Tag Archives: Berkshires

Zipping Through The Berkshires

Ziplining

Shannon, disguised behind sunglasses and an attractive orange helmet, rocking the zip-line

Flying through a tree-top canopy at 35 miles per hour while suspended 50 feet in the air by a harness and a cable is one great way to experience the beauty of the Berkshires, or really anywhere for that matter.  Zip-lining is something we wanted to try ever since we first saw it on the Amazing Race several years ago.  Now it was our turn.

The Deerfield Valley Canopy Tour starts with a brief tutorial covering such trivial things as how to break and how to perform a “self rescue”, blah, blah, blah.  After practicing the techniques on the zip-lining equivalent of a bunny slope, we head up the mountain for the real deal.  Our group piles in to a 4 x 4 vehicle that speeds up a half-mile of twisting, rutted, dirt roads as it makes the 500 foot vertical ascent to the beginning of the course.  This beats the crap out of a ski lift as far as getting up a mountain goes.  If the entire trip is as much fun as this, we’re in for a great day.

Rappelling is the only way to get down

The 4 x 4 stops a little shy of our final destination, but after a short hike and a quick ladder climb to a tree stand, we’re finally in position for our first real zip.  Meghan, one of our guides, goes first and gets in position so she can signal us noobs when to start braking.  If you slow down too soon you’ll stop before reaching the other tree stand.  Slow down too late, and, well, there is a tree to meet you on the downhill side of the cable.  No biggie.

Our other guide, conveniently also named Meghan, hooks my harness to the zip cable and gives me the green light to go.  I thought I’d have some trepidation about stepping off a completely solid tree stand into the nothingness below, but it is different than I expected.  Most of my weight is already supported by the harness so picking my feet up feels more like sitting on a swing than stepping off a ledge.  There is no moment of free fall.  Instead of plunging downward, I start moving forward.  Gaining speed, the tree-top canopy becomes a tunnel of green blur all around me.  Too soon, I see the platform ahead with Meghan signaling for me to break.  “This is Awesome!” I yell to those still waiting on the other side.  “It gets better” encourages Meghan. Somehow, she always knows exactly what to say.

Sky bridges connect adjacent platforms

And she isn’t lying.  The zips get progressively longer, and faster, with the longest cable stretching the length of one and a half football fields.  This is crazy fun.

After a couple of zips we’re all feeling pretty confident.  But at this tree stand I don’t see our next zip cable.  I see a rope hanging from a pulley.  We have to rappel down the tree to our next platform.  Sweet!  Meghan gives us some basic instructions and before long I’m leaning back over a 15 foot drop trusting that a complete stranger will lower me to safety.  She did.

After about three hours we complete the entire course, including eleven zips, three rappels, two “sky bridges,” and a 4 x 4 ride.  Feeling exhilarated and a little exhausted I head back to my car determined to do this again someday soon.

Money Brook Falls

Money Brook Falls is a 70-foot, cascading waterfall found on the Northern slope of Mount Greylock.  While not as spectacular as Kaaterskill Falls in New York (possibly because we missed Money Brook’s peak runoff, which occurs in late spring), it is still well worth the effort.  And it is somewhat of an effort.  The hike is categorized as “strenuous” by the Massachusetts DCR because of its 200-foot altitude gain over it’s three-quarter-mile length.  But the trail is only seven-tenths of a mile so tough guys like us can still hack it.

If ever we wonder why we’re doing what we’re doing, it’s because of days like these when we have the opportunity to go on great hikes in the afternoon, and then attend the symphony at night.

Campfire Songs

The beauty of the R.V. lifestyle is that it can be virtually anything you want it to be.  For some people that means gathering around campfires and roasting marshmallows.  But it doesn’t have to be.  After three months of fulltime RVing, Shannon and I haven’t lit a single fire.  We really have no desire to.  Maybe that is because we don’t view our campgrounds as destinations but rather as basic places to stay.  They’re like hotel accommodations for our house.  The real draw for us is always activities available outside the campground.

This past Friday night, we took advantage of our proximity to Tanglewood, in Lenox, MA, and saw the Boston Symphony Orchestra perform Mozart’s Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio).  Now those are what we call campfire songs.

Tanglewood Tip: In the event of rain, there are a surprisingly large number of bench-spaces under the pavilion that are available for “lawn ticket” holders.  Arrive early and grab a spot to save the extra cash charged for an indoor seat. Tanglewood’s “Shed” isn’t that large so there is no advantage to buying the premium priced seats.

Picture of the Day

Pontoosuc Lake, Pittsfield, MA

Conquering Moby Dick

View from Stony Ledge

“All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby-Dick. He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.”

– Herman Melville, Moby Dick

My, oh-my, Melville must have hated Mount Greylock to have written such vitriol.* For it is rumored that the snow-covered profile of this gently sloping mountain peak provided the inspiration for his leviathan, Moby Dick.  From a distance, and with enough psychotropics, you can definitely imagine the mountain as the hump of a great whale breaching the surrounding granite waves.  But our objective today wasn’t to view it from a distance, it was to summit Massachusetts’ tallest peak.

Mt. Greylock as seen from Herman Melville's house

That certainly sounds impressive, and it might have been, if only we had taken the nine or so hours needed to hike the entirety of it.  But we were short on time and ambition today so we packed a lunch and drove to the 3,491 foot peak.  From the summit you can see several mountain ranges (the Adirondacks, the Catskills and the Green Mountains) depending on which direction you look.

Stony Ledge Trail

While Greylock’s vista is admirable, the better view, in our opinion, is from the lower summit of Stony Ledge. Some 900 feet beneath its larger sister, Stony Ledge gives an excellent view of Greylock, as well as the undeveloped valley on its western slope.  The hike to the ledge would have been fairly easy, but the wide trail just begged to be tackled via mountain bike, which proved to be harder than we expected.  The entire trip is a hill, halfway up, and halfway down.  Going down is loads of fun, but biking a mile or so straight up kicked the asses of a couple of fatties like us.  Good thing we got back early enough for a nap.

(* This will wind Shannon up good, because Melville loved Mount Greylock.  Heh, heh, heh, heh.)

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