Author Archives: Marjorie

Gate 22, West Boyleston, snow shoeing

Overlooking the Wachusett Reservoir from Gate 22

While we typically have a destination in mind, especially after recent snow, when we spotted a plowed parking area and trail kiosk, we quickly turned around to go back and investigate. While numbers for contracting Covid have been decreasing, we are still doing what we can to #avoidcrowds, so seeing just a few cars in the lot, we decided this was worth exploring. Gate 22, a fire road providing access to the Wachusett Reservoir in West Boylston, looked like a good place to explore.

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Story Magic in the Everglades

Roseate spoonbills feed while an alligator waits for fish in the incoming tide, Ding Darling Swamp, Sanibel Island, Florida

It had been a while since I had experienced “story magic.” The pandemic has precluded in-person gatherings. Our meetings over Zoom and other venues are limited, demanding a different level of attention, with little room for leisurely storytelling. It took an eerie photo of alligator eyes lit by the moonlight on a Florida waterway to light the spark of story magic.

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Winter footing–staying close to home

Out with a daughter and grands at Silver Lake

I might be alone in this feeling, but I’m having a hard time getting out by myself these days. So when my daughter called with the offer to bring grandkids over for a walk along the lake, the answer was an easy “yes!” The road alongside the lake is a dead end, so traffic is minimal.

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Snowing at Joe’s Rock

Joe’s Rock in winter

We planned to walk in the open field at Birchwold Farm in Wrentham, just as the first flakes began falling in what turned out to be an all day affair, dropping a foot of snow hereabouts. Seeing a number of cars in the icy parking lot, we moved on, and spotted, just across the street at Joe’s Rock, an empty parking lot. Whoo-hoo, time to #avoidcrowds!

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Southborough-Breakneck Hill

Lovely views from Breakneck Hill, along with wide trails

When recently in Southborough, we saw an additional piece of open space within walking distance of where we had just explored. We stopped by to get a look, to see if this would be a good place to bring elder parents. In fact, this might not be a great place for unsteady elders in rather cold weather, but for those of us looking for Easy Walks, willing to dress in layers and willing to climb some gently sloping hills, and back down the same slopes, Breakneck Hill in Southborough is a great spot to spend a few hours.

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Southborough–Turenne Wildlife Habitat and Town Forest

Massive rock outcroppings are throughout this area–very cool

We headed to Southborough recently to explore a trail new to us, the Turenne Wildlife Habitat. We hoped to find a quiet spot unnoticed by other weekend visitors. We mostly have time to get out on weekends because of my husband’s work schedule, and crowded trails have been a challenge throughout this pandemic, when the outdoors has become a refuge for many of us.

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Hopedale Parklands in winter, with Cable 8 TV

View of Hopedale Pond from along the carriage road

In a time when we have felt so closed in by the pandemic, it has been a blessing that, at least near where I live, the trails have been for the most part ice free. We have enjoyed several very Easy Walks recently, one of which was to return to Hopedale Parklands with Tyler, our ace camera guy from ABMI Cable 8, and my hiking friend Linda. Watch the 16 minute video of our walk here.

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Avoiding crowds in Westport and Dartmouth,MA

Phragmites in the marshland next to Ocean View Farm reservation, Dartmouth

We headed down near the shore to avoid ice on trails, and also because we knew of several places we wanted to check out that we had missed the last time we were in the area. Turns out there are even more open space trails to explore than we realized, which kept us busy exploring for several hours on a weekend morning. Our first stop was at a very small spot that offered views of the Westport River, the Mill Pond Conservation Area part of the Westport Land Conservation Trust and the Trustees of Reservation. The nicely laid out trail brings visitors through a young orchard quite near the street, offering the feel of walking through a local garden.

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Walkup Reservation, Westboro, MA

The “Bossy Crossing” underneath the old trolley line railbed at Walkup Reservation

I first visited the Sudbury Valley Trustees (SVT) Walkup Reservation nearly five years ago when I was doing the field work for More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, a field guide I created to over fifty trails in the Upper Charles, Neponset, Assabet, and Sudbury river watersheds. Al Sanborn, who had lived in Westborough, was my guide for two of the sixteen towns I included in the book–Westborough and Grafton, and served as the caretaker for the Walkup Reservation for a number of years.

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Whitney Conservation Area, Upton, MA

The view, starting off for a visit at the Whitney Conservation area in Upton

In our efforts to #avoidcrowds, we opted to stay close to home and head to a town-owned conservation property without an obvious pond or river. We have noted that trails with pond views, or next to waterways have tended to draw extraordinary crowds in these #Covidtimes. While there is no navigable waterway on the Whitney property, there is plenty of water that flows through this area.

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