Posts Tagged ‘massachusetts’

The Berkshires: Bartholomew’s Cobble and Bash Bish Falls

October 25, 2013

Bartholomew’s Cobble is named after the farmer who used to own this stony outcropping of quartzite and marble along the Housatonic River. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971 for its unusual diversity of plants. The highlight of the Cobble is Hurlburt’s Hill, which climbs 1,000 feet before it plateaus into a meadow with vistas of the Housatonic River Valley. The hiking trail (called the Tractor Path) starts across the street from the visitor center and runs along a flat meadow before gradually climbing up. This climb may tax your strength, but what you are climbing is most definitely not a mountain, a fact for which you will be thankful when you reach the top. You are soon rewarded with a bench to rest yourself and a 180-degree view, mainly north. With your binoculars and a little luck, you can also spot some hawks going along their migration route. We had the binoculars but not the luck.

This picture doesn’t do the hill justice. It was hard to capture the height of this place because of the wide plateau.
Bartholomew's Cobble

The Cobble also has a number of trails by the visitor center. We did the short Craggy Knoll Trail but found it disappointing. The longer Ledges Trail is supposed to be more promising with some caves along the way. There is also the historic Ashley House that you can explore if you take the Hal Borland Trail.

Bash Bish Falls, located in Mount Washington State Forest, is Massachusett’s highest single-drop waterfall. At the MA/NY border, the water flows out of MA and into NY where it later joins the Hudson River. There are two ways to get to the falls, from the MA side or the NY side. We opted for the NY side and did not regret it.

Once we parked and started on the trail, we soon encountered a fast-flowing stream created by the falls almost a mile away. There were plenty of large rocks to scramble over.

Bash Bish Falls

We found this guy hula hooping in the middle of the stream with headphones on, clearly unfazed by the audience of hikers.

Bash Bish Falls

When we got to the falls, we were rewarded with this.

Bash Bish Falls

…and a view from below via stairs.
Bash Bish Falls

Bartholomew’s Cobble is in Sheffield off of Route 7A. The entry fee is $5 per person. No dogs or bikes. Bash Bish Falls is in Mount Washington and can be reached off of Route 22 – look for signs for Copake Falls or Taconic State Park. Parking is free and the walk to the Falls is a 3/4 mile of gradual climb. Dogs are ok, but no bikes and no swimming.

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The Berkshires: Pleasant Valley Sanctuary and Mount Greylock

October 18, 2013

Mount Greylock was Massachusetts’ first wilderness state park. It also lays claim to being the highest point in the state at about 3,500 feet in elevation. You can hike to the summit from the visitor center or drive up the summit road, which is open from late May through November 1st. There are several lookout points along the summit road.

Mount Greylock

When you reach the top, you will find the Veteran’s War Memorial Tower. Normally, you can climb to the top and get an even more aerial view of the State, but unfortunately, it is closed indefinitely for repairs.

Mount Greylock

I recommend plopping yourself down near the edge like these folks for some silent contemplation.

Mount Greylock

Bring your binoculars!

Mount Greylock

Pleasant Valley Sanctuary near Lenox has an extensive network of trails going through dense woods, streams, and ravines. It is well-known for its beavers. Amazingly, these beavers are all descendants of three beavers gifted by the State of New York in 1932. Beavers are nocturnal creatures, so if you’re dead-set on seeing some, going close to dusk is probably your best bet. Here’s a beavers’ nest, probably with beavers sleeping inside.

Pleasant Valley Sanctuary

The easy, flat trail around Pike’s Pond is very nice and has a viewing platform with benches.
Pleasant Valley Sanctuary

I suggest taking the Yokun trail to the Old Wood Road trail to see some more beaver habitats. Although we didn’t see much in the way of beavers or birds at 11am, we did see droppings from a large-ish animal (bears and bobcats roam around here). We had to make do with sightings of turtles, catfish, and large colorful mushrooms.

Pleasant Valley Sanctuary

Pleasant Valley Sanctuary

If you’re up for a challenge hiking up a very steep trail to the top of Lenox Mountain, you can do so from the sanctuary – it’s 3 miles roundtrip and is north of Pike’s Pond. We opted not to do this hike.

Mount Greylock is located in Lanesborough. Overnight camping is permitted, and there is also paid lodging at the summit. Dogs and bikes are allowed. Pleasant Valley Sanctuary is located at 472 West Mountain Road in Lenox. It is open from dawn to dusk and the entry fee is $5 per person. No pets or bikes allowed.

The Berkshires: The Ice Glen and Monument Mountain

October 11, 2013

This will be the first in a series of posts about the Berkshires, which we just returned from recently with its vivid-colored splendor. We explored a number of interesting outdoor spots, so I plan to highlight two per post. This first post will give you two great things to do around the town of Stockbridge.

The Ice Glen is  a not-to-miss geological wonder of green mossy boulders and caves within a gorge. Once you park your car, you will first need to cross a bridge that deposits you onto railroad tracks.

Ice glen

Cross the tracks into the forest beyond – you will immediately start seeing giant rocks situated snugly among the trees. Pretty soon, you will come to a fork in the road. Take the path to the right.

Ice glen

As you climb up a bit, you’ll find yourself taking in the solid green masses of close-set rock as you enter the gorge. A damp chill sets in. They say that snow remains hidden in the caves in the summer. I can *maybe* believe it. Be prepared for some rock scrambling up and down the boulders.

Ice glen

Ice glen

There are a lot of red newts underfoot taking advantage of their moist surroundings.

Ice glen

This area is also known for Laura’s Fire Tower trail (the trail to the left at the fork in the road) The trail climbs 600 feet and deposits you at the foot of a metal fire tower that promises a view of three States. We did the steep climb to the fire tower, but when we got onto the platform of the metal contraption, we were sadly disappointed. The view was hidden by too many dense trees that had not yet shed their leaves! I would only recommend this climb when the trees have lost all their leaves and only under non-rainy/snowy conditions because of the steep trail.

Monument Mountain offers much better views on top, but it is not for the faint of heart. You will also need to be in relatively good shape to make the climb up to the 1,642-feet summit, with places where you will be maneuvering along a 1-foot wide ledge on the face of the mountain. There are two lookout points to get to – The Devil’s Pulpit and Squaw Peak.

We decided to take the easy ascent up by way of the Indian Monument trail and then come back down on the very steep Hickey Trail. This worked out well for us. The hike up and down the mountain was also rewarding in its own way, with sunlight bouncing off some of the fuzziest green rocks I’ve ever seen.

Monument Mountain

Getting to the Devil’s Pulpit is scary. I will not lie to you. I am scared of heights and there were moments climbing up that made me freeze for a good 5 seconds wondering how I got myself into this mess. The view is worth it though. This is a tiny spot on a ledge, so I suggest you go when you don’t expect too many other hikers around.

Monument Mountain

The view from Squaw Peak is great as well, this one being a full 360-degree view.  You can see the Catskills to the west and Mount Greylock to the north.  In some places, it may be wiser not to look down the sheer drop.  There is not much space up here, so again, make sure you go when you’re not competing with other hikers.  I suspect the peak can’t take more than 6 people at a time, given the lack of elbow room…and you certainly don’t want to get elbowed off-balance here!

Monument Mountain

Both the Ice Glen and Monument Mountain have no entry fees and are open sunrise to sunset. Dogs are ok in both places, but not bikes. To get to the Ice Glen from Stockbridge, turn left onto US Route 7 and travel 0.2 mile to Park Road. Turn left onto Park Road until it ends in a parking lot. Monument Mountain is easier to find – it is along Route 7 between Great Barrington and Stockbridge.