Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sherburne Trail

In October we went for a quick walk in the woods near our home to get outside and to take some "spooky" Halloween photos of our baby.  

Sherburne Nature Center is on Coburn Road in Tyngsborough, MA. the Sherburne Estate and habitat is an 80-acre parcel consists of a combination of woodlands, marshes, a beaver pond, and a meadow maintained to support birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. It was donated to the town in 1999. 

Sherburne Nature Center activities are open to all who are interested. Unless otherwise noted, all activities take place at Sherburne Estate and will go rain or shine. In extreme weather conditions, activities will be canceled. No reservations or fees required. You simply show up.
We've hiked here many times.  We've also done some geocaching on the property as well.  It's one of our favorites for a quick time in nature.  The parking lot has a welcome sign with postings of animal or bird sightings.  The fall colors were starting to fade and we could see that storm clouds were going to be heading our way so we put the Little Dude in the Ergo and set out on the paths.  
We immediately came across this little guy hiding in the middle of the trail.  He had many friends nearby as well.  
This bench is one of many Gold Award and Eagle Award projects that have been completed by Girl and Boy Scouts on the property.
Ansel had fun sniffing about in the leaves near one of the vernal pools.  

We found a great spot at a fork in the trail to take photos of the Little Dude.  Then the skies grew very dark and we started to get dripped on by the oncoming storm.  We walked back quickly towards the parking lot but I couldn't resist getting some pictures of the wetlands in the gloom.  
The rain slowed and we wandered down towards the wetlands to investigate some new construction.  There was a gentleman installing a boardwalk and new benches to over look the beaver dam and wetlands.  We chatted with him for a bit and then after he told us it was safe we went out on to the new construction.  It was a lovely addition to the trails.  We were able to walk out a bit and be surrounded by cattails.  We liked it so much we went back there in November to take our Christmas photos.    

We wandered back towards our car as those dark clouds grew darker. Next to the parking lot is the house.  It serves as the hub for all nature exhibits in town and is a learning center to the public. We've never been in it but the gentleman constructing the boardwalk was staying there while he was working. 


As I mentioned this is one of our favorite spots to walk.  If you are in the area, I definitely recommend checking it out.  I always find something new to see and explore.  Maps are occasionally at the kiosk in the parking lot.  The Town of Tyngsborough usually has them on their website but the link I found appears to be broken at the moment.  

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Lake Massabesic

In Mid-September we had a very warm day with nothing to scheduled.  So we ventured into the woods.  Trying again to use the trail app on my phone we set out for Lake Massabesic. Massabesic Lake is a lake in southern New Hampshire, United States, covering about 2,561 acres within the city of Manchester and the town of Auburn.We struggled to find the trail head that was marked on the app in Auburn but parked near an entrance off a main road. 

We pulled out our stroller and followed the path with our picnic lunch from a local sub shop.  The path was easy enough for use to push the baby along in his stroller with some inclines and a few ruts here and there to be cautious of.  I dislike not having a trail map and hiking poorly blazed trails but we could hear people and catch glimpses of the lake through the trees.


We hiked along and came across a wooden map near the Massabesic Audubon Center. It gave us some bearings to where we were.  We followed the trail towards the water.  The woods were cool and shady.

We found a nice point to sit and watch the boats.  Later I learned that this spot is named Battery Point.  While eating our subs were heard the sounds of loons in the distance.  We caught a glimpse of the pair swimming and diving.

Loons in the distance

Native American legends claim that the famous New Hampshire chief Passaconaway died on Lake Massabesic. A settler reported that the elder chief was headed towards Loon Island on the east side of the lake, which was "a place of fond memories of the aged chief's young past". When he was in the north part of the lake, a thunderstorm was being formed, which "was a sign of the presence of the Great Spirit". Then, a lightning bolt hit the canoe in which Passaconaway was riding in, and he and the canoe were disintegrated instantly.

After we ate we backtracked through the paths.  It was quite warm and we had only a limited amount of water with us.  There were miles of trails to be explored though and I would definitely go back again for a walk in the woods.  



Maps of the Lake Massabesic Area can be found on the Manchester waterworks website and on the Massabesic Audubon page.
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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bruce Freeman Rail Trail

One rainy day at the end of July, I decided to take the Little Dude for a stroll after baby story hour in my hometown library.  We went over to the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail and parked at the entrance in the center of Chelmsford.

Murals along the rail trail behind my favorite coffee spot, The Java Room.
The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail is the start of a larger rail trail project.   When I was a kid, th rail road that ran through the center of town was silent.  It was proposed in the mid-80s to create a rail trail from Chelmsford to Sudbury.  Today the project potentially encompasss Lowell, Chelmsford, Westford, Carlisle, Acton, Concord, Sudbury, and Framingham in Massachusetts.

Phase I was completed a few years ago and it is well used by bikers, roller bladers, walkers, ect.  Currently, the trail runs from Lowell (at Crosspoint Towers) to just barely across the town line of Westford.  Milelage is marked out on the pavement and streets are labeled on pillars so you always know where you are.  

The day we walked it the weather was grey and misty.  Very few people were out and about which made for good picture taking.  I pushed Little Dude in his stroller as he was asleep.  It was a nice, peaceful walk.  

We covered about 4 miles during out stroll.  Little Dude dozed and only woke up towards the end when he was hungry.  Currently the trail is 6.8 miles end-to-end.  I hope we don't have to wait another 20 years for the next section to be built.    

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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Independence Day

On July 4th we decided to go for a hike.  I'm not sure it was the best idea as it was very hot and muggy.  In fact there will be no photos of me in this post as I was apparently super grumpy throughout our journey.  You'll see a few pics of my favorite hiking buddy....

We decided to go to Ward Reservation in North Andover, MA.  It's part of the Trustees of the Reservations holdings.  We've walked these trails before but didn't remember where the trail head was.  The AllTrails app on our phone was pretty much useless as it put us in someone's yard.  After driving around a bit we did stumble upon it.  This did not set us up for a happy hike.

We snagged a trail map from the parking lot and set off on the lower trails.  It was extremely buggy and muggy down by the wetlands.  As much as I wanted to follow the path through the bog to Pine Hole Pond, I elected to head up towards the top of the hill.  
The Path to the Bog
The steps from the Bog up to the hill
The hill was bright and sunny.  There were fewer bugs bug unfortunately no breeze and few trees along the path to dim the sun.  The trail wasn't well marked but we weren't too concerned about being lost.  I attempted to take photos of butterflies and the baby snoozed as I carried him.  Ansel pulled Big Dude along the path as he struggled to figure out where the trail led.


We neared the top of Holt Hill and saw the fire tower.  As we walked through the high grasses the sun was terrible.  We did meet up with a few other hikers near here.

The summit is very neat.  The Solstice Stones are at the highest point of Essex County at 422 feet.  Yup, I bagged another peak for my list!  

You can see Boston and the Atlantic on a clear day.  Our day was a bit hazy but you can barely make out the outline of the city.  

Another cool thing about Ward Reservation is that it is part of the Bay Circuit Trail.  If you've not heard of this, it is a chain of  trails and greenways that are just outside Boston running through 34 towns.  These green spaces link the North Shore and South Shore and provide terrific areas to play outside without driving too far.  

There are tons of side trails and paths that could be followed in Ward Reservation.  We cut this short as it was too hot and quite frankly I was cranky.  It is not a stroller friendly place but it is a great one for small children and parents who don't mind baby carriers.  There a usually quite a few dogs as well.  I know we'll be back to visit on a less muggy and buggy day.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Burlingame State Park: First Car Camping Trip with Baby

Last weekend we went on our first camping trip with Little Dude.  We stayed at Burlingame State Park in Charlestown, RI.  It's the largest campground in New England with over 700 campsites.  We booked our site and let a few friends know what we were up to so that they could come along if they wanted.  We went down on Friday afternoon and Little Dude almost made it through the car ride down but about a half hour from the campground he woke up and was very unhappy to be in the car.  So of course we solved his troubles and then moved on.

First thing we did was hook Ansel up to a lead on a tree, which he immediately escaped from.  Big Dude (Ben) set off to capture our dog and I set up our screen house so Little Dude wouldn't be eaten alive by the bugs and there were plenty of them!  Ben returned with Ansel and I went off to see if our friends had arrived.  They had booked a campsite just around the corner from us (far enough so they couldn't hear the baby).  As the skies started to get grey, I went back with the baby to help Ben.  We set up our giant tent that we had inherited from my brother in law when he moved to Michigan with it's duct tape patches and repaired zipper.  I was a bit concerned that it might leak as we could see the sky through the rain fly and there were storms predicted.  The rain held off until late at night and I never even heard the storms.

Little Dude was a bit confused by all of this newness.  He stared around the tent and was taking it all in.  He wasn't very excited by his Peapod Tent Thing and I wished I had taken my friend's advice and practiced a few naps in there while we were home.  He fussed quite a bit that evening but once he fell asleep he was out for the night.  We had place his mini tent in our tent.  It proved to be a great shelter from the dog and from the bugs and sun.  

We had a campfire with our friends and shared food and conversation.  When it was the adults' bedtime there was more troubles.  Ansel was out of sorts.  He could hear the people and their dogs at a campsite nearby.  They were up until 3AM and so was he.  He would check on the baby, then me, then Ben, the door, and start all over again.  It took him a looong time to settle down.  So night one: Little Dude slept well, Ansel and the adults not so much.

Saturday was another warm day.  Fortunately not as hot as the day before.  Little Dude went for a walk in his stroller around the campground.  It was not the most impressive campground in amenities but definitely was large.  After lunch, we decided to head to Westerly for a microbrewery that the boys wanted to check out.  Grey Sail Brewing Company was in a small brick building right on the border of CT.  The boys had sample of beer and a "tour" of the brewery.  We drove through town and near the ocean.  There was plenty to do and check out but we didn't feel very motivated to explore.  We returned to the campsite and started a campfire for dinner.  

