BERKSHIRES, MASS. >> Naumkeag in Stockbridge, Monument Mountain in Great Barrington, and Bartholomew's Cobble in Sheffield, Mass., lie close together in the Southern Berkshires, and each property, all looked after by the statewide Trustees of Reservations, offers a different flavor of nature and history.
Naumkeag is one the few Gilded Age cottages left standing, according to Dyan Wiley, engagement manager for the Trustees' West Region. Joseph Hodges Choate built Naumkeag, and the house remained in the Choate family until the 1950s with the death of Mabel Choate.
"It's very playful," said Wiley. "This is the house the Choates came to have fun in."
The Choates and well-known landscape architect Fletcher Steele designed the gardens known for the Blue Steps, a series of pools considered a national landmark. People like to picnic under a large oak tree in the gardens and look out on a view of Monument Mountain.
Hikers enjoy the easy climb up Monument Mountain for views of Housatonic River and the surrounding landscape as far as Vermont and New York, she said. Mount Greylock stands to the north, the ridge-line like the back of a sperm whale above the wavs that inspired Herman Melville to write "Moby-Dick" at his desk in Pittsfield. Melville met Nathaniel Hawthorne on this mountain in a thunderstorm, and as they sheltered from the rain under an overhang they taked about their work. A hike re-creates the meeting every year in August.
The Housatonic River continues south to Bartholomew's Cobble in Sheff–ield, where guides regularly lead canoe trips in the summer. The Trustees recently planted flood-resistant trees along the banks there, Wiley said, where flooding had washed out plants along the banks. Hemlock trees grow there, and bergamot blooms in the meadows.