By Jelane A. Kennedy
In our most recent visit to the Berkshires Eileen and I decided we want to try to find a couple of new hiking trails in the area of Pittsfield. We have our old standbys that we enjoy visiting near Lenox and Stockbridge but this time we want to add to what we knew, mix it up a bit. One of the best ways that I have found to do that is to pull out my phone and use my “Oh, Ranger” app. The app gives great information about each park and offers sometimes pictures that people have taken along with directions. At times I have found the mapping to the trailhead a bit dicey but once I have the address I can always play with the GPS app to check out directions.
Our first new hike was at Wild Acres Conservation Area. It sits next to the Pittsfield municipal airport. It is identified as a conservation area. We parked at the gate, which was closed and walked into the main park area that had accessible bathrooms, a very nice picnic pavilion and a small building used for educational field trips. The area was redesigned back in 2014 after the local airport had finished a major construction process, which had previously closed the area. Unfortunately though the parking area near the pavilion is access for wheelchairs the trail is not.
We found a trailhead off the side of the picnic pavilion area. We got the impression that it was a place that locals know, so they know the trail because the markings were sparse for us. Luckily it was well trampled so we just followed along. We had hoped for at least a kiosk that showed the general plan of the trails but that was not to be. Luckily after walking out to the pond we ran into some folks walking their dog. They told us that the trail was really set up as a figure eight and encouraged us to walk over to the observation tower. The pond was a great little space with benches and picnic tables and I read later they have fishing derby’s there. Extending our walk to the tower was nice added bonus. We climbed up to enjoy the view. On one side we observed the airport (the tower would be fun to watch planes from) and the other view spread out looking over the local area. It was a great little hike and as we headed back we found a sign that designated the area as F. H. Controy Nature Trail. All and all it was a nice trail even though it was lacking good marking, but we would come back again. We thought it might be fun to snowshoe through the woods out to the pond and tower.
For our second new hike we went again to the Pittsfield area and this time we went to a Massachusetts Audubon area. Using the “Oh, Ranger” app again we went to Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary. It is located near the Housatonic River. We almost missed it as we were driving in what seemed like a suburban area and then it just popped up with a little sign and parking area. At the end of the parking area we found a great kiosk that gave a basic map of the trails and some information about the birds and other wildlife.
The Sanctuary is 253 acres and has 3 miles of trail. While we were there we saw multiple runners, besides a few walkers like us. They do not allow dogs so it is quiet and dog poop free. The area is a bird sanctuary. While there we did two loops, the first was the Sacred Way Trail, it was a bit wet in spots but overall an easy hike in and out of woods and wetlands. The second hike we took was along the old carriage road that runs through the middle of the looping trails. We looked for the Wildlife Observation Building that was listed on a trail marking post but there was no building so we figured it was an old sign. The walk was peaceful and a great jaunt. We did not see much in wild life but it was nice to be out among the trees. We both decided we would like to come back and snowshoe the trails.
What was amazing about both new trails areas was that they were tucked into an unexpected region that provided wooded green space and seemed like quiet reprieves from the hustle and bustle of Pittsfield. We felt like we had really found truly local haunts that provided a break from city life.
© Jelane A. Kennedy 2017