The Berkshire Mountains

Over the years, we have spent a lot of time in the Berkshire Mountains area: around Lenox, Stockbridge and Great Barrington:

The area also has a lot of day-time activities. In addition to exploring the towns’ downtown areas, with their boutiques, galleries and restaurants, you can visit:

Among outdoor activities, one can hike, mountain-bike, golf, cross-country ski and even find some small downhill ski runs.

On our recent 2018 fall foliage trip, we spent some of the rainy days exploring, hiking and revisiting some of our favorite galleries. One of the best art glass collections we have seen outside of Tacoma’s Glass Museum is Schantz Galleries Contemporary Art, in Stockbridge Massachusetts. It claims to be the oldest art glass gallery in the country (operating over 40 years). It carries works from more than 60 artists from around the world including:

  • The largest U.S. dealer of Italian master Lino Tagliapietra;
  • One of the largest dealers of Dale Chihuly; and
  • Many others show works with whom we weren’t familiar, including William Carlson, who produces fascinating pieces that combine granite and glass.

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While the pieces are beautiful, their $4,000 – $40,000 price range is beyond our budget. Still, we can admire.

Other galleries that are more within our price range (and from where we have previously purchased pieces) include:

  • Wit Gallery, in Lenox, which features a wide range of contemporary art in all media, provides work from an every changing array of artists.

Wit Gallerty

  • Hotchkiss Mobiles, in West Stockbridge, which makes mobiles in its own studio, but also sells art glass, jewelry, and one-of-a-kind women’s clothes from other artists.

Hotchkiss Mobile Gallery

  • Turn Park Art Space, located near the Hotchkiss. While it isn’t a gallery, it a small outdoor sculpture park, built around a lake formed by an old quarry. Wehile we were less than impressed by a number of works, some, such as Nicolai Silis’ Lazy Ladies and especially, Vladimir Lemport’s wonderful Bohr and Einstein smoking pipes are almost worth the visit on their own.

Berkshire Mountains Hiking Trails

Another of our favorite activities in this area is hiking. This trip was no exception, where we enjoyed several hikes:

  • Monument Mountain Trail. One can reach the 1,642 foot summit (Squaw Peak) via a 720 feet climb via three different routes, all leaving from the same trail head. All three go to Inspiration rock, a somewhat misleading name for a rock that commemorates the donor of the land, but is only partway up the mountain and offers no view. While all three trails meet at the rock, only one reaches the summit and the views.
    • Indian Mountain is a gradual, 1.5-mile trail to the rock which has the disadvantage of having perhaps 20 percent of the trail running alongside the very noisy Route 7;
    • Hicking Trail is a 0.8-mile trail. While it is somewhat steeper, it avoids the road and runs along a creek with a small, but pretty waterfall;
    • Squaw Peak Trail is a somewhat steeper, slightly shorter, 0.7-mile hike to Inspiration Rock. This trail, however, is the only one that continues all the way up to the summit via a quite steep extension that reaches the summit. On a clear day, it provides views north to Mount Greylock and South to the Catskills. While the panoramic view (not to speak of the exercise) was well worth the effort, we still ended up with a view that was almost entirely green, with few yellow and nary a red leaf in site.

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  • Bash Bish Falls Trail. One can reach these falls via either Massachusetts (via a 0.4-mile trail) or New York (via a 1.5 mile each way trail). We chose the New York side and were rewarded with a walk along the lovely (but dangerous) rapidly flowing stream that forms a continual series of rapids as it flows downstream. Although the views along the easy (roughly 300 foot elevation gain) trail is a reward in itself, the climax comes when you reach the double-throated falls, which at 80 feet, is the tallest single-drop waterfall in Massachusetts. Taking the stone steps down to the base of the falls provides a very different, and worthwhile perspective from a view from the overlook.

You can either extend walk, or take your car, by a stop to the Copake Iron Works Historic Site which can be reached from the road to the trailhead. The ironworks operated from 1845 to 1903. It took advantage not only of a vein of iron ore, but also the local wood and limestone required to smelt the oar and the stream for power. Originally the area including an entire company town where the workers were paid in company script. Today, the site consists of an interpretive trail with 25 preserved sites (including the charcoal blast furnace) and the machine shop than now serves as a visitor center, with a movie and interpretive panels.

Berkshire Mountains Restaurants

  • Brava (Lenox), where dinner consisted of lamb chops with mint sauce and an Italian sausage, mushroom, mozzarellas and tomato sauce pizza (both of which were pretty good. We were also amazed at the incredible size of the beer list, and to a lesser extent the large (broad, but not very deep) wine list for such as small restaurant. We ended up with a bottle of 2014 Chateau Edmus St. Emilion Grand Cru Bordeaux.
  • Alta (Lenox), one of the area’s more elevated restaurants, where we had began with a very good, rich wild mushroom bisque with scallions and a caesar salad for which, based on Joyce’s request for extra anchovies, included a pestle-sized bowl filled with the salty fillets. Entrees were seared duck breast with mashed potatoes and delicious salty caramel sauce and equally good pan-seared giant sea scallops with sautéed grapes and topped with arugula and almonds with ver jus. The wine we chose, a 2014 mas de Boislauzon Chateuneuf de Pape which went well with the duck. We knew it would be a bit much for the scallops but we couldn’t,  resist and were amply rewarded.
  • Bistro Box (Great Barrington), a popular, highly regarded roadside stand at which we had a grilled Hebrew National hot dog, grilled Cabot cheddar cheese sandwich with bacon and onion rings. While we both enjoyed the main dishes, the onion ring breading was too crisp for Joyce’s taste, but not for Tom. We thought the informal lunch would be a perfect time to finish the last of the fresh (no preservative) bottles of fresh apple cider that we bought on our Vermont-Berkshire trip.

Berkshire Mountains Hotel (Lenox)

Hampton Inn & Suites in Lenox, Massachusetts is a typical Hampton Inn. It was comfortable, clean and had a decent breakfast, clean. Our biggest complaint is the layout in many Hampton Inns. They have a mirrored closet between the bedroom and the bathroom. Both of us hit the mirror wall when we have tried to get into the bathroom at night due to the reflection. And why can’t hotels put a nightlight in the bathroom to help people who have to go at night? Oh well.

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