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 Road, Reservoir Road, Lenox 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.