I am not am not what you would call an “athletic” person.
A “hike” to me means parking more than 10 rows from the mall.
Having recently moved to the Berkshires, I have discovered an unspoken truth-that to be a native here means you have to enjoy the out of doors on a more active, physical level.
Well, the heady scenery actually makes the laziest of us want to be outside and DO SOMETHING.
It’s so easy to rent equipment like bikes, water tubes, kayaks, boats, horses, and camping stuff. Makes one feel guilty if they do not partake.
So...rather than remain fishbelly white all summer hiding behind the computer, I have decided to “just do it” and meet the trees and the sunshine (and muscles I have never used before).
Hiking seemed the easiest activity for me to try first.
It’s just like walking (I think).
“Go to the mountains!” my co-workers urged….
I decided to explore Mt. Greylock.
I pumped plenty of gas into Barney & checked the oil. (Hindsight tells me I should have put a big jug of water in the trunk). Made sure to have my SD-carded, charged up camera, the right CD selection (for a perfect background soundtrack), bug repellant, sunscreen, granola bars and trail mix packets, (most with some form of chocolate in them).
I bought fancy hiking shoes with a coordinating “outdoor” outfit, used some industrial strength hairspray & donned weather proof makeup.
I was a former girl scout after all…
Needing nourishment before attempting this great feat, I decided to eat at our own ‘6 House Pub for lunch.
I gobbled down a turkey club wrap, fries and an iced tea and sat outside on the patio to help get acclimated.
The Visitor’s Center off the Route 7 (Lanesboro) entrance, is chock full of interesting stuff.
There is a large, lumpy replica of the mountain range, with all the roads marked in gold. This is a HUGE mountain and it covers several towns. There are vending machines for water/ juice/iced tea & sodapop.
Well appreciated are the restrooms (especially when gravity has taken hold of that morning coffee).
Helpful staff will give you advice on hiking, camping, driving, photo spots and describe all the route particulars. Some of the road "pull offs" had hikes attached that took about 90 minutes to complete. Some "regular" mountain hikes were 4 or 5 hours long (I DON'T THINK SO).
The trail map had terms to describe how “hard” they were to walk…some were rated “strenuous” or “moderate”, which frightened me.
I decided to drive to the top of the mountain and maybe hike one of the more “wimpy” rated trails later.
I enjoyed the gallery room of retro Norman Rockwell-ish 1950s and 60s B & W photos, showing local folks camping, skiing, etc, on the mountain.
There is a small section of historical artifacts and newsy signboards that will entertain you (while you wait for your friend to get out of the restroom). Learn how to carve an ax handle… see how the forest was plundered, etc. etc. etc.
DRIVING UP TO THE TOP
Began the slow drive up... “18 minutes” they had told me, but you definitely won’t speed on THESE corners, and there are hiker crossings every few feet.
You will want to stop at least once or twice at those pull off spots on the way up to either have a picnic, take a photo, or uh...go on a hike.
I “oo’ed & ahh'ed”, pointing from the window, creeping slowly, all the way to the tippity top. Took half an hour. The long-abandoned farms that used to dot the hillside (42 crazy farmers!) left an amazing array of fruit trees and vegetation. Years of humans passing through with their “manmade additions” have created some interesting landmarks. Some “pull offs” have paths that lead to waterfalls, ponds, rock formations, and even an airplane wreck.
There is a campsite for hikers, but you can only access it by walking.
No Winnebagos or Airstreams..."sorry Lucy".
Once at the top, I gaped over the airplane-high edge of the road, clinging fearfully to the telephone pole fencing. I managed to snap photos, tho one arm was firmly wrapped around the fence at all times.
I was really blown away by this place! It is so spectacular a view, it seems unreal.
The very peak of the mountain is crowned with a building dedicated to war veterans. I call it “the spike”. It was originally built in 1932. Weather ravaged the foundation over the years and it had to be rebuilt.
It is still wet on the bottom floor, but DO slosh your way inside and have a look up at the ceiling and read the words along the walls.
Climb the somewhat creepy circular ladder to the top landing, where you can look out 60-90 miles in every direction.
Breathtaking views await!
Stop to pose for the cheesy picture everyone needs in their collection...yes, the one where you are standing by the elevation sign.
You are now at the highest point in Massachusetts. WOW! Your friends will be mighty impressed.
Have a walk over to the Bascom Lodge, where friendly folks will cook you up a burger or hotdog while you sip a flavored water or sodapop.
Buy a bag of chips (because you scarfed all the granola bars on the drive to get up here).
There is dorm-style lodging there too if you are staying overnite (or still feel faint from looking over the edge earler in the ride up).
DRIVING BACK DOWN
Going down the northern side of the mountain to exit in North Adams was great for sight-seeing, spotting little undefined animals scooting around in the lush woods, growing numb to the numerous pretty overlooks…maneuvering cool and plentiful hairpin turns…such a wonderful journey!
Ummm…but… lots of hard braking… my poor WonderCar ! About ¾ down the steep incline, I looked suspiciously around (with furrowed brow) at my companion. “What’s that smell?” I said, my nose crinkled.
It was apparently the car brakes smoking! NOTE TO SELF: Use LOW GEARS when driving down steep hills instead of riding afore-mentioned brakes….DUH!
After we nervously made it to the bottom, I parked Barney in the shade to cool down, and went for dinner (and drinks) to celebrate one fine day on the mountain.
My bad …. did I forget to hike??? Maybe next time…
Southern Approach (the Visitor’s Center is here)
From our driveway, go 7 South (a Left turn out of Brookside/Barnside, a Right turn out of Pondside) and drive 13.7 miles (Lanesboro) until you see a VACATION VILLAGE sign on your left.
JUST BEHIND THAT SIGN is the brown MT GREYLOCK sign. It is a sharp left. Follow the brown visitor center signs up the hill and it is just on the right.
From our driveway, go 7 North (a Right turn from Brookside/Barnside, but a Left from Pondside) and get on 2 East at the rotary-square (Williamstown center) and drive 3.7 miles into North Adams. Turn right onto Notch Road and follow brown signs 2.5 miles to the Mt. Greylock park entrance.
There is no cost to hike or drive Mt. Greylock, but if you park your car at the very top to walkabout, (and why wouldn’t you?), there is a $2.00 parking fee Big Spender.
Here is their official website for more factual info: