Tag Archives: finding easy walks

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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New (to us) rail trail section Airline Trail, CT

Along the Airline Trail near Hampton, Connecticut. Difficult to see here, but this pond must have been flooded by beavers. Stone walls from the shoreline lead all the way down past the water’s edge

In our travels with our camper, we have found state forests to be a great resource, often providing camp grounds where we had great experiences. Many have trail networks, one state forest we stayed at had a handicapped accessible overlook, and others were simply great spots to stop and enjoy the scenery.

One access point along the Airline Trail

On our way to a rail trail in Connecticut, we stopped by a state forest we spotted along the way and discovered a gem (and access to yet another portion of the same rail trail we had been headed toward). The James L. Goodwin State Forest in Hampton, CT offers multiple options for enjoying the outdoors. The boat ramp allows small craft to enjoy the pond. The Conservation Center, located inside the State Forest, offers education programs. When we looked at Google maps we realized that the Airline Trail passes directly through this same state forest.

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On our way to New Mexico, via Mesa Verde National park, and other local stops

View of one of the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde–see those impressions in the rock, center of photo? Those were steps to climb up the rock face. Not an Easy Walk at all!

We had another goal on our travel beside bicycling in Glenwood Canyons, and that was to allow me to take the self-guided tour of Carlsbad Caverns National Park, in Carlsbad, New Mexico. From Utah, that’s a long drive, so we took our time and stopped a few places in between. Not on our schedule, but too good to pass up, was Mesa Verde National Park, which ended up being on our way. We spent two days quite nearby, allowing for more relaxed visiting of the park. We stopped near the end of October, when the park was essentially closing down for the winter, so some aspects of the park we had hoped to enjoy were unavailable to us. What we did see still made the visit worthwhile.

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Easy Walks in and around Moab, Utah

Just one of the multiple “arches” at Arches National Park

Traveling out west in the fall is a balancing act when you have a camper. The scenery is even more stunning than at other times of the year, and the risk of freezing weather is increased. Freezing means no running water (I know–a modern luxury of camping in a camper with wheels.) We had been in Colorado and weather reports promised freezing temperatures, yet a few hours west of us in Moab, Utah, the weather was warmer. Thus, an unplanned, but welcome diversion west to Arches National Park was our next stop on our western tour.

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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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More rail trails and wonders in the Glenwood Springs, CO area

Red Dirt Creek, yet another Easy Walk we found along the Colorado River. We found wild asparagus there too!

We could have spent an entire month exploring the Glenwood Springs area, in addiiton to the Glenwood Canyon rail trail. As it was, we found two additional well maintained rail trails within a few miles of where we stayed in the area. Glenwood Springs offers amazing walking opportunities throughout the town. The downtown has trailheads for both the Glenwood Canyon trail, as well as the Rio Grande Trail, that follows the Roaring Fork River.

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Katy Trail, Missouri- 200 mile linear state park

Boat henge, along the Katy Trail, Columbia, Missouri

We planned to stop at other rail trails along the way from our start in New England, but our goal was Colorado. We had enjoyed several days in Pine Creek Gorge, PA where we pedaled perhaps half of the sixty-two mile trail. Travel always offers surprises, and our first “surprise” rail trail we had never heard of was the Katy Trail, a 240 mile linear state park that essentially travels across the width of Missouri.

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Finding Easy Walks (and bike rides) along the way– Pine Creek Gorge, PA

NuCamper and adaptive tandem bike, packed up and ready for adventure

Our family set out in September with out new camper and our adaptive bicycle, (and a whole lot more!), determined to enjoy places along the way where we could explore trails with out adaptive bike. It was a journey in and of itself to simply get the tools in place and find a camper that was not only available, but which our truck was able to transport. (Weight becomes an important concern when towing anything). It was a learning curve, and for sure, these first days, we were at the bottom of it!

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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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Shining Sea Bikeway, Falmouth, MA

Great Sippewissett marsh

We tend to avoid the Cape during the summer months. Parking is difficult, beach access is restricted in places to residents or those with visitor passes, but after Labor Day everything opens up and is simply easier to visit. With this in mind we headed to Falmouth, just over the Bourne Bridge, and found the northernmost parking area for the Shining Sea bikeway, where we set up our tandem bike and headed out.

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