Field Trip: The Berkshires: Intro

My spouse, the dog and I were in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts from 20-26 May.  We hadn’t had a vacation together except for a family birthday party since the summer of 2008 and after our difficult fall and winter — full of sad goodbyes and uprooting, my spouse’s medical diagnosis and ongoing treatments, the dog’s medical diagnosis and ongoing lab tests, my father’s death and my mother’s Alzheimers, as well as the weight of friends’ sorrows as they are going through tough times — we needed it.

We thought about kenneling the dog and going someplace farther afield, by rail or car, but we haven’t found a kennel situation we really like in our new area, so we decided to bring her with us and keep the drive short. The Berkshires is a half-day drive for us, which was easily accomplished and we felt we were ‘away.’

We stayed at a B&B called The Birchwood Inn in Lenox.

Birchwood Inn
Birchwood Inn

I chose it for its central location in the Berkshires  and its walkability to everything in Lenox, and because they cater to dogs. They have two on the grounds, a sweet golden retriever, Quinn, who’s a hearing ear dog for the inn’s owner, Ellen, and Piper, a ‘bagel’ (beagle and lab), a very well-behaved and friendly small black dog who likes to keep tabs on what’s going on in the house and grounds. She is very clever, because she learned after one almost-encounter to ignore our dog, who loves people but not other canines. Good dog, Piper!

Piper - Birchwood Inn

The room at the Inn that I originally wanted was booked during some of the days we planned to be there, so we ended up staying in the Carriage House. Though the room was small, especially with the addition of a large dog crate and a large dog bed, it  worked out better than a room in the main house because the dog was just a few steps from the outside rather than a staircase or two away. We had some warm weather while there (80Fs) and the room, which is mostly shaded, stayed quite cool.

Birchwood Inn Carriage House

The Birchwood is across the street from the Church on the Hill, which has a large cemetery, and Kennedy Park, a town park full of well-marked carriage trails, both of which are ideal for dog walking  — just remember to bring a bag of good citizenship!

Church on the Hill - Lenox
Church on the Hill

Kennedy Park trail
Kennedy Park trail

The Inn is also 3-6 blocks from most restuarants and shops in Lenox. I even walked from the Inn almost all the way to The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home  (it’s 2.9 miles away).

We had no plans when we arrived other than to see a preview performance of Julius Caesar at Shakespeare & Company’s Bernstein Theatre on Friday night. Most of the theatre, music and dance had not begun for the season. Tanglewood’s first performance wasn’t for another month. The town of Lenox was quiet, as were Stockbridge, West Stockbridge, Great Barrington, and surrounds. It was easy to get in for dinner anywhere without a reservation, and there were no lines or wait at any attraction we went to. The busiest place I think we encountered was either the Lenox Farmer’s Market on Friday afternoon or the local ice cream joint, The Scoop, one very warm evening. This was the perfect pace and atmosphere for us  — we felt unrushed and we could be more spontaneous about our plans than in high season.

Next post will detail Thurs-Sat. of our vacation.

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