Cheshire Author Uncovers Ancient Goliaths
CHESHIRE, Mass. — A new book by a local author guides readers to some of the more mammoth and interesting boulders in Massachusetts, many of which sit in Berkshire County.
"There are some big rocks out there," said Christy Butler, coauthor and photographer of "Rockachusetts" a hiking guide focused on notable boulders in the state.
The Lynn native and Cheshire resident rambled throughout Massachusetts mapping and researching more than 150 boulders. One third of these are in Berkshire County.
Butler, a visual artist who has been involved in publishing, photography, and filmmaking, teamed up once again with writer and licensed hiking guide Russell Dunn, but this time to do something that differed from their previous books, "Berkshire Region Waterfall Guide" and later "Connecticut Waterfalls: A Guide."
"We have done so many waterfalls that we wanted something different," Butler said. "The whole thing came out of just a love of things outdoors ... I have always hiked and I was in the boy scout ... I am young at heart and I always liked being outdoors."
So why boulders?
Butler said these often hidden ancient goliaths have the tendency to humble puny humans. All the photographs in the book have a person standing next to the boulder to show this perspective. He added that the journey to the boulders is just as important and creates a nice destination hike.
"You can walk into some of these things and you are so small next to them. They will make your jaw drop — some are bigger than big, they are huge," he said. "People are also looking for new hikes to go on and get sick of the same old trail. Plus, these boulders are beautiful."
The book points out that Massachusetts is ripe for boulder hunters because the state has a "disproportionate amount" of glacial boulders, stemming from the last ice age that began 70,000 years ago.
This abundance of boulders come in all shapes and sizes. Some rocks have been altered by people, some have historic value, others have unique profiles or shapes, and others are just massive — such as the behemoth Titanic in Monroe State Forest that is the largest Glacial Erratic rock in Western Massachusetts. The 30-foot-high rock peacefully leans on a 20-foot-high boulder creating a space big enough to walk through.
Butler said it is difficult to catalog the history of the boulders because they are so old. Some of the boulders are believed to have Native American significance while others are tied to folklore going back to America's beginnings.
Some stories are just unknown, like Shark Rock in Richmond — a rock painted with a shark-ey grin.
"We just don't know," Butler said. "It started way back, and we don't know who started it but people keep painting it. There is a lot of civic interest."
Another notable Berkshire County boulder is the well-known Savoy Balance Rock, a 250-ton granite boulder. Also, Reynolds Rock, a climbers' favorite, in Cheshire stands 30 feet high and sits 40 feet long. Some are less notable, like a second smaller unnamed balance rock, also in Savoy.
Butler said research was simple yet extensive. Many of the boulders were simply discovered by talking to people and heading out into the woods searching for some kind of trail. Some of the boulders were discovered along the way.In the past when the hills of Berkshire County were bare, many of these sleeping giants could be seen from towns, he said. Now with tree-covered mountains, the boulders become a bit more concealed.
"You used to be able to see these things from a distance. They were the biggest rocks out there and they were landmarks people would just go hike to," Butler said. "Now you could be a hundred yards away from them and they just sit silently."
The book is a one-stop shop for everything boulder-related, and contains a brief history of the boulders and other available information, such GPS coordinates to parking and to the boulders, as well as a Delorme Massachusetts Atlas and Gazetteer citations. Readers will also find a map, a rating of the hikes difficulty, and the "wow factor."
Butler added that the hikes are not difficult, but people can explore and find other boulders, caves, and even waterfalls.
"Some of them are a few tenths of a mile each way so you can get in a quick afternoon hike in and you aren't tuckered out," he said.
He said boulderers, people who free climb boulders, may also enjoy the book
Butler said he is not a "rock freak" and does not know the scientific ins and outs of boulders. He said the 328-page book does not drag the reader down an academic rabbit hole, but is purely a guide that will hopefully inspire a fun outing.
"It's a social thing, it's an exercise thing, and it's an awareness thing," he said. "Get out of the house, get off of the couch, take a walk, and learn about your home."
The book can be purchased on Amazon.com or from Butler's website, which contains more of his work.
Tags: books, hiking, outdoors, rock,
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