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My Visit to Mahanna Cobble

Posted Thursday, January 11, 2024
ConservationPropertiesRecreationThe High Road

A High Road Segment Showcase

As those familiar with the Berkshires know, we’re blessed with an abundance of hiking opportunities, including 90 miles of the Appalachian Trail, a 35-mile segment of the Taconic Crest Trail, a trail network that enables one to explore Mt. Greylock from several different approaches, and, of course, BNRC’s 65+ miles of maintained trail, just to name a few.

What inspires a lot of us to make the trek is a hike with a view ~ the viewpoint being the reward for the climb, or a place to detach and simply take in the natural beauty that surrounds us. BNRC trails offer a variety of spectacular viewpoints, but among my favorites is the view from Mahanna Cobble, which is also the first opened segment of BNRC’s High Road trail network. The view from the Cobble is a rare one in Berkshire County, with a complete absence of any man-made structures. Gazing out, one only sees an unobstructed south-facing vista, encompassing Kennedy Park and further over Yokun Ridge and beyond.

Here, too, you’ll find respite on a lovely stone bench dedicated to BNRC’s founder and former Founder George Wislocki. His commitment to land conservation and vision for preserving open spaces in the Berkshires engaged landowners, farmers, community partners, and volunteers in an effort that now safeguards over 25,000 acres of natural spaces for generations to come. 

The Mahanna Cobble Trail itself embodies George Wislocki’s legacy of commitment to protect open spaces and enable access for all through stewardship and partnerships, and, if needed, legal challenges, when no other recourse is available.  

That the trail exists at all is a testament to BNRC’s willingness to uphold these principles. It was a hard-won legal challenge that preserved BNRC’s right to purchase and conserve the Mahanna Cobble reserve, through which the trail climbs. When the matter was settled in 2010, construction began, utilizing a combination of professional trail builders and BNRC staff and volunteers to create a trail that meets sustainable standards. As I walk the trail, it’s easy to assume that “it’s always been here,” as the trail climbs to the Cobble. The next time you hike it, though, pay attention to the seemingly natural but indeed thoughtfully engineered features, such as water bars to divert water across the trail, stone steps to ease your way, and the pitch of the trail, designed to help prevent erosion.

While I hike it, I try to be mindful that I am on the ancestral lands of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation. It’s humbling to think of the time before, when Lenox Mountain and much of the Berkshires were home to indigenous peoples, who were twice displaced by European settlements. The “People of the Waters That Are Never Still” now primarily reside in Wisconsin and maintain connections to the Berkshires and their sacred lands.  

While I first mentioned the pristine view as a distinguishing feature of Mahanna Cobble, its trailhead also merits a note, simply because not many trails I know of traverse a ski area!

The trail originates at Bousquet Mountain, made possible by the extraordinary generosity of the ski area’s owners, Mill Town Capital, a venture capital firm dedicated to community revitalization and positive local impact. Mahanna Cobble hosts the northern trailhead of The High Road, 8 miles of trails that traverse Lenox Mountain and Yokun Ridge, currently terminating at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, with options into Mass Audubon’s Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, Kennedy Park, and the Town of Lenox.  

As the High Road seeks to expand, relationships with community partners, donors, and landowners are valued and important ways that BNRC can continue its mission to bring more people to the trails, and the trails to more people. I hope you will find time to take the 3.2-mile round trip trek to Mahanna Cobble. And if you do it in winter, be sure to look uphill when crossing the Drifter ski trail!

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