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This report is brought to you by Camilla Van Sickle & Bill Pennington. Please email the preceding address if you have any questions or comments.

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[For private use only, not for re-publication in any mass media. Copyright 2005 by El Dorado Hot Springs. No part of this report may be reproduced in a public forum or printed in multiple copies without the express permission of Camilla Van Sickle & Bill Pennington.]

Directions:

From Rt. 20 in the center of Chester, Mass, take Middlefield Street north out of town. Follow the paved road as it follows, crosses to the east side, then follows again the river and railroad. The road leaves the river and railroad and begins to climb a long hill. Take the 1st and only left on this hill, a very prominent, unmarked dirt road. At each of several intersections, bear left. The first camping/swimming area is down on the left, the most "public" of the several areas which, during the week would probably be great for natural recreation. For a more remote setting, continue to the tracks, go right along them, west, following them until a woods roads bears right. Follow that road, making a sharp left at the first turn, and drive onto the first arch. Reverse direction, following the abandoned railed west for 0.8 mi. to the second, most private arch, also a good site for sunclad recreation and camping. Should it be necessary, be sure to speak up for standards. This area has extremely high potential.

Rating:

4 Moons, at least

Report:

2005. The Arches in the Chester/Bancroft area of the Berkshires of western Mass, is an area which has been used for sunclad recreation since the 50's, at least, and probably for hundreds of years before that by aboriginal people. The Arches is a set of stone bridges along the West Branch of the Westfield River, the longest river in Massachusetts by virtue of its 4 branches, the East, Middle, Dead, and West. The arches were designed and built over 150 years ago by Whistler's Father, we kid you not, the father of artist James Abbott Whistler, 1834 to 1903, who is known best for his famous painting, "Whistler's Mother". Called keystone arches, these bridges, like the ancient pyramids of Egypt, use no mortar or any other kind of binding material. They're held together entirely by gravity and while they're unsuitable for long spans, they are capable of spanning very deep ravines, up to 100' in the case of Chester/Bancroft.

Primitive camping can be done at The Arches under the present ownership, a developing company taking gravel out of a small pit. If you see any of these people, stop and talk to them and ask them if it's alright to go to "the swimming hole". They could care less about nudity. Drive to a spot of your liking, and camp right near or in your vehicle. A remote possibility exists that if you arrive on a Friday, that the road may be closed off until early Monday morning, though a 7 year veteran told us that he has camped there for up to a week at a time, and there's never been any problem with ingress and egress. Clear, clean water, a trout angler's paradise. Very rural and quiet. No gawkers. Peace and quiet, except for the plaintiff sound of an occasional passing train high up the mountainside above the nude area. Large sunning rocks, small sandy beaches, total privacy in most spots. Waterfalls and large pools, some 12' feet deep, large enough to swim laps in. Good alignment to the sun. Small, well balanced groups on weekends. A quiet place of solitude, where, even on weekends, one is most likely to experience the tranquility of rubbing shoulders with no one other than Mother Nature.

The road in has a high center, but we had no trouble with a conventional 1980 Toyota sedan with 160,000 mi. on it; the 7 yr. vet. had a conventional Honda sedan. An extra treat is that the road in leads through the ruins of the Gregory Art Mansion, once inhabited by a locally famous, wealthy artist.

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