Northwestern Part Of State, Berkshire And Franklin Counties. Closest Town: Charlemont. From Interstate 91, Take Exit 26 In Greenfield And Follow Route 2 West For Twenty-One Miles. The Park Entrance Will Be Clearly Marked On The Right. If You’Re Coming From North Adams, Take Route 2 East For 15.5 Miles. The Entrance Will Be On The Left.
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As You Come In The Main Entrance, Turn Left Toward The Information Booth. If No One Is In The Booth, Pick Up A Trail Map At The Display Board. Past The Booth, Where The Road Forks, Bear Right. At The Next Fork, Make Another Right Past A Cabin And Park Near The Picnic Tables. You Will See A Gate To Your Left With A Sign For The Nature Trail. Most Of The Old Growth Is Along This Trail And The Mohican-Mohawk Trail. For Detailed Directions To Specific Old-Growth Trees, See The Sierra Club Guide To The Ancient Forests Of The Northeast.
The Park Is Open Daily All Year, And Overnight Between April And October. There Are Cabins For Rent, Camping Spaces, Restrooms, Showers, And A Swimming Pool. For More Information, See Www.Mass.Gov/Dcr.
It Was A Perfect Day. The Sky Was That Clean, Bright Blue That Burns Its Way Into Every Cell Of Your Brain. The Cool, Mostly Calm Air Was Disturbed Only By An Occasional Gentle Breeze. I Was Walking On A Path The Native People Had Used. These Trees Had Been Here So Long That Native Americans Had Touched Many Of The Same Ones I Was Touching.
On Days Like This, In Places Like This, We Are Tempted To Imagine That The Forest We Are Experiencing Is The Same Today As It Was Thousands Of Years Ago. But No Forest In Eastern North America Is Truly “Virgin.” Contamination Of Our Vast Air And Water Systems Reaches Every Place Through Acid Rain, For Example, Or Global Warming. The Chestnut Blight And The Gypsy Moth Caterpillar Are Examples Of A Different Sort. We Rarely Know When, Where, Or How A Foreign Invasive Species Was Introduced, But We Know Those Facts About The Gypsy Moth.
The Story Began Here In Massachusetts In The Mid-Nineteenth Century, When A Twenty-Five-Year-Old French Immigrant Named Leopold Trouvelot Settled With His Wife In The Suburbs Of Boston. He Made His Living Painting Portraits, But He Was Also Fascinated By Insects. He Immediately Started Studying The Caterpillars Of His New Continent. Particularly Interested In Caterpillars That Produced Silk For Their Cocoons, He Began Cultivating Native Polyphemus Caterpillars, Which Pupate Into Large And Beautiful Moths With “Eye Spots” On Their Hind Wings. When He Was Forty Years Old, Trouvelot Published A Paper In A Respected Scientific Journal. In It He Wrote:
In 1860, After Having Tested The Qualities Of The Cocoons Of The Different Species Of American Silk Worms, I Endeavored To Accumulate A Large Number Of The Cocoons Of The Polyphemus Moth, For The Future Propagation Of This Species. At First The Undertaking Seemed Very Simple; But Who Will Ever Know The Difficulties, The Hardships And Discouragements Which I Encountered.
Today That Passage Seems Prescient, But When He Wrote It No One, Including Trouvelot Himself, Had Any Idea Of What Was To Come. The Difficulties, Hardships, And Discouragements Have Multiplied Greatly Since Then. He Continued:
By 1865 I Came To Be Expert In Cultivating Them And In That Year Not Less Than A Million Could Be Seen Feeding In The Open Air Upon Bushes Covered With A Net; Five Acres Of Woodland Were Swarming With Caterpillar Life.
He Should Have Known Better, But A Few Years Later He Returned From A Trip To France With Some Gypsy-Moth-Caterpillar Egg Masses. He Cultivated These New Caterpillars On Trees Behind His House, As He Had With The Polyphemus, And Some Of Them Escaped. Trouvelot Understood The Potential Consequences Of This Accident And Notified Local Entomologists, But They Did Nothing. How Could They Have Imagined What Would Occur Because A Few Foreign Caterpillars Escaped?
Although He Closed His Paper On Polyphemus With “To Be Continued,” Trouvelot Stopped Working With Insects After The Accidental Release. He Literally Turned His Sights Toward The Sky. Perhaps He Had Come To Think Of Himself As Too Dangerous For This Planet And Wanted To Do Less Harm By Studying Something Untouchable Astronomical Bodies.
Trouvelot Put His Art Training To Use Drawing What He Saw Through Harvard University’S Telescope. In Those Days, The Human Eye Was Much More Sensitive Than The Photographic Plates Available. He Went On To Produce More Than Seven Thousand Absolutely Beautiful Astronomical Drawings And Publish Fifty More Scientific Papers, Eventually Joining Harvard’S Faculty As An Astronomy Professor. A Crater On The Moon Was Named In His Honor, And He Won A Prestigious Award From The French Academy Of Sciences. He Became Somewhat Famous, And Was Not Yet Infamous.
The Year Of The First Gypsy Moth Outbreak On His Street, 1882, Trouvelot Moved Back To France. I Can’T Help Thinking This Wasn’T A Coincidence; He Was Only Fifty-Five And Held An Enviable Academic Position. Why Would He Have Wanted To Leave? The Gypsy Moths Grew More Problematic Every Year, And By 1889 An Aggressive Campaign Had Been Initiated Against Them, Including Burning, Egg Scraping, And Pesticide Application. Eleven Years Later, The Campaign Ended In Failure. Meanwhile, Back In France, Trouvelot Had Died.
The U.S. Forest Service Has Produced An Excellent Animation For Its Website Illustrating The Spread Of The Gypsy Moth. It Begins With A White Map On A White Screen With State Borders Outlined In Black. The Gypsy Moths First Appear As A Magenta Dot In Massachusetts, Which Then Spreads Across The Map Like Red Wine Spreading Across A White Carpet. As I Write This, The Stain Stretches From Maine West To The Great Lakes And South To The Carolinas.