Saturday, September 28, 2013

Baldhead Vista on Yokun Ridge North, Lenox

This week the Tuesday Berkshire Hikers walked from Olivia's Overlook to the Arcadian Shop by way of the Brothers Trail, the Ridge Trail, Reservoir Road, and various trails in Kennedy Park. We took a side trail and stopped for lunch on a rock ledge above Under Mountain Road, Lenox, and overlooking the marsh in Marsh Brook. The village of Lenox was in the background. Turkey Vultures soared lazily overhead. What a beautiful fall day!

The marsh in Marsh Brook with Lenox beyond.
The lookout was a great place for lunch and enjoying the view.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Awesome Rock Work on the New Brother's Trail, Yokun Ridge, Lenox

Tuesday, we walked from Olivia's Overlook on the Charcoal Trail to the new Brother's Trail which we worked on this summer. (See post.) The rock work is amazing! It's a treat to see and walk this beautifully designed and executed trail. I look forward to walking it many times in different seasons and see how it changes. In the spring it will be fun to walk across the stepping stones with more water flowing in the brook. Many thanks to the Berkshire Natural Resources Council for this and all the work that they do.

Here, the trail is carved out across the hillside.
Steps down to an old carriage road.
More steps!
Stepping stones across Shadowbrook.
View from where the trail crosses the pipeline.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bartholomew's Cobble, Sheffield, Mass.

Sunday I walked the trails at Bartholomew's Cobble with Rene Wendell, the resident naturalist, on a Housatonic Heritage Walk. I always love this property and it was a treat to learn more about it. The Cobble is known for its diversity of plants, animals and habitats, the rock formations, the Housatonic River, and the view from Hurlburt's Hill.

Maidenhair Spleenwort, one of about 50 species of ferns at the Cobble.
Here the floodplain-loving Silver Maple shows
the silvery underside of its leaves in the breeze.
In the northeast, most floodplain areas are used for farming (their soil is incredibly fertile) or by commercial developers. The Cobble, thankfully, has 6 acres of naturally forested floodplain and is restoring 10 more acres to increase a habitat that is almost wiped out. Additional information here.

Rene told us about the 1800 trees that were planted this summer
on abandoned agricultural land which was being taken over
by invasive species.
Don't miss the huge Cottonwood tree at the Spero Trail that has a hollow trunk big enough to climb into. Rene bragged that he has had eight kids and himself in the space! He even motivated one of the adults in the group to climb in. The tree is is the second largest in the state.

Although Rene's crouching here,
you actually can stand up inside! 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Limekiln Farm Wildlife Sanctuary, Sheffield, MA

Sunday, I participated in a guided hike lead by Rene Laubach, director of Mass Audubon's Berkshire Wildlife Sanctuaries. It was one of the Housatonic Heritage Walks.

Limekiln Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Sheffield is a 250-acre former farm. A hundred years ago it was the site of a lime kiln that operated for about 3 years, turning the limestone (actually low-grade marble) quarried on the property into powdered lime for agricultural and other uses. It has been an Audubon property since 1990.

Rene points to Tamarack (American Larch) branches. Tamaracks have soft needles
about 1" long which all turn yellow in the fall and drop off making it a deciduous conifer.
The 40-foot-tall poured cement limekiln
where the rock was processed at 1400 degrees.
Several large fields are mowed late in the summer to provide habitat for ground-nesting birds,
butterflies and other wildlife. The open fields also offer great views!
The land form of the Red-spotted Newt (Red Eft), spends 1-3 years on land
and then changes to the olive green larger aquatic form and returns to the water.
On some moist days these efts are plentiful on the trails.
The trails wind through fields, forests and overgrown agricultural land.
A large glacial erratic on the Boulder Spur Trail. A glacial erratic is a boulder moved
by a retreating glacier and therefore different in composition from the bedrock on which it sits.
Rene speculated that perhaps this one came from nearby Mount Everett.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cedar Brook & S. Taconic Trails to Catamount

Tuesday was a glorious fall day with long visibility! We started at the parking area at Bash Bish Falls in Copake Falls, NY and walked north to Catamount Ski area in Hillsdale, NY,  and South Egremont, MA, about 6 miles. Across the road from the parking area, we took the Cedar Brook Trail up the brook, crossing it several times and then up more to the South Taconic Trail, north across the ridge to Catamount and down the ski trails. The trail runs back and forth across the state border between Mass. and NY. 

This is a great hike. It starts with some short steep uphills, then has moderate ups and downs along the ridge and some steep downhills on the ski trails depending on which you take. We stayed on the easier trails and found them very enjoyable with views and fall flowers as you will see in the photos below.

We lingered for almost an hour enjoying the air, sunshine, conversation
and views including Albany and the Catskills. Oh, and lunch, too! 
Amazingly bright red berries on a Mountain Ash.
A sweet little flower called Purple Milkwort.
A plentiful white aster on the ski trails.
My favorite fall flower is the tall, intensely-colored New England Aster.
Its color varies from raspberry to a deep purple. It's common along the roadside.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Appalachian Trail and Jug End, Sheffield

Yesterday, I drove to the back of Berkshire School in Sheffield to access the Elbow Trail leading up to the Appalachian Trail. I found the trailhead after asking directions but finding a place to park was confusing. Finally I saw someone who said that I could park near the trailhead but it was not a designated spot. There is visitor parking down near the athletic facility.

