|Natural Bridge State Park features the only marble dam in North America.|
Mount Greylock, Massachusetts' highest peak at 3,487 feet, resonated with early American literature's most esteemed authors. Herman Melville, who wrote Moby Dick in Greylock's shadow, compared his fabulous white whale to it. Henry David Thoreau described his arrival at the summit's lookout tower as a kind of ascension to an otherworldly paradise: "As the light increased, I discovered around me an ocean of mist, which by chance reached up exactly to the base of the tower and shut out every vestige of the earth, while I was left floating on this fragment of the wreck of a world, on my carved plank, in cloudland."
Today Thoreau would have to share his view with the giant radio tower sticking out of the top of the mountain, and the tranquility he experienced might be marred a bit by the rumble of automobile engines making their way up the summit road. Still, on a clear day you can see the Adirondacks, the Green Mountains, the Catskills, and Mount Monadnock from Greylock's heightsin short, a panorama of the northeast's great ranges encompassing five states in all. The hike up is rugged, but the rewards are nothing less than inspiring.
Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary
Pleasant Valley is one of two wildlife sanctuaries managed by the Massachusetts Audobon Society in the Berkshires, places where Berkshires wildlife can live and thrive. Located near Lenox, this unspoiled environment encompasses over a thousand acres of forests, meadows, and wetlands. One of the major attractions is the abundance of beaver lodges and dams built throughout the sanctuary. The spring salamander migration is another major draw, along with several miles of hiking trails adjacent Yokun Brook. Maps and more information are available at the Pleasant Valley Nature Center.
Natural Bridge State Park
The park is named after a naturally occuring marble arch, hewn by retreating glaciers during the last ice age, that now spans a burbling brook. For 137 years, the land that now comprises the park was a marble quarry. Park visitors can tour the quarry and see the only marble dam in North America. Excellent hiking, fishing, and cross-country skiing also draw people to the park. Natural Bridge State Park lies off Rte. 8, just south of the Vermont border.
Monroe State Forest
Rising through the Monroe's mixed forest of hemlock and birch, the Spruce Hill Trail climbs to the summit of Spruce Mountain at 2,730 feet. But don't stop there. On the other side of the peak a little way down you'll find the Raycroft, built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. From here, you can take in an amazing vista from the side of an otherwise inaccessibly steep hill. Gazing out over the Deerfield River Valley, you're struck by the grand show these seemingly modest mountains can put on.
Monroe is definitely one of the wilder places in the state, with little by way of developed campgrounds or visitor areas. Hikers on the forest's trails should be ready for backcountry camping if they plan to spend the night. If you bring your rod, you can try for trout in Dunbar Brook. To reach Monroe State Forest, head west from the town of Florida on Rte. 2 and turn right on Tilda Hill Road.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication