Mark Mandeville is co-founder of the Massachusetts Walking Tour.
“Since 2010, we’ve been organizing strings of free community concerts, and we’ve started working together with land trust organizations and trail stewards to also offer daily public hikes along our selected route,” he told WAMC.
Past routes have included the Midstate Trail, the New England National Scenic Trail, and the Bay Circuit Trail through the suburbs of Boston. This summer, the tour runs exclusively through the Berkshires on one of the country’s most popular routes.
“We’ve done a lot of trail walking through Massachusetts,” said Mandeville. “And for our 11th annual we decided to visit towns along the Appalachian Trail. It doesn’t really need any awareness brought to it, I suppose on one hand, because it’s such a famous trail. But on the other hand, there’s communities that are adjacent to the AT, the AT runs through these towns in the Berkshires. And many of these towns would like to become official AT communities, and many of them are. We just decided we might as well take on the hardest trek to date for us, which is hiking the AT. And we’re very happy to be visiting some of these towns like Sheffield and Egremont and Cheshire and Dalton all the way up through North Adams, is where we’ll end up.”
Mandeville co-founded the Massachusetts Walking Tour with his bandmate and wife Raianne Richards.
“In 2010, gas prices were nearly as high as they are now,” he reflected. “And actually, if you look in inflation, they’re actually they were higher then. And a group of our musical community were trying to find ways to tour that didn’t use cars or vehicles. So we were inspired by an artist friend of ours, Christopher Bell, who had done a series of concerts along the Hudson River, and he canoed to each and every concert.”
Funding for the fossil fuel-free music series comes from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and private donors.
“Our troupe is going to be beginning our hike in Connecticut, walking to Sheffield along the Appalachian Trail. Each day’s hikes are delineated right on masswalking tour.org, as well as each of the 10 concerts we’ll be performing from Sheffield to North Adams. So between June 17th and the 26th, we’ll be performing 10 community concerts in a row each evening. And each concert will be preceded by a daily hike that people can join us for.”
While the hiking highlights the natural beautiful of Massachusetts, the tour’s musical component draws on the rich folk traditions around travel.
“We put together a program that highlights themes of walking and community,” said Mandeville. “This year, overcoming hard times and perseverance. And we choose songs that are, you know, folk tunes, or old time songs, traditionals, bluegrass tunes, and we put together sort of a- I guess you’d call it a homespun or skiffle ensemble with small instruments that we’re going to be hiking with.”
But will the tour include any music by the Grateful Dead — an American institution as venerable as the AT and no stranger to songs of travel, hardship, and the urge to keep on truckin’?
“We sometimes liken ourselves to the Grateful Dead in one particular way,” laughed Mandeville. “Over the years, we’ve accrued quite a lot of followers and people who look forward to the Mass Walking Tour as a way to visit parts of the state that they haven’t. So we do have people who follow us around. They’ll get campsites nearby, and they’ll follow us and walk with us and come to every concert. But as far as Grateful Dead tunes, I don’t think we’re performing one- Although we are going to be performing a song that was brought to us by a fella named Ed Trickett, who recently passed away. He performed the song from the 1800s called ‘Gently Down The Stream Of Time,’ which suspiciously sounds like ‘Ripple.’”
Here’s the complete breakdown of Massachusetts Walking Tour’s Summer 2022 Berkshire County tour:
CONCERT: Friday June 17 2022
First Congregational Church of Sheffield (Old Parish Church)
125 Main St, Sheffield, MA 01257
Sponsored by the Sheffield Cultural Council
LOCALS: Maggie McRae, Peter Lehndorff & Susan Hill (Soupeater), David Reed
HIKE: Start at 8am. 8 trail miles. 3.5 road walk to venue for MWT. Some of this hike is considered strenuous and has good views and waterfalls.
Start: Mt Frissell/Northwest Camp Trailhead. End: Rt 41 Race Brook Falls Parking Area.
CONCERT: Saturday June 18 2022
April Hill Education & Conservation Center
62 Undermountain Rd. South Egremont, MA 01258
Sponsored by the Alford-Egremont Cultural Council
LOCALS: Graham and Barbara Dean
HIKE: Leave from Guilder Pond TH at 10am. 4.8 trail miles. End point is at venue. This hike is considered moderate but does have a difficult and very steep descent at the end.
Start: Guilder Pond Trailhead Mt Everett Reservation. End: April Hill (Greenagers)
CONCERT: Sunday June 19 2022
Mason Library Children’s Garden
(behind the library, entrance on Pleasant Street)
231 Main Street Great Barrington, MA 01230
Sponsored by the GBCC and the Great Barrington Libraries
LOCALS: Dan Blakeslee (The one and only MWT Poster Artist!!!)
