I’ve been reading long enough that dusk has turned into night without me noticing. I look out the window near my bed and see the nearby field alight with fireflies. I sigh in satisfaction. We’ve made it back to the Berkshires.
We wave goodbye to Saratoga Springs on Friday morning and set out for a long day of exploration on our way to western Massachusetts. We explore the Saratoga National Historic Park visitor center before driving the road tour. The driving tour involves stopping in the brutal heat and reading the crumbling signs about the two major Revolutionary War battles fought here. We eat lunch overlooking the Hudson River while other tourists ogle Hobbes.
After the battlefields we drive eight miles north to check out the Schuyler House. Philip Schuyler was the father of the “Schuyler Sisters” of Hamilton fame, and this house is where they all went to vacation in the summers. Philip Schyuler also created a vibrant working community of textile makers and ironmongers. The house is simple but we’re the only ones on the afternoon tour so we have it all to ourselves. Afterward we walk up the 188 steps to the top of the Saratoga Monument.
We arrive in Sheffield, Massachusetts in late evening. Our friend Allie opens her home and land to us, and we settle in next to a big red barn. Allie’s house was built in 1750 and her family has lived in it since the early 1800’s. It feels like a living museum. The whole property is serene and quiet with a beautiful view of the nearby mountains.
The next few days are a pleasant whirlwind of long bike rides down narrow roads, picking up fresh vegetables at the farmers market, cups of coffee and tea at Great Barrington’s hip coffee shops, and working.
We hike up Monument Mountain to get a bird’s eye view of the southern Berkshires. The summit is so packed at the top that quickly hike down to a lower, but empty, viewpoint overlooking Devil’s Pulpit. The hills are a vibrant green and look primeval, though I know they’re not. Houses tuck into forests and roads are obscured by tree canopies.
The Berkshires is known for it’s culture (and as a muted playground for New York’s wealthy), and we spend a night at Jacob’s Pillow. Jacob’s Pillow is a dance center with a campus for performances and classes. We pack a picnic dinner and sit in front of an open air stage with a spectacular hillside view. The group at the picnic table next to ours are clearly Pillow regulars and they envelope us into their fold. They ask a hundred questions about our adventures and ply us with wine and fresh cheese. The performance starts and I watch, entranced, as contemporary dancers perform in the night air.
We also take some time to visit our old haunts. We bring lunch to the Schumacher Center, where Mike helped launch a local currency, and eat with the longtime director Susan. I swing by my old office at the Appalachian Mountain Club and visit with the new staff. We drive deep into the hills and have dinner with friends and their new little baby (who rocks the biggest smile whenever we look at him).
We go out to dinner with our host, Allie, and afterward she brings us on a “spooky walk” through her neighborhood. It’s all on dirt roads and there are few houses. Flashlights can be carried but not used. I strap my headlamp on my head, keep it unlit, and walk through the dense forest with only the moonlight and fireflies to guide the way. It’s magical.
Yesterday we reluctantly pulled out of the Berkshires in search of a campground in Connecticut. Hobbes needs to attend to some RV business like dumping his tanks and topping off electricity. On the way to the campground we stop in the cute down of Litchfield, Connecticut to work for the day. Topsmead House State Forest is more house than forest, but provides the perfect backdrop for a day of returning emails and catching up with tasks.
I’m writing this dispatch from the Wolf’s Den Campground in East Haddad, Connecticut. I requested a campsite as far away from the playground and pool as possible, which has landed us in the back forty. It’s quiet, shaded, and all our neighbors (mostly seasonal residents) are gone for the week. Soon we’ll prod Hobbes back to life and make our way to the coast of Rhode Island for a long weekend with friends.
Subscribe to my newsletter, Wild Places, for weekly updates from life on the road.