Cutler Park Reservation (Needham, MA)

Date Of Visit: June 2, 2019

Location: 84 Kendrick St., Needham, MA

Hours: open daily dawn to dusk

Cost: Free

Parking: There is free parking for about 50 cars in the main lot and parking may be available at nearby lots.

Universally Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes

Park size/trail difficulty: 600 acres, easy to slightly moderate

Highlights: wildlife, hiking, pond, kayaking, cycling and running trails

Summary: This 600-acre park protects the largest freshwater marsh on the middle Charles River. This park is a great spot for birdwatchers, and it also features eskers, or riverbeds formed inside a glacier; drumlins, long hills formed by glaciers; and Kendrick pond.

Website: Cutler Park Reservation

Hiking Trails Map: Cutler Park Reservation Trail Map

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Named for the State legislator, Leslie B. Cutler, who helped the Department of Conservation and Recreation of Massachusetts acquire the land, Cutler Park has some hidden historical significance many visitors may not be aware of.

Soil was removed from what is now known as Kendrick Pond to fill in the area now known as the Back Bay of Boston.  And, if you look closely near the Kendrick St entrance of the park you can still see some of the old tracks of the railroad that was used to transport the soil to Boston.

Although I’m not sure, this tunnel may have been used to transport some of the soil, rocks or logs from the park.  But, now it is used to support the railroad that runs adjacent to the park.

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Mist was settling upon Kenrick Pond as I arrived at the park.  It created the perfect backdrop for photos of the landscape and swans at Kendrick Pond (aka Cutler Pond).

Cutler Park has a diverse assortment of wildlife and birds.  Although I did not see them during my visit, deer and fox are said to be present there. I did see a few other critters, though.

It was spring during my visit so there were a lot of babies at the park.  I got to see some goslings and cygnets with their parents.

You’ll hear a variety of birds tweeting (offline).

 

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or getting a quick bite

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or just chilling in the abundant trees at Cutler Park.

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The trails at Cutler Park are mainly easy with a few slight inclines.  The signature part of the trails is the boardwalk along the marshy area.

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But, there’s something about the tree lined dirt paths that gives the park a “country” feel despite the fact it is located deep within the suburbs.

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Cutler Park is popular with kayakers, runners, cyclists and people in some unusual water vessels.

What truly makes the park a hidden jewel are the beautiful views.

The wide paths and pond make Cutler Park a dog friendly park.

The way Casey, a 10 year old Yellow Lab, fetched could give any of  the Sox outfielders a run for their money.

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Say goodbye to Teddy, a one and a half year old Golden Doodle mix, from Cutler Park!

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Hidden History – Home Of The Coast Guard (Newburyport, MA)

 

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When people think of the Coast Guard, they often conjure up images of episodes of The Deadliest Catch or clips of the Coast Guard seizing drug smuggling ships off the coast of Florida or some other coastal city.  But the origins of the Coast Guard is much closer to our New England roots and their primary role was much different than what we might expect.

As you can tell by the featured photo above, the first vessel was launched July 23, 1791. The USRC Massachusetts, which was built by William Searle, spanned 50 feet and weighed and over 70 tons (140,000 lbs).

Initially, the Coast Guard was primarily responsible for stopping smugglers and enforcing tariffs.  But, that didn’t mean their job was not without its risks.  The would routinely chase smugglers, pirates and engage their suspects. Now, the Coast Guard spends a lot of their time rescuing sailors and seamen in ships that are in distress.  They have saved countless lives along the New England coast and beyond.

The Coast Guard’s duties continue to expand.  For instance, the Coast Guard currently patrols the Middle East with the Navy. And one Coast Guard death has been reported during these patrols.

Along the boardwalk by the waterfront in Newburyport, MA, there is a memorial dedicated to the U.S. Coast Guard.