Little Dude had a good day playing and checking things out.  That evening he did NOT want to go to sleep and had since decided that he likes to play in the Peapod.  It definitely was very light out and we worked hard to convince him it was bedtime.  Eventually he did fall asleep.  He really enjoys playing with his fingers now.  Waving them and grabbing at things.  It's awfully fun to watch.  

On Sunday, we ate breakfast and started to pack up.  Little Dude played in his Peapod and on the activity mat we brought.  He dozed off and I carried him as we finished packing up the car.  With a baby and a dog we needed to get a roof carrier for our gear.  His stroller does take up quite a bit of room so the carrier definitely helps out. There was much more elbow room in the back.  

We made it home in one piece that afternoon.  We had time to unpack and get cleaned up.  Little Dude managed to get a few bug bites which have now disappeared.  He had a fun time in the bath getting cleaned up from his camping adventure Sunday night.  He will definitely be exposed to camping more as he grows.  In fact, we're hoping for another trip this summer.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lowell Heritage State Park

One bright Saturday morning we went over to the local AAA office to talk insurance.  We had some time to kill before we went off to a barbecue so we decided to stroll the banks of the Merrimack River along Pawtucket Boulevard in Lowell.  We parked down by the UMASS Lowell boathouse.  There you can rent kayaks for an hour or for a day to go for a paddle.  Then we strolled with the Little Dude down towards the swimming beach.

For a sunny, summer-like day the paths were not too crowded.  There were plenty of walkers with dogs and babies.

The Little Dude got hungry.  So I settled on a park bench and sent the Big Dude off to get me a snack at the Dunkin' Donuts across the way.  We had an impromptu picnic watching the people biking, walking, and roller blading.  There were some people out on the water as well.  During the school year, there are crew races held out of the boat house.  Those days the park is packed with college students.    

Sampas Pavilion is the site of many events including concerts and classic car shows. In August you'll find the river here being used for the Southeast Asian Water Festival.  That day there were several children playing and running around.  Across the street from the pavilion is Heritage Ice Cream.  Big Dude was disappointed that we didn't swing on over but lots of food was in our future.  Heritage is hosting a free concert series every Monday night this summer.  

Across the river you can see part of the canal system.  Tours are lead by the National Park Service.  There is also the Riverwalk, another walking path through Lowell.    

The Vandenberg Esplanade is actually only a mile long and is probably the most frequently used path in Lowell.  Along with the sights in these photos you can find a swimming beach which is generally packed in the hot weather.  

This is a nice little urban park to take a stroll.  More information and directions can be found at the Lowell Heritage State Park website.     
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Monday, May 21, 2012

Great Brook Farm- WearBears MeetUp

Last Saturday, we went to a babywearer's meetup at Great Brook Farm State Park.  We've hiked there many times and I enjoy cross country skiing in the winter, especially the lantern skiing they offer at night.  I had been searching for groups of parents to connect with that might have similar ideas.  We have quite a few carriers thanks to some friends who have lent them to us.  Some days wearing Little Dude is the only way we can get things done.  It's also a great way to get him to see the woods.  So off we went. 

We parked in the $3 fee parking lot and met up with some of the other mothers.  At that point we were the only ones using a baby carrier.  We walked along to the otherside of the pond and snagged a picnic table.  Some of the children snacked and parents chatted about their experiences.  We had brought along our dog who attracted quite a bit of attention from the kiddos.

The pond had quite a bit of wild life.  We spotted several tadpoles and this big bull frog.  He had been croaking the whole time we were hanging out.  It was neat to find him only feet from where we were sitting. 

There also was this family of geese.  They were quite wary of us and had swum out to the middle of the pond.  Eventually they became brave enough to wander back towards their nest.

We finished snacking and decided that we wanted to hit the trail.  The other families didn't seem to be ready yet so we said our goodbyes and wandered across the street to the main trails.  It was a clear and sunny day.  We saw many bikers, walkers, and horseback riders. 

 Massachusetts had received quite a bit of rain in the last few weeks so all the ponds were quite full. 

There even was a washout of the bridge and some of the trails were closed off.

The trails that we took for the most part seemed dry and easy to travel on.  The mosquitoes had started to come out and I'm sure as we have a few more dry days they will be terrible.  Unlike previous hikes, we did not come home with a ton of ticks on the dog (or us).  I wonder if the park has treated for them.

With 20 miles of trails we usually wander for hours and have a picnic.  Unfortunately we had quite a bit planned for this day so we only hiked a short loop.  Carrying a 11 pound baby in a Kozy Carrier, it was just enough hiking for me.  I'm still working on strengthening my core so that I can hike longer distances carrying Little Dude.  Oh, and to get rid of the pregnancy weight.

Typically we would go and have ice cream after this hike as there is a working dairy farm on site.  This past week they had trouble with the DCR coming in and shutting the ice cream shop down due to construction permit troubles.  Definitely was strange news.  They had reopened the day we were there but we were heading to two parties with cake so we passed.  

We've always loved going to Great Brook Farm and will continue to head there.  It's not usually our first choice as there is a parking fee and many other local trails without a fee.  However, it's well maintained and well used.