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Conquering Moby Dick

July 20, 2010

View from Stony Ledge

“All that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought; all evil, to crazy Ahab, were visibly personified, and made practically assailable in Moby-Dick. He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart’s shell upon it.”

– Herman Melville, Moby Dick

My, oh-my, Melville must have hated Mount Greylock to have written such vitriol.* For it is rumored that the snow-covered profile of this gently sloping mountain peak provided the inspiration for his leviathan, Moby Dick.  From a distance, and with enough psychotropics, you can definitely imagine the mountain as the hump of a great whale breaching the surrounding granite waves.  But our objective today wasn’t to view it from a distance, it was to summit Massachusetts’ tallest peak.

Mt. Greylock as seen from Herman Melville's house

That certainly sounds impressive, and it might have been, if only we had taken the nine or so hours needed to hike the entirety of it.  But we were short on time and ambition today so we packed a lunch and drove to the 3,491 foot peak.  From the summit you can see several mountain ranges (the Adirondacks, the Catskills and the Green Mountains) depending on which direction you look.

Stony Ledge Trail

While Greylock’s vista is admirable, the better view, in our opinion, is from the lower summit of Stony Ledge. Some 900 feet beneath its larger sister, Stony Ledge gives an excellent view of Greylock, as well as the undeveloped valley on its western slope.  The hike to the ledge would have been fairly easy, but the wide trail just begged to be tackled via mountain bike, which proved to be harder than we expected.  The entire trip is a hill, halfway up, and halfway down.  Going down is loads of fun, but biking a mile or so straight up kicked the asses of a couple of fatties like us.  Good thing we got back early enough for a nap.

(* This will wind Shannon up good, because Melville loved Mount Greylock.  Heh, heh, heh, heh.)

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Gary Wyatt permalink
    July 21, 2010 6:01 pm

    I saw the mountain from the window of Melville’s study and also from the porch on his house. From that view, I swore it looks like a whale. Really worth your time to tour his home, if you ever get a chance to go back, or are still there. I loved it. I got lucky enough to be the only person on the tour, so I got an extended one,and more informative one then most visitors. I asked lots of questions, so I suppose that helped that situation along.

    Happy travels, you two! Be safe!

    • Brian permalink
      July 21, 2010 7:54 pm

      Hi Gary,
      We made a second stop by Melville’s house today and did the tour. We had gone there once before when we were in the neighborhood visiting The Mount, but didn’t have time for a tour then. I imagine Shannon will be commenting on Melville’s house when she gets a chance, she’s been swamped with work.
      Cheers,
      Brian

  2. Gary Wyatt permalink
    July 22, 2010 12:33 pm

    Very cool!!! So glad you got to go! Wish I’d read this first before I commented on your lake picture to tour it. Sorry!

    Tell Shannon I said howdy.

    Cheers back,
    gary

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