Thursday September 6, 2012

Pleasant Valley Sanctuary

On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., go take a hike -- free of charge -- at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox. More than 1,000 acres of woodland, grass, hillside and pond wait for visitors on Berkshire Residents Free Admission Day.

Established in 1929, the sanctuary features a seven mile-long spider’s web system of trails that wends its way from the education center past native flower gardens and through meadows, mountainous terrain, hardwood forest and wetlands.

The network includes easy walks, more strenuous climbs and a universally accessible All-Per sons Trail. The popular scenic Pike’s Pond Loop Trail visits the largest of the ponds created by the industrious dam-building work of beavers along Yokun Brook, while more energetic hikers can tackle the 800 feet of elevation gain up to the Fire Tower perched at more than 2,000 feet, at the summit of Lenox Mountain.

Pick up a half-price membership and enjoy reduced or free admission to a busy calendar of year-round programs on birds, bugs, bats and beavers. Through out the year, visitors can rent a canoe or snowshoes as the season allows and learn more about the natural world from the deeply knowledgeable staff and volunteers.

For the past 65 years, generations of children have discovered the wonders of nature in the Berkshires at popular natural history summer camps, while families of all ages have shared the experience of helping trap, record information and release birds back into the wild during frequent seasonal bird banding sessions.

The sanctuary is part of the statewide network of sites under the stewardship of the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Pleasant Valley admission on Saturday is free for anyone who lives or works in Berkshire County. Regular admission is $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and children aged 2 to 12 years. Information: www.massaudubon.org, (413) 637-0320.

Berkshire Music School

Have you ever wanted to blow into a bassoon, touch a trombone or tickle a timpany drum?

On Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon, the Berkshire Music School will hold a free open house instrument petting zoo. Get the feel of a fife or a fiddle, try a simple music class for younger children, and meet BMS faculty, at 30 Wendell Ave., Pittsfield. Infor mation: berkshiremusicschool.org, (413) 442-1411.

Ventfort Hall

Since George and Martha Washington adopted the British afternoon gathering, or levée, and began to hold parties on their summer lawns, the ice cream social has made its way into American history. Ice cream has found its way to all parts of the country and all kinds of parties, from church picnics with three-legged races to affairs of state.

On Sunday afternoon, Vent fort Hall will host an old-fashioned ice cream social from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Gilded-Age mansion and museum at 104 Walker St., Lenox. Ice cream will be for sale by the scoop on the veranda, and a small herd of miniature horses will also join the party.

Admission to the ice cream social is free but does not include admission to the museum. Those who explore the house will find a detailed collection of 60 dolls, "Les Petites Femmes du Mode," dolls dressed in costumes invented to resemble 19th-century elegant dress. Information: gilded
age.org, (413) 637-3206.