We were looking to camp in Western Massachusetts, but two weeks ahead of time was a little late to register for either Mohawk Trail State Forest or Savoy Mountain State Forest, two campgrounds we have enjoyed in the past. There was room for us at Clarksburg, however, and the campground was highly rated in The Best in Tent Camping: New England, by Lafe Low. It seemed worth a shot. This park is located in a broad Hoosic River valley, between the Taconic Range and Hoosac Range of the Berkshires, a high plateau where Mohawk Trail and Savoy Mountain are located. That makes its location more convenient to North Adams and Williamstown, where there are lots of cultural things to take in.
It's a straight shot up the Taconic State Parkway, a short jog east on I-90, a few miles up New York 22 and then a climb over into Massachusetts on Route 2. We left home at noon and were there by 3:15 PM (non-stop)! Our site was nicely wooded, although there was not much privacy between it and the adjacent sites. After quickly setting up our tent, we grabbed a quick lunch at the Freight Yard Pub in nearby North Adams. With afternoon temps around 90°, it began to sprinkle a bit.
Back at our site, we found that there were a number of large roots in the level area where the tent would normally go. We had to plan it so that the three of us could manage flat sections to sleep on. Unfortunately, there wasn't much of the rest of the campsite that was flat and root-free. We tried to setup the screen hut over the picnic table, but that put it too close to the fireplace. Ultimately, we decided to put the screen hut on a slightly sloping part of the site and bring our camp chairs inside, leaving the picnic table outside.
Once we finally got it all set up, the sprinkling became a thunderstorm! We rushed into the tent to close the screen doors, but in the few seconds some of our things got wet! Then we ran out to cover the screen hut with a tarp. The sides of the screen hut are sloping, so in a driving rain, the tarp prevents the rain from soaking everything (and everyone) inside. On the plus side, a good rain at night makes people turn in early and makes a very pleasant sound to fall asleep with.
By Saturday morning, the rain had ended. When we last visited the area in 2014, we visited The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, a favorite of mine since I was a kid. Prior to that, we visited Savoy Mountain in 2006 and Mohawk Trail way back in 1997 when our eldest son was just six months old! I had a vague recollection of a good pancake house along the Mohawk Trail section of Route 2 that I had also visited as a child when in the area. So we decided to find it.
The Mohawk Trail follows an actual native footpath through the Berkshire Mountains. It begins with a steep climb up the Hoosac Range via the famous Hairpin Turn to the Western Summit, Whitcomb Summit and Eastern Summit. It then enters a steep gorge on one of the most beatiful stretches of highway in New England. After passing Mohawk Trail State Forest, you continue a more gradual descent through quaint towns toward Greenfield in the Connecticut River Valley. We stopped at a roadside attraction in Charlemont, Daniel Chester French's monument Hail to the Sunrise, which depicts a noble Native American, with orant arms outstretched. As a kid, my Dad took my sisters and I camping to a private campground across the street. Now known as Mohawk Park, it's primarily a park for RVs and trailer homes located in a nice spot along the banks of the Deerfield River. Route 2 follows this river for much of the remaining way. We never did find that apocryphal pancake house, but we did end up at a Friendly's in Greenfield.
On the return tip we took a side detour to see the eastern portal of the Hoosac Rail Tunnel in Florida. Constructed beteen 1851 and 1875, at a cost of $21 million and 193 lives, it was the engineering marvel of its day. The tunnel is nearly five miles long, passing under two mountain ranges as it allows trains to run between Albany and Boston. To this day, it reamins the longest active transportation tunnel east of the Rocky Mountains. After enjoying some back roads, we rejoined Route 2 and stopped at the Western Summit and Hairpin Turn to take in the sensational views.
Back at the site, I began organizing and photgraphing our gear for the Inventory page. That evening we dined on hot dogs and sausages accompanied by grilled Pattypan Squash with fresh herbs. Yum! Around 9:30 PM, a pair of Barn Owls began screeching in the trees above us. They stayed for about 45 minutes before flying off to other parts of the park. What a racket! Unfortunately, at the next site, there was a group of loud talkers who also made a racket past 1 AM. If it hadn't been raining at that point, I'd have gone over there to complain.
On Sunday, we awoke to steady showers, but they did not last long. We decided to check out the much lauded Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMOCA) in North Adams. For much of its history, North Adams was a thriving textile mill town at the juncture of two branches of the Hoosic River. However, after the Great Depression, the textile industry declined. Subsequently, mills were purchased in 1942 by the Sprague Electric Company who manufactured electrical components for consumer electronics, military suppliers and the aerospace industry. When Sprague moved out in 1985, the city and its economy were devastated. In the years that followed, plans wer made to convert the Marshall Mills to an art musem and MassMoca opened it doors in 1999. It has revitalized the city and now some of the other mills are being converted to artist's lofts.
The museum has a wide variety of contemporary art, including large wall drawings by conceptual artist Sol LeWitt. We had a great docent give us a tour. Some other artists that caught our fancy included: Richard Nonas, Thomas Friedman, Rachel Sussman, and Sharon Ellis. I found Alex da Corte's installations tedious and unevocative. One of the more interesting exhibits was a documentary film by Nina Katchedourian, about the childhood loss of two Palymobil characters that she shared with her brother and the characters subsequent "re-carcassing." Weird and fun! Another simple and evocative piece was Michael Light's 100 Suns (2003), a collection of beautiful images of above ground nuclear tests. Ryan & Trevor Oakes had several interesting pieces that explored peripheral vision via curved canvases, but my favorite piece of theirs was a beautiful bowl made entirely of matchsticks. The idea that the artwork was also extremely flammable was intruguing. We grabbed a tasty brunch at Gramercy Bistro, just next door.
The weather was improving, so we took a liesurely drive up to the summit of Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts at just under 3500 feet. The It is a long and pleasant sylvan drive, with some nice vistas as you near the top. At the summit there is an impressive eastern view of Adams, The Berkshires and distant mountains in Vermont and New Mampshire. The spot lies along the Appalachian Trail and there is a nice campground (hike-in only) on the southern flank of the mountain. Also at the summit is Bascomb Lodge, a simple 9-room inn built in the 1930s by the CCC. It really reminded my wife and I of the Hotel Mittaghorn in Gimmelwald, Switzerland. Though modest, this would be a luxurious stay for A-T throughikers, and the leafpeeper crowd in the fall.
Sunday night, we dined on a sumptious meal. After an active day, camping food tastes like no other!
After dinner, we enjoyed a few games of Skip-Bo. One of the great things about staying at a campsite on a Sunday night is that the place empties out and the nights are very quiet. We woke up rested on Monday, had a liesurely pack-out, and hit the road by 11 AM. The drive home was liesurely, too. We took Route 8 south, stopping at Tolland State Forest to check out the camping there. Fantasic! Dozens of lakefront sites on Otis Reservoir—we will definitely return here for a week! Thought the morning at the campsite was dry, intermittent rain, sometimes heavy, followed us home. We stopped at Macadeonia Brook State Park in Kent, Connecticut. Though we'd heard good things about it, we wre unimpressed. There doesn't seem to be a lot of services there; there was no one at the contact station and it appears to manned only part of the week. There are pit toilets. The sites are close to a small brook and there is little privacy between them, although a group of three or four families camping together would like that. We think the campground would be very buggy during most of the season, although it might be spectacular in October! Housatonic Meadows State Park nearby might be a better choice.
Despite the occasional weather, we had a great weekend together! And while we aren't likely to repeat at Clarksburg anytime soon, we're glad to have tried it and explored the surrounding area.