The 270 acres of this property include the high point of Potter Mountain, known as Widow White. A brook here has tunneled underground passages through karstic limestone rock of a kind uncommon in the Berkshires. Hikers should also be on the lookout for 19th century revenge graffiti carved into stone by a spurned suitor.
SCROLL FOR PROPERTY DESCRIPTION AND NATURAL HISTORY
The Widow White Reserve is accessed from an unimproved trailhead off Silver Street.
From the center of Lanesboro: north on Route 7 to a left on Bailey Road. Follow Bailey Road north for 1.0 miles to a left on Silver Street. Follow Silver Street for 0.4 miles to the trailhead, which is at the top of a short steep hill, on a very sharp left-hand curve. Trailhead is on the right at the curve.
GPS: 42.5472, -73.2520 (trailhead parking)
Abundant deer on the densely wooded slopes of Widow White have long drawn hunters and other visitors have been intrigued by Secum Brook, also known as Disappearing Brook. Over the course of a mile, the stream—one of the biggest sources of Pontoosuc Lake—disappears four times into underground channels. One stretch of the brook cuts an imposing ravine into the mountainside.
Wood roads offering out-and-back hikes course through the property, which the Berkshire Natural Resources Council acquired in two parcels during the past two decades. The remnants of two mill dams on Secum Brook, small quarries and an extensive stone wall provide evidence of the land’s industrial and agricultural past.
Another piece of history is the Captain John Brown stone. In 1878, his bid to marry Susan Baker was rejected and in response he had these words engraved on a sandstone boulder near a wood road on what was then Baker’s property: “May God Bless Susan and all her baren land and when she get to Heaven I hope She’l find a Man.”
The hurt behind this embittered message might have been more mercenary than romantic, however. Brown was 69 while Miss Baker was 81 and her land, with its valuable standing timber and high-quality marble, was anything but barren. Moss and weathering now make the stone’s inscription difficult to read.
The limestone bedrock here is the foundation for calcium-rich soils, which create conditions for a variety of plant species to thrive. Spring ephemeral wildflowers blanket the forest floor before leaves come out in early spring.
Numerous fern species, including maidenhead fern, populate the rocky outcrops and dominate the understory. During a rainy summer, an assortment of fungi can be seen. The property’s predominantly hardwood trees are of an almost uniform age, signaling an extensive clear-cut in the last century.