Another Glance at Greylock

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.

motel site, Williamstown, MA
birch, near Greylock…
marble dam, Natural Bridge State Park…

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.

North Fork, Hoosic…
limestone waters

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.

looking down, Natural Bridge…
Saddle Ball, w/ Greylock hidden behind…
Greylock, from North Adams…
dome, North Adams…
phoebe, waiting my return

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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22 Responses to Another Glance at Greylock

  1. Will says:

    What a super looking trip! Glad you got to enjoy the western reaches of this happy state!

  2. Morning, Walt. A beautiful area. Your essay makes me want to pay the Berkshires a visit. 50,000 years ago I was a counselor at a summer camp, Camp Potomac, which was/is near Pittsfield.

  3. Brent says:

    I’ve never seen that angle of Greylock photographed, and it’s definitely a striking profile. I think it also bears a passing resemblance to a molar tooth.

  4. tiostib says:

    A reminder that we are sometimes blessed to come full circle in life and be able to appreciate again the wonders of early years. Thank you.

    • The sensation of coming round full circle in life is, in this case, fulfilling, rather than a bittersweet affair. Right you are, Tio. and my appreciation of your understanding!

  5. Eleata Mitchell says:

    I always enjoy reading your blog and love the photos! I have shared the link with Michelle at school. We were chatting about you and were wondering if you were going to attend the HTA retirement party? Celebrating many fine folk! Hope you can make it! ~Eleata

    • Hi Eleata, great to hear from you! I don’t think I’ll be around to benefit from the HTA affair but do appreciate the invitation. I miss a lot of you folks and hope to maybe see a few familiar faces at the Dormann Library on June 9th. My thanks!

  6. Bob Matuzak says:

    I’m pretty sure the Kinderhook starts near Jiminy Peak ski resort. I don’t know if it’s the locals name or the real name but that far upstream we called the Kinderhook East Creek. Played a little adult hockey out of a bar called the Purple Pub in Watervliet. Made tons of trips from Watervliet/Troy to Pittsfield and North Adams. Worked for the railroad and rode from Selkirk to Springfield. Often went back to check out those beautiful western Massachusetts streams. One of my special places. Brings back so many memories. Thanks Walt.

    • Bob, Enjoyed your Berkshire recollections! I think you’re right about the K. starting near Jiminy Peak. We passed right by that location. And I find it interesting that the stream has, or had, an “East Creek” designation, probably for one of its headwater branches. The Purple Pub sounds like it may have been a good launching pad for eastward ventures, into the MA backwoods, a special place, indeed!

  7. UB says:

    Wow! Looks like they’ve ‘kept the place up’ – Melville’s Arrowhead. Lots of room to roam and conjure ideas/stories one would think. The whale on the Arrowhead sign and the mountains profile, really neat how they incorporated it into the whale’s image. Looked like it was a great trip! Some great pictures! Thanks for another post RTR! UB
    Tried posting this comment yesterday, as a result I’m given the opportunity to add this – I don’t know who “Gaia’ is, but do you think she minds the comparison? (sorry for this -> lol)

    • Hey UB, thank you for the comments! No, I don’t think Gaia, the eternal earth mother, would mind the comparison. She enjoys being honored, in whatever small way or great. You’re right about the area offering room to move & stories to conjure. In addition to the natural beauty of the place, I find the local history, ancient to colonial, to be quite fascinating.

  8. Jet Eliot says:

    Wonderful to be carried along here, Walt, with your serene words and phrases. I enjoyed seeing the sights and especially reading about the literary connections. Lovely to think about Melville, Hawthorne and Thoreau hiking the mountain. And what a thrill to have a look out of Melville’s window, seeing what he saw. Also, I always like it when you get a chance to go fishing. Really enjoyed this, Walt, thank you.

  9. Ross says:

    Walt, looks like a great trip and a revisit.

  10. Bob Stanton says:

    I would love to visit the area, especially Melville‘s arrowhead. Kind of off topic here, but yesterday I was contemplating the Southern Gothic genre, and how, to my mind, there is an antecedent in some of the writing of New Englanders like Frost, Hawthorne, etc. I was thinking that perhaps “Appalachian Gothic” might be a more encompassing term. At any rate, though it involved no fishing, I took the girl on a tour of some of our favorite haunts yesterday, as she had never been to the wilds of North Central Pennsylvania. Leonard Harrison, Cedar Run, Slate Run, Little Pine, and then on to Cherry Springs, where we were chased away by the storms before we could see much of anything. Regardless, a great day for a road trip.

    • Bob, that sounds like a good trip taken thru some excellent country at a wonderful time of year. Glad you guys took it even if chased off by the storm gods. Elements of Southern Gothic may apply there but I like your notion of “Appalachian Gothic” better. Although the MA transcendentalists may have less connection to it, Frost & Hawthorn & especially Poe are right in there, I think. Thanks, and happy trails this month!

  11. loydtruss says:

    I didn’t see or read anything about this trip that I wouldn’t like. What a wonderful place to grow up in and spend time fishing, hiking, and enjoying the mountains. How often do you all go back to revisit?
    I assume there are cabins near the streams for one to stay. How I wish I had the opportunity to fish wild streams like those. I could see a brown or rainbow nailing a dry on a slow drift. Thanks for sharing
    P.S. Sorry for the late reply; Cathey and I are still helping our son with the renovation of his house

    • Thank you, Bill. No problem, glad you’re able to help out with the renovation. The Berkshires are a fine place for all of the above, with plenty of cabins, motels, and campgrounds in the region. I’d like to return more frequently than I do, which is rarely more than once every couple of years or so, but now with my daughter living not too far to the east, we have more reason to enjoy the trout streams & rugged hillsides of that New England territory.

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