Berkshire Family Fun: A Few More Weeks of Summer

Back to reality? Not yet

Feeding the animals at Whitney’s Farm Market in Cheshire, MA (Photo credit: Kelly Bevan McIlquham)

I have been spoiled this summer. I took a five-day family trip to Alabama. I’ve been to Hampton Beach twice for day trips and took a brief road trip to Cape Cod to pick up a sea- and homesick 12-year-old boy. I’ve spent a few days enjoying my childhood vacation haunt, York Beach, Maine, with my mom, sister, our kids, plus one extra (he’s like one of the family) and I’m even sneaking away with my husband for a few days in Boston for some much-needed grown-up time. Did I leave out that we were given free preseason Patriots tickets for today? But even better than all that is the fact that I’ve gotten to enjoy an absolutely gorgeous season in the Berkshires with my husband and children, and though the summer is slowly winding down, I’m not ready to return to reality quite yet. So out with the back-to-school fliers and trips to chain stores for supplies, I’m taking a few more weeks to simply explore and enjoy the Berkshire surroundings with my family — and you can, too.

A RARE DAY WITH ONE

We’ve been introduced to Glendale Falls in Middlefield this summer and thanks to a rare single-kid day last week, my youngest, Shea, was finally introduced to the beauty that is Wahconah Falls in Dalton. But the falls wasn’t the only highlight to our Wednesday last week. The day began with Shea and I heading to the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, a 11.2-mile trail that runs from Lanesborough to Adams, with our bikes, beginning at the entrance of the Berkshire Mall. Despite a few grumbles from Shea in the first mile or so, we made the approximate 3.5-mile jaunt up the trail to Farnum’s Road in Cheshire and enjoyed a snack and a beverage on a bench overlooking Cheshire Lake. After a breeze sent a nauseating whiff of goose poop our way, Shea decided it was a good time to hop on our bikes and head back to the car, but I had a surprise in store for him.

After a little over a mile or so (before any complaining arose), I veered off the trail towards Route 8 and made a stop a Whitney’s Farm Market for lunch and a few farm-fresh veggies. (Sorry folks, I can’t remember the name of the road that you take before you hit Route 8, but you can see Whitney’s from the trail.) Shea and I ventured inside and decided on some fresh tomatoes, apples, salsa and guacamole for our dinner that night and a delectable roast beef, lettuce, tomato, and avocado Panini on herbed bread to savor at the picnic tables. Yum!

After a relaxing lunch, Shea fed a few of the animals at the petting zoo and climbed around on the wooden playground ship for a while, while I sat back and watched parents chase their children up and down the slides and wooden tractor structure. At one point I spent a few scary seconds scanning furiously around the playground to help a grandmother locate a “misplaced” grandchild. Note to readers: If you take a trip to Whitney’s and find yourself in a similar predicament, the lower-level of the boat structure makes for a good hiding place.

Shea and I wrapped up our trip by biking back to our car, grabbing Dad at his office and stopping by Wahconah Falls off of Route 9 in Dalton to introduce our poor neglected son to one of the area’s natural wonders. It was a rare occasion to spend this day with only one child, but it is something Shea and I will surely make time for again.

OLD MILL TRAIL 

Filling out the log book on Old Mill Trail. (Photo credit: elly Bevan McIlquham)

I’ve been champing at the bit to check out the Old Mill Trail in Hinsdale along the banks of the Housatonic River since I heard about the installation of a new bridge on the trail last year, but for some reason we never seem to get there. While driving by the entrance near the intersection of Route 8 and Old Dalton Road the other day, I was inspired to give it a try, so prior to handing in this column I dragged my three kids to the trail to explore. The trail is approximately 1 ½-miles long with a long stretch of trail that is handicapped accessible. The trail passes through many fascinating historic sites including an old dam, the Plunkett Brothers Mill, and the remains of the penstock that channeled water to mills in Dalton. On our short trip (that only lasted to the end of the handicapped access where the boys signed a log book and then back) we even happened upon an old rusted car that my son Max is sure was an “old-time” Chrysler.

