A complete workout for the soul


BERKSHIRE COUNTY -- Cabin fever runs rampant in New England this time of year, when the cold and snow keep many confined to their homes.

But even in the coldest weather, people warm up in the mountains. Snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, finding animal tracks, drinking hot chocolate by the fire ... People who want to get outside will have a lot of chances this weekend.


The Trustees of Reservations will hold a National Winter Trails Day celebration on Saturday at Notchview Reservation in Windsor.

National Winter Trails Day (scheduled for Jan. 11, but postponed locally due to the lack of snow) involves more than 100 resorts and Nordic centers nationwide, according to Jim Caffrey, superintendent of the Windsor Management Unit for the Trustees of Reservations.

"The primary focus of the day is to get people out on the snow to enjoy winter sports," he said.

Caffrey added that cross-country skiing is one of the best exercises for people, because it is a complete body sport that works the arms, legs, core shoulders -- and even spirits.

"A deep blue sky, clean white snow and clear air makes winter much more exciting than drudging through it," he said.

Caffrey said he began Alpine skiing in 1963 and raced in high school, using wooden skis. He has been cross-country skiing ever since.

Cross-country is quieter and less expensive, and "You have the freedom to go where you want," he said.

And with him, that means an uphill trail.

"I like the feel and getting into the rhythm," he said, "and feeling my body work. It's a challenge."

He recalled a day when he was skiing across the northern area of Notchview crossed beaver ponds, through areas not accessible in summer.

"It was a chance to see things you don't normally see. The snow surface on the ponds allowed us to move easily along -- we were flying right along. It's a feeling you try to replicate. It was one of those Nirvana days where everything went perfectly," he said.


Project Native in Housatonic will also host its first a snowshoe clinic on Saturday.

Karen LeBlanc, education and outreach coordinator, said it was the first such event at Project Native. She said Project Native was approached by the Great Barrington Trails and Greenways collaborative to host the event.

"The trail system has been expanded over the past few years, and we are trying to get more people through the meadows and on the trail," LeBlanc said. "We want more people to see Project Native as a destination. Just because it's winter, there's no reason we can't be out learning and enjoying the property."

The guided trek, led by Project Native general manager David Ellis, a trained wildlife tracker, and Dale Abrams, an educator, will go through the farm's seed bank, along paths in the woodlands and meadow. If there is no snow, they will lead a hike around the 54-acre farm instead.

"People can expect to see tracks from rabbits, deer, fox and turkeys, a fox den, and birds, including red-tailed hawks," LeBlanc said

She had been watching a fox from her office window a few days ago -- and saw a bear a couple of years ago.

Because no dogs are allowed on the property, LeBlanc said people are more likely to see wildlife here than on the Appalachian Trail or many other trails.

Bird watchers can expect to see chickadees, robins, red-tail hawks, juncos, blue jays, turkeys and cardinals. LeBlanc said a bald eagle had been spotted once flying above the property. The seed bank provides plenty for the birds to forage.

Ellis learned to track wildlife from Susan Morse of the Keeping Track program in Vermont. "To be out and learning about animal signs gives you a different outlook," he said. "It's just knowing where to look."

He advised going off trail to snowshoe and look for tracks.

Ellis, who comes from the town of Washington, said his favorite place to look for animal tracks was October Mountain State Forest.

"People can see a lot of tracks," he said. "Bobcat, bear, moose, fisher."

All snowshoers should bring snacks and water. They will return for a campfire and hot cocoa after the trek.

If you go ...

What: Notchview Trails Day

When: Saturday. Free one hour-long cross-country ski lessons at 10:30 a.m. and at 1:30 p.m.

A guided snowshoe hike through the woods, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For cross-country skiers, a wax clinic and a ski fit station from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Where: Notchview, Old Route 9 in Windsor, a half mile from the intersection of routes 8A and 9

Admission: Half-price trail fee of $8 (the normal price is $15.)

Information: (413) 684-0148

New cafe: After a trek in the cold, visitors can warm up in the newly opened Helen's Cafe in the Visitors Center with soup and sandwiches provided by the Old Creamery Grocery Co-op, hot and cold drinks, and cookies baked by the staff at Field Farm in WIlliamstown, which is also operated by the Trustees of Reservations.

What: Project Native
snowshoe clinic

When: Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Where: 342 North Plain Road, Route 41, Housatonic

Admission: Free and open to people of all ages. Advance registration is requested. Use of snowshoes will provided free by Berkshire Bike and Board with a 24-hour advance reservation. People may also bring their own snowshoes.

To register: info@gbtrails.org
or (413) 274-3433


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