New England Newspapers
PITTSFIELD -- About 75 Berkshire residents started their new year off on the right foot -- then the left foot, then the right foot again -- as they hiked through a snow-covered Pittsfield State Forest on Tuesday afternoon.
This year, for the first time, the free guided First Day Hike was held at the Pittsfield State Forest. Historically, it’s been held at the Mount Greylock State Reservation in Lanesborough, but it was moved because one of Mount Greylock’s shelters was closed.
The traditional First Day Hike is held at state parks all across the country. Equipped with layers of clothes, snowshoes and hiking poles, apple-cheeked hikers shuffled their feet along the packed-down snow on paths within the quiet, chilly state forest terrain.
Pittsfield State Forest was an ideal choice to take over the first-of-the-year hike from Mount Greylock because it was close to Pittsfield’s city scene, according to Alex Gillman, a Department of Conservation employee who led the hike along the Tranquility Trail, the shorter and less demanding of the two paths hikers could choose from.
"People love getting fresh air and getting back in touch with nature," said Alec Gillman, the program committee coordinator for the Department of Conservation’s Civilian Conservation Corps. Eileen Kennedy came from Amherst to enjoy the easier hike.
"It was a lovely way to start the new year," Kennedy said. "[Gillman] was very knowledgeable. I learned that the area used to be all farming."
Despite the cold and snow, a majority of the hikers took the longer, steeper trail that started on Hawthorne Trail before continuing onto Parker Brook Trail.
"We had a little bit of a climb," said Becky Barnes, the Greylock complex supervisor that led the more difficult hike at Pittsfield State Forest on Tuesday. "We had families, kids -- a good mix of people."
Among the hikers on the more challenging mile-long walk was Betsy Halla. It’s part of her New Year’s resolution to play her trumpet more, hike more and read more of her Bible -- an initiative she’s calling Betsy’s Brass, Boots and Bible.
"I don’t do this often enough," Halla said, almost out of breath. "In the winter, it’s all white out here and you can actually see the birds. It’s so peaceful; it’s almost like time stops."
Hikers met in the ski lodge afterward to warm up by the fireplace with cups of hot chocolate.