When I left off last post, we were headed to Sturbridge, MA. The more I drive through America, the more I love this place. Our country has an incredible amount of diversity. From large cities to small rural towns to dense forest. And I love getting out and experiencing all the history and beauty. That explains why I was so jazzed when we saw our next resting spot: The Publick House. The Inn opened in 1771, as both a gathering place and a respite for travelers. It has stayed open through it’s history of being not only an Inn, but a boarding house for women and an Army post.
The Publick House is a very old but well maintained Hotel. Although most of the rooms are in the motor court (not much more than a motel) at the back of the property, the best rooms are in the Inn itself. The Inn is a series of old buildings all connected, with rooms squeezed into every corner. Getting to your room a trip through twisted hallways, stairs up, then down and sloping floors. And while the rooms are small, the beds were comfortable and well appointed. For dinner, we did not have reservations for the “fully booked” main restaurant, but luckily we found three bar stools in the pub on the bottom floor. We indulged in beer and they same great menu as the main restaurant. And sweets from the bake shop. Probably not the best thing to do before a tough hike the next day… But the next day was Sunday and we got to sleep in.
“Sleep in” meant we had to be out the door by a quarter to 9 am. Our game plan today was to have a nice breakfast, and then cruise to the Normal Rockwell museum in Stockbridge, MA.
We landed in Stockbridge just about 9:45 am and drove through this picturesque town to the museum and arrived as they were opening. It’s nice to see all of Mr. Rockwell’s works in an uncrowded gallery. It is an impressive collection, covering all his years of work on the covers of the Saturday evening post, and including other major pieces by himself and other artists. If you enjoy his artistry at all, this is a nice place to get familiar with his story and background, and I considered it worth the visit.
But the day was getting hot and we needed to get on the trail. So we traveled back into Stockbridge for a bite to eat at a local grocery/sandwich shop. Stockbridge is a very cute “Berkshire” town. I could easily have stayed to explore. But, we set off in search of the elusive trail head for the hike to the highest point in Connecticut.
Wait, Connecticut? We are in Massachusetts, right?
Connecticut gets the short end of the straw when it comes to State High Points. The CT HP is officially “the south shoulder of Mt. Frissell”, not the summit of Mt. Frissell. Why? because the actual summit of Mt. Frissell is just over the state line in MA. The highest summit in CT is Bear Mountain, but the summit of Bear Mountain is lower than the shoulder of Mt. Frissell that resides in CT. Confused? It would have been less confusing if they had drawn the state line at the top of Mt. Frissell!
I had looked up directions to the trail head, but there were snags. The trail head resides on a dirt road that may be closed from time to time from both the North and the South. So dependent on when you ask Google Maps or your car’s navigation aide, you may get a different route to the trail head. We were coming from the north, so we plugged the route into both the car and a phone and winged it from there. On the way there we went into the state of NY, then back into MA past the Bash Bish Falls, down a dirt road, turn around, U-Turn, back down the dirt road that says “private” and finally came across the beacon we were looking for: the CT/MA marker.
We found the parking lot, parked, sprayed bug spray on and started our hike.
The Hike starts out really nice, but after a half mile, the trail starts straight up and soon you are stepping up boulders like stairs. Big stairs. The milage from the trail head to the State HP marker is 1.3 miles, and in that 1.3 miles we gained 960 ft of elevation total, but I swear it was a lot more. We went straight up to round mountain where we enjoyed beautiful views. But then looked over to see that we had to descend all the way back down round mountain to start up the slope of Mt. Frissell. We hike straight down off Round Mt., then after a short respite, back up the slope of Mt. Frissell. It is not as tough as rock scrambling, but it requires real effort and stamina. After 15 -20 minutes of uphill hiking, we spotted the HP on the right side of the trail. There is a sign in book in a metal box, and the marker was prominent. We took our pictures and celebrated.
Three states come together in this mountain range; and we wanted to reach the tristate marker for CT/NY/MA in our hike. Knowing it was only a short hike further, we kept on going. Down. Hiking down means hiking back up… and I knew we had 3 uphill portions to tackle on the way back, and it was getting hot. But we made it to the marker!
