Far Out and About: Fall in the Berkshires

In October, the Berkshire Hills are no longer alive with the sounds of music and other arts festivals, but they are still filled with interesting places to visit and colorful foliage for the leaf peepers (see leafpeepers.com for fall foliage hotlines and other information).

Published October 21, 2011 4:14 PM
4 min read

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bishthumbIn October, the Berkshire Hills are no longer alive with the sounds of music and other arts festivals, but they are still filled with interesting places to visit and colorful foliage for the leaf peepers (see leafpeepers.com for fall foliage hotlines and other information).

 

By Paul Hicks

 

In October, the Berkshire Hills are no longer alive with the sounds of music and other arts festivals, but they are still filled with interesting places to visit and colorful foliage for the leaf peepers (see leafpeepers.com for fall foliage hotlines and other information).

 

bishbasbOn a recent trip, our destination was Williamstown, Mass., home of Williams College. Rather than taking the Taconic, we chose to follow Route 22 most of the way, since we were traveling mid-week when there was less traffic.

 

Taking this sometimes slower route allows you to pursue various anticipated or serendipitous interests along the way. A great place to stop for lunch is McKinney & Doyle in Pawling, N.Y. It is equally good for a coffee break, as it has a companion bakery that makes delicious muffins and other baked delights.

 

To work off the calories, plan to stop at the Roger Perry Preserve, located just north of Pawling, which was donated to The Nature Conservancy in memory of a former Rye resident. The property contains a short loop trail through unusual fens and white sands and is a good place to see migratory birds (Google Roger Perry Preserve for directions).

 

Although Route 22 is dotted with farmers markets, we decided to delay the purchase of pumpkins, apples, and other local produce until the return journey and pressed on to Williamstown to join friends. There are a number of decent choices of places to stay there (see TripAdvisor website), but two of the better ones are the centrally-located Williams Inn and The Orchards Hotel.

 

Williamstown is deservedly famous as a destination for art lovers, but it is also a central point for visiting some fascinating sites of architectural and historical interest. In nearby Pittsfield there is “Arrowhead”, Herman Melville’s home while he was writing “Moby Dick”, and at Hancock Shaker Village you can learn about the life and art of the Shakers.

 

Both “The Mount”, Edith Wharton’s estate and gardens, as well as “Naumkeg”, a grand Berkshire home from The Gilded Age, are close by in Lenox. Also easily accessible is “Chesterwood,” Daniel Chester French’s home and sculpture studio in Stockbridge.

 

The main objective of our trip was to visit the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, better known as MASS MoCA, which is in North Adams, only 15 minutes north of Williamstown. Housed in a restored factory complex along a river, it has become one of the most visited museums of contemporary art in the country.

 

Many of the short-term exhibitions were stimulating and intriguing, but the high point of our visit was an extraordinary retrospective of Sol Lewitt’s wall drawings spread over three floors in one of the many buildings of the museum complex. The installation, which was completed in 2008 by more than 60 artists and students, will remain on view for 25 years.

 

Going from the vibrantly new art at MASS MoCA to the more familiar period works at the Sterling and Francine Clark Institute back in Williamstown required a radical shift in our aesthetic gears. However, the transition was accomplished by concentrating on paintings by such great American artists as John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer, in which the Clark excels.

 

In order not to overdose on art, we decided to leave a tour of the Williams College Museum of Art until another visit and focused on plans for dinner instead. Williamstown, like many academic communities, is blessed with a wide range of restaurant choices. The vote went to The Mill on the Floss, which lived up to its promise of providing the “elegant simplicity of French country cuisine in the charm of an 18th-century farmhouse with an open kitchen”.

 

On our return trip down Route 22 we decided to make a short detour to see Bash Bish Falls. Located in the Taconic Mountains of southwestern Massachusetts, it is the highest waterfall in the state and is reached by turning east on Route 344 at Copake Falls to the parking area. The easy three-quarter-mile trail up to the beautiful falls runs along Bash Bish Creek through a hemlock-covered ravine.

 

Further down Route 22 we stopped for lunch in Millerton, at Harney & Sons, a tea emporium that also serves a very good lunch. Their wide assortment of excellent teas can be purchased online (harney.com), but many of them can also be found locally at June & Ho in Rye. Since we especially like Chinese black teas, we left Harney with a tin of Golden Monkey to add to our favorite, Tippy Yunan.

 

The U.S. Forest Service has recently launched an expanded Fall Colors website (www.fs.fed.us/fallcolors), which urges people to “get outdoors, spend time in rural communities, and enjoy one of nature’s most spectacular seasons.” That certainly applies to fall in the Berkshires, a region that is a destination for all seasons.

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