Friday, October 18, 2013

The Garden of Possible Places: More Hikes & Walks in the Berkshires



There is no such thing as too many places to walk in the woods.     

            Mountain Meadow in Williamstown, a Trustees of Reservations property (just like Bartholomew's Cobble), was our first shot at expanding our repertoire of favorite places once we purchased new guidebook called "Hikes & Walks in the Berkshire Hills."

            We followed the directions we found for this "walk" destination and headed north on Route 7, a long ride enlivened on another gorgeous fall day by views not only of those high ridges running parallel to the east (among them Mt. Greylock, the tallest peak in the state) but of the foliage-hungry tourists pulled over to the side of the road on somebody's open hay field to try to capture the panorama on their cameras.

            The hike from the Mountain Meadow parking lot a few miles north of the center of Williamstown starts from the word go with an ascent, a steady though not steep incline. It passes through a beautiful field of wild grasses cut to about knee high, from which you can see Greylock. The trail takes you toward the property's own "summit," but since we learned from other hikers that the view was blocked by the tree canopy we passed on the climb and worked our way instead around to the remains of a woodland "camp" where we admired the sturdy stone fireplace and chimney and caught a partial view of the surrounding peaks. A smaller fireplace held somebody's hand-crafted nativity scene made of sheet metal. Birds called and flashed away, avoiding us. Too many visitors; sick of us by October.

            On the road back south we used our new guidebook to locate another trail site off Route 7, called Sheep Hill. You find it at a place that looks like an old farm and is now the office for the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation. It looks like you're pulling up the drive to somebody's well-maintained and far too neat-and-clean farm (real farms are dirty and generally smell), but there's a parking area between one building and another and signs of cute welcome you, including cutouts of sheep with holes where you can stick your face for the photos. Also a picnic table and some shaved grass for a path around an amazingly contoured hillside field grown for a grassy feed crop. It looks like it's been ploughed, harrowed and mowed to be somebody's real-life installation art project: Perfect Terraced Hillside. The green was sublime in the late afternoon sunlight. The pictures I took flatten the perspective and fail to capture the steepness of the ploughed hillside. In the late afternoon the color, textures, and light were amazing. If there are still really sheep on this farm, they must think they are living in Shangri-la.

            The book tells us this place was once the "old Rosenburg Farm." Mostly we admired the view and didn't walk very far because the day was growing late and we had already logged a few miles. But we collected some maps and kept it in mind for another day.

            Two good sites. Pretty fair harvest for our first day's application of our new toy. The previous trail guide we have been using for way too long before our new acquisition was published 40 years ago. Some of the views described in its pages were no longer there. Some trees grow pretty high in 40 years. Forty years from now will there still be books? Paper? (Trees?)