Nature inspires genius – and the Berkshires have their share of literary greats; Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and William Cullen Bryant all made homes here. All of them visited Monument Mountain in Great Barrington too. As early as 1815, poet William Cullen Bryant wrote “Monument Mountain”, an account of the legend of a Mohican woman who leaped from one of its peak’s. In 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville met on Monument Mountain, during a hike on a day that has become part of Berkshire legend. Setting out for a picnic with friends, their fateful hike was disturbed by a sudden thunderstorm which forced the group to seek cover in a nearby cave. The two writers talked at length (a conversation which probably inspired some of Melville’s ideas for Moby Dick) and the literary bromance was sealed. Recreating their picnic makes for a fun outing. You could pack the victuals from Guido’s Market in Great Barrington and some “heroic drinks” by Berkshire Mountain Distillers. Bring a notebook or journal – the view couldn’t be more inspiring. Another great picnic spot for channeling artistic genius is Stone Hill in Williamstown, MA. Part of the 140 acre Sterling and Francine Clark Art campus, the historic high pasture offers a spectacular view of Williamstown and the surrounding Green Mountains of Vermont to the north. It’s a picturesque and jaunty walk that could be straight out of one of the museum’s landscape paintings – it’ll make you giddy with aesthetic mise-en-scène. If you’re interested in painting “en plein air”, the Clark will begin offering classes on Wednesdays July 10 to August 7, with classes meeting from 9 am to 12 pm. Tuition is $150 for members / $165 for non-members. For more information or to register, call IS183 at 413 298 5252 x100.