Another friend of mine, Joe Manning, has written two wonderful books about the people and heritage of North Adams. A few years
ago he encouraged Northern Berkshire residents to become tourists in their own hometowns, to really look at and appreciate
what’s around them.
The Greylock Reservation Project has been an effort to discover my own backyard. In fact, from my actual backyard in North
Adams, I can see Mt. Williams, and from my bedroom window I can also see Mt. Prospect. Because I had hiked up Greylock a few
times and was familiar with the Glen, I thought I knew the Reservation. I really didn’t. This project has opened my
Here are some of my favorite experiences:
• I set out to find a route from the Glen to the rock face — or “Indian Head” — high up on the
eastern slope of Mt. Greylock. No official or unofficial paths go anywhere near it. So it took much studying of maps and photographs
and five strenuous hikes to find my way to it. On my first exploratory hike I unexpectedly found myself at the power line
corridor up the mountain. On another hike — so far up that the only sign of humanity was a broken kite and a burst balloon
— I encountered a 40-foot wall of schist at least 150 feet long. It was so impressive and unexpected that it filled
me with wonder. If you look at the mountain, it forms the right side of the triangle between the power lines and the lower
left side of the rock face.
Another time I decided to approach the rock face from the north, and set off into the woods from the Thunderbolt Trail. Before
long I heard a great rustling of leaves and snapping of twigs. Who in the world would be bushwhacking up here? I found out
when a black animal the size of a St. Bernard dog shimmied down a tree about 30 feet away. I was just a little too concerned
with my personal safety to take a photo, and the bear took off.
About an hour later I was working my way through extremely steep and rough terrain, still in search of the rock face. At one
point I looked down and cringed to discover my boots a few inches away from the edge of a 20-foot cliff. I kept going for
a few more minutes and was just about to give up when I saw a steep clearing through the trees. Alleluia! The “Indian
Head” — at last!
• I was heading downhill on the AT, returning to my car after hiking the southernmost section of the trail in the Reservation.
Suddenly, a dark little animal with yellow dirt on its head appeared on the trail, waddling his way up toward me. It was a
porcupine. I stopped and took one photo and he kept right on coming. I took another and my film started to rewind automatically.
This made him stop, pause a second, and then turn around and waddle slowly back down the path. I followed him slowly and he
kept walking down the path a few feet in front of me. Finally, no doubt tired of being followed, he headed off the trail and
into the woods.
• I found a woodchuck sticking his head out of a hole in a tree right next to the Roaring Brook Trail. I carefully sat
on the ground just off the path to get a good shot. Young people hiked up the trail, talking. I stood and waited for them
to go by, and then sat back down. Before I could get any more shots a couple around retirement age came flying down the trail,
trekking poles churning in their hands, seemingly oblivious. I didn’t get up. When they were gone I finally managed
to get some good shots of the woodchuck.
• Not every impressive waterfall in the Reservation is marked on the official map. I was hiking the Silver Fox Trail
for the first time when I unexpectedly came upon a magnificent double falls on the southernmost tributary of Bassett Brook.
It was the same story on the easternmost section of Old Adams Road. At a point where the trail makes a little zig from southwest
to northwest, I looked down into a steep ravine to see another impressive falls, this one on the central tributary of Bassett
Brook. I immediately headed down into it to take the best shots I could get.
• Sounds. The roar of a brook somewhere in the woods down below you. A creaking tree making a sound like voices. Thunder
to the west when you’re an hour away from your car. The tinkling of water across a path after several days of rain.
The vibrating growl of a dozen motorcycles climbing the mountain in the summer. The cry of a hawk riding the thermals around
a mountain top.
• Looking northeast from Greylock, the top of Ragged Mountain beckons you from below. It’s called Ragged for a
reason. It is forested and bumpy with a couple of impressive rock formations visible from above. From down in the Glen one
can see a rock outcrop on the east side of Ragged which overlooks the valley. It is marked on the official map as Raven Rocks,
but the map shows no path to it. Both the rock formations and Raven Rocks have beckoned to me for months.
I had climbed the short trail to the south summit for the first time in July but had not explored much further. I decided
one late November day to bushwhack my way to the rock formations atop the mountain. After reaching the south summit, I made
my way north on the mountain, discovering that it is wider than it looks from above. I found some interesting things, but
I did not find these formations. It was getting late, around 3 p.m., and from here it would take me about two hours to get
back to my car in the Glen.
As I was thinking about this and making my way back south, I came across a path with rocks piled on top of each other
on both sides of it — sort of a gateway. I saw footprints in the light coating of snow. The path led down to a gully
and then up on a massive rock formation. I had found Raven Rocks! I started snapping away with my camera, oblivious to the
time. The view was incredible. And a mile away and 1,000 feet below at the end of Thiel Road was a little black dot: my car.
And nothing but woods between me and it.
I debated: if I tried to make my way back to Ragged’s south summit rising above me to the west, at best it would
take an hour and a half to get back to the car, and probably much longer. I wasn’t sure of the path. I would be stuck
in the dark with just a tiny flashlight. So, with a thrill of letting it hang out a bit, I took a compass reading and started
bushwhacking down the south slope of the mountain toward my car. I took more photos of the massive rock formation from the
side, then made my way down very rugged terrain, my heart pounding, my glasses fogging. I had to do controlled slides down
very steep slopes. I fell once, but wasn’t hurt. All the while I kept checking to make sure I was tending south.
