Tag Archives: avoid crowds

Fossils and mushrooms oh, my

We started in the southwest of Newfoundland near the ferry landing in Port aux Basques, and after a week moved about two hours north along the Trans Canada highway to the Port au Port area.

On our way to our next campground we visited the Blanche Brook fossil beds in Stephenville, Newfoundland. The packed dirt path in the sunshine along the brook near a parking area offered solid footing for me. Once we entered the woods the trail continued alongside the water, and for the most part was still an Easy Walk. However, to actually see the fossils, visitors need to get down the banks of the stream and wade into the water.

We had just had some heavy rains, filling the brook and making for very tricky footing. I stayed on shore while my husband rock-hopped out to the small island in the brook where he took his shoes off and waded in for a closer look. He got some great views of the fossils, preserved trees turned to rock. We were the only visitors when we stopped on a July morning. Like many other places while in Newfoundland, we often found these outdoor sites to be surprisingly uncrowded.

Doing my part…

A private campground was our home base for several days while we explored several areas that offered some great Easy Walks. After leaving the fossil beds we moved on to a private campground in Stephenville, our home base for several days while we explored several areas that offered some great Easy Walks. Power and water hookups at provincial campgrounds are limited. Since we needed some power to recharge our camper batteries, rather than stay at another provincial park, we chose to stay a night or two at a campground that had “hookups.”

Both national and provincial parks are great places to visit in Newfoundland. Besides these government sponsored outdoor spaces, we were surprised to discover stunning outdoor places that local communities oversee. Even more surprising is that a number of them that offer Easy Walks in areas that are otherwise very difficult to access. Once we were settled in the campground we headed back out to explore nearby Sheaves Cove.

Sheaves Cove offers not just one, but two Easy Walks. The creating an maintaining of these trails has been a labor of love, and I really appreciated the care that went into making these trails accessible for many of us. The first trail we explored took us down to the Hidden Waterfall. Quite obvious once you have driven down the dirt road leading to the parking, this waterfall is not visible from the road unless you know where to look.

Stream near the parking area flows from the waterfall through the marsh into the sea

The water from the falls flows out through a marsh and empties into the sea right next to where we parked. The path down to the falls is a maintenance access type road, quite broad, packed gravel, with a gentle incline that takes you to the bottom of the falls.

On the opposite side of the parking lot is a trail that invites visitors to stroll along the cliffs overlooking the ocean. This path is quite wide, packed gravel and offers amazing views of limestone formations right along the shoreline.

Viewing platforms long the way present opportunities to get even better views of the area than you can see by walking along the top of the cliffs. Some limestone formations reminded me of mushrooms, though certainly not very tasty.

Water cascades down the limestone cliff into the sea

Yet another waterfall in this spot tumbles down the cliff, crossing the trail, cascading directly into the sea from the rocks just above the waterline. A bridge allows visitors easy access to the other side of the water. We spent hours taking in the views, resting at the viewing platforms and looking for whales. No luck with whales on this outing, but we spotted them on other visits during our trip.

Humor on the trail

We found more Easy Walks in the Port au Port area that I will leave for our next post. On our next outing, we encountered a provincial park that offers more Easy Walks, and clearly has a great sense of humor. Till then, happy trails!

Marjorie

Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionMore Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionEasy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks, Finding the Sacred in Everyday (and some very strange) Places.

She has written for numerous local, regional, and national publications over the past 20+ years, has helped many families save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.

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Our own type of fun at Jellystone in Virginia

Fun with Yogi!

Lots of us grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons. But not so many get to really hug Yogi Bear. A series of cimcumstances brought us to Jellystone Park near Natural Bridge, Virginia. We feared the place would be filled with noisy campers, but instead, we arrived early in the season and had the place to ourselves.

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Ellisville Harbor and seals!

One reclining harbor seal, hanging out on a rock outcrop quite near shore, while another waits its turn…

This was our second visit to Ellisville Harbor State Park in Plymouth, MA. On our first visit in August, we were led to believe the path to the shoreline was at least a mile. Since my “on foot” range is about two miles, this would leave no energy for actually walking on the beach, plus it was warmer than I could risk in August. We chose to head on, and ended up at Shifting Lots Preserve, another open space quite nearby. We returned to the state park on a cool day in December, and decided to try reaching the beach. Turns out, the trail is closer to a half mile out, well within my capabilities when the weather is cool outside.

What we didn’t know was that this relatively quiet state park is a favorite spot for seals to hang out in at low tide, just off shore. What I at first mistook for a large sea gull about fifty yards off shore on a rock turned out to be a reclining seal, lolling about as the tides rolled under him (or her). Nearby, presumably jealous seals hung out, perhaps hoping the resting seal would give them a turn on the rock. Not a chance. Our seal persisted in staying on the rock for the hour or so we spent walking the beach near sundown.

