May 28, 2011

Berkshire Cycling: Around October Mountain

32 miles   Moderate   Paved Roads
Towns: Washington, Becket, Lee, Lenox, Pittsfield, Dalton, Hinsdale
Parking: Washington town park on Rt. 8

Lilacs in bloom, May
One of the unexpected delights of cycling is smelling the world around you. In late May the lilacs are blooming in the Berkshire hills (no longer in the valleys though) and the fragrance is marvelous.

After last week’s rest stop (I could call it defeat) when climbing October Mountain via Washington Mountain Road I decided to focus on longer rides with less climbing, so Friday I rode around the mountain, instead of over it, this time keeping it generally on my right side. Much of it is a pretty ride, with varied terrain, one decent climb up Kirchner Road, a steep descent and a good flat ride linking them. 

The road goes past the trailhead for Basin Pond, land preserved be Berkshire Natural Resources Council (BNRC.) This is an excellent hike, especially late in the day when the setting sun lights up the west-facing slope. BNRC is a fantastic local organization that protects important habitat and open space in the county, and deserves support from everyone who lives in or visits the Berkshires. 

Basin Pond Trailhead
 From the parking lot at the park in Washington, I headed south on Route 8 to the intersection with County Road, where McInerney comes in, then followed County onto Yokum Pond Rd. and down to Route 20. This is a fast, steep, curving descent to Route 20, where the road dead-ends. I drive it almost daily going to work, and when the road is ice-covered occasionally have seen cars opt to slide into the bank rather than into busy Route 20. I know this road is steep, by most any standard, but I don't know how to get a photo that shows incline.

But before getting to their trailhead I passed a mystery blue box. They have appeared in many places around the county, dangling from the trees at about the same height. Later I learned they are used to monitor for invasive beetles. 

Riding down Route 20 into Lee I thought this ride should be subtitled Go Out and Ride in Traffic. The shoulder on most of the road is wide enough, but it is after all a shoulder, complete with broken glass, bad surface and grates. I often see cyclists riding here, but for me the semi-trailers were nerve wracking. 

Beetle monitoring box

The route passes by Herman Melville's home at Arrowhead. I noticed from the sign that it is open only by appointment, this time of the year. Turning right on Williams Street I rode back east and got lunch at Berkshire Organics, a small shop specializing in local and organic food, near the intersection of Kirchner and Washington Mountain.  

Today I rode straight onto Kirchner Road, not up the mountain. This is a longer, but a less steep climb and has state forest land on both sides of the road. It wasn’t easy, but certainly was easier than the alternative ride up Washington Mountain Road. Kirchner Road ends on Rt. 8, where it is a right hand turn and an easy ride back south to the car. Click here to see the route, with cue sheet and climbing details on Map My Ride.

Arrowhead, Herman Melville's home

Roads: Rt. 8 south. Right on McInerney, immediate left onto County, stay left onto Yokum Pond Rd. to Rt. 20. Right on Rt. 20. Right on East St. Right on Mill Street. Left at deadend, then straight onto Walker Street. Right onto East St. (becomes Chapman Rd.) Right onto Holmes Rd. Right onto Williams St. Straight onto Kirchner Rd. Right onto Rt. 8 back to Washington. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Suze,

    Awesome to hear from you! I -am- the same person who's doing senior thesis research in France. The details have changed quite a bit from when I left you a message a few months ago but yes - research now, ride later, seems like.

    It's funny, because I was just on your blog for the first time in a long while yesterday. What a coincidence.

    Sounds like you're getting some great riding in, as well. I'll keep this thing updated as much as I can. Back in Boston this August!



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