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.

Take a Hike to Honor Native American Heritage Month

Take a Hike to Honor Native American Heritage Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Thomas and Palmer Brook Reserve

Great Barrington / 0.5 miles

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

Umpachenee Falls

New Marlborough / 0.5 miles

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

Jug End Wildlife Refuge

South Egremont / 2 miles

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

Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary

Pittsfield / 3 miles

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

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

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

Monument Mountain

Great Barrington / 3 trails, all under 3 miles

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

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

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

Mahican-Mohawk Trail

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

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

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

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Picnics, Paths, & Pebbles – Bullitt Reservation

Picnics, Paths, & Pebbles – Bullitt Reservation

Where We Went: Bullitt Reservation in Ashfield/Conway MA

When We Went: Mid-May 2020

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10): 1.5 Boots

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

How Long it Took Us: 2 Hours

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GPS 42.502257 -72.756001

Website: thetrustees.org

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

Haunted Hikes of the Berkshires

Haunted Hikes of the Berkshires

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

Historic Becket Quarry
  1. Historic Becket Quarry

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

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

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

1-2 miles of trail, moderate

456 Quarry Road, Becket, Mass

Click here to read our full review of Becket Quarry

Historic Becket Quarry

2. UFOs at Sheffield Park

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

No trails.

Covered Bridge Lane, Sheffield, Mass. 

Historic Becket Quarry

3. Ghosts of Bash Bish Falls

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

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

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

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

 Bash Bish Falls Trail, 2.1 miles, moderate

Bash Bish Falls State Park, Mount Washington, Mass

Historic Becket Quarry

4. Departed Spirits at Shaker Mountain

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

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

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

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

The Shakers would return home physically exhausted and spiritually refreshed.

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

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

Route 20, Hancock, Mass

Historic Becket Quarry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bellows Pipe Trail, 6.1 miles out and back, Difficult

Gould Road, Adams, Mass

Historic Becket Quarry

6. Pet Cemetery at the Mount

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

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

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

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

The Mount grounds include various short trails. 

2 Plunkett Street, Lenox, Mass

Historic Becket Quarry

7. The Devil’s Altar at Wizard’s Glen

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

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

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

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

No marked trails, use caution on the rocks.  

Gulf Road, Dalton, Mass

Historic Becket Quarry

8. Camp Windigo at Windsor Jambs State Forest

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

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

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

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

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

Windsor Jambs Trail from River Road, 2 miles, Intermediate 

River Road, Windsor, Mass

Historic Becket Quarry

9. Haunted Hoosac Tunnel – East Entrance

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

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

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

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

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

239 River Road, Florida, Mass.

Historic Becket Quarry

10. West Branch Chapel Cemetery at October Mountain State Forest

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

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

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

Unmarked trails. Use at your own risk.

October Mountain, West Branch Road, Washington, Mass

Historic Becket Quarry

11. Sinister Springside Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

874 North Street, Pittsfield, Mass 

Historic Becket Quarry

12. Ashintully’s Egyptian Curse

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

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

Easy trails through the mansion foundations and gardens.

Sodom Road, Tyringham, Mass

Historic Becket Quarry

13. Bigfoot at Felton Pond in October Mountain State Forest

Bigfoot lives in the Berkshires!

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

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

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

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

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

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

20 Family-Friendly Fall Foliage Hikes

20 Family-Friendly Fall Foliage Hikes

When it comes to fall foliage, nothing beats the spectrum of colors on display in the Berkshire hills. Leaf peepers rejoice as the forested landscape erupts into shades of copper, cornelian, cranberry, gold, and every hue in between. From late September to October, this prismatic flash in the pan transforms any regular, old weekend hike into a dream-like ramble. Gazing at these fiery hills from an elevated vantage point makes us feel fixed in suspension, floating between halcyon days and the edges of change.

These hikes are grouped in order of difficulty, beginning with the most accessible for any age. None of the hikes are over 3 miles, yet some may be more suitable for older children because of steeper ascents and proximity to a ledge. Trust your gut, you know best what your family can handle. Be mindful that fall brings hunting season to some places and packing a blaze orange vest is a cheap and effective precaution.

