By Jelane A. Kennedy
In April we decided again we needed a break and choose to hike another couple of areas in the Berkshires. As in the Adirondacks, spring brings wet and soggy ground so there are times when finding a good spot to hike can be difficult especially because you don’t want to damage the trail. One of the great things about rail to trail bikeways are that in the cases where the trail has been covered in macadam, the hard surface makes a stable walking and bike-riding platform. Since we had decided not to bring our bikes as they are still in storage we ventured out to the bike path near Pittsfield. Ashuwillticook Rail Trail was 11.2 miles long and goes all the way to Adams, Massachusetts running along Route 8 (the trail was wheelchair accessible). There are four entrance points on the trail, one at each end and two in the middle. The first day we entered the path near the Berkshire Mall. A long time ago we had found this bike path in the winter and the three of us when Lucy our golden retriever was alive, had enjoyed a winter hike on the trail. So when we were again in the area we thought we would check it out. This time we were on the edge of winter releasing it’s grip and spring starting to take it’s own. So the weather had warmed up, it had been raining instead of snowing but the buds were still not quite out.
The first day we hit the trail it was busy with both walkers and early bikers. Our challenge was to find a place to park. Once awarded a parking place we headed out on a nice little stroll, soaking up the sun and listening to all the early peeps and croaks of the animals around us. At one point we heard these loud sounds that we thought were ducks and when we approached the area we could not see any! But the sounds around us were so big and that was when as Eileen studying the water she pointed out the source of all the sound.
“Hey Jelane, look it’s the frogs, that is what we are hearing!”
And to our amazement they were everywhere floating on the pond letting us know spring was here! As we moved on Eileen saw what looked like a beaver dam out in the waterway, and moments later I saw a large brown object over to the side near the shore. We slowed down and as we approached closer we stopped to watch hidden there in the tree’s a beaver hanging out scratching its’ belly and taking a stretch. As it eased quietly back into the water we noticed around near by evidence that a beaver had been munching on some of the tree’s.
A couple days later we would again find ourselves at the bike trail but this time we drove further toward Chester, MA and accessed the trail at another parking lot. It was quieter here and less congested than the entrance near the Berkshire Mall, next time we will use this entrance to the trail again for this reason. This section of the trail allowed us to walk along the waters edged. We had great views of the mountains and found ample places to park along with less congestion along the trail itself. Again while walking along we were fortunate to see a beaver again, this time the beaver swam toward us, made eye contact and turned and swam back further out into the water. We felt so luck to have spotted beaver twice! In both hikes on the bike trail we enjoyed a great hike and little mud with great views.
For our next hiking adventure we headed to Mount Greylock State Reservation. We had not been back there in a while. We weren’t sure what the hiking conditions would be but we hoped we could find a dry enough trail so not to hurt it with slogging through mud. As luck would have it the Bradley Farm Trail was fairly dry and we enjoyed looping up along the river and up through the woods. We found evidence of the old farm stone fence along the trails we walked. We both thought about how much work making the fence would have been and how sturdy the stone fence was, many years after the builders had passed on! It was another sunny day and we enjoyed a great view of the mountains from the parking lot of the visitor center. We were disappointed it was closed and only open the weekends during the winter/ spring. We had hiked here also before with Lucy but with our snowshoes. It is always so different to hike an area in different seasons. Winter snow offers such a flattened surface for hiking as compared to spring, summer and fall when you need to watch your boots carefully as you step over large rocks and hidden roots. Again it was a great day to walk in the woods and we enjoyed the gurgle of running water and seeing the winter run off cascading over little falls. It was so good to be out in the woods.
It was always so interesting to see the woods in the in between times. The land was wet, the trees were bare and you got a small sliver of a hint that spring may be around the corner. No flowers were up and there was the faintest glimmer, if you looked carefully, of buds starting to form on the trees. You could hear the beginnings of birdsong and the woods starting to awaken from their winter nap and just around the corner in a few days or weeks spring was waiting to surprise, in it’s full bloom. It always seems that one day everything was quiet and you wonder will Spring come and all of a sudden overnight the trees will blossoms and the forest will awaken but at this point it has yet to happen and right now all was quiet on the edges.
© Jelane A. Kennedy and Eileen A. McFerran