"If your dog is fat," the old saying goes, "you aren't getting enough exercise." But walking the dog need not be just about a little exercise. Here are 10 cool things you can see in the Berkshire Hills while out walking the dog.
During the Great Depression of the 1930s President FranklinRoosevelt put thousands of unemployed men to work in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Work camps were set up across the country with the mandate to build roads, reforest denuded lands, and construct recreational facilities for public use. Some of the greatest legacies of this "Tree Army" are in the Berkshires, including Bascom Lodge on the summit of Mount Greylock. Designed by Pittsfield architect Joseph McArthur Vance, the rustic shelter was designed to blend in with the landscape using native materials of stone (Greystone schist) and lumber (red spruce and oak).
The great ice rivers of the last Ice Age melted from Massachusetts about 15,000 years ago, scraping and shaping the landscape and leaving behind a fair share of debris. Strange rock formations from retreating glaciers are known as erratics. The greatest oddity in Pittsfield State Forest is a glacial erratic known as Balance Rock. The massive 165-ton limestone boulder teeters precariously upon a small, 3-foot piece of bedrock.
Does your dog have any herding instincts? At Tyringham Cobble the canine hike begins in an open field where you may find yourself hiking with your dog through a free-ranging herd of Hereford cattle - as they have done for 200 years.
A canine hike in October Mountain State Forest may be your best chance to spot Massquatch, New England's version of Bigfoot. There have been occasional sightings of a hairy, oversized, human-like creature in Massachusetts across the years from the Atlantic beaches to the Berkshire Mountains. The Berkshire Eagle twice reported encounters at October Mountain in the 1980s, including an up-close and-personal at a former Boy Scout camp near Felton Lake.
After World War II interrupted his career as a Williams College librarian, Lawrence Bloedel purchased the former Nathan Field farm with his wife Eleanore. In 1948 the couple retained Edwin Goodell to build a house to accommodate their expanding collection of contemporary American art. He responded with a modern, window-dominated design adorned with simple lines. In 1966, Ulrich Franzen delivered a Victorian Shingle-style house for the Bloedels' grandchildren, known as The Folly. The Bloedels donated their blend of architecture and nature to the Trustees of Reservations in 1984 and when you hike with your dog at Field Farm today you can walk among 13 modern sculptures, including works by Richard M. Miller, Jack Zajac, Bernard Reder and Herbert Ferber.
Nathaniel Hawthorne called the Ice Glen, a cleft in the rocks between Bear and Little mountains behind the town of Stockbridge, "the most curious fissure in all Berkshire." It is a ravine without a stream - all the water around Ice Glen flows on a south-north axis while the gorge is aligned east to west. In fact, the glen, stuffed with stacked boulders and draped with hemlocks, was once a glacial lake. Tucked away from the sun's rays, the season's last snow melts here, hence its name. Further west, beyond West Stockbridge, Stevens Glen was once one of the busiest tourist destinations in the the county. In the late 1800s Romanza Stevens built bridges and staircases to the Glen and its waterfall and charged 25 cents for tourists to view the magic of Lenox Mountain Brook.
In Natural Bridge State Park, the site of a marble quarry until 1947, is a dam built totally of marble blocks, etched in black on the edges. As Ed Elder, who operated the property as a roadside tourist attraction, would describe it, "This is the only marble dam outside Athens, Greece."
SACRED RELIGIOUS SITES
Shaker communities were required to clear the summit of a nearby hill for worship. Near Hancock around 1842, this site was atop Mt. Sinai, now known as Shaker Mountain. The trail today leads to two Shaker sacred sites that have been leveled out on the top of Mt. Sinai and Holy Mount. When the Shakers worshipped here non-believers were not allowed on these grounds.
SLUICES, SPOUTS AND CASCADES
All over the Berkshires your dog can view and swim under hydrospectaculars. Some are reached with hardly a hike (Campbell Falls, Windsor Jambs, Wahconah Falls), others with a little effort (The Notch Brook Cascades, Bash Bish Falls, Tannery Falls) and other waterfalls are rewards for a spirited canine hike such as Sages Ravine in Mount Everett State Reservation.
STONE WALLS BUILT FOR THE AGES
The stone walls found throughout Massachusetts are some of the most beautiful walls ever built. The fact that so many can be found in Berkshire woods attests to the skill used in construction. You could not just pile up rocks found around your property and call it a wall. When a stone wall was finished it needed to be inspected by a fence viewer. If a wall was deemed sound the owner could not be liable for damage done to his crops by other farmer's animals.
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