The air is loud with bees. I am standing in a channel of ferns and berry-cane scrub, and I have picked my way off the path — to stand surrounded by azaleas.
I’ve wanted to do this for years. Near Berry Pond in Pittsfield State Forest, azalea bushes cover a hilltop, and since my colleagues at the Eagle told me about them I’ve wanted to find them in the few days a year when they bloom.
Head up West Street and follow the signs (right on Churchill Street and left on Cascade). Through the park entrance you can follow the paved road straight up Berry Mountain. When you wind out from the trees and begin to pass brilliant pink bushes on either side, keep on around the turn and you’ll find a bumpy gravel pull-off, and the hills fall away to leave you looking sharply down over New York state.
Here you can follow mown pathways over the hill into stands of birch and white pine and lily of the valley, and out again to the another burst of pink.
Pink sounds frail somehow — maybe it’s the tinny sound of the word — but stand surrounded by petals and deep rose tendrils high overhead, brushing away whatever buzzing specks come looking on the sweet air, and pink suddenly has force.
Pink is as ripe as the watermelon in the first salad of the summer with feta cheese and olives, and peppermint fresh from the garden. It also goes well with gin and tonic and lime and gentle conversation on the porch.
This column first ran five years ago as a By the Way in my time at Berkshires Week. Today I went back again. The azaleas are just past their peak now and the bumblebees are still loud in the blossoms. In the photo at the top, you can see a bloom above Berry Pond today. Photo by Kate Abbott