With schools shuttered and many locals cooped up inside practicing social distancing while they work from home, some residents are turning to the pleasures of hiking to ward off cabin fever.
Over the past week, the parking lot at the foot of Monument Mountain in Great Barrington has been filled with cars. Taylor Staubach, creator of the website, “Berkshire Family Hikes”, says that hikers are likely heading for the hills to relieve some of the tension felt during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Hiking definitely relieves stress and anxiety,” said Staubach. “I think with all of us being stir-crazy and indoors, and a lot of people have children that go stir-crazy and bounce off the walls, it gives us an outlet for that. Just being outside is a mood-booster. Hiking helps you stay energized and it’s a great stress reliever. So it’s kind of an equalizer for all of those things that we’re experiencing so much of right now.”
Staubach, a Dalton resident, started the website last year after she and her husband Dan decided they wanted their family, which includes two young children, to be more active.
The site includes reviews and history lessons about the hiking trails that the family walks each weekend.
“My husband and I had made a commitment to each other to get our family outside and once we started the site it was a way to hold us accountable to do it every week,” Staubach said. “Plus I just love researching the places that we go. I love local history. Plus I love writing about the experience through my kids’ eyes.”
The stay-at-home mother has a part-time job as a social media marketer in addition to running the Berkshire Family Hikes website. With both she and her husband working from home for the time being, a goal the couple set to conduct 50 hikes this year might be eclipsed fast as the family has upped its hiking frequency recently to get out of the house.
“I told my husband that we may have to increase our goal, because at this point we’re both home and we’ve got nothing but time,” Staubach said. “So it’s the perfect time to do it.”
On a recent rainy morning, several hearty hikers still made their way up Monument Mountain, and hiker Sara Hoff said the morning trek was therapeutic in the age of an ongoing pandemic.
Hoff, who works as a massage therapist at Kripalu Healing Arts in Stockbridge, says that ecotherapy is critical to her mental and physical well-being.
“Part of my work is about getting back to our natural healing rhythms and living in alignment with the seasons and with nature,” she said. “Obviously we need technology, but there are so many healing benefits to being in nature from a neuroscientific standpoint.”
Monument Mountain includes three unique trails, including the 1.51-mile Indian Monument Trail, the 0.62-mile Squaw Peak Trail and the 0.83-mile Hickey Trail, which features the most strenuous angle of ascent up the 720-foot mountain.
On her way down the Hickey Trail, Hoff stopped to take pictures of the natural scenes that enveloped her.
“This particular trail is short, but fairly steep at points,” Hoff said. “So you can get your heart rate pumping and stop at various points to look at the waterfalls and things like that.”
Recently, Staubach posted a list of 20 open-air spaces for families to enjoy on her website. The list included some of the writer’s favorite local spots, including the Thomas and Palmer Brook Trail in Great Barrington.
“That place is wonderful,” Staubach said. “It’s a newer spot that the Berkshire Natural Resources Council has been promoting. It’s a really easy hike, but there are lots of rocks for kids to climb on.”
Staubach is also enthusiastic about the 1.4-mile trail at Bullard Woods in the Stockbridge and Lenox area.
“That’s an old-growth forest and there aren’t many of those left,” she said. “The air in old-growth forests is supposed to be really beneficial to your immune system, so it might be a good time to go check out that one.”
As the coronavirus outbreak has expanded, Staubach said that she has noticed a discernable uptick in interest in hiking, which she hopes can continue in the long term.
“I’ve had a couple people reach out to me asking me for recommendations,” she noted. “We’ve definitely seen a lot more people on the trails. It’s great, but hopefully everyone will practice safe social distancing even outside. I think there’s a piqued interest in it absolutely. Hopefully it stays that way after this is over.”
20 Open-Air Spaces for Berkshire Families
- Balance Rock State Park – Pittsfield
- Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary – Pittsfield
- Wahconah Falls State Park – Dalton
- Old Mill Trail – Hinsdale/Dalton
- Steven’s Glen – Richmond
- Getty Memorial Conservation Area – Dalton
- Mountain Meadow – Williamstown / Pownal, Vermont
- Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary – Lenox
- Natural Bridge State Park – North Adams
- Greylock Glen Meadow – Adams
- Historic Becket Quarry – Becket
- Ashuwillticook Rail Trail – Lanesborough / Adams
- Dorothy Frances Rice Wildlife Sanctuary – Peru
- Crane’s Pond – Dalton
- Field Farm – Williamstown
- Longcope Park – South Lee
- Road’s End Wildlife Sanctuary – Worthington
- Thomas & Palmer Brook – Great Barrington
- Bullard Woods – Stockbridge / Lenox
- Constitution Hill – Lanesborough
Source: Berkshire Family Hikes