Mount Frissell is Ranked 36th of the State HP’s, at 2,380 ft above sea level. The trail head sits at 1,832 ft for a total elevation gain of 960ft, however you do a lot more climbing for this hike. The round trip distance from the trail head is 2.6 miles, but we added on another .75 m by going to the Tri-State Marker. It took us 55 min to hike to the HP, 7 min to hike to the tri-state marker and 53 min to make the entire trip back to the car for a total round trip hiking time of 1h 55 min. We spent 15 min at the HP and 10 min at the marker. Unlike our past two hikes, there are absolutely no amenities near this trail head or on the mountain. Bring 2 liters of water, extra food, bug spray, and clothing for weather changes.
Exhausted and hot on our completion, we clambered into the air-conditioned Burb, and headed back out the dirt road. Our destination is Williamstown, MA where we have booked rooms at the 1896 house. After our 2 hour drive, we found our new digs. The 1896 house is a nice motor court motel. The rooms were clean and comfy, but it was hard to not compare it to the wonderful Publick House. In all fairness, it was a very comfy room. And the pub across the street was great for a few beers and a nice dinner.
Monday morning breaks to find us on another bright and early start. With our trail lunches packed, we headed to breakfast at Renee’s Diner. Renee was great – she offers fabulous food, would cook to order and made wonderful muffins and breads. Excellent stop for breakfast. And we got some very very good advice: ticks were abundant this season due to the rains, use bug repellent with Deet. Hence, the next stop was the hardware store for bug spray. As much as I try to avoid Deet, it will never be as bad as Lyme’s disease.
And off to climb the Massachusetts HP, Mt. Greylock. There is a lot of lore surrounding this mountain. It is a place that is said to have inspired Thoreau to pen some of his writings of nature. It also is said to have inspired Melville’s “Moby Dick” (something about the shape of the mountain… that seems far fetched). MA started it’s State Park program with the purchase of Mt. Greylock in 1898, and has been piecing together parcels to create a park that started at 400 acres and is now 12,500 acres. That explains the multiple routes up the mountain, the old ski trails, and the roads that criss cross the mountain (there is one you can drive up all the way to the top). The AT also passes over the top of Mt. Greylock, although we did not use the AT on this particular hike. Many of the trails up to the summit are long – 11 to 17 miles round trip. We opted for a 7 mile round trip route: we parked at the Gould Street trail head and took the Bellow’s Pipe trail to Thunderbolt up to the summit and then looped around to hook up with the Gould Trail to take back down.
The trail starts pleasantly, wide and nicely shaded. We were happy in the shade as the temperature was climbing into the 80’s and predicted to hit 90 F. The trail system here is a bit confusing, however we finally made the turn onto the Thunderbolt trail which was an old ski trail – so you are gaining elevation at a very steep slope. I will be honest – this was a cardio workout and we were all breathing hard, taking breaks and sweating up a storm. But we made it to the top! And celebrated!
The War Memorial was under renovation and we could not gain access, so the Marker was off limits also. Bascomb Lodge resides at the summit also. This is a real lodge where you could book a room. It is a nice stop for AT through hikers and has some snacks and food available. We spent about 50 min at the summit wandering around, taking pictures and browsing around the Lodge. Then we headed back down. We couldn’t find the Gould trail straight from the summit, but we knew it intersected the road. So we hiked the road until we found the trail and enjoyed a pleasant hike down.
That is Mt. Greylock in the distance. Mount Greylock is Ranked 31st of the State HP’s, at 3,491 ft above sea level. The Gould Road trail head sits at 2,218 ft for a total elevation gain of 1,273 ft (on the Thunderbolt trail more than 1,000 ft of that gain is in a little more than a mile and very steep). The round trip distance for the loop we did was about 6.5 miles. It took us 1 hr 40 min to hike up to the Bellows Pipe/Thunderbolt trail (shorter distance), and 1 hr 45 min to hike back to the car on the Gould Trail. Total round trip hiking time was 3 hr 25 min. We spent 48 min at the summit. There are amenities at the summit. Bring 2-3 liters of water, and bug spray. The vegetation was lush and so were the bugs and ticks.
Next: we continue driving to our next destination, the NY Adirondacks. Until then, Happy Trails