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THE GREYLOCK RESERVATION PROJECT: DISCOVERING MY OWN BACKYARD

By Mark E. Rondeau

Greylock: the Mountain & the Park

Mt. Greylock has fascinated me since I was old enough to first see it. This reaction is not unique: mountains no doubt hold a visceral fascination for people everywhere. They are holy places, above the everyday, places for hermits, sages, and gurus. Moses, after all, did not go down into a cave for the commandments but up onto Mt. Sinai.

When I was a boy, a car trip up from North Adams to the summit of Mt. Greylock seemed the height of adventure, my father shifting the straining station wagon into gear as it ascended the steep curves of Notch Road. As we made our way south along the ridge of mountains, my mother would flinch as the road would seem to narrow and a huge green chasm would open out to the right. Nothing but a flimsy guardrail and my father’s steady hands on the wheel seemed to keep us from falling off the mountain into doom.

The boy in the car liked this, of course. Greylock would loom briefly and dramatically into view a way off up ahead, capped by the War Memorial Tower. Finally at the top, one enjoyed a dramatic view of Adams to the east, a snack at Bascom Lodge, and a walk up narrow metal stairs to the top of the Memorial, with a 360-degree view in every direction. The surrounding forest seemed vast.

Most anyone who grew up in Northern Berkshire County in the northwestern corner of Massachusetts could tell you of some similar early experience of Greylock. At 3,491 ft. it is the tallest mountain in southern New England. And even if that makes it but a mere hill compared to any number of the Rocky Mountains, for instance, it’s still the tallest mountain “in these parts.”

Yet — and it wasn’t until well into adulthood that I realized this — Mt. Greylock is not the whole story. The 12,500-acre Mount Greylock State Reservation it crowns not only reflects the glory of its highest peak, it has glories all its own: sparkling waterfalls, huge old-growth trees, spectacular views, and hiking trails galore.

About the Project

Between May 7, and November 4, 2006 I hiked all 70 miles of official Greylock State Reservation trails with a camera, taking more than 1,600 photos. This project is continuing during the winter of 2006-2007.

How did it all start? Well, I’ve always liked walking and hiking, but more out of a love and need for exercise than from an intense interest in nature. But within the last year circumstances came together in a “perfect storm” that married my love of exercise with my love of journalism with my need for an important personal project. As my waistline shrank, my interest in nature grew. Spending hundreds of hours in the woods photographing anything that looks interesting tends to make you notice more and more interesting things.

I became most interested in the Greylock Reservation, as opposed to the many other fascinating forests in this area, in part because of my daily drives between North Adams and Williamstown. Driving west along state Route 2, you see to the left (south) two imposing mountains joined together for much of their height by forest. Even though I had played Little League baseball on a diamond near the foot of these mountains in the 1970s, I don’t think I ever carefully looked at them. In fact, I didn’t even know their names.

It wasn’t until I moved back to North Adams in the early 1990s that I learned that the Appalachian Trail runs up the mountain to the west, Mt. Prospect. Doing some research in early in 2006, I learned that these mountains are part of the Greylock State Reservation. I also discovered that Notch Road curves its way up the north side of the mountain to the east, Mt. Williams, and then heads south through the “notch” between Mts. Williams and Prospect. You can’t see any sign of the road from the valley, and before this I never had any real idea of where the road to Greylock ran.

So in March and April of 2006 I started taking some exploratory hikes on the Appalachian Trail. I would park in a small lot beside Pattison Road, just west of the Mt. Williams Reservoir, the main water supply for North Adams. The lot is right next to the AT, which runs right up the spine of Mt. Prospect until you arrive at the northern summit, from which there is an extraordinary view to the west.

From here the trail heads east, down into a little valley, across Notch Road, and then up Mt. Williams. Before long, the idea hit me to do a photographic project of the Reservation. At first it seemed too ambitious, but I started carrying my camera with me as I hiked. This in turn made me more observant and more appreciative of what I was seeing. And I couldn’t wait to have my film developed.

Greylock Reservation Project Home

II. Natural History & Topography

III. Industry & Majesty

IV. On the Reservation

V. What's Here

VI. My Backyard/Road Work/Sources

VII. Road Work Moves Ahead

VIII. Two Great Hikes



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Mt. Greylock seen from Greylock Glen in Adams, July 5, 2006. All photos Mark E. Rondeau

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The War Memorial Tower atop Mt. Greylock, July 8, 2006.

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A closeup of Hopper Brook Falls, August 8, 2006.

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The Galusha Farm in Williamstown seen from the lookout at the northern summit of Mt. Prospect, September 12, 2006.

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The spectacular view to the north from Stony Ledge. Mt. Prospect is to the left, Mt. Williams in the back, and Mt. Fitch dominates the photo at the right, August 11, 2006.

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The summit of Mt. Williams, May 28, 2006.