Spring is a great time to get outside, but like the fall, visible signs of spring and the changes that happen in this season are compressed into a few short weeks. Summer and winter last for months on end. If you miss the window of opportunity to catch these quick changes, you will have to wait till next year to witness, and possibly capture in photos the wonders of new life springing forth all around us. At least, this is what I reasoned after realizing I have very few good photos of spring in my files.
Thus I welcomed the opportunity to get outside on a windy spring afternoon in April at Choate Park in Medway, MA. I met up with Marilyn and Dave Doré, collaborators with me for our upcoming book, tentatively titled Easy Walks in Massachusetts South of Boston. We are excited to get started on this trail guide, a companion to the other Easy Walks in Massachusetts books already available. We hope to publish by this fall or next spring. If you want to be the first to hear when the book is out, sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of this post.
A highlight of our trip to Newfoundland was returning to Gros Morne National Park on Newfoundland’s western coast. When visiting a place for the first time we often say, “We need to come back.” Much less often are we able to say, “It’s so good to be back,” especially when referring to more far-flung destinations. At the bottom of this article are links to previous posts on our earlier visit to Gros Morne.
Ice can be a huge barrier to getting out in winter. For those of us with mobility challenges (and others) it can keep us inside, missing out on the beauty that is found in colder weather. In general, newly fallen snow is pleasant to walk through. With little snow so far this winter in New England (at least southern New England) we have been able to get out fairly often without the concern of ice. A beautiful spot we revisited recently after a light snow is a Mass Audubon property, Pierpont Meadow in Dudley, MA.
Here’s an extensive list of hiking tips for those with mobility limitations–these can apply to anyone else too. Take a look. Thanks to Vacyou.com magazine for inviting me to contribute.
I have limited mobility, (paralysis in my right leg), have traveled and hiked extensively in the U.S., and have enjoyed exploring trails in Canada and Ireland. Learning the right questions to ask has made a big difference for me by helping people understand what I needed to know to better enjoy my time in the outdoors.
Questions I ask before setting out include: Where can I find places to walk that are not rooty or rocky, are relatively level with firm footing, and have something of interest along the way? Are dogs allowed? Are there bathrooms? Is there a fee to visit? Are trails well marked? What can you tell me about parking?
With practice you will find your best “questions to ask yourself” that will help you make an educated choice about how and where you want to go. Here are my tried and true accessibility tips that can help you get the most out of an outdoor hike (or walk).
You know your own situation best, so these are suggestions, not guarantees that they will work you.
One of the essays in my memoir, My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Finding the Sacred in Everyday (and some very strange) Places recalls a childhood game we played in the midst of one Florida summer. My siblings, friends and I gathered each night in the South Florida heat, shut our eyes tight and spun in circles. One person sat out the game, perched on the wall, keeping watch over us. We took turns climbing up onto the wall, assuming the role of watcher. When up on the wall we kept our eyes open, ready to alert anyone wandering near the street or too close to the wall.
I recently found a picture of my younger brother sitting on that wall, with my younger sister standing next to him. Sometimes a photo can make the difference in understanding a story…or not. Here’s the essay, just one of many included in the book. Enjoy.
The basic premise of the game, that summer of 1965 in South Florida, was for all of us to shut our eyes and turn around in circles in our front yard. Our goal was to keep spinning till we grew dizzy. A designated “watcher” sat on the five-foot-high brick wall that jutted a few feet out into my parents’ yard. The watcher’s job was to keep their eyes open and warn spinning children if they drew too close to the wall, or ventured near the street.
This article was first published at the Travel Massivewebsite. Many thanks to their editors for providing a platform for travel interests of all kinds, around the world.
Lots of trail guides and magazine articles provide information about the compelling reasons to visit any certain area. What is consistently missing is information about trail surfaces. Whether you have a disability or simply enjoy the outdoors you can be make a difference to others by noticing and then sharing with others details that are included in the article below.
My Story of Hiking with Mobility Challenges
Travel Massive article:
Some people think that because I have written a number of trail guides I must be a super hiker. In fact, there was a time in my life when walking across a room was an insurmountable challenge. While healing has come after disastrous brain surgery that saved my life yet left my right side paralyzed, I still require support to navigate uneven surfaces: bumpy sidewalks, crowded airport terminals, or rooty or rocky outdoor spaces.
One of the most important factors that dictate whether I can safely manage an outing is asking about an area ahead of time. To safely navigate an outdoor trail, I need to know about trail surfaces Easy Walks, that is, not too many roots or rocks, relatively level, with something of interest along the way.
We have spent the past several weeks exploring the SNETT (Southern New England Trunkline Trail) that runs quite near our home. Improvements have just been completed from Center Street in Bellingham, MA west to Rt. 126, near the Blackstone, MA line. What has up to now been one of the more challenging sections of the SNETT, this portion of the trail has limited views, but is key to opening up further sections of the SNETT west of here. Park at the Center Street parking area. Once parked, head west. An additional, Harpin Street entrance is next to DiPietro Elementary School, with parking across the street at the athletic fields. This area was until recently a barrier for those wanting to access other western sections of the trail.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Many years ago our family headed to Cape Breton for a driving tour. I decided that puffins would be the best part of our travels. A place in Rockland Maine offered a way we could see puffins. A minor (four hour round trip) detour, some of us were more excited about than others. When we arrived in Rockland we learned that the puffins were quite a distance off shore, but we could watch by video what the puffins were up to. (We could have watched from home, I suspected.) Clearly I had not done enough reading before insisting we take this side trip.
We visited Newfoundland in September of 2018 when it would have been too late to see puffins. They are pelagic and thus are visible from land only when they are nesting–April to August. On our most recent, 2022 trip, we first thought we’d missed the puffins, but soon learned we were not too late! Our 2022 trip to Newfoundland began in the southwest corner of the island, after a ferry ride from Sydney, on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, to Port aux Basques, Newfoundland. Puffins nest on the eastern coast. It was a long ride from one point to the other.