to the shore. The trails are easygoing, flat walks. With the snow we definitely upped the energy expenditure and it was more difficult to discern whether we were following the actual trail. But it was such a wide open space for the kids to enjoy the snow! Even so close to a busy city, the area is screened from the sounds of traffic and other suburban noises. Wildlife are there for the viewing but we were making such a racket, we cut a wide berth between us and any other living creatures.

What We Could Do Without : It was a wintery day, so it automatically lost points with me.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For : Otter, beaver, muskrat, raccoon, fox, coyotes, deer, turtle, frog,

Must Know Before You Go’s : Trail is sometimes flooded due to beaver activity. Obviously not an issue in February, but please check with the Audubon office for current trail conditions (413-637-0320)

Directions : From the Mass. Turnpike (Rt I-90): Take exit 2 (Lee). Follow Rt 7 and Rt 20 north for 8 miles to Holmes Road. Turn right onto Holmes Road and proceed 2.7 miles to sanctuary entrance on the right.

From the north and Rt 9: Take Rt 7 and Rt 20 south from Pittsfield to Lenox. Turn left onto Holmes Road at the traffic light and proceed 2.7 miles to the sanctuary entrance on the right. GPS 42.430527, -73.237482

Website:

Resources :

Gone Pishing…?!

Gone Pishing…?!

To those in the know – AKA bird watchers – “pishing” is a universal term used to describe the various sounds one can make to entice smaller birds to come a lil’ bit closer.

The jury’s still out as to why this works, although there are quite a few theories:
  • The “pshh” sound closely resembles the scolding noise made by birds that are alerting others of a threat or predator.
  • It’s similar to a mother bird’s feeding call to her young.
  • It sounds like insects buzzing around, ready to be eaten.
  • Birds are innately curious and playful and attracted by sounds.

Regardless of the why, get your sounds right and suddenly you’re Dr. Doolittle in the woods, feeding chickadees from the palm of your hand…(not really) and if it fails, well then you’re just another weird, stranger making noises at the trees.

Our 1st time pishing went was not quite the flood of feathers I was expecting. At home, I had imagined it going more like Saint Francis of Assisi, whispering to my winged friends as they fluttered around me…but, uh..yea, it’s harder than it looks. It was another good time to remind myself that when dealing with nature, it’s best to check your preconceptions at the door (who’s the patron saint of low expectations?).

Not all birds respond to pishing and some are more responsive than others. Small birds such as chickadees, finches, nuthatches, sparrows, finches, titmice, jays, warblers, and wrens, are more reactive to these sorts of calls.

It comes down to the type/tempo/volume/combination/style in which you “pish” that makes the difference. Here are some tips that may help you find your inner bird:

  • Switch up sounds like “pishh” “pshh” “sip” “seep” and “chit-chit-chit” and see what works.
  • Draw out the “shhh” like you’re a very angry librarian.
  • Most noises are easily made with your teeth together and repeated about 3-5 times in a slow, regular tempo.
  • Switch up the tempo or mix two different sounds together.
  • Keep your volume conversational. Birds have great hearing and loud noises will scare them away.
  • Kissing the back of your hand in quick succession will give you a squeaky, chickadee-like sound.

After doing a bit more research, we were ready for another try. The fair weather conditions certainly helped and we successfully conjured a few, so I’d call that an improvement!

Like anything else that involves human and nature interaction, there is a point where the ethics need to be considered. Pishing and the use of taped bird calls are controversial and with good reason. We are drawing the birds away from their natural activities and disrupting their day-to-day flow. They could be nesting, caring for young, foraging, etc., and interrupting those daily activities could negatively impact their behavior and survival.

*Important*  Avoid pishing in sensitive areas like rare-bird sites and during breeding/nesting months. There are areas where this practice is prohibited because of the stress and disruption it induces. Always allow birds to return to normal activities after briefly viewing them. Practice respect and good judgment.

Bird-calling is a skill that takes practice to master. Maybe you’ll develop your own style over time and “pish” out the freshest Jays. Or maybe it’ll just be you and the trees, “pishing” in the wind.


Scroll through for more pictures of Legion Pond in Dalton & Canoe Meadows in Pittsfield.