Berkshire naturalist Thom Smith paddles in the Southern Berkshires … Benedict Pond nestles in the 12,000-acre Beartown State Forest in Monterey, a year-round destination for the outdoors enthusiast. It is as pretty a small lake as any I have found in Western Massachusetts, and at nearly 1600 feet elevation it offers a hint of northern wilderness.
Surrounding this 36-acre pristine pond, a one-and-a-half-mile, very well maintained foot path blazed in blue follows the shore, often close enough for land to water dialog, allowing hikers and boaters to enjoy an outing together, anda good size for a family outing.
Walkers in early spring will find our state flower, the trailing arbutus, also called Mayflower, along the trail, and in July and August the once inconspicuous blueberry bushes come alive with bunches of blueberries free for the picking, enough for other pickers and the birds too. In September tall summer flowers are blossoming occasionally along the shore, and the most colorful is goldenrod.
Following a rain, wood frogs sometimes appear on the path, and small orange salamanders called efts, that eventually change into aquatic spotted newts. The gray tree frog and its smaller relative the spring peeper may be heard calling from trees, some distance from where they bred in early spring.
The State Forest itself has a network of trails over diverse terrain, and hours of hiking is possible. Even the Appalachian Trail passes through, and close to the pond and meets the trail at the south end of Benedict, following the trail northeast through some white cedar and the lovely ground-creeping partridgeberry. After crossing a wooden bridge and passing an old stone wall it veers off to the right.
The pond itself is multi-use; during the warmer months a small, sandy swimming beach on maybe 40 yards of the launch site encourages swimming, and the nearby shoreline offers frog hunting for youngsters. The small beach has sanitary facilities.
After launching our kayaks we paddled south, both hugging the shore, and then paddled out to the center for a 360 degree view of this extraordinary place. The southern part offers decent sport, as we saw by the kayakers and canoeists with fishing rods in hand.
Further along, cattail stands in the shallows provide habitat for muskrats, ducks, and other wildlife. Beaver are active here.
Several varieties of water lilies and pond weeds were blossoming along with a species of bladderwort I had never encountered before.
Following the shoreline, we came to the dam where Benedict gives up its water to Stony Brook and flows three miles or so to meet Konkapot Brook, which in turn later joins the Housatonic River.
This exploration first ran in Berkshires Week in the Berkshrie Eagle in my time as editor of the magazine. Thom and I thank editor and NENI VP of news Kevin Moran.