By Rae Eastman
Those of us who live here feel lucky to be surrounded by mountains, and the highest one in the state, Mt. Greylock, at 2,000 feet, is a national landmark. From viewpoints around its summit one can see lakes and towns below as well as miles of other mountain ranges overlooking five states to the south and west of Greylock. There is one automobile road to the summit, open from late May through early November, accessible from Rockwell Road in Lanesboro.
There are many outlooks along this seven mile road, along which one might stop off to see the incomparable views to the south and west—and perhaps pick a few blueberries. Greylock, besides all its other distinctions, has been named a native natural landmark in honor of its extensive old growth of red spruce. Even the birds recognize it as a special place. Both the blackpoll warbler and Bick Well’s Thrush, neither of which is normally found in Massachusetts, make their home there, as do 132 other species! Greylock can be seen from highpoints in New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and Connecticut. To those nearer it heralds the local weather.
Greylock’s name came about, according to one legend, because of the grey-colored mist surrounding it. Another has it that it is named for a Native American Indian chief, who made guerilla raids into Vermont and western Massachusetts. Visitors have included Nathaniel Hawthorne who climbed it several times, W. C. Bryant, and Henry David Thoreau. Melville, who could view Greylock from his home in Pittsfield, dedicated his novel Pierre to “Greylock’s most excellent majesty”, calling it “my own sovereign lord and king”. Thoreau spent a night at its summit, an experience that transformed him, it was later said, and served as a prelude to his taking up residence the next year at Walden Pond.
It was in 1898 that the first official development was begun—the first public land in Massachusetts to be assigned for forest preservation. By 1913, 17 trails existed on the mountain. In 1929 the Appalachian Trail was first cut through and, principally to keep it cut back, the Greylock Ski Club assumed its maintenance in 1937.
Late in the ‘30s substantial development occurred. The War Memorial Tower, now being renovated, was constructed, trails were improved and new ones added. There are now 70 miles of hiking trails, mountain biking, back country skiing, snow-shoeing and snowmobiling and back-packer shelters accessible only by foot.
At the summit is Bascom Lodge where, for three months a year, a warm fire burns and meals are served from July through October. There are many officials with various titles looking after things at and around the mountain. They, however, will not be of concern here as we consider the majesty and beauty of our own Mt. Greylock reaching up there to the clouds.