Monument Mountain is a place of spirit, mystery and legend. And it’ll fill your field of vision when you look out of any of the front facing windows at the Briarcliff. In fact the trailhead parking lot is just a New York minute from here. Whatever that means.
Perhaps the most famous Monument Mountain story is that it sparked the creation of Moby Dick, after a hike that local writers Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne took there one day. Clare and I prefer the populist version: following the kind of short, sharp shower you only see in the Berkshires, Nate and Hermie were mushrooming at the foot of the Mountain. Shortly after dining on their crop of strangely shaped fungi, their sense of perception went a little crazy: “Hermie, man, look at the summit. It’s, like, turned into the back of a huge white whale. Watch out! It’s gonna blow!”
“Must go, Nate…writer’s block…just starting…to clear…”
Disappointingly, what’s more likely is that the inspiration for the book came during a regular picnic hike attended by local writers, professionals and thinkers, during the 1850s, including Hawthorne and Melville. Another member of the group was the Great Barrington writer and lawyer, William Cullen Bryant, who paid tribute to Monument Mountain in verse.
Each year, Hawthorne, Melville and their intellectual cronies are remembered on the first Sunday in August for “the most famous picnic in American literary history.” The annual hike takes place this Sunday, August 7, at 9:30 a.m. Unfortunately the closest and coolest place to stay, the Briarcliff, will be full on Saturday, but feel free to pop in and say hi, and scope out our rooms for your next visit. Maybe even book up for your own mystical mountain experience…