Butternut Mom & kid

You’ve Got To Ski “The Nut”

Come winter time in the Berkshires & one place you’re sure to find our family is Ski Butternut.  Located in Great Barrington, just 5 minutes or so from downtown & its reasonably priced hotels, Butternut (a/k/a “The Nut”) is the ideal family ski mountain. Butternut is approximately 2.5 hours from the NY metro area & just over 2 hours from Boston. And, their lift ticket & lesson prices are super reasonable – only $25 for a weekday lift ticket.

Butternut Great Skier Powder

Butternut Powder Day! *

 

For the size of the mountain, Butternut has great terrain variety – from beginner to black diamond runs & terrain parks too. Butternut does an amazing job making snow when Mother Nature leaves us short & their ski lessons & race programs are second to none. I’ve had several out town friends sign their kids up for ski lessons at Butternut & their kids had amazing experiences. Butternut also offers super fun snow tubing for kids & adults.

Butternut Ava Alec

My Happy Butternut Skiers

Our kids participate in Butternut’s  Interclub Race Program every weekend & absolutely love it. The instructors are super dedicated & knowledgeable & create a phenomenal skiing experience for the kids. We’ve even become good friends with some families who make the trip up from the tri-state & Boston areas each weekend for the race program.

Butternut - Roll & Ski Group

Butternut’s Great Ski Instruction*

So… if your contemplating a ski trip this winter, get yourself up to the Berkshires ASAP & ski The Nut. See you on the slopes!

 

*(Photos courtesy of Ski Butternut)

Frozen Lake Ice Fishing

Ode to Frozen Lakes & Ponds

There’s nothing like a winter walk or skate on one of the Berkshires’ many beautiful lakes & ponds. Our family has always loved going for winter walks on the Stockbridge Bowl (a/k/a Lake Makheenac). The lake is dreamlike when it’s frozen and you’re sure to see people of all ages ice fishing & skating.

If you’ve never observed ice fishing, it’s actually really cool to watch (Note to self: I must actually ice fish this winter… though that would mean less skiing…).  It’s especially fun to check out each group’s fishing setup. Old schoolers sit outside on turned over buckets while others huddle indoors, in heated huts, with food spreads that rival the best NFL Sunday tailgate. I’m talking propane fired grill, sausages, adult beverages – the works! Click here to watch a creative, fun Berkshires ice fishing video created by my talented friends at Outpost Productions, based right here in West Stockbridge.

ice-shackresized_01-500x281

Ice Haus Deluxe

I often tell the story of one of our family winter vacation walks on the Stockbridge Bowl, before we made the Berkshires our permanent home. Upon hearing an ice fisherman lament that he’d been out for hours & hadn’t caught anything, I commented to my then 7 year old daughter how I couldn’t imagine sitting out for hours, in the cold, only to go home empty handed. To which my daughter abruptly responded: “Dad, you just don’t get it. It’s not about catching fish. It’s about hanging out with your friends & having a good time!” Yes… she was, & still is wiser than her years.

Frozen Lake Zamboni II

My Little Pond Zambonis

 

Another one of our favorite winter pastimes here is skating & playing pickup hockey on one of our nearby frozen ponds. Sometimes it just feels like we’ve jumped onto the canvas of a Norman Rockwell painting.

norman-rockwell-300x294

Then we pinch ourselves & realize that yes, we really are doing this, right in our own backyard.

 

 

 

Foliage Flight Lower Res (High)

Foliage Flying

While many bemoan the end of summer (heck, I used to be one of “those people”), since moving to the Berkshires, autumn has become my favorite season. Cool mornings, crisp, juicy local apples, sunshine filled days, long hikes & dreamlike starlit nights – autumn really is the best. And, the fall foliage that surrounds you up here, with its brilliant hues of orange, yellow & red, is simply breathtaking.

Speaking of foliage, one my favorite Berkshires experiences is taking a fall foliage flight.  A great spot to do this is at the Great Barrington Airport located at 70 Egremont Plain Rd., in Great Barrington.  The cost for a half hour flight, for 3 passengers, is $90 for a half hour & $185 for an hour.  I took the kids for a flight last fall & it was a mind blowing experience.  So mind blowing, that not a week goes by without my son asking when he can start flight lessons at the Great Barrington Airport (lucky me!).

