Notchview has miles of trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on 3,000 acres of rolling terrain. (R. Cheek)
Taking it trail by trail in the Berkshires
WINDSOR — The Trustees of Reservations is best known as proprietor of Crane Beach in Ipswich. Yet, the environmentally-sound organization maintains more than 100 sites across Massachusetts and some of its finest properties, like Notchview Reservation in the western part of the state, are best seen in winter. Notchview is a splendid 3,000-acre property, sheltered from winter winds by tall spruce and fir trees. The grounds include 25 miles of cross-country skiing, almost half of that groomed, while side trails are favored by snowshoers.
When I visited Notchview last winter, the temperature was 4 degrees with a windchill factor of minus 26. A snowstorm had just dumped over a foot of fine white powder on the Berkshire Hills.
By the time I got my skis on outside the visitors center and took a left onto the Circuit Trail, my face was numb and the tips of my fingers were freezing. That quickly changed as soon as I took my right at Ant Hill Loop. Oaks and white pines, limbs heavy with snow, provided the perfect protection against the chilly winds. The half-mile trail is a gradual climb, guaranteed to leave you cozy by the time it drops you off back at the Circuit Trail. I took a quick right and then a left onto the Whitestone Trail, arguably the most scenic trail in the Berkshires.
Wind whistled, limbs moaned, there was even a completely uprooted tree, but I was as warm as a baby’s bottle. Animals favor the trail, too, since I followed raccoon tracks the entire way.
I was quite content when I made my left onto the Mixed Wood Trail, avoiding the snow dunes and wind of the Sawmill Field. A mile later I left the Mixed Wood Trail disheartened and exhausted. Because of the recent snowfall, this untried trail was better suited for snowshoes than cross-country skis. My legs were practically paralyzed in knee-deep snow, each step a monumental effort. If I had been wise, I would have made an about-face and returned the same way I came. But I foolishly continued on, hoping for a break. There was none. I somehow managed to finish the trail and returned to the starting point via the Circuit Trail.
I earned that mug of hot cocoa.
Stephen Jermanok can be reached at www.activetravels.com.