We counted in all about a dozen other seals along the shoreline, only fifty yards or so off shore. The more we looked, the more we saw. We usually get excited seeing one or two seals. This was more at one time that we’ve seen on our walks, except perhaps on the California Coast (and those were sea lions).

Unlike some beaches, even at low tide, we found the sand there to be quite soft. Closer to the water the beach was rocky and more difficult for me to manage. Since it had been a relatively Easy Walk out to the shore from where we parked, I was able to enjoy my time near the water without too much pain. My hiking poles were really helpful in keeping me upright in the soft sand.

We walked south on the beach toward the outgoing stream flowing from the wetlands that are part of the state park.

The same stream, from the Shifting Lots Preserve, at high tide

On our August visit we had walked on the opposite side of the stream, at the Shifting Lots Preserve. That visit had been at high tide, and we were not tempted to try to cross the stream over to the Ellisville Harbor beach side of the stream. Low tide still offered a steady stream, more than we were prepared to cross without waders.

This visit, we got a chance to see the other side, and low tide revealed a very different complexion of the path the water takes to get to the sea. Many streams on the east coast that reach the ocean are encumbered by development, so this was a treat to walk along and see the water flowing toward the ocean.

If we had spent enough time there, we could have watched the tide shift the flow of the water, pushing it back into the wetlands. Another visit, perhaps.

All but the last section of trail to reach the beach counted as an Easy Walk for me–a few rocks, some tree roots, a very firm clear path, with lots of views of the ocean. In warmer weather there will be fewer views as the hardwoods in the area will leaf out, obscuring the view in all but a few spots.

Erosion has made access to this stretch of beach pretty challenging

That last section to reach the beach is a doozy. Beach erosion has left substantial cliffs along the shoreline. We went to the end of the trail and found a very steep, rocky path down to the shore (which I declined to try to attempt). We had noticed several side paths on our way out to the end, so backtracked to the path closest to the end and found an easier path. This path is still quite steep, especially at first, with tree roots that act as steps–sort of. I required assistance navigating this section of trail, even with my hiking poles. Thankfully, I brought along a willing helper who provided the needed support to get me safely to the shoreline.

View from the trail, overlooking the marsh

Ellisville Harbor State Park is open dawn to dusk. There is no charge, the beach is unattended, and dogs are unwelcome May to September on the beach. Even when we visited in August the parking area was not full. The longer walk to the beach may discourage summer beach goers, but this destination is pretty high up on my list, regardless of the challenges, for the hope of seeing seals at low tide. Happy trails!

Marjorie

Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionMore Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My liturgy of Easy Walks: Finding the Sacred in everyday (and some very strange) Places.

She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.

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Access to the ocean, Plymouth, Scussett Beach

Shifting Lots Preserve, Plymouth

We headed out toward Plymouth on a late summer day to see if we could find a place to walk along the shore. We had heard of Ellisville Harbor State Park, but learned once we arrived that the shoreline is actually about a one mile walk to reach the water. I will be fine walking this far in cooler weather, but despite being on the coast, which is always cooler than inland, the day was too warm for me to make this trek the day we visited. We wandered some more and stumbled across Shifting Lots Preserve, not far from Ellisville Harbor, held in trust by the Wildlands Trust, which also has a number of other conservation properties along the south shore.

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Old roads–along the Quinapoxit River, West Boylston, MA

Along the west bank of the Quinapoxit River, West Boylston

While visiting the area, we stopped along the Quinapoxit River to walk along an abandoned road that offers great views of the river. The pavement is still mostly intact, although several areas have lost some pavement from washouts in seasonal storms. The road is open to walkers and bicyclists.

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Along the Pemigewasset River, Bristol, Franklin NH

Great views of the Pemigewasset River for miles along this path in Franklin Falls Dam Recreation area

We visited the Franklin Falls Dam recreation area and found a great six mile long trail (basically a fire road) alongside the Pemigewasset River. The trail is in good condition, offering views of the river along almost the entire length of the path. Besides a great spot to enjoy the natural history of the area, we realized we had stumbled into some fascinating cultural history as well.

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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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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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Finding Easy Walks in local cemeteries

Vine Lake Cemetery, Medfield, in winter

Making plans to meet a friend in Medfield, I immediately thought of a local cemetery with a beautiful lake, and paved roads wide enough to allow for space between any other walkers we might encounter. While we are officially into winter, the day was mild, and recent rain had washed all our local snow away, leaving roadways and paths ice free for the moment.

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The Cape in late fall

River headed to the sea at Long Pasture, Audubon, in Barnstable

Lucky for our family, we have practiced #avoidingcrowds for years, and yet even we are struggling this year to figure out where to go where lots of others are not. We avoid visiting Cape Cod in warmer months specifically because of how busy the area is. But late fall, early December on the Cape seemed like a good bet for meeting up with fewer people as we continue to strive to stay healthy in the midst of the pandemic.

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