As a kid I spent a decade growing up on a hill near Albany, NY and had a backyard view of both the Catskill Mountains, to the west, and the Berkshires to the south and east. You could say that those low-lying mountains left an imprint on the brain, still noticeable these long years after.
I left the region, never guessing that 60 years later I would finally come back to the highlands of western Massachusetts, to the rolling hills near Williamstown and Pittsfield, to the marble and the limestone earth, long overdue. And here it was: Green Mountain culture, hiking, arts, small breweries, fine restaurants, and fishing.
Several days were spent near Hemlock Brook and Williams College, casting flies in the North Fork Hoosic, resting in the smell of honeysuckle blooms, with views of Greylock, highest mountain in the state, its summit (3,491′) once attained by literary hikers Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Thoreau. The latter spent a night there in July 1844, an act that reinforced his growing sense of personal independence and adventure– one year prior to his start at Walden Pond.
I toured the Herman Melville residence called Arrowhead and, from the writer’s desk and attic window, saw Mt. Greylock in the distance. The forms of Saddle Ball and Greylock were an inspiration for the famed creator of Moby Dick. The snow-crowned winter peaks reminded him of a great white whale that broke out from the ocean’s surface. My perception of the ancient hills was far more modest, naturally, but significant in a personal way. I saw the Berkshires as I viewed them at the age of 10, but closer now.
If I’m fortunate to have another look at Berkshire country, I could hope for a clear day and a view of five states from the taiga-boreal top of Greylock Mountain. I would try to see the distant Green River and a possible spot to fish it near the New York border. I would try, as well, to locate Kinderhook Creek, the stream where I caught my first trout on a fly in the early 1960s. Driving home from Greylock, I could stop there at the headwaters of the Kinderhook to ply its waters, as if I’d never walked its shaded banks before.