Berkshire Naturalist Thom Smith strolls down the bike path on a winter afternoon.
Pronounced Ash-oo-WILL-ti-cook, the Ashuwillticook bike path between Lanesborough and Adams in the Hoosac River Valley takes its name from the American Indian language. Ashuwillticook literally means “at the in-between pleasant river” or, more commonly today, “the pleasant river in between the hills.”
Now the south branch of the Hoosic River flows north alongside the 10-foot-wide trail that has been built on an abandoned railroad bed developed by the Pittsfield & North Adams Railroad in 1845.
Whether you walk, snowshoe or cross-country ski, the trail has striking views of the mountains, the 418-acre Cheshire Reservoir, marshes and river. The trail has ample rest areas, and to retain a bit of its past glory you’ll pass old cement Whistle stop markers. These posts, marked with a large white W, alerted the train conductor a crossing was coming up and he needed to blow the train’s whistle.
From the south, the trail presently begins at the Pittsfield-Lanesborough town line off the Berkshire Mall Road and passes through Cheshire and on into Adams. A decent winter walk begins between the beginning at the mall road and the Farnams Road (Causeway) in Cheshire.
In any season the trail has beauty. Even in the dead of winter, some open water almost always stays at the south end of the lake where a few hardy ducks swim. You can spot the occasional bald eagle feeding on a perch or sunfish provided by a fisherman somewhere on the ice. Take along a camera and look closely at the shapes of last summer’s dried flower heads.
The trail, which follows the downhill flow of the river in an easy trek along a gentle grade into Adams — just over 11 miles each way.
Additional on-and-off parking is available at Farnams Road and Church Street in Cheshire and at Russell Field off Harmony Street in Adams.