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Treading a Spiritual Path:
Hiking Shaker Mountain

Shaker Reservoir in late Summer; submitted photo.
Shaker Reservoir in late Summer; submitted photo.

In this place, footfalls seem softer. The air somehow seems easier to breathe, and the rays of sunshine that stream between the birches and pines more brilliant. The soil even smells sweeter. In this place, where water shushes through rock-strewn brooks and the wind plays the trees like tambourines, centuries-old history comes alive like a heartbeat.

This place is Shaker Mountain.

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Snapshot Travel Guide — Exeter, New Hampshire

A view of Exeter from across the banks of the Squamscott River, a popular body of water for canoeing, kayaking, boating, and fishing along some sections; photo by Robin Catalano.
Exeter was founded in 1638 by a group of Puritan rabble-rousers who were tossed out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony for their dissident religious views. It’s also the birthplace of sculptor Daniel Chester French; photo by Robin Catalano.
You won’t want for food choices in Exeter. Our top pick at hip-and-healthful Laney & Lu: Thai peanut noodles with carrots, beets, cabbage, avocado, beet-pickled egg, and watermelon radish; photo by Robin Catalano.
The Ladd-Gilman House, originally built in 1721, was the state treasury during the Revolution. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it’s now a museum, and houses one of only 26 surviving copies of the Dunlap Broadside (the first reproduction copies of the Declaration of Independence) and two rare drafts of the U.S. Constitution; photo by Robin Catalano.
Lest you think Exeter is all crusty historical stuff, every Labor Day Weekend, the town hosts a UFO Festival, to commemorate a mysterious incident. In 1965, a young man was hitching a ride home when he noticed flashing red lights that seemed to hover over a farm, then move toward him. The same evening, a woman was found sitting in her car along Route 108, visibly shaken from having been followed for miles by a “huge object with flashing red lights.” Two police officers later testified to having seen the same unidentified object. Virtually all shops and restaurants in the Downtown Area Commercial District get in on the alien-invasion fun.
Despite its small size and walkability, downtown Exeter has a surprising number of shops. Serendipity is a great choice for housewares, gifts, and clothing; photo by Robin Catalano.
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We always think of you when we’re off adventuring — wouldn’t it be great if we could ALL go touring together?

On second thought, that might look like an invasion from Greylock Nation! But we can share snapshot moments that let you in our fave finds in both near and far–flung locales (is “near-flung a thing?) If you’ve been to this destination, leave a comment below to share your favorite restaurant, shop, attraction, or other feature.

The Sea Is All About Us

VIDEO: However many whale watches you’ve enjoyed, a whale watch in Gloucester is a don’t-miss. Here, a humpback dives for a meal; video by Floren Garcia.

Driving along the boulder-strewn coast of Gloucester, Massachusetts, gives the impression of endless shoreline. Beach rose, summersweet, and milkweed bloom in tight clusters above towering cliffs, their tops desert hues of clay and sand, their bottoms turned inky by millennia of ocean swells. Scenic beaches, where foamy waves slurp against the shore and seagulls trawl the water’s edge for reckless crabs, appear regularly along coast-hugging Route 127. The air is heavy with salt, slightly tacky on the fingertips and damp against the throat. Massive hotels and the homes of the not necessarily famous but certainly capable of dropping a cool few million jut out over the ocean like patrician jaws, glossy and studiously lived-in.

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Weekend Travel Pick: Hudson Valley Hot-Air Balloon Festival

Image of Hot Air Balloon. Caption: Ever wonder what a hot air balloon ride feels like? Why not treat yourself to a tethered launch? You might get hooked on the feeling! Photo by Robin Catalano.
Ever wonder what a hot air balloon ride feels like? Why not treat yourself to a tethered launch? You might get hooked on the feeling! Photo by Robin Catalano.

A few facts you might not know about hot-air balloons: it’s hot—as in, skin-prickling hot—riding directly beneath their burners. Hot-air balloons also rise off the ground a lot faster than you’d think, and can vertically travel 10 feet or more per second. And once you’re up, you feel weightless and free-floating, as if you’re suspended over the landscape on the gentle breath of the breeze.

Another fact: the Hudson Valley Hot Air Balloon Festival, now in its 28th year, returns—bigger and more aww-inspiring—to the Dutchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, New York, this weekend. Dubbed “Little Albuquerque” by insiders (after the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the largest in the world), the Hudson Valley festival started out as a 10-balloon event with 3,000 spectators. Last year, 35,000 people came out to watch more than twice as many balloons. This year, with more than 100 morning and evening launches of 30 invitation-only balloons helmed by both national and international riders, attendance may tip the scale at closer to 50,000.

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Phoenix Rising — 48 Hours in Portland, Maine

The City of Portland, Maine rises above the waters of Portland Harbor, which is filled with sailing vessels and pleasure boats. The landmark Time and Temperature building can be seen, reading 5:39; photo by Benjamin Williamson.

