It’s amazing what you will find in the Berkshire woods if you keep your eyes open. There is no better example of this than the former Chester-Hudson Quarry in Becket. After about 100 years of carving granite from the hills, the quarry was simply abandoned in the early 1960s. Most of the equipment - a derrick, winches, rail cars, rails, some buildings and even a few vehicles - were simply left to rust and decay in the ensuing 50 years. A short half-mile distance from Quarry Road, walkers encounter an eerie scene, "as if the quarrymen had gone to lunch and never returned" in the words of the Becket Land Trust.
Operated today as an outdoor museum, the Historic Becket Quarry and Forest presents numerous opportunities for walking and hiking through history. There is no charge to visit the quarry or forest, and visitors can see most of it with a walk of about two miles, adding several miles more through the adjoining woodlands if one wishes.
To reach the quarry, take Route 20 east from Lee, about 17 miles, to a right turn on Bonnie Rigg Hill Road. Continue for about 1 1/2 miles to a left on Quarry Road, then watch for the Historic Quarry parking area on the right.
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Berkshire County has not often experienced war in its own backyard, but the June of 1787 is one exception. On the plains of Sheffield, beside what is now the South Egremont Road, the final chapter played out in Shays’ Rebellion, a revolt against the financial policies of the state government toward farmers. The rebels, many of them veterans of the American Revolution, had no money for uniforms so they identified their rag tag army by sticking sprigs of hemlock in their hatbands.
The sight of Shays’ final defeat is now identified by a commemorative stone a few feet away from a grassy parking area for the Appalachian Trail. Unlike Shays’ decimated army, visitors can turn this into a very pleasant hike by going south on the A-T about two miles, emerging from the woodlands beside Route 41, where a pleasing vista opens up to the south.
Take US Route 7 to Sheffield and turn west on South Egremont Road just south of Sheffield Pottery. Continue about one mile to the A-T parking area.
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Many walkers who do not use woodland trails find a level path with excellent footing, like the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail’s, a good alternative. The trail is also a fine choice for handicapped individuals. But how many know of the rail line that formerly traversed the area or how the trail came into being? The Ashuwillticook is built on the right of way of the 1845 Pittsfield and North Adams Railroad, which continued in operation until abandonment in 1990. The remnants of its railroad days are all around in the form of culverts, cigar-shaped "whistle posts," a crossing tender’s shanty in Adams and former rail stations in Cheshire and Adams. The line that now carries bikers, skaters, baby carriages and walkers once carried passengers, limestone and other freight. The excellent views of the lower Hoosac River, lakes and hills once enjoyed by passengers are now the province of those providing their own motive power. The Ashuwillticook Rail Trail parallels Route 8 for 11., two miles between the Berkshire Mall Road in Lanesborough and the center of Adams. Clearly marked parking areas are available in numerous locations.