For those interested in checking out the trail, I highly recommend it. It is an easy, trail with plenty to see. Right now while the leaves are at their fullest and brightest walkers are protected by a natural canopy of foliage as you walk, which was very appreciated during our walk as it started to rain approximately 30 seconds after exiting the car. On the trail you’re enveloped by a crisp, fluorescent green (which is the exact color I refer to as “my happy color”) that can’t help but infuse one with a sense of peace and tranquility. A similar affect also is induced by the expanse of river views along the way, too, at which I couldn’t resist having my kids stop and mug for a photo.

The beginning of the trail is a little narrow, but is still considered handicapped accessible, just be careful when you are walking (or riding) of the overgrown plants and bushes that at times seem bent on snaring you within their endless tangle of weeds. We managed to avoid the pricker blocking our path during the beginning of our expedition, but I ended up with a few branches stuck in my socks on more than one occasion and Shea was sporting a few burdock burs on his T-shirt after a race to the finish line with his brother. But all in all it was a beautiful, serene walk with my kids (in between bouts of sibling nattering, but that is to be expected for most of us isn’t it?) and we all agreed that we would most definitely head back again. But next time we will be sure to bring the bug spray and so should you. The mosquitoes were quite aggressive. We’re still itching!

SPEAKING OF OLD MILLS

An amazing opportunity to squeeze a little history into the end of your summer is being offered for families at the Eclipse Mill Gallery on Route 2 in North Adams. “The Mill Children” exhibit which celebrates the 100th Anniversary of famed child labor photographer Lewis Hine’s photographs taken of child cotton mill workers at the Eclipse Mill in North Adams in 1911 is having a soft opening beginning Aug. 12, with a formal grand opening scheduled for Friday, Aug. 26, from 5-8 p.m. The exhibit features a multidisciplinary team of artists — artists, photographers, musicians and filmmakers — interpretations through art of what it was like to be an 11-year-old cotton mill worker in 1911. This exhibit runs through Sept. 25 and will most definitely be an eye-opening exhibit for any modern-day child. Perhaps a visit to the gallery will even stifle the complaints around our house regarding cleaning rooms and emptying the dishwasher. Seriously kids, it could be a whole lot worse! For more information on the exhibit and other exhibits being offered this summer at the galleries housed within the old Eclipse Mill visit www.eclipsemill.com or www.brillgallery109.com.

NATURAL BRIDGE STATE PARK

Have you ever heard of Natural Bridge State Park in North Adams? I’ve heard stories about this 48-acre “geologic wonder” for years and after reading about some of the park’s upcoming programs for August I think a trip to North Adams just might be on the agenda for next week. We could head to the park in the morning and then perhaps end the day at the Eclipse Mill. Ahh, now that’s an idea.

Here’s what’s going on:

  • Sundays and Saturdays, 10-11a.m.: Marvelous Marble Quarry Walk, an easy walk with park interpreter Becky to discover the remains of the 19th to early-20th century marble quarry that once operated at Natural Bridge.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 16, 3 p.m.: Tykes Hike & Story Time, where children ages 8 and under and their parents/guardians will go on a short and easy hike to experience the nature around the park and listen to a fun children’s story.
  • Wednesday, Aug. 17, 10 a.m. and Tuesday, Aug. 23, 1 and 3 p.m.: Nature Crafts for Kids Day, where children can create a nature-based craft to bring home.
  • Thursdays, Aug. 18 and 25, 10:30 a.m.: Junior Rangers, an educational program for children ages 8 to 12 that promotes outdoor recreation skills and an appreciation of the natural world through fun activities and games. Proper clothing and footwear are recommended. Pre-registration is required for all programs. For registration forms and further information, call 413-663-6392

If you can’t make one of the scheduled programs above you can still head to Natural Bridge State Park any day of the week between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. through Columbus Day and explore on your own. There is an ongoing children’s scavenger hunt where families can hike along the quarter-mile Natural Bridge Trail and find the items on the list which is available at the visitors center. Families also can meander through the “view-and-touch” display in the visitors center where little ones can learn about rocks and minerals found throughout the park and region. Bring a picnic and you’ve got yourself a morning or afternoon full of family fun for the cost of a $2 parking pass. For more information about the park visit www.mass.gov.