By Robin Catalano

Even on a raw, rainy afternoon, with a uniform blanket of cinder-block gray settling over the sky, it’s easy to see why Portland, Maine, has smitten so many travelers. Raindrops the size of lima beans melt down the sides of buildings. The wind whooshes and gusts, cutting through coat sleeves and tossing hats. Atlantic waves wallop the jagged rocks in a spray of white foam. Still, the city seems just as beautiful, and possibly even more transfixing, as it does when there are blue skies for miles over Casco Bay.

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I Am Going to Leave Her Here

The lush, stone-walled Italian Garden at The Mount provides a respite from Northeastern summer heat and humidity; early morning photo by Kevin Sprague.
The lush, stone-walled Italian Garden at The Mount provides a respite from Northeastern summer heat and humidity; early morning photo by Kevin Sprague.

by Robin Catalano

The homes of favorite authors are always must-stops on my travel itineraries. But perhaps owing to the old adage “Never meet your heroes,” the reality of where my favorite writers lived and worked has usually been less than remarkable, running the rather limited gamut from the spartan and unexceptional to the unkempt, if not derelict.

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The Pillar Profiles:
Lindsey Schmid

Editors Note: What does it mean when we say that someone is a “pillar of the community?” How you answer depends a lot on your experiences and intersections with the people who, in your mind, help support and strengthen the areas of local life that are most important to us. In this new series, we’ll surely tread some well worn paths in search of those personalities. We’ll blaze new trails looking for emerging leaders, as well as expand our vision of where to look for these pillars of our community. Know someone you think fills the bill? E-mail us.

When most of us Berkshires dwellers encourage friends to visit, we usually highlight the traveler’s trifecta of arts, culture, and outdoor recreation. But for Lindsey Schmid, tourism in the Berkshires is a lot more specific and varied. It’s about mindfulness and wellness. It’s about glamping and hotspots for watching wildlife. It’s the craft beverage trend, farm-to-table foods, and cannabis tours. And it’s about interactive experiences and behind-the-scenes tours of well-known venues—all the better to attract thrill seekers jonesing to be the first person to post on Instagram and say, “I did this!”

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A View from the Tracks: Day Tripping in Chatham & Ghent, New York

A lonesome balloon glides silently above field and forest near Tice Hill in the Ghent dawn; photo by Zach Neven Creative, Columbia County New York.
A lonesome balloon glides silently above field and forest near Tice Hill in the Ghent dawn; photo by Zach Neven Creative, Columbia County, New York.

The morning sun reflects off the remnants of a hard crust of snow with a luminous quality that makes the towns of Ghent and Chatham, New York, appear suffused by stage lights. It’s been a long winter—about six months’ worth, by most people’s accounts, though they use much more colorful language; like the Inuit and their multiple words for snow, residents of upstate New York have a remarkable array of vivid, sometimes profane, epithets for the season. On this 50-degree day in March, the first hint that winter is finally releasing its skeletal grip on the region, people are emerging from their woodstove-warmed saltboxes and Cape Cods, primed and ready to enjoy the landscape and a sun no longer obscured by clouds heavy with the promise of more white stuff.

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Best of Hudson Shopping:
17 unique furniture stores, offering gently used bargains to handcrafted treasures

Much of the great shopping in Hudson, New York can be found on Warren Street; photo by Dan Region.
Much of the great shopping in Hudson, New York can be found on Warren Street; photo by Dan Region.

Shopping is one of those activities that roughly half the population loves, and does partly for the sheer fun of browsing or bargain hunting. The other half won’t step foot in a store until they’re down to the last smear of peanut butter in the jar or are desperate for socks that don’t have built-in ventilation. Whether you love it, hate it, or have an it’s-complicated relationship with shopping, here’s some great news: Hudson, New York, just an hour from Pittsfield, is fast becoming a shopper’s paradise, where you can pick up just about everything you need in a single day.

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Change of Heart: Offbeat Picks for Valentine’s Day Weekend

If love is a mysterious journey, why not celebrate with a little wanderlust together this Valentine's Day? Robin Catalano presents a collection of options that might expand the boundaries of romance just a touch; map courtesy OpenStreetMaps.
If love is a journey, why not celebrate with a little wanderlust together this Valentine's Day? Robin Catalano offers 17 options to expand the boundaries of romance just a touch; map courtesy OpenStreetMap.org.

As Snoopy sage Charles M. Schultz once pointed out, “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” And if we had to venture a guess, we’d bet your plus-one would also appreciate a night (or day, or weekend) away for Valentine’s Day. Use this roundup of the most promising picks within driving distance of the Berkshires, and try something new, fun, provocative, or off the beaten path—and, we hope, more than just a little romantic. 

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