Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Garden of the Seasons: Late Summer in Berkshire County

           One thing that western Massachusetts has a lot of, that we don't have so much of in the eastern part of the state, is space. And when that space is covered by hills and trees and bodies of inland water and lots of green growing organic life, the result can be very attractive.
            When we go to the Berkshires we tend to do a lot of walking among the green stuff. Many walking paths thread through the region's forests; many thousands of acres to walk through, many views -- looking up, or looking down -- and many little local mini-ecosystems along the way to keep the experience fresh.
            We have favorite walks that we have traveled time again. But just as the Zen aphorism tells us you cannot step into the same river twice, you can't walk the same trail either. It's always different; or maybe we are. That's probably the point.
            The Beartown State Forest, the state of Massachusetts tells us, offers an extensive trail network ranging over 15,000 acres. I don't think we've seen a high percentage acres. We mostly stick to what the state's Department of Conservation and Recreation describes as the "1.5 mile Benedict Pond Loop Trail, a must in any season."
            We did the loop last week. A ranger took our seven dollar parking fee and advised us that a sign near a bench at scenic point on the lakefront warns people to stay away from the beehive. We found the bench, but saw no bees. Plenty of dragon flies however cruised and darted over the lake surface, including some brightly colored red ones. A number of them had paired up and were clearly quite attached to each other as they cruised about. One of them, still stag, took a breather on my shirt (see second photo) working up the energy to get back into the game.
            We saw evidence of beaver activity, some very gnawed trees, still standing but chewed down to about fifty percent of their diameter at the bite area before, it appeared, the creatures gave up. We saw a beaver lodge built on the lake quite close to the shore. I was puzzled by the location: no place to do any damming and probably too close to the human presence along the trail to be comfortable. Maybe that's why the lodge seemed abandoned.
            We saw a covey of ducks landing with the huge heavy splash and glide that reminds one of a of seaplane landing. Heard occasional bird cries above in the trees, and spied the silhouette of a turtle sunning on a log far out on the pond on the surface of a log (third photo).
            Some fish came close to the shore to loiter beneath logs in the bronze or brownish water. But the most beautiful natural sight was probably the lake surface itself, as it reflected the high clouds and blue sky in a beautiful late summer New England day (top photo).
            We also saw interesting views in the Tyringham Cobble (photos above and at left), a site the Trustees of Reservations (its owner) describes as "one of the few places in New England where you can stand on a major thrust fault." The cobble, a word for a stony formation, is part of one of the oldest geologic formations in New England. The Trustees use words such as "Ordovician marble rocks" and "Precambrian gneisses" to describe its make-up, terms that translate approximately to "really, really old."
            We revisited an incredibly time-sculpted rock whose profile has earned it the name "Rabbit Rock." We call it "Fiver," after one of the principal characters in a family favorite childhood (and adult) fantasy book, "Watership Down."
             You can tell that we think revisiting a loved site is a lot like visiting an old friend. Especially when you have names for the rocks.