Housatonic Heritage Walks are precisely what they sound like: A wonderful way to explore the outdoors AND the history along the winding Housatonic River. The walks are a partnership of the many heritage organizations of the Upper Housatonic River Valley, the National Park Service and the Berkshires Visitors Bureau.
The great thing about a tour like this is that you are guaranteed to discover something interesting – and you are also sure to learn about something that you never would have even known to look for or ask about as a tourist. These walks are curated by experts on the history and the landscape of the area – you’re in good hands.
The next and final weekend of Housatonic Heritage Walks is coming up on October 5and 6, 2013. The weekend includes not just one walk option, but MANY. And there are a variety of types of walks. There are short walks; there are long walks. There are walks that take you through towns. There are walks that let you soak in nature. Walks can include kayaking, birding, and exploration of old ruins. See? Are you excited yet? If not, maybe you just need to know that there are 21 walks to choose from throughout the weekend…!
You can explore Herman Melville’s Berkshires by exploring the woodland behind the Moby Dick writer’s estate, Arrowhead. You can explore the little hamlet of Van Deusenville, in Great Barrington – file that one under, bet you didn’t even know you could. Learn about energy technology at Hancock Shaker Village (the Shakers were very cutting edge for their time in the areas of technology and design). Go birding at Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary. Take a gravedigger’s tour! So many possibilities. Truly an offering that will appeal to everyone in this mix.
Each tour is a different length, and they vary in physical challenges, so you will want to check the description for each tour to see if they are a good fit for you. Many of them also have folks you can contact for more information. The tours website is also a good course of information.
Never a dull moment in the Berkshires – unless of course, that’s your plan!
The Berkshires are no stranger to literary events, but this particular literary event redefines literary, and turns it into a bit of a spectator sport. The Literary Death Match, set for September 20th from 6-10pm at our near neighbor, The Mount, mixes language, liquor and humor into a cocktail of fun – fun that may not be entirely appropriate for younger audiences, but is guaranteed to entertain more mature visitors.
Literary readings and commentary will be delivered by Berkshires luminaries, and they will be joined by Literary Death Match creator, Adrian Todd Zuniga. Literary Death Match has entertained audiences in 37 cities around the world – in addition to its regular installations in New York City, San Francisco, and London.
A Literary Death Match is a competitive, performance-based presentation, by four famous or emerging writers – each writer is given no more than 7 minutes to deliver their best writing to the audience, with humor at the core. Three judges then critique the performances, no-holds-barred, and select the finalists, who will compete in what is described by Literary Death Match HQ as a finale “which trades in the show’s literary sensibility for an absurd and comical climax to determine who takes home the Literary Death Match crown”. It’s wild, irreverent, and chaotic, by design. Visit the website for a further taste of the madness.
Would Edith Wharton, the Mount’s most famous resident, approve of these unconventional literary exploits? She did write many of her novels here, at her Berkshires retreat, including The House Of Mirth. Writer of 85 short stories, she was not opposed to shorter format literary exploration. Known for her astute characterizations of upper class life in her time, often criticizing the same, she was a witty and clever writer. We can only assume that she might enjoy the cast of characters assembled upon her property, engaged in a battle of wits.
Admission is $10 for Mount members, $12 General Admission/$15 at the door, $8 for students with ID. You may purchase tickets online or at the door as they remain available.
And talk about an easy walk back to your room at Hampton Terrace. It doesn’t get easier than this!
The Mohawk Trail is an ancient highway – one humans have traveled for thousands of years, for purposes of trade and connection between communities. It is also a very old designated historic and scenic landmark, because of the beauty of the land that it travels through.
It began as a foot trail, heavily traveled by Native New Englanders. As European settlers arrived, and history rolled on, so did more types of transportation – and the trail evolved over the centuries to accommodate the transportation methods of the time, it is now accessible by automobile.
The “trail” spans from the Massachusetts/New York state line to the Connecticut River at Millers Falls, a 63-mile route. Inns, shops, attractions and more are discoverable along the way, providing exploration and necessities for visitors. The landscape itself also offers unique experiences (including spectacular views of Mt. Greylock).