This is Your Pilot Speaking

This is Your Pilot Speaking

If you think the foliage looks great out of a car window, you can’t imagine what it looks like from up above.  And, as an added plus, if you happen to own a home in a Berkshires, your pilot will happily do a fly over for you.

Roger, Roger!

Roger, Roger!

 

So, what are you waiting for?  Get up here quick – before the leaves are gone & we’re all skiing in knee deep (I pray…) snow.

Foliage Flight - Alec Ava

The Eagle Has Landed

Happy fall & have a safe flight!

Allender Summit

Hiking Alander Mountain

There’s nothing quite like fall hiking in the Berkshires. In addition to the temperature being ideal & no mosquitoes (well ok, very few mosquitoes), hiking through the almost iridescent fall foliage, at times feels transcendental. One of my favorite hikes here is Alander Mountain Trail. The Alander Mountain Trail passes over rushing streams, through verdant open meadows, involves some good climbing over boulders & ends at the summit with a magnificent payoff – unforgettable vistas all the way to New York State’s Catskill Mountains.

Allender Alec Summit

The Payoff!

The hike is approximately 8 miles round trip & with its good climbs, it makes for a nice workout. Plan on spending a couple of hours on the mountain & you should bring water, snacks & your camera.

Winter Wonderland

Alander Winter Wonderland

The trailhead is located in Mt. Washington State Forest (click this link for the official trail map) in the town of Mt. Washington, which borders South Egremont. It will take you 15-20 minutes to get to the trailhead from downtown Great Barrington.  If you’re using a GPS, enter the intersection of East Street & West Street in Mt. Washington as your destination. You’ll see the parking lot & ranger station on your right. And, you can click here for a trail guide with trail notes.

One of My Favorite Sounds

Alander Mountain hikes have become really special times for me & my son –  my now tried & true hiking companion. There’s something really special about getting away from it all together.  We always have great conversations & laugh a lot – without the interruptions of phone calls, texts, etc.  And, on our last hike, he decided to geocach (click this link for more information on geocaching) & was super excited when he found a hidden cache, close to the summit (for a small price, I may just tell you its location…).

Geocaching- Found It!

Found the Cache!

If you can get up to Alander Mountain over the next couple of weeks, the foliage should be at its peak, making the experience & views even more spectacular. Have a blast hiking & enjoy Alander!

 

kid in the country cover

On Being A Kid In the Country

We just marked the one-year anniversary of our move from suburban New Jersey to the Berkshires. It’s been a great year & the kids have really adapted well to life in the country. Aside from their participation in the usual after school activities & sports, living here has really helped the kids develop an appreciation for the simpler things in life, especially the natural beauty that surrounds us. Most of their weekends involve a good hike, swimming in the nearby lake or former marble quarry or a bike ride on the nearby rail trail that runs alongside the beautiful Williams River.

kid in the country alec

Quarry Swimmer

A couple of weeks ago, I had an experience that for me, highlighted just how great it is to be a kid in the Berkshires. After a long day of work, I was about to pull into our driveway when I spotted our kids heading down to the brook that abuts our house, to catch frogs & tadpoles.

Catching Frogs

The Simple Pleasures

I pulled the car in the driveway and walked down to brook to watch them. And, that’s when it hit me. Sometimes it’s the simplest things in life that give the greatest pleasure. And that yeah, it really is great to be a kid in the country!

 

 

 

 

Bowl Magical View

Last Licks of Summer On The Bowl

As of late, we’ve been getting our last licks of all of the awesome summer outdoor activities here. This past weekend, we kayaked on Stockbridge Bowl (a/k/a “the Bowl”) (see my earlier post “We’ve Got the Kayaks” for more information on kayaking in the Berkshires).

My son chose to float around & fish while I opted for a cardio workout of a couple of laps around the Bowl. Problem was that the cardio workout wasn’t quite “cardio”. You see, the late summer light made the surrounding Bowl scenery even more spectacular than usual.  And, I ended up stopping every couple of minutes to snap photos of the scenery. It’s experiences like this that make me appreciate how fortunate we are to call this magical place home.