IF THERE’S TIME

If there’s some time left in the day and you don’t feel like checking out the art at the Eclipse Mill there are a few more things to explore in North County. In my last column I mentioned the Cascades Trail that can be found at the end of Marion Avenue (see column for details), but if you’ve had enough hiking for the day at the park, maybe an evening of stargazing at the Milham Planetarium located within the Hopkins Observatory on the Williams College campus in Williamstown will provide a quiet and peaceful end to the day. It’s free, but reservations are required. I tried to score seats for the last show in the summer schedule on Tuesday, Aug. 9, but due to my last minute planning there was no more room. But the recorded message assured me that regular programming would resume in a couple of weeks and I should call back then for dates a times. If you are interested in visiting the planetarium when programming resumes the number to call is 413-597-2188.

A visit to the North Adams Museum of History and Science within Western Gateway Heritage State Park also can provide families with hours of fun and adventure. I was amazed at how accessible this Historical Society museum was for families with small children when I visited last year. From dress-up areas to trains to bugs, there is sure to be something to entice every member of the family. For more information about the museum and their hours, visit www.northadamshistory.org.

MOVIE MADNESS

I know I am in denial and it won’t be long until the kids are back in school, but before they do I am determined to catch a family flick under the stars at one of the many outdoor venues offering them around the county. Sundays@Six are done in Williamstown and thus so, too, are the outdoor movies sponsored by Images Cinema, but there are still movies scheduled inside and out in Adams, Pittsfield, Dalton, New Lebanon and Stockbridge in the upcoming weeks:

Outdoors Screenings

  • Friday, Aug. 12: “Legend of the Guardians,” dusk. 8 Park St., Adams; “Field of Dreams,” 8:30 p.m. Clapp Park, West Housatonic Street, Pittsfield.
  • Friday, Aug. 19: “Despicable Me,” dusk. 8 Park St., Adams.
  • Sunday, Aug. 28: “The Incredibles,” 8 p.m. Dalton CRA, Main Street, Dalton.

Indoors Screenings

  • Friday, Aug. 12: “Rio,” 6:30 p.m. 550 State Route 20, New Lebanon Library, New Lebanon, N.Y.
  • Thursday, Aug. 25: “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” 5:30 p.m. Norman Rockwell Museum, Route 183, Stockbridge.

READY TO READ

Along with the end of summer comes the end of the summer reading programs and many libraries in the area are celebrating with some fun-filled final events. On Tuesday, Aug. 16, the Lenox Library will host its annual end of summer reading program ice cream social at 2 p.m. The library is located on Main Street in Lenox. For more information call 413-637-0197. Then on Friday, Aug. 19, the New Lebanon Library right over the boarder in New York will concludes its summer reading program with Flow Circus featuring juggling, magic and Vaudeville-style comedy, followed by an ice cream social. The program begins at 1 p.m. The library is located at 550 State Route 20, New Lebanon, N.Y. Call 518-794-8844 for more details.

Other upcoming library events include:

  • Monday, Aug. 15: New Lebanon Library, bingo for kids 5 to 12, 1 p.m. 550 State Route 20, New Lebanon, N.Y. 518-794-8844.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 16: Berkshire Athenaeum, Otha Day will offer a community drum circle, 1 p.m. Wendell Avenue, Pittsfield. 413-442-1411 or berkshiremusicschool.org.
  • Thursday, Aug. 18: Lenox Library, “A World of Bridges,” where kids can travel all over the world with this interactive engineering adventure and construct and walk a Roman bridge, 11 and 11:30 a.m. and noon. Registration required. 18 Main St., Lenox. 413-637-0197.
  • Thursday, Aug. 18: New Lebanon Library, Wow Wii! gaming for teens and tweens to bring their games to play on the library’s Wii, 2 p.m. Also, family crafts night, 6 p.m. 550 State Route 20, New Lebanon, N.Y. 518-794-8844.

CONGRATULATIONS CONTEST WINNERS

Every summer the Berkshire Athenaeum’s Children’s Library in Pittsfield hosts a short story writing contest for children ages 5 to 18 and this year I will be able to congratulate them all in person when I get to speak at the awards ceremony and reception honoring them Friday, Aug. 19, at 1 p.m. But I wanted to take the time and space to honor them here in my column as I know what an amazing accomplishment it is to just be able to get your story down on paper, let alone send it in AND win a prize for it.