If you guessed that the trail is named for one of the groups of people native to the area, you are correct. According to mohawktrail.com:
“The English and Dutch arranged a "peace" conference between the two tribes. However, a Mohawk of high tribal standing was killed and the Pocumtuck people were blamed. The furious Mohawk sent their warriors quickly over the Indian Trail and annihilated the Pocumtuck settlements. The English now had no resistance to their advancement up the Connecticut River. Moreover, the Dutch took the opportunity of the Mohawk's diverted attention to pursue their interests farther up the Hudson River. With place names, then as now, the recognition goes to the victor...’The Mohawk Trail’.”
That same website also offers several driving tours for those who wish to auto-tour the area.
Salmon Falls is one of the geographic attractions along the way of the trail. Contrary to the expectation that the name might give you, the riverbed here is mostly dry. The real highlight here is the glacial potholes. These potholes were formed thousands and thousands of years ago by the waters that roared through during the Glacial Age. Whirling water carved solid rock to create the spectacle now visible to the eye, thanks to the now-receded water.
You won’t want to miss the Bridge of Flowers – an abandoned trolley bridge that has been literally transformed into a flower bridge – a garden suspended across the 400 ft span where trolleys used to roll.
There are indoor attractions as well including the Clark Museum, the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum, and the Quaker Meeting House in Adams, MA.
With 63 miles of trail to explore, you could easily spend a whole trip focused on the attractions of the area – and still need to come back for many subsequent trips to take in still more. Every time you visit attractions along the trail, you are following a path that thousands before you have traveled throughout time.
Visit the Mohawk Trail website for more information about this vital piece of Massachusetts and American history. (Photo from the Mohawk Trail website Driving Tours page)
Though the season has not officially flipped, it has changed in the imagination. Welcome to Fall in the Berkshires.
MASS MoCA, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, always has a packed roster of engaging, diverse, and fresh events. This season is no exception, with the FreshGrass Festival of bluegrass and roots music, Ben Perowsky’s Moodswing Orchestra, and Talib Kweli and others, presenting, performing and creating at MASS MoCA’s North Adams headquarters.
FreshGrass is an annual event, exposing the roots of American music. FreshGrass is much more than a concert; it’s a three day, full weekend experience. The Del McCoury band, Alison Brown, Bill Evans, and dozens of others are the musical fabric of a weekend made richer with contests, workshops, kids’ activities, and food. The venue itself is a repurposed 19th-century factory, a perfect place to meld classic bluegrass with the genre’s cutting edge. The festival runs from September 20-22. It’s family-friendly and there is camping available. For more information about FreshGrass, visit the event website.
Ben Perowsky’s Moodswing Orchestra is the drummer/curator of his eclectic collection of some of NYC’s best musicians. Perowsky himself has played with greats like Bill Frisell, and John Cale. He is also known as a composer, arranger, percussionist and record producer and according to DrummerWorld.com he has played drums since the age of 3. He is known for his affiliation with cutting edge and radical musical explorers and this project is no different. His collaborators in the Moodswing Orchestra include TK Wonder, a “a singer, rapper and songwriter who has supported such acts as Nas, Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli and opened for Sting, Justice, N.E.R.D, and The Prodigy”. Additional Moodswing collaborators: Canadian saxophone player Michael Blake, and Lenny Kravitz’s keyboardist, David Baron. They take the stage at MoCA on October 5.
On October 19, the artist that Pitchfork.com calls “One of the most rounded and complete rap personas in the game” comes to North Adams. Talib Kweli is best known as the founding father of conscious rap – bringing a social consciousness to the genre. He’s been collaborating at the cutting edge of rap since 1995.
The Berkshires are so well-known for classic, enduring, and revered events like Tanglewood, but the cutting edge is just as present, and not hard to find. Mass MoCA is a consistent presenter of what’s new, and what’s next, and a great place to look for events that will intrigue you during your Berkshires visit.
Photo of Ben Perowsky, via the MASS MoCA website.