The Elbow Trail rises 1.5 miles up to the AT mostly on a woods road with some short steep sections. When I reached the AT, I turned right (north) toward Mt. Bushnell and Jug End Mountain. It was very hot and humid for September--over 90 degrees. I met only a few other hikers and we remarked to each other about the oppressive heat. Still, it was good to be outside, especially since Tuesday's hike had been rained out.

The vegetation on the ridge is mostly pitch pine and scrub oak with many rock outcroppings providing views into the valley to the east. The haze was thick and interfered with the views so I enjoyed the closer scenery on the trail. I saw several kinds of lichen that I recognized, reindeer moss and rock tripe.

Lichen has only recently (in the 20th century) been accepted to be a partnership between fungus and algae. The fungus provides a home and protection for the algae and the algae provides nutrients for the fungus which is not capable of photosynthesis. In most cases, neither one can live without the other. How amazing! They grow extremely slowly, sometimes only a tenth of an inch a year, and can live in very harsh environments. More about lichens here.

Walking up the trail, I encountered this recent blow-down of a large hemlock.
Luckily there was a small opening between the mossy rock face and the tree roots
that I could walk through.
This is reindeer moss, a lichen that grows in the tundra of the far north,
and is eaten by reindeer and caribou. It is brittle so do not step on it.
Here's a large rock tripe with some smaller rosettes and an unidentified blue-grey lichen.
 The rock tripe is very brittle when dry but flexible and rubbery in wet weather. 
The view from my lunch spot between the pitch pines was very hazy.

Mt. Greylock—Views & Motorcycles!

Labor Day weekend I climbed Mt. Greylock by the Jones Nose Trail and the Appalachian Trail to the top and returned on the CCC Dynamite Trail. Whenever the summit road is open, usually from May through October, you have to share the top with those who drive, bicycle or motorcycle to the top.

At the Visitors Center, we met two bicyclists who said they were going to peddle over the top to Williamstown, peddle back over the top to the Visitor's Center and then back over the top to Williamstown again. Wow! I'm impressed with the many people who bike to the top and back down once! They looked like they were up to the task.

When the weather is beautiful like it was that weekend, motorcyclists love the mountain. There may be hundreds at the top. Actually there's plenty of room for everyone to enjoy the views, I just wish the motorcycles weren't so loud!

One of several long lines of motorcycles parked below Bascom Lodge. 
The beautiful pond just below the summit.
This is just one small portion of the long views at the top.
Sorry, but this photo just doesn't do it justice.

Mt. Greylock, Deer Hill Trail

Trail from the campground parking area on Rockwell Road
to Deer Hill Trail and campground.
Last week I drove to Mount Greylock to explore the Deer Hill Trail and Circle Trail. At the Visitor's Center I learned that the Circle Trail, one I'd never been on, is no longer being kept up, although the ranger said that I could give it a try which I did. It was rough with bridges out and blowdowns but I enjoyed it but wouldn't recommend it--a little hard to follow.

The Deer Hill Trail descended past a shelter lean-to and into a ravine with a well-maintained bridge across a stream. Then the trail climbed up to the beautiful falls consisting this time of year of many trickles & drips. Beautiful! I continued on past the campsites out to Stony Ledge. Although it was a little hazy, the view as always was wonderful!
View of the stream at the bottom of Deer Hill Trail.
The falls on the Deer Hill Trail on Roaring Brook.
Goldenrod at Stony Ledge.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Wind Turbines on Brody Mountain, Hancock

Brody Mountain wind turbines from the Jones Nose Trail on Mount Greylock.
So, what's the story with all those wind turbines on Brody Mountain?

The 10 turbines are part of the Berkshire Wind Power Cooperative Corporation's (BWPCC) Berkshire Wind Power Project, online since 2011. At that time it was the largest wind farm in Massachusetts. Now there is a larger 19-turbine project, Hoosac Wind, in Florida, Massachusetts. On a recent hike on Mount Greylock trails, both projects, plus the smaller turbine at Jiminy Peak, were prominent at various viewpoints.

BWPCC is made up of 14 municipal utilities, none of which are in the Berkshires. According to the their website, Brodie's ridge top is one of the best inland wind sites in Massachusetts. The turbines are expected to operate at capacity about 40 percent of the time (when wind speeds allow) and generate enough power for 6,000 homes. They will offset the production of nearly 612,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide and the use of 1.7 million barrels of oil over the life of the turbines.

That sounds good, right? However, opponents have complained about the impact on the environment, birds, animals, and tourism, and noise pollution. The Berkshire Natural Resources Council, in a position statement on their website, says, "there must be a consistent policy regarding wind power facilities that establishes standards for site selection, environmental review, and stewardship." We must continue to find ways to minimize the "costs" of whatever energy resources we develop.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Monument Mountain, Great Barrington

Any day is a great day for summiting Monument Mountain, a very popular climb in southern Berkshire County. Most summer days, the large parking lot on Rte 7 has lots of cars and in the fall you're lucky to find a space. The climb is short and the views are fantastic! 

Yesterday the rocks and roots were still a little wet and slippery from the night's rain, but by the time we got to the top, the rocks had dried but the atmosphere was still a little hazy. There were yellow and orange maple leaves scattered along the trail, a reminder that in a month the trees will be in their glory of reds, yellows and oranges. The change of the seasons is always bittersweet for me.

Looking down to the Devil's Pulpit on the south side of the mountain from the Squaw Peak Trail.
Looking north across Agawam Lake with Mount Greylock barely visible in the background.
The Mountain Ash tree at the top of the mountain is spectacular this time of year.
There was one in the front lawn of my old house. It's beautiful as an ornamental.