A look back at some of our adventures of the past weeks/months.
After spending some quality family and friend time in Boston in early May, we headed west toward the Berkshires. The Berkshires is one of those east coast places (like Poconos, Adirondacks, Smokeys) that was tantalizingly close, but not close enough, so they remained unexplored, but always made me long for more vacation days. Time to get there, time to kick back and enjoy the natural beauty, and more time to see what there is to see, time to see what you didn’t know there was to see until you got there. Time, time, time. The bounty of this trip.
It being so early in the season, it was easy enough to pick our spot using the state’s list of campground opening dates: Mohawk Trail State Forest it was. The drive there was lovely – even some tempting places to stop for supplies along the way. We settled into our spot on the Deerfield River and even set up the hammock and had a few campfires (#4 and #5 of nine months on the road, I believe).
There is little to no AT&T cell service here – I did a very small part of a very steep hike adjacent to the campground, and got a little more. More importantly on that hike – I truly felt it was spring for the first time. This was our first nature nature stop since Acadia a few weeks prior – where it snowed! I’m not much at identifying flora and fauna but what really blew me away was the BIRDS, chirping like no one was listening. But me. It was musical and heart lightening.
Exploring the next day, we checked out Williams College. Now, I am a Wesleyan Alum and have some very bitter memories of finishing second to Williams in sporting events throughout college, including in my own sport of rowing. There was a Tshirt for sale extolling the nature of the “Little Three” rivalry calling it the “good, the bad & the ugly”. Wesleyan was the bad. Amberst, the ugly. So, I guess it could have been worse. But it was pretty easy to put all that behind me and enjoy the beautiful day on campus (the students clearly were).
Love a civil war soldier statue
There is a great museum there – The Clark – which we skipped this time because it just wasn’t a museum kind of day. On the list for next time.
Continuing our drive, we stopped by the Susan B. Anthony birthplace (b. 1820) in Adams. Though still closed for the season, we poked around outside, imagining Susan (she probably would have been doing something more industrious) and her Quaker upbringing, her familiy’s commitment to abolition, which led her to temperance and women’s suffrage. She’d probably be amazed to know it’s taken us this long to (almost) get a woman at the head of a major party presidential ticket. She’d probably be amazed at some other things about this year’s campaign, but I digress.
Susan, the second of eight children, was born in the front parlor
After a few days, we ventured south and took advantage of WBCCI member courtesy parking (for the first time) at in Pittsfield. WBCCI is a membership organization for Airstream owners, and named for Wally Byam, the founder. The Antenellis couldn’t have been more hospitable-they shared their homemade wine and grappa and gave us a trivet and an iron! They have spent a lifetime traveling, are avid skiers, and gave us great tips on the area. They said in the forty plus years they have offered courtesy parking, only a few had taken advantage.
My #1 reason for wanting to stage in this area was to visit Lenox, and the home of author Edith Wharton. (It is near Tanglewood, the outdoor music venue.) I’d always wanted to visit – but it was just one of those places that felt maybe too remote to build a trip around. It was the very first day of their season. It did not disappoint – go go go! Though they give guided tours on the hour, you can more or less roam at your leisure, soaking it all in, reading exhibit panels, and even dining on the porch with food from their cafe.
She designed and built this home in 1901 – an extension of her early success as co-author of a best selling design book. She inherited some money and was starting to to earn more with her fiction. So she built The Mount-first the house and then the gardens.
My first view of the Mount
I was inspired to do a Mary Tyler Moore thing – career women powers activated, I guess
Within 10 years, her marriage was falling apart, and she found being a divorced, successful writer was not tenable in America, so she sold the house and moved to Europe where she continued to write (forty books in forty years, first female Pulitzer Prize for fiction winner) and led humanitarian work during World War I.
In the meantime, the house passed hands – it was a part of some schools, then housing for a local Shakespeare group. A group formed to save it, and with the help of many, it has been saved and restored. There are few original furnishings, but they did recently reacquire her books, which are on display now and in the picture below.
The picture above is in her bedroom – where she did her writing every morning. She would write the pages in longhand and her secretary would pick them up and type them. If I recall, those are portraits of her father and brothers on the wall.
She looked out onto her gardens, which only recently have been restored at great cost. Her niece helped with the design, and she meant for them to be architectural, like the house. She used only three colors (outside the flower garden) and I heartily approved. They were stunningly beautiful, and it was just the beginning of spring.
I could get teary just thinking about this place – that a woman at that time could have artistic vision and not let it be thwarted. True, she was born into money, but she made her own life. Was able to see her passions through to fruition – and we can still experience it today. I loved this exhibit panel about her finances.
Edith and her husband were great animal lovers, especially of little dogs. (They would be very at home in the RV world.) A stop at the pet cemetery was a nice way to end our visit. There are tombstones with endearments that show the depth of their love for animals.
Though we did not have time to visit, we did pop by the Normal Rockwell museum down the road in Stockbridge. We looked in the gift store and I snuck this picture of his studio and view. Wish we had more – TIME! Never enough.
Berkshires, you were worth a visit.