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The inscription on the marker, which was dedicated  August 4, 1989, states:

We the people of Newburyport, Massachusetts dedicate this plaque to the men and women of the United States Coast Guard who have courageously and faithfully served the nation for 200 years. For two centuries their labor has saved lives, buoyed our channels, insured safe operation of ports and vessels, protected our shoreline from invaders, and defended the nation in every major war. We honor the United States Coast Guard for exemplifying our highest National virtues of commitment to the common good, respect for the law and the responsible participation in fulfillment of duty

To this day, the city of Newburyport honors their veterans from all branches of the military each year on Memorial Day.  But, the city’s Memorial Day ceremonies includes a special memorial to the Coast Guard.  The marchers in the parade take a Memorial March to the Waterfront, where the Coast Guard monument stands,  while the Newburyport High School Marching Band plays the Coastal Guard Hymn (Semper Paratus).  After reaching the waterfront, the Newburyport Police Honor Guard render a rifle volley and a memorial wreath is thrown from the Coast Guard Cutter.

 

 

 

Hidden History – Moswetuset Hummock (Quincy, MA)

Date Of Visit: March 39, 2019

Location: Moswetuset Hummock, 440 East Squantum St, Quincy, MA

Hours: open daily, dawn to dusk

Cost: Free

Parking: Free parking is available for about a dozen vehicles:

Universally Accessible: Because of the dirt and rocky surface and a few slight inclines it is not universally accessible

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: views of Quincy and the surrounding area, short trail, historic importance

Summary: A small, often overlooked park in Quincy, MA, has a special historical significance to Massachusetts

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Sometimes hidden history is in the wide open.  Such is the case with the small park located along the Wollaston Beach and Quincy Bay area.

The .4 mile loop (yes it is a very short trail) is easy.  Along the short trail you’ll see pretty views of the neighboring Wollaston Beach and Squantum (another name with a historical connection to the area).

While the trail at Moswetuset is short and easy, if you walk down the somewhat steep side of the trail, you can get some pretty views of Boston and the Quincy area.  These photos were taken from the rocky area off the main trail during twilight in March.

Moswetuset, which means “shaped like an arrowhead”, is often overlooked for the more popular Wollaston Beach which is located around the corner from Moswetuset.  Yet, the fact that it is overlooked gives it a special charm.   It also has an interesting historical background.

Moswetuset is said to have been the seat of the ruling Massachusetts Chief Chickatawbut.  It is also the place where Plymouth colony commander Myles Standish and his guide Tisquantum (Squanto) met with Chief Chicktawbut in 1621.

Named after the native tribe of Moswetuset, the name of this area would later become known as Massachusetts.

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As the sign below states, Chief Chickawawbut agreed to a treaty with then Governor Winthrop which neither side broke.  And, of course, there is a Dunkin’ Donuts across the street which you may see in the background.  It is Massachusetts after all.

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From Wollaston Beach the area looks simply like a wooded area without much to see.

Yet, hidden within that cluster of trees lies a true hidden treasure with a hidden history.

 

Daffodil Festival (Naumkeag, Stockbridge, MA)

Date Of Visit: May 10, 2019

Location: Naumkeag, 5 Prospect Hill Rd, Stockbridge, MA

Cost: Trustees Nonmembers: $20
Seniors and students 15 and up: $15
Trustees Members: FREE
Children 6 – 14: $5
Children under 6: FREE

Hours (the Daffodil Festival ended May 12,)

April 14 – May 27
Open weekends only, with tours 10AM – 5PM (last tour starts at 3:30PM)

May 28 – October 8
Open daily with tours 10AM – 5PM (last tour starts at 3:30PM) including holidays

Parking: Free parking for about 20 cars is available.  There may be a lot for overflow parking as well.

Trails: Easy

Handicapped Accessible: No.

  • Naumkeag is not ADA-compliant, due to the age of the site. There are many stairs, a steep hillside, uneven footing, etc.

Dog Friendly: Dogs are not allowed in the gardens.

Summary: The Daffodils Festival is an annual event that has daffodils and other flowers, trees and plants planted along their trails.

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Each year, the Trustees at Naumkeag in Stockbridge, MA bring some color and beauty to the drab rainy early spring season.  Their daffodil celebration begins in April and last until the second week of May.  Just in time for Mother’s Day!

As you begin your visit at the Naumkeag Estate, you will first enter a greenhouse with a diverse collection of flowers and plants.

