The most famous story about Monument Mountain took place on August 5, 1850 when Nathaniel Hawthorne, having just finished The Scarlet Letter and the leading American literary figure of the day, met a young novelist named Herman Melville on a hike here. The two men were part of a party, along with Oliver Wendell Holmes and several others, who hauled a wagon loaded with picnic food and wine up the mountain. Rain started pelting the slopes and the men took refuge in a cave to begin a friendship that led Melville to call at Hawthorne’s Lenox cabin a few days later. He eventually moved to Pittsfield where he completed the novel the two men had been discussing - Moby Dick. Melville dedicated the book, published in 1851, to Hawthorne. Their friendship, however, was fleeting. Hawthorne moved his family back to the Boston area a year later and the two writers only met once more.
The “monument” of Monument Mountain was a distinctive pile of stones at the base of its southern slope that inspired myriad Mohican Indian legends and tickled the muse of artists as early as 1815. William Cullen Bryant composed “Monument Mountain,” an episodic poem that recounted one Mohican tale of doomed forbidden love. Others were not so romantic. Treasure hunters had scattered the rock pile by the middle of the 19th century and Monument Mountain supported farming and iron smelting activities that devastated the woods until stands of red pine were planted in the 1930s to reforest the landscape. In 1877, after most of the farms were abandoned, David Dudley Field Jr. built a scenic drive on the mountain for public use. In 1899, Helen Butler, daughter of a prominent New York attorney acquired many of the old farm- lands and donated them to the Trustees of Reservations.
Thanks to a loop trail that approaches the summit from two directions, there are several options for hiking with your dog at Monument Mountain. If you are after a spirited workout take off on the Hickey Trail from the north end of the parking lot. After a short circle around the base of the mountain you will begin pulling straight up beside a splendid seasonal waterfall. For a longer, but less intensive climb, use the Indian Monument Trail, the remnants of the 1877 carriage road that gradually works up the western slopes. The two trails merge just below the summit at Inscription Rock, memorializing the gift of the property. The 1642-foot trail high-point and the celebrated views from Squaw Peak are reached on a rocky scramble along the Squaw Peak Trail. Unless your dog is perfectly behaved and in no way skitterish do not bring her to the summit - there are rock climbs and unguarded, precipitous drop-offs. It is certainly doable, but the exposed cliffs of Monument Mountain are not the place to test an inexperienced dog.
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