July 11, 2011

Berkshire Cycling: Around Beartown State Forest

31 miles Paved and dirt roads
Towns: Lee, Tyringham, Otis, Monterey, Great Barrington, Stockbridge,
Parking: Rt. 102 and Tyringham Rd., Lee

The wide Tyringham Valley
There were two reasons I chose to ride this route: to see what Tyringham Road offers after it passes my usual turn to Monterey, and predictably, to ride down Blue Hill Road, one of the most enjoyable descents in this part of the Berkshires. The route is mostly a pretty ride, provided some nice climbing and a gorgeous descent, with a few sections of highway and enough traffic to prove that it is summer in the Berkshires and Tanglewood has opened. There are many reasons to visit here, cultural as well as the beautiful natural world, but Tanglewood, the Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer home, drives the number of visitors.

Which direction are those horses going?

From Lee, I rode out Tyringham Road, a long, pretty valley, with open fields, surrounding ridges, some remaining old farm houses, and a number of horses. The signs on the road reminded me of my friend Larry. “Horse back riding on road.” Guess they don’t know which direction the people on horseback will be going. See his blog birds and words for more great signs.  

Appalachian Trail hiker
Close to the village of Tyringham I met a hiker who began in May at the south end of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, and is hiking through to Maine. We were just below Tyringham Cobble, first protected in the 1930s, and in the 1960s donated to the Trustees of Reservations. Its two miles of trail link with the AT, and provide stunningly beautiful views of the valley. I’ve found wild asparagus growing in the field on the top, left I think, from the Shakers who once lived here. A great walk.
The road climbs up into Otis, with some typical Berkshires high swamps, then continues bearing south until it ends at Rt. 23 in Monterey.  Once there, I turned west, towards Monterey, and passed the sign for Bob’s Way, another Berkshire Natural Resources Council property. I’ve heard it’s about 2-1/2 miles of nice looped walking, but haven’t yet hiked it. 

High swampland on the Otis border
Turning right onto Hupi Road, the surface is dirt, the road is  quiet and provides a few views of Lake Garfield from above. At the intersection with Monterey Road, I turned left  went back to Rt. 23 in the village of Monterey, but you could continue straight on Hupi and avoid more of busy Rt. 23.

Lake Garfield from Hupi Road
Before too long a right again took me onto Blue Hill Road, the second main reason I’m here today. This was a fine ride, up for a bit, then down to intersect with Monument Valley Road and Route 7.  Its curving downhills were sometimes fast and reminded me of riding in France. It was fun. I guess it was such fun that I didn’t stop to take photos. The quiet sections of the trip made it well worth the traffic on the two ends, Rts. 23 and Rt. 7.

Monument Mountain
At Rt. 7 I turned north, just under Monument Mountain, another Trustees of Reservation property.  Trustees are a big, effective player in land preservation in our area. I have hiked up that mountain many times and it is either a steep rocky climb up with a gentle, wide path descent … or vice versa.

Follow Rt. 7 through busy Stockbridge to Rt. 102 and back to South Lee.

Roads: From Rt. 102 in Lee, Tyringham Road to Rt. 23, to Blue Hill Road, which intersects with Monument Valley Rd to Rt. 7 north. Follow it to Rt. 102 back to Lee. Click here for Map My Ride link to this route, it will have cue sheets, map and climb info.

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