Field Trip: North Berkshires

A month ago, I was hanging out for a couple of days in North Adams and Williamstown, the northernmost towns in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, with spouse and friends from Baltimore. In May of 2010, close to 10 years ago, spouse and I spent a few days in the southern Berkshires, in Lenox, Stockbridge, Great Barrington but I’d never been to N. Adams and Williamstown before. It was a perfect time of year to be there, with great weather (highs in the mid- and upper-50s), a tiny bit of leaf colour though mostly still green, and not too many people visiting.

The main impetus for the location was a friend’s desire to visit Mass MoCA, the sprawling contemporary arts museum in North Adams, but we also managed to fit in a woods hike, several fun meals, a campfire on a chilly 40F evening, and lots of catching up.


We stayed at Wigwam Western Summit, located on a curve along Route 2, overlooking the valley below and offering sunset views. It has only a few cabins, fairly expensive and smallish for cabins. There’s a cafe/store there, too, quite popular with the public, offering cars & coffee mornings, live music in the evenings, and locally made sushi and pastries. A few of the quirks we weren’t prepared for were that there is no free ice (you have buy bags of it ?), the shower water took a looooong time to heat up and the temperature varied wildly while I was showering one day (but not the next day), there were no washcloths (or hand towels, just bath towels) and no closet (just some hangers on a bar), and the blinds on the windows were insufficient to keep headlights from vehicles rounding the Route 2 corner coming directly into my eyes all night long. On the plus side, one of the owners laid a fire in the firepit, which was outside our cabin, when we asked; parking was easy and close; the cafe/store is quite nice; the cabin had a fridge (no microwave); and it’s stylishly designed — imagine not a state park’s rustic cabins but rather a sweet tiny cottage. The floors were freezing, though! I think the cottages are available from late April to mid-October.

The store/cafe.


Did I mention they have a bar?




Our cottage.


Inside. Cute, right?


Fire pit in the morning.


Fire pit at night. Brrr.


Morning view with fog in the valley.



We spent a few hours at Mass MoCA one afternoon. Here’s a collage of some shots from that visit. I liked the space itself as well as some of the art.


I know you want to see some restaurant food — the two places I especially enjoyed were  Mezze Bistro & Bar in Williamstown for dinner (great ambiance, good wine and cocktails, some veggie options) and Brewhaha (menu incomplete) in North Adams for breakfast; I’d go to Brewhaha regularly if I lived nearby, for the cheerful ambiance and especially for the many great vegan and vegetarian options. Below are my slow roasted curried carrots and beluga lentils with coconut milk at Mezze, and spouse’s Norwegian salmon breakfast and my fruit salad at Brewhaha. I also got vegan bacon and a potato cake.


Finally, to the hike and other outdoor fun.

We spent a few hours hiking the Spruce Hill Trail to Sunset Rock and beyond, in the Hoosac Range, about six miles. There were others on the trail but not too many, and the views from Sunset Rock and from the end point of the Spruce Hill Trail were excellent.

orienting ourselves — the trailhead was next to Wigwam Western Summit, very convenient!


some red hobblebush leaves
Yoda burl
mountain ash and views
ledge we rested on before walking back down


The other, entirely serendipitous, spot we visited was Spruces Park — or, as I think of it, Lions’ Park, its entrance framed by two giant white lion statues — which is a defunct mobile home community in Williamstown, MA, opened in June 1954 to introduce “a new wonderful way of living, especially for older people;” for instance, the creator, Albert Bachand, “[e]ver trying to make living at the Spruces more pleasant, … purchased several two-passenger bicycles and an aluminum row boat for residents to use on the Lighthouse Pond, which was stocked with hundreds of 8- to 14-inch trout” (read more about it). The mobile home park was condemned and had to be abandoned in 2011 after flooding from Hurricane Irene of the abutting Hoosic River destroyed all 226 homes. Now open to the community for dog-walking and such, the park, its neighbourhood street grid still inscribing the landscape, feels haunted in that way that hastily abandoned places often do (like the Highlands Center in Truro, MA, on the Cape). The sunlight, 45 minutes before sunset that day, made it all the more nostalgic.


Hoosic River, looking benign
chicory, one of my favourite wildflowers


Thanks for coming to my travelogue!

“The traces left by a prior in habitation, abandoned belongings, a child’s swing which hangs forlornly, a shoe, the mark on a wall where a picture once hung – the leavings left by those who have departed magnify the presence of absence, desertion is palpable. Leavings are the intensification of loss. Leavings are also represented not by the fragments but the holes where they should be. Melancholy pours into the lacunae, gaps, and holes in history. That which is missing somehow persists, a ghostly presence.” — Jacky Bowring, from Melancholy and the Landscape: Locating Sadness, Memory, and Reflection in the Landscape (2017)









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