A ghost resort blooms again

Remains of shuttered barns and buildings give visitors the impression of being in a ghost town.

Thursday April 19, 2012

MOUNT WASHINGTON -- Jug End Reservation is making a full circle, back to a time before the Dutch settled the area and named it Guilder Hollow. Its namesake was Mr. Van Guilder who, in 1740, purchased the land from the Mohicans.

Today many of the buildings, except the barn, remain boarded and in ruins. The rest of the 1,158 acre property, now under the stewardship of both the Massachusetts Departments of Conservation and Recreation and Fisheries and Wildlife, is returning to nature.

Since the time when Mr. Van Guilder owned the property it has been the site of the early settlement, a boy's school, and more recently Jug End Barn Resort. The resort got its name from the German word "Jugend," meaning youth. During its heyday, the resort was a mecca for singles, beginning in the 1930s and lasting about 40 years.

Gone are the days of snowy sleigh rides and skiing, tennis and swimming, and evenings of dancing and socializing. Skiing was at first a hike-up -- then later rope tows and a T-bar made it easier on the enthusiasts, who could ski down the trails of Mount Sterling. As a ski area, it had six slopes and a 350-foot vertical drop.

Today the property is one of the most scenic areas in the Berkshires, with large expanses of open fields and mixed woodlands, even with the signs of its past development scattered throughout.

The easy two mile Loop Trail, more a path, begins at the far end of the parking lot, where a Kiosk will provide local information and a trail map. Look for the concrete footing of the former silo, once part of a large cattle barn that was built in 1928, and converted in 1935 to a hotel that became the focal point of the resort.

You will notice cultivated and invasive plants including Japanese barberry that have spread and are joined by Oriental bittersweet and multiflora rose.

When I visited with David and Lucy St. James, forsythia was in full blossom. After passing the barn, the path then loops around Fenton Brook, and in wetter wooded places it passes by trillium and jack-in-the pulpit, two species that will soon be flowering. The shadbush on the hillsides are also ready to bloom, and the various fruit trees scattered about. And when the blackberries are ripe, I'll be back.

A short climb will then bring you to an open knoll and an old wood road. Turn right and follow the triangular blue blazes (markers). Look for sugar maples, ash and cherry covering your path, and below to the right across the field you will easily notice a perfectly straight stone wall; in an earlier time, the resort's swimming pool was beyond the wall. Look out for fruit trees, especially a small orchard bordering the field to your left.

Continue on the trail and cross Fenton Brook. The path soon skirts planted spruce trees and continues through woods and across mowed fields. Throug the summer you will find some fields that are full of wildflowers; management alternates mowing.

Along this path, you have the opportunity to look up for striking views of some fine Berkshire mountains, the nort hernmost being Mount Whit beck, and to the south (left) Mount Sterling and Mtount Derby. You might take a detour and climb up the remnants of the ski trails for a look at the hollow.

And do not be surprised as you walk along, even in a hemlock thicket, to stumble upon a stone fireplace, yet another remnant of the resort. There are even stone walls from 18th century sheep farming.

During the spring and summer months, Jug End is also a mecca for songbirds, during migration and nesting.

And in winter, snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing are common activities enjoyed by visitors. During hunting season remember that Jug End is also a wildlife management area and that hunting is allowed.

We couldn't help but explore the remains of the resort, which include cottages, stables, smaller barns, and fountains -- we saw them all from the gravel road, of course.

What: Jug End Reservation

Where: Jug End Road,

Mount Washington

Directions: From Route 7 south, follow Route 23 west into South Egremont.

Turn left onto Route 41

at Mill Pond, then take an immediate right onto Mount Washington Road.

Drive just over a mile and

a half and take a left

onto Jug End Road.

About half a mile down, turn right to large parking area.

When: The area is open from sunrise to sunset.

Admission: Free