The Bay State’s Sparkling Southwest

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July 3, 2019, Great Barrington-

In all the years I lived in the Bay State, even when I was in attendance at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, there were areas to which I never quite made it for a visit.  One is the region of the Berkshire Hills that lies south of the Massachusetts Turnpike.

This morning, as I drove from Poughkeepsie, through Connecticut’s Taconic Hills and into the state of my birth, the opportunity to spend a bit of time in the southern Berkshires, entering at Sheffield and stopping for lunch at Egremont Market/Mom’s Cafe.

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I enjoyed half of my sandwich at a picnic table, outside by Hubbard Brook, which is hidden by a lush forest.  The New England and Mid-Atlantic states have a fabulous forest cover, surprising to some-given the density of population between Boston and Richmond, or Charlotte, for that matter.  I never once, growing up in the Boston area, felt at a loss, when I needed a forest break.

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As I was finishing my meal, a man who was through-hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail, that he had previously missed, sat briefly at the next table. As we conversed, he mentioned needing a ride to the Post Office in Great Barrington, the largest town in the southern Berkshires, so as to pick up his mail from General Delivery. Samuel seemed a pleasant sort, hailing from Houston, so I agreed to take him up to GB.

His tips could be useful, should I ever follow the long-distance hiking option, one of three post-retirement routes I’m considering.  Certainly, a series of General Delivery boxes eliminates a major impediment to such travel.

After dropping Samuel off near the Post Office, I took a few minutes to pick up a replacement for an implement that had broken, earlier this journey, and took a few photos of Great Barrington’s downtown.

Here is St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church.  Up the street, in the background, is First Congregational Church.

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First Congregational is better seen below.

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There is much that would lend itself to a longer stay in the southern Berkshires, but for now, I must head to the town of my childhood and youth.  Besides, it’s hot and my passenger side window is not working right.

NEXT:  Reflections on A Holiday Weekend, “Back Home”

 

The Road to 65, Mile 43: Wild

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January 10, 2015, Prescott-  It has been, and remains, a dream of mine to hike at least one of the great north-south trails that grace our country.  Before the need to replenish my coffers arose, I had a plan to traverse the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail in back-to-back years, 2018-19.  For various reasons, this particular pair of endeavours will wait until I am in my seventies- and it’ll happen, along with some other treks, during that decade, unless the Universe decrees otherwise.  Since this change of plans occurred to me in a dream-like state though, several weeks ago, I think it’ll hold.

Last night, I watched “Wild”, with Reese Witherspoon as the wild child who was tamed by the PCT.  As many of my travels have been inspired by visions of my late wife, so was Cheryl Strayed’s time on the Pacific Crest Trail spurred by thoughts of her mother, who had died of cancer, a few years before.  I could identify with her disquiet, on a number of levels.  Though I never had a serious hard-drug problem, and my alcohol abuse was history well before our marriage, the serious lapses in judgement and difficulty with forming attachments that Cheryl displayed had parallels in my own life, and as recently as 2013.  The PCT tamed her inner beast (shadowed as it was by the fox in the film).  Extensive journeys around North America in 2011-13 and the northwest of Europe, as well as across the eastern Pacific, last year, brought my poisonous remnants to the surface and have established more clarity of vision.

Cheryl Strayed found stability afterward, in marriage and motherhood.  My own renewed stability is forming, not necessarily with another intimate relationship, but with the distinct possibility of finally taking charge of, and seeing through, a service-oriented project that will provide a modest and adequate income. Add to that the extra security offered by wellness advocacy, and the six years left of this decade will lend more credence to “Age is nothing but a number”.