10 Things To Love About Monterey
By Rachel Louchen
For some residents, the selling point of Monterey is proximity to Great Barrington and other Berkshire towns. To visitors less familiar, Monterey is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it village with a big forest to hike. But it is so much more. There are active community members, great food, farms, hiking, swimming, camping, animals and world-class views. It’s really one of the most well-rounded towns in the Rural Intelligence region. There are many reasons it gets so much attention from the New York Times. Here are 10 of them.
1.) The cheese. Glorious, creamy, fresh, locally-sourced cheese comes out of Rawson Brook Farm. Appropriately named Monterey Chevre, the cheese comes in three varieties: plain, chives and garlic, and thyme and oil. Owner Susan Sellew pasteurizes the milk from her goats, makes the cheese by hand, then ladles it into cheesecloth to hang and incubate. The entire small-batch process is aided by the fresh goat’s milk, courtesy of healthy Monterey goats.
The Harvest Barn at Gould Farm.
2.) The mission. Gould Farm is known for its eggs, dairy and made-from-scratch bakery treats but, most importantly, it’s a psychiatric rehabilitation program for adults with mental illness. Founded in 1913, the residential community helps patients as they work together on the farm, learning new job skills in a supportive environment. The unique facility provides a safe environment and a sense of community for patients, aided by the clinical team that helps them manage symptoms of their mental health diseases. The fruits of their labor are available at the Harvest Barn, a retail bakery that serves bread and pastries made on site, plus their famous maple syrup, honey, cheddar cheese, jams and chocolates. Gould Farm and the positive work the residents and staff do is a leading factor in what makes Monterey such a special community.
Photo courtesy of the Bidwell House Museum.
3.) The history. Settled in 1739 and incorporated in 1847, Monterey’s Colonial times are alive and well, thanks in part to the Bidwell House Museum, an authentic 1750 Georgian Saltbox. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the building was the residence of Reverend Adonijah Bidwell and today serves as a museum, open for tours from Memorial Day to Columbus Day. The house is appointed with original 18th- and 19th-century furnishings that include collections of artwork, quilts, furniture, silver, needlework, baskets and rugs. Bidwell House is also notable for its surrounding 192 acres of hiking trails, with extensive perennial beds and stone walls scattered throughout the property. The entire town can be considered historic: the first United States Secretary of War, General Henry Knox, passed through Monterey in 1776 on his way to end the Siege of Boston. The route he took is now known as the Henry Knox Trail.
4.) The forest. A popular hiking spot is Beartown State Forest, which offers more than 12,000 acres of trails. The extensive paths lead you (with options from beginner to advanced) through the forest inhabited by abundant wildlife: deer, bobcats, and even black bears — the forest’s namesake. Beartown is well known for its fall foliage display, especially on the 1.5-mile Benedict Pond Loop Trail. Camping year round is an option here and it’s camping in the truest sense of the word: there are no bathroom or shower facilities. But that doesn’t deter campers who want to be near water and trails. As the snow begins to fall, winter hiking gives way to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
5.) The water. Lake Garfield is one of the largest (262 acres) and most picturesque lakes in the Berkshires. It’s also one of the few lakes in our region with a public beach that doesn’t require resident parking passes. In the summer, it’s populated by swimmers and boaters, and in the colder weather, ice skaters. It has over a dozen species of fish, most notably rainbow trout, so the lake attracts fishermen from far and wide. The nearby Benedict Pond at Beartown State Forest is a popular canoeing spot for its relatively short length and undeveloped shoreline surrounded by thickly settled woodland. Lake Buel is known for its many beaches, waterfront cottages and summer camps.
Mount Hunger image courtesy of The Monterey Preservation Land Trust.
6.) The land. Farmland and rolling acres abound in Monterey. That’s because 67 percent of the land is protected, thanks to the Monterey Preservation Land Trust. The highlight of the MPLT’s conservation land is Mount Hunger, a 385-acre property open to the public. Mount Hunger has it all, offering the best in hiking trails, long-range views and natural landscapes. The three miles of trails pass by wetlands, scenic vistas, charcoal pits and stone walls.
7.) The books. Like many historic towns, Monterey has a cherished library; it was established in 1891 and moved to its current location on Main Street in 1931. Located in the heart of the village near the post office, general store, town hall and Monterey United Church, the Monterey Public Library is an anchor of the town. There are adult book discussions, stitching circles, book sales and art exhibits. The Knox Gallery, an exhibition space and community meeting spot inside the library, hosts eight shows a year featuring the work of local artists. Until January 30, 4 elements — a community group exhibit featuring works from nearly 40 artists — explores the themes of earth, fire, water and air.
8.) The pancakes. When The Huffington Post recently included the Roadside Cafe on its list of 11 best pancakes in America, Monterey residents weren’t surprised; the cafe is one of the town’s best-kept secrets. Located on Route 23, it looks, from the outside, like your standard greasy spoon, but guests will be blown away at the quality of the ingredients, which are sourced right down the road at the cafe’s owner, Gould Farm. The eggs are farm fresh, as is the cheese, and the granola, maple syrup and yogurt are all homemade. The staff is made up of guests transitioning from their time at the Farm, so you’re also supporting a great cause with your meal. The famous pancakes are offered in buckwheat and buttermilk, and come in three sizes, the largest of which calls to mind those needing to be flipped by a shovel in the movie Uncle Buck. The rest of the menu is filled with staples like Belgian waffles, breakfast burritos, huge omelets and really tasty lunch options.
9.) The general store. The village of Monterey exudes classic New England charm, all white buildings and black shutters. The centerpiece of the town is the Monterey General Store, which looks like your typical country village store, but inside is so much more. The décor pays tribute to the year it was built, 1780, with its exposed posts and beams and authentic wood floors. But the vibe is distinctly cool, selling important as-needed goods like milk, bread and eggs along with fun gifts, stationary, postcards and lotions. Freshly baked pies, bread and pastries are made daily, and there is a small but satisfying breakfast and lunch menu filled with staples like egg, lox, turkey and tuna sandwiches. It’s the ideal people-watching spot; pretty much everyone in town wanders in at some point, and the back patio overlooks a brook shaded with greenery in the summer. The front porch of the store has a helpful bulletin board where you can get information about upcoming yoga classes, babysitting services, and bikes and snowplows for sale. It’s truly Monterey’s community hub and is a good first stop to learn about the town.
10.) The community spirit. Ask anyone who lives in Monterey why they love it, and you’re sure to get a different story each time, but always a passionate response. One resident says Monterey has “truly the best road crew in the Berkshires, in terms of plowing and road maintenance.” Another notes the intriguing mix of diverse and passionate homeowners, some who live here year round and others who chose it for quiet, peaceful weekends. Two-thirds of Monterey residents are second homeowners who appreciate the opportunity to live on the water, and the bucolic sights make it an inspirational place for artists and writers. There’s mention of the dedicated farmers, the cute animals and the wonderful town clerk. One pragmatic resident said his favorite thing about Monterey is the very low taxes… and that the cell phone reception is getting better.