While daffodils are the main attraction, they aren’t the only flowers showcased at the festival. An assortment of other flowers, such as tulips, complement the daffodils.

The trees at Naumkeag are just as impressive as the flowers even if they didn’t have many buds or leaves on them at that time.

Naumkeag has many events and programs for children.  We saw these butterflies which were part of a children’s scavenger hunt.

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The stairs and trails are well kept.

There are many statues and other decorative items along the trails.

The estate at Naumkeag is much more extensive.  But, unfortunately, the rain prevented us from exploring it more.  I am sure I will make another trip to see more of this beautiful hidden gem!

If you missed the Daffodil Festival, fear not!  The festival is help every year in Mid April to early May.

Spring Bunny Quest (Francis William Bird Park, East Walpole, MA)

Date Of Event: April 27, 2019

Location: Francis William Bird Park, Polley Lane, Walpole, MA

Hours: Open daily from sunrise to sunset

Cost: Free

Parking: There are multiple parking lots located on Polley Lane, Pleasant Street and Rhoades Avenue.

Trail Size/Difficulty: 89 acres (3 miles of walking trails), easy

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: wooden cutout bunnies hidden on the trails, trees, play areas, tennis and basketball courts, trees, ponds

Web Site: Francis William Bird Park

Trail Map: Francis William Bird Trail Map

Summary: 6 cutout bunnies were hidden along the various trails at Francis William Bird park

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While bunnies are not uncommon at William Francis Bird Park (more commonly known as “Bird Park”), there were a very different type of bunny there earlier this spring.  To mark the arrival of the spring cotton tail bunnies to the park, Bird Park hid 6 wooden cutout bunnies for visitors to look for.

While there was a map located at the visitor center board near the center of the park showing where the bunnies were located, the Trustees, who operate the park, encouraged visitors to find them on their own.  So, I tried.  I tried for 3 hours.  I was also taking photographs of the wide variety of beautiful trees and other treasures of the park.  I did find 5 of the bunnies on my own.  Then, I gave in and found the last bunny after looking at the map.

The bunnies really weren’t too hard to find.  Even the “hidden bunnies” were in open view, even if they were located next to a rock or tree.

The bunnies also had a small notepad for visitors to write messages.  One popular message written on the notepads can be seen below.

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The park has been a hidden attraction for many years.  In fact, it has existed in one form or another for almost 100 years.  Francis William Park was endowed and created by Charles Sumner Bird, Sr and his wife Anna in 1925.  The park was created in memory of their eldest son, Francis William Bird who died in 1918 at the age of 37.  The Trustees, who operate the park currently, gained ownership of the park in 2002.

Bird Park has so many great features,  The trails are easy to navigate and there are many toys and playthings for children to use in the “tot lot”.  There are also basketball courts and tennis courts.

The main attraction of the park, though, must be the trees.  There are a variety of trees at the park with the names of their particular species.

I wonder what species of tree this is.

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One particular tree at the park stands out among the rest.  A plaque dedicated to Charles Sumner Jr is located at the base of this majestic tree.

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There are many stunning views at the park.

And, of course, what would Bird Park be without birds?

There are lots of benches to sit on and admire the views.  Some of these benches look pretty old!

In addition to an extensive play area, there is a cute little library in the children’s playground.

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The music court, built in 1931, was designed for performers to use to entertain the community.  There are changing rooms and restrooms (which I’m pretty sure are no longer in use) attached to the stage for performers to make costume changes before or during their performances.

Your dog will love the long trails and spacious field at the park.  The appropriately names Achilles, a 10 year old American Eskimo and Cocker Spaniel mix, didn’t let his injury stop him from roaming the park.

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Ruh roh!  It’s like Scooby, a 5 year old American Pitbull mix.  Zoinks!

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Hidden History – Bewitched Statue (Lappin Park, Salem, MA)

Date Of Visit: Countless times (photo provided was taken Oct. 14, 2018)

Location: Lappin Park, 235 Essex St (corner of Essex and Washington St), Salem, MA

Summary: One of the most popular attractions in Salem, MA was once a divisive topic of debate.  The Bewitched statue in Salem, MA, a seemingly innocuous statue, has a hidden history you may not be aware of.

