adventures

ENE Blog: Berkshires Fall Travelogue

By Tom Richardson
Hiking the Mahanna Cobble trail in Lenox, MA.

Last week, the ENE TV crew and I returned from a busy two-day trip to the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, where we captured some amazing footage for what will surely be another entertaining and educational episode of Explore New England TV’s second season of programming. Among the segments we filmed was a hike up Mahanna Cobble with members of the Berkshires Natural Resources Council. This easy hike begins at the base of the Bousquet Ski Area in Lenox, which is now being renovated and updated under new ownership. The parking area and trail head were a bit of a mess when we arrived, laced by barrier fences and littered with giant pieces of a former water park, but the hope is that all will be spruced up in time for the 2020-21 ski season.

Avery Tawczynski displays a large "hen of the woods" mushroom.

Once we had cleared the ski slope and entered the woods, the trail became a lot prettier, winding through a mix of pine and hardwood (beech and oak) forest. Along the way, BNRC Trails Coordinator Tyler Fogg described the hard work that goes into constructing and maintaining these trails—something that many hikers take for granted. Meanwhile, BNRC President Jenny Hansell spoke about the history and mission of her group, and told us about the exciting new “High Roads” trail that will link major towns in the Berkshires and provide a convenient route for hikers to travel the region while stopping along the way to visit various cultural institutions, events,  restaurants, cozy inns, B&B’s, and more.

The solar-powered Barrington Brewery in Great Barrington serves fresh ales.

Later in the day, we filmed at Taft Farm in Great Barrington, owned and run by the third generation of the Tawczynski family. Longtime friend Paul Tawczynski and his two precocious daughters, Corrie and Avery., led us on a mushroom-foraging expedition in the local woods, and we brought home over 20 pounds of Hen of the Woods, which Paul battered and fried into what he calls “boneless mushroom wings.” Dipped in various sauces, they were delicious!

After our “mushroom wing” appetizers, we headed down the road to film at the Barrington Brewery, which fulfills most of its energy needs through a huge solar-powered array. The crew was treated to a great meal, along with several of the brewery’s tasty, fresh Octoberfest ales.

The historic Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge.

We spent the night at the famous Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, and were up bright and early to meet with Alison Dixon of the Housatonic Valley Association. After strapping various canoes and a kayak to the roofs of our vehicles, we headed to the Decker Boat Ramp in Lenox for a paddle along the Housatonic River. Along the way, Alison shared her knowledge of the river and its wildlife, as well as how recreational boaters can best access the waterway. We also talked at length about the impending remediation project, aimed at removing PCB-contaminated sediment from the river bottom and banks. It’s a massive undertaking, but is long overdue. All in all, this promises to be a strong episode of ENE, and we hope to return to the Berkshires this winter to check out the new and improved Bousquet Ski Area!

 

Setting off from the Decker Boat Ramp in Lenox for a paddle down the Housatonic River.
Paddling along a quiet section of the Housy.

Explore New England Gear Reviews

Prior to this shoot, I was provided gear and clothing from REI Co-op in Framingham, MA, that I was able to field test. Here are my reviews, based on firsthand use of the products.

Specifically, I was able to field-test the following products:

Smartwool Intraknit 200 Pattern Base Layer Crew Top

This base layer garment features “3D knit construction,” which, according to SmartWool, results in a better fit and allows for a “cleaner” blend of different materials in certain body areas with fewer seams and less material. Technical jargon aside, I can say that the top kept me comfortable and dry during both days of hiking and paddling, and I really liked the fit and light weight. I will definitely wear this base layer for winter pursuits such as skiing and snowshoeing.

Notable Features:

  • Merino Sport yarn combines the moisture-wicking and thermoregulating powers of merino wool with the quick-drying properties of durable polyester 
  • Engineered 3D-knit construction enhances performance with a lighter weight and clean finish 
  • Gender-specific zoned mesh-knit ventilation keeps the dry and comfortable 
  • 3D-mapped for a near-custom fit with enhanced freedom of movement and ribbed elbows for added durability

Colors: Forged Iron & Deep Navy Mountain Stripe

Price: $120

PrAna Stretch Zion Straight Pants

I requested these pants after testing the PrAna Stretch Zion (10” inseam) shorts this summer. I love these shorts. They are some of the best-fitting and most comfortable shorts I own. Also, they are durable, non-shrink, quick-drying, lightweight (but not too flimsy), wrinkle-free and stain-resistant. I used them for everything from fishing and crabbing to hiking, paddling and biking. Well, I’m happy to report that the pants offer the same features, while providing added abrasion-, scratch- and sun-protection for the lower leg. I also appreciated the snaps that allow the lower pant legs to be rolled up and secured at the calf, which proved useful when getting in and out of the kayak on the muddy, wet banks of the Housatonic.

Notable Features:

  • Roll-up leg snaps, cinch belt system and ventilated inseam gusset are ready for bouldering, scrambling and more 
  • Original quick-drying Stretch Zion performance fabric has a durable water repellent (DWR) finish to fend off light weather 
  • UPF 50+ sun protection 
  • Streamlined adjustable waistband 
  • Mesh pockets; angled dual-entry, zippered cargo pocket
  • Straight fit 

Available in mud, charcoal, gravel, black, sepia

Price: $89