Friday, August 22, 2014

Doggin' the Berkshires, Part 2

Last week, I recapped the first three hikes we tackled during our vacation. On our final full day in Massachusetts, we checked two more parks from Doggin' the Berkshires off the list to make a total of 5 parks in three full days. I would have liked to check out more, but between rain on our first evening in town and spending several hours in Concord, MA one day, there just wasn't time.  I guess that means we'll just have to come back!

Here's the recap of our final 2 hikes.

Tyringham Cobble (#3)
I wanted to try this park because Doggin' the Berkshires said that free range Hereford cattle grazed in the field where the hike began. I was just curious about how Barley might handle seeing cows--and I think cows are kind of cute, so I wanted to see them. Unfortunately, there were no cows in the field--so either that's not something that happens there anymore or the cows were hanging out somewhere else.



The park was great, but it was probably my most miserable hike ever! It was about an hour and a half from our cottage and by the time we got there, the morning coffee hit me. Of course, there were NO bathrooms, not even a port-a-potty anywhere in the park. Eventually, I came to the horrifying realization that I was going to have to find a tree to go behind. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am a little bit prissy--in fact, I didn't have an outdoorsy bone in my body until I met Barley (unless you count sitting on the porch and reading as outdoorsy). I hoped and prayed that I could just make it back to the car so I could race to the nearest fast food place, but no such luck. So, the first half of this adventure was not the best walk I have ever been on.




The trail we were on was a blend of meadow and woods. It was in the 50s when we started, so it was nice to start out in the sunny meadow. The majority of the hike was in the woods, though, so it would be a great place to visit when you needed a nice, shady walk. There were a couple pretty steep inclines, but nothing too terrible. We got to spend a little time walking on the Appalachian Trail where it intersected with the main trail, so we can say we've done that now. I'm disappointed there were no cows about, but the scenery was nice anyway--stone walls, rock formations, mountain views from the meadow--and we got in 1.75 miles.

Monument Mountain (#7)
This hike called to me because supposedly in August 1850 Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville met on a hike with Oliver Wendell Holmes and other people. They took wine and food in a wagon and when it started to rain, they hung out in a cave where Melville and Hawthorne began the friendship that led to Melville dedicating Moby Dick to Hawthorne. I wanted to be able to say we'd walked in the footsteps of some of the authors I teach to my students. It was also just a few minutes from Tyringham Cobble, so we could visit the two parks I wanted to visit the most on the same day.
Posing in front of the sign for the Melville Trail.
There are three trails here: the Indian Monument Trail, the Hickey Trail, and the Squaw Peak Trail. Squaw Peak is a connector trail between the other two that goes up to the 1642-foot peak. Doggin' the Berkshires warned that the views (which are supposedly great) are "reached on a rocky scramble along" the trail with "rock climbs and unguarded, precipitous drop-offs." The book basically said that if your dog isn't a saint, don't try this. I knew immediately that we'd be avoiding that trail no matter how great the views might be. Barley and I have been on some strenuous (and sort of scary) trails and she was really responsive to commands the day of this hike, but I'm not used to hiking in actual mountains, I'm terrified of heights, and no matter how well behaved Barley is normally, she can still be really unpredictable. It just wasn't worth the risk--we'd seen plenty of other great views on this trip and the whole point of this hike was it's literary history.

We were originally going to take the Indian Monument Trail up and back (it makes a loop with the Hickey Trail) because it was the longest trail and the least strenuous trail since it used to be part of a carriage road in the 1800s (and miles are what count for our resolution, not difficultly). But when we got to the parking lot, there was an off-leash dog hanging out while its owner got his backpack put together. As soon as we started to turn toward the trail, it started trotting over to say hi, so we decided to tackle the Hickey Trail, which is half the distance, but insanely difficult for flatlanders like me (Barley had no troubles).



I was born 12 inches above sea level and lived at that altitude the first 11 years of my life. I didn't gain significant altitude until I moved to New Mexico for grad school. Despite the three years there, altitude is not my friend. It's not as bad when I'm the one driving, but it still takes a lot out of me. I also haven't had to use the muscles it takes to climb up steep inclines very much ever in my life--so even though Barley and I have averaged 4 miles a day for the last 2.5 months or so, it was a really difficult hike! For a reference point, in our neighborhood, our elevation gain ranges from 7 feet to 64 feet and at the arboretum (our most regular hiking spot) the elevation gain on our regular trails is 263 feet; on this hike, our elevation gain was 536 feet! There were parts when I felt like my lungs and heart were going to explode. And, of course, on all of those parts small children would come running up the trail behind us, so I'd conveniently take out Barley's h2o4k9 bottle and act like we were stopping for her instead of because I thought I might die.



There were also several very rocky spots that required lots of communication between the pup and I. I'm not sure how she got so good at the "wait" command, but she is so patient with me when I'm finding my footing on uneven terrain. Some how, we made it up the .8-mile Hickey Trail and were more than happy to take the Indian Monument Trail down. The Indian Monument Trail had a few tricky spots, but it was a piece of cake compared to what we'd just done! And in all honesty, if I'm going to do a strenuous trail with Barley, I'd MUCH rather do strenuous on the way up than on the way down. As good as she is at waiting, sometimes when we're going downhill Barley can't help but charge down the hill and even though she doesn't pull me, it makes me nervous!

We survived!
Overall, we had a really great vacation! I got to spend time visiting the homes of my two favorite writers and we got to try out some trails that were COMPLETELY different from anything we have near home.

If you are ever in Western Massachusetts with only one or two people and need a pet-friendly place to stay, we highly recommend Cavalier Cottage. It's a studio cottage, so it's pretty small, but cozy in the best possible way. There's a full kitchen and plenty of room for a crate if you need it.



14 comments:

  1. Sounds like so much fun and what dedication to do all of those hikes. That last picture of you says it all - so happy and healthy! Congrats on mastering that tough hike and thanks for joining FitDog Friday.

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    1. It was a lot of fun! I was pleasantly surprised that my legs weren't sore at all after the tough hike--so maybe one day I'll learn how to survive the altitude a little more gracefully :)

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  2. I love traveling with our dog - and we go all over the country. Looks like you had fun and got a fab workout, too. Wags!

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    1. We have traveled more this summer than we have before between visiting my parents' new house in Alabama a couple times and this trip. I loved having my girl (and my little man cat) with me, but it also made it a little harder to visit all of the places I wanted to visit since I wanted to be sure Barley had a great vacation, too. But I think the more traveling we do, the easier it will get!

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    1. I agree! We have beautiful woodsy parks near our place, but nothing like the views we saw at these parks!

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  4. That sounds awesome. Mom has had that bathroom issue come up a few times over the years, not fun, but when nature calls, you have to answer at some point. Thanks for joining FitDog Friday.

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    1. I always joke about Barley being a diva since she hates mud and getting wet, but it's clearly a trait that runs in the family because I was mortified that it had to happen!

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  5. I'm kind of bummed you didn't see the cows, too, but maybe another time. I'm glad you survived the trails!!

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    1. We are glad, too! When I saw children running up some of the trails, I really just wanted to be put out of my misery, but it was worth it in the end!

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  6. Sounds like a great trip overall! I can empathize with the bathroom thing. That's no fun at all to hike in that condition!

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  7. It looks like a beautiful place! In the 50's? Wow! That's my idea of Heaven! We are in the 90s here. :-( I'll have to check that trail out some day!

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  8. Glad you survived the hike. Sounds like a great place to exercise with nature.

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  9. Cute cottage and it sounds like you had some wonderful hikes. I can sympathize with no bathrooms in sight. That is often the case at hunt tests. ;)

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