Where We Went : Arrowhead Nature Trail, Pittsfield/Lenox MA

When We Went : Mid-April

Difficulty (Boots 1 – 10) : 1.5 Boots

Trail Length : 0.5 Mile

How Long it Took Us : 1 Hour

Overview :

“Leviathan, white whale – Call me Ishmael.

Sailor, novelist – A failure until posthumous.

Made a home here in the Berks, Hawthorne put up with my quirks.

Hittin’ up old Greylock, Catch me out at Balance Rock.

Wrote Billy Budd & Bartelby, Even messed around with poetry.

When I say Moby, you say Dick –

MOBY…DICK!

 MOBY…DICK!”

Although Melville wasn’t born in the Berkshires, his Uncle Thomas Melvill’s Pittsfield estate offered a much needed refuge and retreat from the drudgery that he faced in Albany at 13 years old. Herman’s father had died in 1832, leaving his family almost irreparably in debt.

At age 12, Herman found himself employed as a clerk at the New York State Bank, working long hours, six days a week for the next three years.

Excuse me? Can you imagine being 12 years old and suiting up for your job at the bank six days a week?! What…

Reflecting on his childhood in the semi-autobiographical novel ,Redburn: His First Voyage,, Melville wrote:

“I must not think of those delightful days, before my father became bankrupt, and dies, and we removed from the city; for when I think of those days, something rises up in my throat and almost strangles me.”

There’s no doubt that that first Berkshire summer of 1832 – Melville’s first break from the confining and monotonous tedium at the bank – offered him so much more than just a breath of fresh air. We can only imagine the profound impact that those sylvan summer days had on Melville’s soul.

So in 1850, when the wealthy Morewood’s moved to purchase his Uncle’s estate (renaming it Broadhall and the current home of the Pittsfield Country Club) and the surrounding 300 acres for $6500, it seems logical to think that Herman would curse himself for not having the necessary funds to buy it first. It likely stirred a deep-rooted feeling inside, a gnawing desire to break the mold of his destitute father and secure the very thing that impassioned him.

When an adjacent Pittsfield property went up for sale that same year, also priced $6500 (1/2 the acreage), Melville could hardly miss a second opportunity to reclaim his gossamer glimmers of childhood and prove himself as a man. Borrowing heavily from his father-in-law and incurring a mortgage, Herman was able to purchase Arrowhead in a harried fit of nostalgia.

There have been other theories raised to explain Melville’s moment of impulsivity. Michael Sheldon, author of “Melville In Love”

Subject to even more scrutiny is his relationship with Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Some scholars propose that this meeting sparked the impetuous purchase of the Berkshire farm, an attempt by Melville to remain close to his literary guru.

Writings of this odd pair have been scrutinized for decades, Melville the overzealous and infatuated admirer (a 19th-century “Stan” if you will.)

We can never know the true motives behind anyone’s personal choices, past or present, and too often historical conjecture misses the heart of human nature.

When I walked the trail behind Arrowhead I was walking in Herman Melville’s footsteps, maybe even Sarah Morewood’s and Hawthorne’s too. But try as I might to put myself in each of their shoes, my takeaway can only be personal. And there is one thing I know for certain. Whether you grew up in the Berkshires, like me, or you’ve been a visitor to these rolling hills and dales, you know all too well the mark they leave on you. And for any writer, is there ever a greater muse than the one you’re living in?

What We Dug :

While this makes an unparalleled accompaniment for the adult explorer, for the shorter set, try out the BHS Stanwix’s Scavenger Hunt! With two different versions, kids can feel challenged and engaged during their easy trek through the woods.

We printed off both versions and M & V each did one, then swapped and did each others!

The trail itself is easy to follow and equally easy walking. From the parking lot we crossed to the mown meadow path and upwards into the woods. Following the white arrowhead signs serving as trail markers, we searched high and low for the items on Stanwix’s Lists and found much more than we bargained for. A cache of wild ramps was hiding just off the path and our resident eagle eye spotted scarlet elf cups under a stand of birches. You can imagine young Malcolm (Melville’s eldest son) and little Stanwix running amok through the woods and catch a glimpse of the former Morewood property at the border of the neighboring golf course. Bring binoculars for meadow-side bird watching and don’t forget to look for the whale!

What We Could Do Without : Bittersweet strikes again…If you hike often, it’s likely you’ll see this serpentine strangler. Sometimes we see it just taking hold, while other places we see the devastation that occurs as a result of this merciless invasive. Melville’s woods are in the unforgiving grip of Celastrus orbiculatus. It hasn’t quite reached the levels that we saw at Longcope Park in Lee.  

Keep Your Eyes Peeled For : Purple Trillium, Trout Lily, Wild Ramps, Crinkleroot, Scarlet Elf Cup, Wood Anemone, Foamflower, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Blue Cohosh, False Solomon’s Seal, Garlic Mustard, Springtails, Wood Thrush, Oven Bird, Gray Catbird, Downy Woodpecker, Goldfinch, Blue Jay, American Redstart, Common Buckthorn, Beech, Black Cherry, Hemlock, Hop Hornbeam, Red Oak, Sugar Maple, White Ash, White Birch, White Pine

Must Know Before You Go’s : Parking is in the rear behind the Red Barn. No Facilities. Arrowhead is currently closed for tours. No Hunting, No Mountain Bikes or Motorized Vehicles, Leashed Dogs OK

FOR HIKING GUIDELINES DURING COVID-19 PLEASE REFER TO THIS HELPFUL LINK FOR MORE INFORMATION – HELP KEEP OTHERS SAFE & FLATTEN THE CURVE!

Directions : 780 Holmes Road Pittsfield, MA.

From the Massachusetts Turnpike(I-90), take Exit 2 (Lee). Follow Route 20 West for 8.5 miles; it will merge with Route 7 North. Turn right onto Holmes Road at the traffic light. Arrowhead is 1.5 miles ahead on the left.

From points north: Route 20, Route 9, and Route 7 all lead to Pittsfield and intersect with major interstates. Consult your own maps for reaching Route 7 from where you are. Once you are on Route 7 South, follow Route 7 South until you cross the Pittsfield-Lenox town line. Turn left onto Holmes Road at the traffic light. Arrowhead is 1.5 miles ahead on the left.

Website : www.mobydick.org

Resources : https://berkshirehistory.org/visit-us/house-landscape-tours/

Power of Place by Marianna Poutasse

Scroll through for more pictures of our Arrowhead adventure!

Faded Footsteps – Arrowhead Nature Trail

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