For some people, hiking is all about discovering new places, but you need know where you’re going. Step-by-step, one hiker-turned-author has taken it upon himself to make sure those looking to escape in the Berkshires know where to go. And I went with him.
Mount Greylock State Reservation is one of the Berkshires’ hiking meccas. It boasts the tallest point in Massachusetts at 3,491 feet and has recently been cast as the home of a wizarding school in the fictional world of Harry Potter.
“I mean, Greylock is a magic place,” Stevens said. “If you happen to be up there when the clouds are thick it’s not hard to imagine that there were things going on you couldn’t quite see.”
Although he’s not a big Harry Potter fan, Lauren Stevens does have something in common with J.K. Rowling, the writer behind the blockbuster series…they’re both authors. Stevens’ latest book is 50 Hikes in the Berkshire Hills.
“These are specifically day hikes so there is nothing in here longer than about 11 or 12 miles,” said Stevens.
The book plots out paths that pass waterfalls and scenic vistas. Despite the book’s title and being listed number 50, Stevens’ favorite hike is actually in neighboring Franklin County. It’s called Dunbar Brook.
“It’s the idyllic little mountain stream that comes down with lots of little rocks that it ripples over,” Stevens explained. “It’s given another dimension, I guess I’m always interested in that other dimension, just to the north of it is the largest area of old growth forest in the commonwealth of Massachusetts and southern New England. Big old spruce. Big old hemlock. Some not so big, but all old. You get a sense of being in a very special place.”
Since Stevens walked all 50 hikes and then some, the book details each journey more than a map and pictures could — although both are well deployed in its pages. Stevens explains and refers to the additional nuisances as the “extras” of a hike, such as the blueberries you would typically find on our journey of Rounds Rock Trail if conditions were a bit better.
Further down the trail is a quaint memorial to John Newcomb feet away from the wreckage of his Cessna.
“An airplane that was carrying newspapers up to Albany from New York City,” Stevens said. “The pilot did not survive. His plane, you can see it’s a little bit of a metal frame and pieces of it have disappeared over the years. But, originally it must have been made mostly of wood which tells you something about how long ago it was…right after World War II."
Hunters discovered Newcomb’s body and the plane in December 1948 roughly four months after it crashed.
In the book, Stevens makes sure to point out that the Appalachian Trail runs right through the Berkshires while noting the region’s celebrated theaters and museums. He says what makes hiking the Berkshires extra special are the remnants of an earlier life such as a stonewall delineating farmland in what is now a forest or the places where writers like Henry David Thoreau walked and drew inspiration.
“It’s not just hiking for hiking’s sake, but it’s the layers that you add on to that that I think make the Berkshires a very special place,” said Stevens.