ADAMS — Saturday, hundreds of day-trippers and some overnighters made their way to the summit of Mount Greylock, rising above the hot, humid air of Memorial Day weekend in the Berkshires and gazing out over views of three different states.
A group of Abenaki, along with representatives from a few other Native American nations, were also there. They evoked the name and spirit of Chief Gray Lock at the summit with a tipi raising, a drumming circle, and tales spun by Abenaki storyteller Chief Roger Long Toe.
Long Toe and a friend, Bill DiBenedetto — a member of the Native American Metis people — took a moment to recount the legend of the renowned war chief.
Standing at the edge of the cliff overlooking Adams, watching the shadows of clouds passing over the soft, green landscape like lazy whales passing by, it's hard to grasp the origins of the mountain's namesake and the challenges he faced.
In the 1720s, the native Abenaki, indigenous to the Western Massachusetts/Vermont region, were seeing invaders on all sides — the Iroquois and Mohawks from the west, English settlers from the south and east, and the Missisquoi, Woronoco and Pocomtuc from the north, often in partnership with the French.
But the Abenaki War Chief Gray Lock found fame and notoriety when he began striking at his enemies with raiding parties from his camps on the mountain the English referred to as the Grand Hoosuc, using the nearby Connecticut River as an easy route to enemy settlements and encampments.
"From a military point of view, this was a great location," Long Toe said. "The Connecticut River was basically the old Indian highway."
Try as they might, the English and the Mohawks couldn't catch or stop him.
"They used to chase him all over this mountain, and they couldn't catch him," DiBenedetto noted. "He was the greatest war leader the Abenaki ever had. He never made peace, and he was never defeated."
In the early 1800s, the mountain came to be known as Mount Greylock, eventually passing into common language.
Saturday afternoon, with the Veterans War Memorial Tower sporting its new wrapping of scaffolding, visitors were everywhere, snacking in Bascom Lodge, checking out the views, and feeling the rhythm of the drum circle.
A number of folks succumbed to the ambiance, lying on their backs in the grass, gazing into the clouds with the drums beating nearby.
Charles and Denise Tousignant were there, with their little friend Yoda the Boston terrier, checking out the tower and the lodge.
They made the trip from Gardner, a more than two-hour drive.
"We wanted to take a ride and enjoy the weather," Charles Tousignant said. "This is our first time here, but it's been on my list for 20 years."
Meanwhile, Lee Means and her grown daughter Sarah Means were just arriving at the summit from their home in Carlisle.
They had made reservations for an overnight stay in Bascom Lodge. They had been there about five years back as a family, and the two wanted a return trip.
"We had a lot of fun the last time," Lee Means said. "And we hear the food at the lodge is great. So we'll enjoy dinner, and maybe get in some real star-gazing tonight."
They were a bit disappointed that the tower is closed for the renovation project, but relieved to hear that the project is moving forward.
"It's really great to see they got the money to fix it," Lee Means said.