When I think I’ve seen everything in the Berkshires of Massachusetts, there are still new discoveries to be made.
Why am I drawn back to the Berkshires? Is it the magical landscape, the history, the literary legacy of Hawthorne, Melville and Wharton, or the ghosts of people and memories that seem to inhabit every branch, leaf and stone?
Certainly, it is the breakfasts, and the welcoming family at the Rookwood Inn in Lenox. I’ve made an annual autumn visit there for nearly 18 years.
After breakfast at the Rookwood, there is usually little need of daily bread, but I’ve recently learned of the Berkshire Mountain Bakery in nearby Housatonic. One of their signature loaves is known simply as “Bread and Chocolate.” How can I resist a pilgrimage?
I make the drive past the glittering Stockbridge Bowl, framed by fiery autumn leaves.
For whatever reason, I’ve spent very little time in Housatonic during my visits to the Berkshires. Like everything in the Berkshires, it is just moments away.
The Berkshire Mountain Bakery is a large brick structure that sits on the banks of the Housatonic River and was founded by Richard Bourdon in 1986.
The bakery practices the ancient art of natural sourdough bread baking and Bourdon studied fermentation in Holland, where he headed one of the first bakeries there to revive the craft. The Berkshire Mountain Bakery now offers this ancient ingenuity daily in the form of delicious artisanal breads.
It is a stunning autumn morning. The early sunlight filters through the bakery window, illuminating mounds of rustic loaves.
I make my purchase, tuck the loaf of Bread and Chocolate into my backpack and head for my next destination. The perfect round loaf, studded with chunks of chocolate will be the ideal lunchtime repast.
I drive some 30 minutes to the trailhead of the Keystone Arches Bridge Trail, near the small town of Chester, Massachusetts. The hike follows the Westfield River and the path of the Western Railroad, built in the 1830s. Major George Washington Whistler, who was the painter Whistler’s father, surveyed the steep area.
While not immortalized like Whistler’s Mother, the Major was involved in some extraordinary accomplishments. In its day, the Western Railroad was the longest and highest railroad in the world.
The series of Keystone Arch Bridges that supported the now abandoned route, are accessible by foot, and are a monument of manmade engineering and natural elements.
After an hour or so of walking, I reach the most spectacular Keystone Arch and carefully make my way down to the river to observe its grandeur.
Seated on a rock by the side of the river, I pull the Bread and Chocolate from my pack and eat chunks by hand, watching the autumn leaves swirl on the water near my feet.
The bread is sturdy, significant and decadently delicious, much like the magnificent structure that stands before me.
Bread and Chocolate and the Keystone Arches – ingenuity at its finest.
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