Here are a couple of the photos:

 

Bowl Ducks

Bowl Ducks

 

Lilly Pads In Bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sailing on Bowl

Sailing the Bowl

The upside of the end of summer is that autumn – one of the most beautiful times of year here – is right around the corner. Stay tuned…

 

 

Bike-n-fly-plane

Berkshires Bike N’ Fly This Weekend

One of the highlights of the summer in Great Barrington is spending the afternoon at the annual Berkshires Bike-N-Fly held at the Great Barrington Airport, located at 79 Egremont Plain Rd. The Bike-N-Fly takes place this year on Saturday, August 16th from 10-4. I always love taking guests by to see the airport, After all, it’s not every day that you get to watch private planes take off right over your head while being surrounded by lush corn fields and spectacular mountains.

If you like bicycling, you can start the day with your choice of a 20, 35 or 50 mile ride over the rolling hills of the Berkshires. I regularly ride the race routes & trust me, the scenery all around you won’t disappoint! The rides finish at the airport where you’ll be cheered & welcomed to the Fly-In with loads of fun activities for the entire family.

 

The Kids Flying High

Our Kids – Flying High in The Berkshires

There will be live music starting at 10am with bands including local favorite Emily Mure, a car show with lots of classic cars, balloon rides, airplane rides & helicopter rides too. You can even try your hand flying a flight simulator with the expert guidance of a flight instructor.  For the kids, they’ll have kids bike races, face painting, balloons & a bouncy castle. And of course, no one goes hungry in the Berkshires. There will be a variety of local food vendors including the always awesome home made ice cream from The Scoop in nearby Lenox.

Have an awesome weekend & enjoy the Berkshires Bike-N-Fly!

 

Butterfly Large

Fly Like a Butterfly in Housatonic

I’ve driven past Project-Native Gardens in Housatonic countless times – always making a mental note to stop by the next time I go by. I’d recently read about Project Native’s Butterfly House & when we had NYC house guests over this past weekend, we decided to visit Project Native with the kids.

Project Native & its Butterfly House is a great destination for adults & kids alike. There’s no admission fee –  though as a not-for-profit, they accept donations. The Butterfly House is a screened-in 35-by-55-foot structure with lots of native plants &, you guessed it, native Berkshire butterflies! Project Native’s mission is to promote, restore & sustain native habitats in the Berkshires. It’s located at 342 North Plain Rd. (Rte 41), just 4 miles north of Great Barrington.

Butterfly House

The Butterfly House

Upon our arrival, we were greeted by cheery Dylan, a recent Oklahoma State University graduate who’s working at Project Native this summer as an Environmental Education Intern. The kids immediately took a shine to Dylan & she took us right to the Butterfly House. As the butterflies flitted around us, Dylan not only identified each one, but also enthralled the kids (& us) with colorful explanations about their life cycle, what they like to eat, the different breeds that are native to the Berkshires, etc. The kids peppered Dylan with questions & she patiently answered each one. The kids couldn’t get enough of the butterflies & it was so awesome hearing their giddy laughter each time a colorful butterfly landed on them. My daughter & her friend were lucky enough to have several butterflies land right into their waiting open hands.

butterfly group

In the Palms of Our Hands –  Just Where we Want Em’!

After a half-hour or so in the Butterfly House, Dylan asked the kids if they wanted to go outside for a butterfly safari around Project Native’s grounds. Surprise, surprise – all of the kids responded in unison with a resounding YES!  Project Native’s grounds have glorious mountain views & 22 acres of meadow for butterflies, insects, ground nesting birds & hummingbirds. Dylan outfitted each of the kids with their “safari gear” –  butterfly nets & bug boxes – explaining that all of the butterflies the kids caught would be brought into the Butterfly House & then released by them for other visitors to enjoy. The kids ended up catching a bunch of butterflies & were so excited as they released each one into the Butterfly House. To say the kids (& we) had a blast would be a gross understatement. In fact, when lunch time arrived & our adult stomachs started grumbling, the kids begged to stay longer – in spite of our promises of ice cream for dessert at SoCo Creamery.

Butterfly Safari Girls

Shhh! Be Vewy, Vewy Quiet. I’m Hunting Butterfwies!

