The Road Less Taken
Rural wildness affords more than mere escape. People know the Berkshires as an arts retreat among meadows, mountains, and green valleys - an island of cultural sophistication in a sea of leafy hills. Lakes, mountain peaks, tree-canopied trails, all present adventures for the willing. Hike with llamas, canoe the Housatonic River, ride scenic trails atop a horse, careen through whitewater bowls and bucking rapids in a raft or kayak and be shuttled in the air-conditioned comfort of a van along backcountry roads. Engage the beauty of the Berkshires with all your senses, not just with your eyes.
If you need to experience the rush that the power of nature can wield, rafting the whitewaters of the Deerfield River with Moxie Outdoor Adventures (800-866-6943; www.moxierafting.com) or Crab Apple Whitewater (800-553-RAFT; www.crabappleinc.com) will give it to you. Or, if it is the scale of nature's handiwork that you are seeking, a guided canoe tour along the upper Housatonic River with Berkshire Canoe Tours (413-442-2789) will carry you through the abundant wildlife and magnificent flora of the area. Trail your fingers in lake waters from a gentle pontoon, rowboat or peddle boat rented from Onota Boat Livery (413-442-1724). Fishing types can troll for bass on the private, 125-acre fishing lake of the Berkshire Fishing Club (413-243-5761). Ask about their trial memberships.
Hiking might not be the first activity to come to mind for the Berkshires, but with miles of forest trails, mountain paths and streamside walks, hikers of all ilk and levels of dedication will find their ways here. If you want to traverse the mountains' tranquil woods without the efforts of hiking, slip your boots into stirrups for Berkshire Horseback Adventures (413-637-9090; www.berkshirehorseback.net) on a one-hour, half-day or overnight trail ride. Head out along wooded paths for a sunset hike with a friendly llama for an exotic contrast with Berkshire Mountain Llama Hikes (413-243-2224; www.bcn.net/llamahike). Llamas are known for their wooly congeniality, and trekking with them through wooded farmland will be an adventure easy to remember. Or, spend a pastoral afternoon learning and contributing to the workings of an area farm. At Uncle Don's Barnyard at Ioka Valley (413-738-5915), feed the livestock, slice through a hay maze, pet the animals and return to simple living, if only for an afternoon. Add bucolic to the list of adjectives describing the Berkshires.
The natural attractions of the Berkshires are certainly not recent developments. Walk off the beaten path as our cultural ancestors did. Tool through the backroads of the area, and visit the cottage homes of Hawthorne, Melville and Norman Rockwell in an air-conditioned van tour led by an area historian with Berkshire Sightseeing & Backroad Tours (413-442-1249; www.berkshiresightseeing.com). Natural beauty here has a history.
Tear down grass-covered summer ski slopes on a mountain bike for stunning mountain-top views at a ripping speed. Jiminy Peak (413-738-5500; www.jiminypeak.com), the area's largest ski resort, operates its lifts through the summer to ferry mountain bikers to the top for the start of many downhill trails. Thrilling excitement meets the serenity of this mountain landscape.
The Berkshires outdoors afford rest for your spirit, history for your inquisitive mind, raucous color for your imagination and mountain air for your weary lungs. For your city nerves, the Berkshires run on farm time, hill time and river time. Breathe in the power and splendor nature has bestowed upon this area of western Massachusetts - your adventure is waiting.