BLANDFORD — I spent a couple of nights trying to plot out the perfect trip. I’d been traveling all over the country for my second job, a Travel Channel show (“Edge of America”) premiering this month. My wife, taking care of the kids and everything many weekends, deserved a break. I also selfishly just missed Carlene and thought it would be nice to get away without the kids.
Finding somebody to watch Lila and Cal wasn’t hard. Finding a good two-day trip in my tiny available window — the days leading up to New Year’s Eve — was another story. New Orleans, New York, and Miami were possibilities, though hotels had jacked up their rates and I didn’t want to spend most of our time in transit.
How about a cross-country ski getaway? I Googled and came up with Notchview, a site in Windsor, on the edge of the Berkshires, with about 20 kilometers of groomed trails. Clicking around the website, I found a link to bed-and-breakfasts. I e-mailed one, the nearly 250-year-old Baird Tavern in Blandford in the Hidden Hills. Carolyn Taylor, the owner, responded that the Ashley Room was available and I made our reservation.
We started our trip with a movie. Like many busy parents, we rarely get a chance to see a movie in a theater. So we stopped off the Mass Pike at the West Springfield 15 to watch Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.” By the time we left, the snow had started. We got to the tavern around 5 and decided to get a bite close by.
The Hidden Hills are not the Berkshires. You aren’t candle shopping in Stockbridge or grabbing a latte with the hipsters in Lenox. And I like that.
We headed to the Knox Trail Inn about 20 minutes away in nearby Otis and encountered a barroom of grizzled guys who referred to “the old lady,” fed the automated lottery machine, and cussed when their pizza order was messed up. This might sound unpleasant but we didn’t mind. They weren’t dangerous, just hard-boiled.
I had a cheeseburger, cup of chili, and a beer. Carlene had the chili and a bowl of chowder. And then we made our way back. It wasn’t easy in two-wheel drive. The snow was falling and plowing in the Hidden Hills varies dramatically town to town. So Otis, for example, was scraped to the pavement while Blandford was icy and challenging. There were stretches where Carlene wondered whether we’d get up the hill. We did.
We had an incredible first night by doing something very much out of character. We slept. Our quick nap after dinner turned into waking up the next day around 8. The last time I slept for 11 hours was around 1987.
Taylor has owned the tavern since 1973. It’s a historical marvel, from the wide floorboards to the massive fireplace. So is her breakfast: blueberry pancakes one morning, an omelet the next. The coffee was dark and perfect.
That prepared us perfectly for Notchview. It is a spare facility that reminded me of the charm of Great Brook in Car-lisle, certainly no cross-country theme park like Jackson, N.H. There’s a small building in which you can warm up, check the conditions, and stuff $1 into a box for a cup of cocoa. The trails are maintained and include short loops and longer, more difficult runs. For us, it was perfect. We skied for about four hours.
That night, instead of another burger, we headed to one of the area’s nicest restaurants, Perigee in Lee. (We did stop in Stockbridge to get some trinkets for the kids and Lenox for that perfect latte.) Perigee is special. The pork chop was perfect, juicy on the inside, browned on the surface with onions braised in stout. The atmosphere was excellent as well, with two floors of packed tables. My only disappointment is that we were too disciplined to order one of the desserts: “Pie crust ‘French fries’ brushed with melted butter, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, baked and served warm with today’s handmade pie filling.” What was wrong with us?
We headed back and chatted with Taylor over tea and sections of the Sunday paper. By the next afternoon, we would be back home, kids spread out on the living room floor, feeling glad to be together and recharged after our quick getaway. But just then, the tavern’s fireplace called.