Needless to say, we’ll be back to Project Native very soon – especially since they’re expecting even more monarch butterflies in the coming weeks. So, next time your driving on Rte 41, stop by & visit Project Native. Have a blast with the butterflies!

 

 

 

 

 

Ashuwillitcook both

Berkshires Biking- The Ashuwillticook Rail Trail

One of our favorite outdoor family activities in the Berkshires is biking. This will be the first of several posts on some of our favorite bike rides here.

We love biking here not only because it’s a great workout but also because you get to take in all of the natural beauty of the Berkshires – the rolling hills, glorious mountains, pastoral farmland, crystal clear lakes & lots of wildlife (In fact, I just observed a porcupine scurrying across the road on my last ride!). The bike rides here range from relatively flat & easy to very hilly & challenging.

One of our favorite rides with the kids is the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail (say that 10 times fast), in Lanesborough. The reason why this makes for such a great family ride is that it’s mostly flat & not too strenuous. Yet, you get to ride alongside beautiful lakes (including the 418 acre Cheshire Reservoir), mountains, streams & babbling brooks – without car traffic (with the exception of a couple of crossings that are clearly marked & difficult for the kids to get through on their own, because of strategically placed barriers).

Ahuwillitcook Ava

Cheshire Reservoir. Awesome!

The Ashuwillticook Rail Trail is a former railroad corridor converted into a 10-foot wide paved trail. It’s also a great place for jogging & rollerblading. The Rail Trail runs parallel to Route 8 through the towns of Cheshire, Lanesborough & Adams. The southern end of the rail trail (which is where you’ll probably want to start) begins at the entrance to the Berkshire Mall off MA Rte. 8 in Lanesborough & travels 11.2 miles north to the center of Adams. So, the total ride is 22 miles and takes several hours. It’s just under a 40 minute drive from downtown Great Barrington to the start of the Rail Trail – well worth the trip.

There’s a cute little ice cream shop along the ride – in Cheshire – that also sells cold beverages. And, when you get to the end of the trail in Adams, there’s a really nice visitor’s center with very clean restrooms & snack machines. Once inside the visitors center be sure to check out the Thunderbolt Ski Museum which features a fun exhibit (with a movie) on the 10th Mountain Division & the now legendary Thunderbolt Ski Race.

Thunderbolt Ski Museum in Adams

Thunderbolt Ski Museum in Adams

The Thunderbolt Ski Race started in the 1930s & still takes place every year on nearby Mount Greylock - the highest point in Massachussets.  Once in Adams, you can also walk around the streets near the Visitors Center & check out the beautiful classic brick mill buildings – some of which have been converted into loft residences.

Have a blast on the Rail Trail!

 

 

race brook upper falls

Hiking Mount Race – Waterfalls, Awesome Views, Babbling Brooks & More!

I just did one of my favorite Berkshires day hikes with my son – Mount Race in Sheffield. This hike offers the best of everything. You get to see a beautiful waterfall (Race Brook Falls, which you’ll reach at approximately the 1.1 mile mark), climb boulders, see multiple smaller falls, cross babbling brooks & then top it off with fantastic views into Connecticut & beyond from the summit.  And, the majestic hawks soaring right above your head are an added plus.

The total hike is approximately 5.5 miles and has some good vertical climbs – so be sure to wear appropriate footwear, allow yourself around 5 hours or so & bring plenty of water & snacks. To get to the trail from Great Barrington, take Route 41 South and approximately 1.9 miles past the Berkshire School, you’ll see the trailhead on the right (look for the parked cars). If the parking area is full, you can park along Route 41 but just make sure your car is really off the road and on the grass.

Once on the trail, at about the ¼ mile mark, you’ll see a signpost for Race Brook Falls. Bear left at the sign post. Follow the blue blazes up the trail & when you get to the Appalachian Trail sign post, bear left & follow the white blazes. Once you start seeing the pine forest, you’ve almost reached the summit, with its magnificent views.

We've reached the top!

We’ve reached the summit. YES!

 

If your limited on time, want something less strenuous & have approximately 1 hour, you can visit the lower falls, which will be an approximately 1.4 mile round trip hike. Just stay straight when you get to the 1st sign post at the beginning of the trail.

Have a blast on your hike!