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Bascom Lodge is ready to open for its 85th season

Season of jazz dinners, free public programs awaits visitors atop Mount Greylock

BASCOM LODGE

Bascom Lodge open for its 85th season on Saturday, May 28. 

ADAMS — Atop Mount Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts at 3,491 feet, the historic Bascom Lodge is getting ready to open the doors on its 85th season and welcome tourists, Appalachian Trail hikers — the storied thoroughfare traverses the summit — and visitors traveling from near and far to enjoy unspoiled nature, crisp mountain air and expansive views of four states.

Built during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps from Greylock schist and red spruce timbers, the distinctive Arts and Crafts-style structure opened in 1937, offering food, shelter and lodging to overnight and day visitors.

Bascom Lodge officially opens for the season on Saturday, May 28. 

Since 2009, stewardship of the lodge has been in the capable hands of Bascom Lodge Group, a triumvirate composed of artist Peter Dudek, his brother, chef John Dudek, and John’s partner, designer Brad Parsons.

Over the years the trio has made substantial improvements to the lodge, resulting in warm, inviting communal areas; simple, stylish private and dormitory sleeping rooms; engaging public programs and quality culinary offerings.

A sculptor who teaches at New York City colleges, Peter Dudek is closely involved in lodge maintenance and renovations.

“I do all sorts of stuff,” he said in a recent phone interview. “Every season we come back and find water damage. So we’re scraping and plastering and painting.”

With such a big building, there’s always something to address, he noted. “We had to do a lot of electrical work, and put in a brand new kitchen, fire suppression system, etc., etc. We had new windows put into six rooms to match the old style, and refinished floors in the dining room.”

While they didn’t close during the pandemic, adjustments were necessary. “We bought round café tables and spread people out. We used the porch, outside in front of the lodge, lobby — people eat everywhere. For dinner we separate people more, because they’re sitting for a longer period of time. Eating on the porch is like eating outside, we have all the windows open, [so] there’s plenty of ventilation.”

Throughout the years, the lodge has attracted visitors from all over, Dudek said. ”We get international travelers, mostly from Europe, some from Asia. I’ve encountered Italians, Germans, French, Polish, the whole European continent. People come up for the weekend from Boston, New York, Connecticut, you name it.”

He schedules free live music and informative talks every Sunday from 6 to 6:50 p.m. on the enclosed porch. 

Families can enjoy Nutshell Playhouse’s new play “Spyjinks” on July 24, and Make Collage with Diane Firtell on Aug. 14, both starting at 1 p.m. A raptor presentation is planned for later in the season, and a yoga class is held each month (fee charged).

“Part of our proposal to the state was we would have free weekly events based on history, nature and culture,” Dudek said. “I’ve been doing cultural programming for many, many years. This summer I’m trying to reconnect to people that weren’t available during the pandemic.”

“The talks on the history of preservation with John Dickson draw incredible crowds,” he noted. “The Paul Green Trio is very popular, he plays klezmer and jazz.”

Peter and John Dudek grew up in Adams, at the foot of the mountain.

“We were very familiar with the lodge, we’d gone up there many times,” Peter Dudek said. “We knew the state wanted someone to lease it, and it seemed like a good fit. I knew about cultural programming, John was a chef, and Brad had a design background. All that kicked in for the renovation.”

They are now half way through a 25-year lease.

“We’ve had a major hand in bringing the lodge back to life,” he added. “It was in pretty rough shape when we took it over. We’ve really cleaned it up and renovated it — you name it, we did it. People are very happy when they come back after not being there for a while, they appreciate that we have the place sparkling. There’s no need for drastic changes any more, we just need to maintain things now.”

The lodge remained open during the pandemic. While restrictions were tough, they came with an unexpected silver lining.

“We were incredibly grateful for the PPP grants,” John Dudek explained. “We invested the money in the building on things we never could have afforded on our own.”

“[We] just finished installing 16 windows, and replacing shingles on the front of the lodge. Last season our furnace, dish washer, dryer and ice machine [all] broke down, and our computer could no longer handle financial programs. The grant covered those costs.”

As well as creating a native plants garden in front of the lodge, Parsons also manages the now-weekly Jazz Dinners each Saturday (on Sundays on June 19 and Sept. 18). A rotating lineup of bands includes Wes Brown Trio with vocalist Jill Connolly; Michael Benedict Trio; Atla and Matt Dechamplain Trio; Michael Junkins Group; and Jeanine Ouderkirk Trio.

“The [bands] come from Connecticut to Albany, N.Y., and they each have their own following,” John Dudek noted. “People really enjoy having live music while they’re dining.”

Prior to managing Bascom Lodge, he had a long history as a pastry chef at top Manhattan restaurants and also as a private chef. He has expanded the nightly prix fixe dinners from three to four courses, with a starter and appetizer followed by entrée and dessert, all served on colorful Fiestaware. The menu, which features local farm-fresh ingredients, changes daily and includes a vegetarian option with prices ranging from $35 to $45, depending on entrée choice. Tables are available in the rustic dining room and airy enclosed porch.

Special themed dinners throughout the season provide a tantalizing taste of Moroccan, Persian, Mexican and Spanish cuisines. At a past Persian dinner, John Dudek recalled, a diner from Albany, N.Y., and originally from Iran, said the meal reminded him of home.

Each year, the lodge serves 4,000 to 5,000 dinners, and many more lunches. “A completely different crowd, cyclists, hikers, people in the area for the weekend, a lot of children,” John Dudek said.

New this year, breakfast from 8 to 10:30 a.m. is offered as a buffet for $12, with bacon, eggs, oatmeal, waffles, granola, fresh fruit and more. A continental breakfast is provided for overnight guests. Lunch from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. includes soups, salads and sandwiches, plus a variety of house-made baked goods. Parsons does all the baking, and makes ice cream for desserts.

As the sun goes down, visitors can enjoy wine and beer from local breweries on the porch and by the fireside from 4 to 7 p.m.. The lodge is open Wednesdays to Sundays, plus holiday Mondays.

John Dudek has seen the lodge attract people from China, New Zealand, California, and up and down the East Coast. A group of ham radio enthusiasts comes twice a year, in spring and fall, to set up their equipment. Veterans visit the tower each Memorial Day; and there have been several “Celebration of Life” gatherings for those lost in the pandemic.

“It beats staying in a hotel in the center of town,” he said. “You can have your first cup of coffee, take a walk through the woods, and enjoy the morning air. It’s about 10 degrees cooler.”

“People love being up on the mountain when the weather’s changing,” he added. On one memorable occasion, he recalled, mountain fog came in an open window, passed through the dining room and exited the other side.

“We’re looking forward to a good season,” Peter Dudek declared. “Let’s hope we get beautiful weather!”

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