Enjoy the fall, ya’ll!


Three Sisters Sanctuary (Goshen) – Technically located in Hampshire County, this creative gem is well worth a side trip over the Berkshire borders. Touted as a “place where nature and art merge,” one man’s sensational vision is 8-acres of sculpture gardens and art installations. More of a walk than a hike, you could spend hours here trying to take it all in. In the fall, the area gets fully decorated and the surrounding woodlands are also bursting with color. The fire-breathing dragon is incredible to behold against a clear blue sky. If you’re looking for an interactive, beautiful, and accessible fall walk for any age – look no further.

Niles Trail at Mountain Meadow Preserve (Williamstown/Vermont) – At the end of August, we adventured to this Trustees property and couldn’t get enough of the views! We are so excited to go back and take in the view of Greylock and the Hoosac Valley during foliage season. Check out our review here, there were mantids!

Sacred Way Trail at Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary (Pittsfield) – One of six Mass Audubon properties in Berkshire County, Canoe Meadows is wonderful in every season. Take the Sacred Way Trail and enjoy a gentle, flat 1-mile trail winds through the sanctuary’s scenic woods, fields, wetlands, and along the Housatonic River. Open fields offer opportunities to take in fall colors. A great spot to bird watch for migrant species during the changing seasons. Fall is a great season to Go Pishing!

Benedict Pond Loop Trail (Great Barrington) – Located in lush Beartown State Forest, this flat 1.7 mile loop is great for all ages and offers beautiful views of serene Benedict pond. Surrounded by dense woodlands, this backdrop in fall transition, is something to see.

Glen Meadow Loop at Greylock Glen (Adams) – Established in 2017, the newer 1.5 mile Glen Meadow Loop trail takes you around picturesque Greylock Glen. The trail is gravel, making walking a breeze. Have fun hunting for the remnants of an abandoned ski resort. The wide open views of Greylock and surrounding hills are not to be missed. One of our favorites in all seasons, we come back here in the spring, summer, and the winter

Wild Acres (Pittsfield) – Climb to the top of the observation tower and take in the surrounding mountain foliage. Located off of South Mountain Road in Pittsfield, Wild Acres is a 1.2 mile lightly trafficked loop neighboring the Pittsfield Airport. 

 

Stone Hill Trails at the Clark (Williamstown) – Part of the Clark Art Museum Complex and owned by Williams College, this is one of the most popular destinations in Williamstown for hiking and enjoying the panoramic views over Williamstown. Check out the trail map for a variety of trails, many short and easy, but all beautiful. It’s hard to pick just one!

Trails at Sheep Hill (Williamstown) – Both the grounds and farmhouse are open year round to the public and a classroom is stocked with binoculars, field guides and other materials to borrow during your visit. There are two trails to choose from – the Rosenburg Ramble which takes you around the perimeter of the property, and the shorter Meadow Walk. Both of these trails offer dramatic views of the valley and surrounding mountains. Rosenburg Ramble is approximately 1- 1.5 miles. The Meadow Walk is a short, easy way to enjoy the views of Sheep Hill, and loops around the pond at the foot of the hillside.

Tyringham Cobble Loop (Tyringham) – Tucked away in tiny Tyringham, this Trustees property includes a 2.1 mile loop trail running through a combination of meadow and forest. Keep an eye out for the aptly named Rabbit Rock! A well-marked trail leads to a spectacular view of the valley at the summit. See if you can spot the quaint Tyringham churchyard from the top!

Warner Hill (Hinsdale/Pittsfield) – Part of the AT, this easy up-and-back hike is 1.4 miles, ideal for families. Head through a dense evergreen forest, crunch through fallen maple and beech leaves along old stone walls, and finally to Warner Hill, where the summit offers a view of Mount Greylock on a clear day.The trailhead is right off a small the parking shoulder on Blotz Road, in Pittsfield.