The slope leveled off some and I eventually came to a dirt road. I left it and kept south when the road started turning west
and uphill toward Greylock. After crossing several streamlets I came to the deep ravine of Hoxie Brook. I could see a wide
trail on the other side. After scrambling down and up the ravine, I came out on the Bellows Pipe Trail, about five minutes
from my car. There was still plenty of daylight, so I sat on a log and enjoyed an orange.
Greylock’s paved road system, its 13.75-mile Historic Parkway, consists in part of Notch Road, 5.7 miles from the North
Adams Reservation entrance up to its intersection near the summit with Rockwell Road, which runs 7.3 miles up from the Lanesborough
entrance. Summit Road runs northeast from the intersection of Notch and Rockwell about three-quarters of a mile up to the
top of Mt. Greylock.
The CCC completed the roads in 1939, and they include many spectacular scenic vistas, particularly to the west. Anyone who
has been on these roads in recent years can tell you they need plenty of work. So during 2007 and 2008 the road system will
be closed while workers complete a $21.3 million renovation project.
“The goal of the project is to rehabilitate the historic parkway system in a manner that balances safety, recreation,
conservation and historic landscape preservation,” according to a DCR press release.
What this means for visitors is that the campground on Sperry Road, the War Memorial Tower, and Bascom Lodge will all be closed.
The Visitors Center in Lanesborough will still be open, and all trails will be open to hikers. The plan is to reopen the roads
in the spring of 2009.
So, you can still see the Reservation, even visit the summit of Greylock, but you’ll have to hike. Better for both you
and the environment.
See you on the mountain!
• The Greylock State Reservation section of the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Website was the
source of much of the information in this article about the natural history, human history, and natural highlights of the
Reservation. Maps, hiking mileages, and other useful information can be found here. Address: www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/western/mgry.htm
• The section of the DCR Website on the history of the Division of State Parks and Recreation provided much of the information
about how Greylock and its surroundings became a state Reservation. Address: http://www.mass.gov/dcr/sphistory.htm
• The Natural History of the Berkshires Website was established by Williams College Biology Professor Henry Art with
the help of students to provide information to students enrolled in the Natural History of the Berkshires course, as well
as to the general public. I drew on it heavily for information on the geology and topography of Greylock and the surrounding
area and how it was formed. It was also the source of information on Greylock as the watershed for the Housatonic and Hoosic
rivers. Address: http://drm.williams.edu/nhb/
• The Department of Earth Sciences, University of New Hampshire, Website was the source of the information about
the grooves in the rock atop Greylock. Address: http://unh.edu/esci/massachusetts.html
• The section of the U.S. Forest Service Website on the Ecological Subregions of the United States dealing with the
Green, Taconic, and Berkshire Mountains provided information about the Native American hunter-gatherer economy and past and
current animal species in the area. Address: http://www.fs.fed.us/land/pubs/ecoregions/ch15.html
• Mahicans. Sources and Range of Cooper’s Indian Lore, a paper by Arthur C. Parker, 1954. Address: http://external.oneonta.edu/cooper/articles/nyhistory/1954nyhistory-parker.html
Here is a Mohican Website: http://unr.edu/homepage/shubinsk/m-overview.html
• Two free DCR pamphlets — Bradley Farm Trail and Mount Greylock’s Hidden Treasures: A Driving Tour —
provided the information about 19th Century farming on land now part of the Reservation.
• Nathaniel Hawthorne: Quote on seeing Greylock: Passages from the American Note-Books. Address: http://www.eldritchpress.org/nh/pfanb01.html#g3871
• Henry David Thoreau: His account of his hike up and stay on Greylock is in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers.
Available online through Google’s Project Gutenberg.
• Herman Melville: 1). The Arrowhead Website: http://www.mobydick.org/hm.html. 2). Text of The Piazza:
• John Bascom: 1). John Bascom entry in Wikipedia. 2). Wisconsin Electronic Reader, Bascom section from a 1918
book by Charles Rounds: Wisconsin Authors and Their Works. Address: www.library.wisc.edu/etext/wireader/WER0748.html. 3).
Description of Bascom’s character: Perspectives: A Williams Anthology, Frederick Rudolph, editor, 1983, Williams College,
Williamstown, Mass. 4). About Bascom and coeducation at Williams: Mark Hopkins and the Log, Frederick Rudolph. Yale University
Press, 1956. Pg. 231.
• Two recently installed plaques on the summit — one on Bascom Lodge and one outside the Memorial Tower —
provided much of the information about these structures used here.
• Three more free DCR pamphlets about Greylock have been most helpful: Wildflowers of Greylock: Sighting List;
Sub-Alpine Ecology; and Birds of Greylock: Sighting List.
• Latest Glen Plan: It’s Official: Sweep of pens puts Adams in charge of Glen, by Ryan Hutton, North Adams
Transcript, Dec. 12, 2006, pp. 1 & 8.
• Historic Parkway renovation project: DCR Press Release, Nov. 1, 2007.
• Miscellaneous: 1). Fitch and Dwight climb Greylock: Wikipedia entry for Mt. Greylock. 2). CCC built pond on Greylock:
Hikes & Walks in the Berkshire Hills, by Lauren R. Stevens, 1990, Berkshire House Publishers, Stockbridge, Mass.
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