HIKE: Start at 8am. 6.5 trail miles. 3.4 road walk to venue for MWT. This Hike is considered easy and is generally flat until climb after Kellogg Rd. Many opportunities for other participants to join or leave the hike at various road crossings. Buggy section at the end.
Start: April Hill (Greenagers) End: Home Rd, Great Barrington MA
CONCERT: Monday June 20 2022
Tyringham Union Church
128 Main Rd, Tyringham, MA 01264
Sponsored by the Tyringham Cultural Council
LOCALS: Lynn Bertelli, Cameron Sutphin
HIKE: Start at 8am. 11 trail miles. 0.8 road walk to venue. Moderate climbs, but lots of relatively flat and smooth trail with Many opportunities for other participants to join or leave the hike at various road crossings.
Start: Rt 23 AT Parking, Monterrey, MA End: End at Jerusalem Rd
CONCERT: Tuesday June 21 2022
100 Main Street Lee, MA 01238
Sponsored by the Lee Cultural Council and Lee Library Association
LOCALS: Dan and Faith Bubbles Uke and Hoop
HIKE: Start at 8am. 8.9 trail miles. 5.3 road walk to venue. Moderate to easy trail. Cabin is a nice stop, porch, caretaker, dock & pond to swim in.
Start: 176 Main Rd, Tyringham End: Rt 20 parking area 2120 Cape St, Lee
CONCERT: Wednesday June 22 2022
Old Town Hall
Approx. 452 Pittsfield Rd Washington, Massachusetts
Sponsored by a grant from the Washington Cultural Council
LOCALS: Carol Lew (historical storyteller), Annie Guthrie
HIKE: Start at 9am. 7.8 trail miles. Approx 1 mile road walk to venue. Moderate to easy trail. Pretty much flat after initial climb and descent.
Start: Rt 20 parking area 2120 Cape St, Lee. End: AT Trail Crossing at West Branch Road. Parking Available at Town Common on (approx 1 mile from trail crossing)West Branch Road/Pittsfield Road. More parking at Blueberry Hill a short distance up Pittsfield/Washington Mountain Road.
CONCERT: Thursday June 23 2022
The Stationery Factory
63 Flansburg Ave, Dalton, MA 01226
Sponsored by the Dalton Cultural Council
LOCALS: Wintergreen Trio, The Berkshire Natural Resources Council
HIKE: Start at 8am. 10.5 trail miles. 0.5 road walk to venue. Moderate to easy trail. Pretty much flat other than easy climb to Warner Hill.
Start: Blueberry Hill AT Parking 47 Washington Mtn Rd, Washington End: Curtis Ave/Pine Grove Park Dalton
CONCERT: Friday June 24 2022
Father Tom Campsite
6 Main St. Cheshire, MA 01225
Town of Cheshire 3rd Annual Appalachian Trail Community Celebration
and Dedication Ceremony of the Father Tom Campsite
Sponsored by the Cultural Council of Northern Berkshire
LOCALS: Mary Lou Burdick (poet), Steve Mole
HIKE: Start at 8 am. 7.3 trail miles. Arrive at venue. Moderate climb/descent. Nice viewpoint at Cheshire Cobble
Start: Gulf Rd AT Parking, 71 Gulf Rd, Dalton MA End: Father Tom Campsite Railroad St, Cheshire MA
CONCERT: Saturday June 25 2022 (5pm Concert)
Mt. Greylock State Reservation
off rt. 7 Lanesboro MA 01247
Sponsored by the Cultural Council of Northern Berkshire
LOCALS: Fox and the Dragon, Eyes of Age,
HIKE: Start at 8 am. 8.3 trail miles. Arrive at Venue. Day is pretty much a constant climb of various steepness. Participants could join or leave hike at Outlook Ave.
Start: Father Tom Campsite Railroad St, Cheshire MA End: Bascom Lodge Mt Greylock Summit (parking fee)
CONCERT: Sunday June 26 2022
First Congregational Church of North Adams
134 Main St. North Adams, MA 01247
Sponsored by the Cultural Council of Northern Berkshire and the First Congregational Church of North Adams
LOCALS: Adela & Jude, Stevens Family Band, Robin Sears from the Williamstown Rural Lands Trust
HIKE: Start at 8am. 6.3 trail miles. 2.7 road walk to venue. Day starts relatively flat on occasionally rocky trail, then down steeply from Mt Prospect. Day ends on Phelps Ave at junction w/ Route 2. Participants could join/leave hike at Notch Rd
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