Local Environmentalist Updates Guide to Berkshire Trails
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Lauren R. Stevens has been traipsing through the Berkshire mountains for more than 40 years.
And he wants others to find the same joy has in exploring the trails that weave throughout the county.
"I want people to gain an appreciation of the beautiful place we live in," the retired Williams College professor said. "There are benefits to just walking — physical and psychological. It has a way refueling."
Stevens recently published "50 Hikes In The Berkshire Hills," an updated guide to some favorite hikes, walks and climbs throughout the county. The guide, published by W.W. Norton's Countryman Press, came out in July.
The book is split into three parts, one each for North County, Central County and South County, and it pinpoints some notable and accessible trails.
"If you live here, you maybe know a lot of these places but a lot of people don't really get out," said Stevens, walking along the Cascade Trail recently. "I hope it is a service that makes it easier for them to get out."
Stevens, who grew up in Philadelphia, gained an affinity at a young age for the outdoors.
"Philadelphia has this wonderful Fairmount Park system so I could just walk from my house to a ravine and I was in the woods," he said. "I spent a lot of time there growing up."
Stevens came to Williams as an English and later environmental studies instructor, and since then has made Berkshire County his home, residing in Williamstown. At the age of 78, he said he has spent more than 40 years here and has had time to explore.
"I would say from day one getting out here in this environment was part of my mode of being here," he said. "I do more of it now because I am not working full time."
The book covers more than 50 hikes and walks. Each trail logged in the book has a quick write up, color photos, maps, notable landmarks, distance, walking time and vertical gain.
Stevens said he added information about the area, surrounding attractions, environmental information and trail and area history.
The Berkshire County trails are unlike other trails because of their age, he said, and many of the trails were more than paths in the past.
"I think one of the pluses of hiking in this area, as opposed to the Rockies or something like that, is that it is a history hike as well as a natural hike," he said. "You come across old stone walls and orchards some people probably farmed there in the past even deep in the woods."
Stevens said the book, in some ways, has been written before. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, there was really only one Berkshire hiking book and it was out of print.
In the 1990s, a local publishing house, Berkshire House, asked Stevens to put together "Hikes & Walks in the Berkshire Hills." The book focused on some of the less rigorous walks and hikes in the county. This book was updated in 1998 and in 2004.
Stevens said Berkshire House was purchased by a larger publishing company and developed a branch company, Countryman Travelers, which is focused on travel books. It reached out to him in 2015 and asked him to unearth the guide and update it.
He said most of the trails are new or updated while some of the older ones have new information. He said even many of the older trails he has written about in the past have changed quite a bit.
"I started all over again. It wasn't a matter of cutting and pasting. I did the hikes in the spring of 2015 and ... spent the summer writing," Stevens said. "You think trails are not going to change that much but they do. You have to keep updating them."
Stevens said unlike other Berkshire hiking guides, "50 Hikes In The Berkshire Hills" focuses on the entire county. He said he not only hopes that the book is interesting to visitors, but that it inspires residents to explore their region.
"It urges you to maybe hike a trail you have not been on before and go to a different part of the county because they all have differences," he said.
The book can be purchased in bookstores and outdoor stores throughout the county. It is also available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble, though Stevens urges people to buy locally if possible.
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