Rounds Rock Trail (Cheshire) – Part of Mount Greylock State Reservation, Rounds Rock is a great spot to tackle a less strenuous hike at Greylock. This 0.9 mile trail is a moderately trafficked loop and is good for all skill levels. The remains of a 1948 plane crash and its memorial is a point of interest. The hike reaches its peak with two scenic vistas offering gorgeous autumn views.

North Trail at Field Farm (Williamstown) – Nestled in the valley between the Greylock and Taconic ranges, you’ll find another Trustees property. Field Farm boasts a pond, caves, sculpture garden, and two modernist style homes all located onsite. North Trail is a popular hike, a mile long trail that encircles the central pasture and shows off jaw-dropping mountain views in all directions. Another trail, the Caves Loop, will enchant any imagination, no matter the age. We enjoy visiting the beavers during the winter months, too.

York Lake Loop Trail in Sandisfield State Forest (Sandisfield) – This loop trail encircles the lake through dense woods and busy wetlands. The trail is 2.2 miles long and can be wet in places depending on the weather. The open beach area is wonderful place for foliage viewing while enjoying a picnic lunch.

 

Laura’s Tower Trail (Stockbridge) – A 1.5 mile out-and-back hike that begins with a quiet walk through an old pine and hemlock grove. Boulders crop up on the wide trail towards yellowing birch trees. At the top of your climb you will reach a metal observation tower. Take the stairs to take in breathtaking panoramic views of Mt. Greylock, The Catskills, and Vermont’s Green Mountains. 

 

Sunset Rock Trail at Hoosac Range (North Adams) – Part of the Hoosac Range, this short 1.6 mile round-trip hike has a small steep portion, but a big pay off, with views to the west and north, overlooking North Adams. The BNRC parking lot is on the right, immediately after the Wigwam Cabins.

Summit Trail to Pony Mountain at Chapel Brook (Ashfield) – Summit Trail is a steeper 0.5 mile hike that leads around the western side of Pony Mountain to its top, where incredible panoramic views of the foothills of the changing Berkshires can be taken in.

 

Mahanna Cobble (Lenox/Pittsfield) – The northern summit of Yokun Ridge, this BNRC property extends into Bousquet Ski area. Parking is available at Bousquet (except for winter!). Take the far left slope onto the Drifter Ski Trail (make sure to turn around and check out the view!) and climb upwards to the highest chair lift (so many VIEWS!). Continue past the radio tower to a 1/4 mile trek through the woods. The summit opens up to a stone bench and MORE glorious views.

Basin Pond (Lee) – From the trailhead, the 2.5 mile route takes hikers on an easy ramble alongside boulders and stone stairs. The trail splits but converges again at a short spur that leads to the ruins of a twice-flooded dam. Either trail you choose doesn’t require much exertion. A lookout platform offers a terrific spot to view the ruins, the beaver pond, and all the vibrant colors of autumn.

Drury Trail at Drury Preserve (Sheffield) – Approximately a 3-mile walk, up and back, through lowland forests, and a variety of wet and dry communities. There are boardwalks over the wettest areas, and at the end of the trail, take in a striking view across Schenob Brook of Taconic Range’s Mount Race.

Dry Hill (New Marlborough) – Owned by the Trustees, this is a 2-mile out-and-back trail of mostly flat and easy walking.The oak forest that covers the upper ridge is awash with color during the autumn months. The last few minutes to the summit are a bit steep and rocky, but well-worth it for the unmatched fall views.


What adventures are we missing out on?

Do you have favorite foliage hikes or fall spots in the Berkshires?

Share in the comments below!

Tag @berkshirefamilyhikes in your fall foliage pics on Instagram and Facebook! Use the hashtags #berkshirefamilyhikes and #fallinlovewiththeberkshires

Safe Covid-19 Hiking Practices 

  • Visit parks and recreation areas that are close to your home.
  • Don’t visit crowded parks or campgrounds.
  • Carefully consider use of playgrounds, and help children follow guidelines.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from people you don’t live with.
  • Wear a mask.
  • Wash your hands often and don’t share items with people you don’t live with.
Top Hikes for Accessibility in the Berkshires

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.