According to the library’s website the stories were judged on their originality, appeal and writing style. Winning entries, honorable mentions and works of merit will be bound and added to the collection of the Berkshire Athenaeum, so that community members may read and enjoy them. The winners and their winning stories are as follows:

Ages 5 to 6

  • 1st Place: Victoria Tang, “The Man Who Never Stopped Saying Hi”
  • 2nd Place : Tyler Moran, “Amber’s Adventures”

Ages 7 to 8

  • 1st Place: Stacey Tang, “Lucy Swims the Sea”
  • 2nd Place: Jessica Tang, “The Case of the Missing Books”
  • Honorable Mention: Evan Petruzella, “Alan and the Next Door Neighbor”

Ages 9 to 10

  • 1st Place: Lydia Loverin, “The Beastinator”
  • 2nd Place: Emelyn Theriault, “The Wonderful Change”

Ages 11 to 14

  • 1st Place: Jacob Lezberg, “The Rivalry of Mr. N and Mr. T”
  • 2nd Place: Emma Lezberg, “The Prowlers”
  • Honorable Mention: Charity Stroud, “A Peek into the Life of Prairie Dog”

Ages 15 to 18

  • 1st Place: Raynor Sebring, “The Old Dark House”
  • 2nd Place: Casey Petruzella, Dancing in the Park

All first place winners will receive a $35 cash prize, second place winners will receive a $25 cash prize and all honorable mention winners will receive a $20 cash prize. Prizes are donated by the Friends of the Berkshire Athenaeum whose generous and continued support makes this contest possible.

Congratulations winners! I look forward to congratulating you in person on Aug. 19.

A FEW MORE FOR YOUR CALENDAR

Saturday, Aug. 13: Berkshire Museum, singer/songwriter Mister G will perform his highly participatory, high-energy concert to teach children about the natural world and the animals, 1 p.m. $15, $8/children. 39 South St., Pittsfield. berkshiremuseum.org or 413-443-7171.

Friday, Aug. 19: Family Resource Center, “I Rode the School Bus,” an event for children who will be entering kindergarten to get an introduction to and a ride on a school bus, hear a story and do an art activity, 10-11 a.m. Free; reservation required. Haskins Center, Route 8, North Adams. 413-664-4821.

Saturday, Aug. 20: Berkshire Museum, Forest Park Zoo will host “intimate audience” shows for a really up-close experience with bearded dragon, Burmese python, blue-tongue skink and other special guests, 1, 2 and 3 p.m. $15, $8/children. 39 South St., Pittsfield. berkshiremuseum.org or 413-443-7171.

Saturday, Aug. 20: 4-H Fairgrounds, 71st annual Berkshire County Youth Fair, featuring animals, exhibits and more, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Free. Utility Drive, Pittsfield. 413-448-8285.

THE BERKSHIRE BUZZ

I just want to thank the lovely Donna Todd Rivers for having my son Max and me on her WBRK radio show “The Berkshire Buzz” last week to talk about Hilltown Families and Berkshire “staycations.” Donna, Max, and I had so much fun that we are thinking of making it a monthly affair to talk about all that the Berkshires and Hilltown Families has to offer area families. Stay tuned for more information and catch Donna at 1 p.m. weekdays on WBRK AM 1340.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kelly Bevan McIlquham Berkshire Family Fun

Kelly Bevan McIlquham writes our bi-monthly column, Berkshire Family Fun, sharing update, events and activities for families in the Berkshires.  Kelly is a psychotherapist-turned-writer who resides in Hinsdale, MA with her husband, three children, a chocolate lab, a very fat cat, a turtle, and a few goldfish. Kelly is a freelance writer who dabbles in writing for children and has had her non-fiction published by Wee Ones online family magazine. When not writing or editing, her favorite pastime is cheering on her children at various football, soccer, basketball and baseball games. kwm229@msn.com — Check out Berkshire Family Fun the first and third Thursday of each month.

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