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When one thinks of the most controversial witch in the history of Salem, the name that comes to mind, or at least used to come to mind, may not be the one you think of.

Dedicated June 15, 2005, the Bewitched statue shows Samantha Stephens (played by Elizabeth Montgomery) riding a broom (did she ever do that on the show?) with a crescent moon behind her (not even a full moon, jeepers).  This statue would prove to be a hotly debated attraction that would create almost as much drama as the trials itself.

While the statue is not exactly hidden, in fact it is one of the most visited attractions in Salem, MA, the history behind the statue may be hidden to many.

Browsing old articles and viewing old videos, which I will attach at the bottom of this post, many people claimed the statue “trivialized” the witch trials.  Some protesters claimed it was a tacky kitschy tribute.  Clearly, they had never  been to Salem before.  In fairness, though, it was mostly Salem residents who protested.  What I did find to be interesting is that some of the stronger supporters of the statue in the videos I watched were witches.  Modern day witches.  But witches nevertheless.  As an aside, there is a store that has been in Salem for some time that does psychic readings.  What’s the name of the store you might ask?  Bewitched In Salem.  So, there already was a connection albeit loosely with the show.

The “kitschy” and trivialization arguments are specious at best.  During the Halloween season, or really all year long, you can go to a “haunted house”, buy a shirt with a tasteless phrase or get your photo taken with a ghost, goblin or, ahem, witch just steps away from the burial ground and memorial to victims of the witch hunt.  It almost seems out of left field to choose this one statue to target as being offensive or a device to promote the trivialization of the witch trials.  Trust me, there’s lots of things to complain about in this regard in the city of Salem.

It almost seems like people wanted something to vent about and it became a convenient target.  As I mentioned above, you can buy tshirts with such phrases as, “I got stoned in Salem.”  Besides being tasteless it is inaccurate (witches were never stoned, at least not as a form of punishment by the city).  This is just one of the many attempts at humor that you will find on any given day in Salem.  It also makes me think of and  even yearn for the “salad days” when a statue in a historic city was our biggest concern.

While I do appreciate that we shouldn’t trivialize the witch trials and it’s important to remember this tragedy, it would also be hypocritical of me to say I am in any way above the fray.  I love to visit Salem, as my posts probably indicate, and I visit every chance I get. Not just during Halloween.  So, this is by no means a “hit job piece” on the city of Salem itself.

I also think, in  weird way, it’s okay to offer some entertainment and distraction from the all too real tragedy.  And, the city does a good job of remembering and honoring the victims.  You could even argue those affected by the witch hunt would rather we celebrate in the city than wallow in the obvious sadness of the history attached it.

There are several misconceptions about the witch trials in Salem which are important to consider when thinking about Salem’s role in the witch trials and peripherally Elizabeth Montgomery and the TV show Bewitched.  For one, most of the witch trial drama occurred outside of Salem’s current city limits (a lot of it occurred it what is now known as Danvers).  There is actually a memorial dedicated to where the witch trials occurred in Danvers, MA.

Another little known fact that I wasn’t aware of either until after I posted this, Bewitched did film some episodes in Salem.  But, Elizabeth Montgomery herself never lived in the area.

Also, as an aside, there really isn’t any correlation in the timeline of events of the witch trials and Halloween chronologically.  While many people visit the memorials to the alleged witches during Halloween, the witch hysteria began when Abigail Williams and Betty Parris experienced fits of convulsions in February, 1692.  By Halloween the hysteria would have been in full swing and many people would have already been accused and even jailed.  It is off putting to think the only connection is that Halloween is considered a scary time, albeit a fake scary time.  The Salem witch trials were a very real scary time, though.  Before I get too far off track, what would drive the city to promote this pseudo holiday?  See paragraph below.

So, why was the statue erected in the city of Salem?  Hmmm, let’s think about this.  If the words “money grab” come to mind pat yourself on the back.  TV Land spent a cool $75,000 to install the 9 foot bronze statue.  While that may seem like a pretty big chunk of change to put down for a statue it was a bargain for their marketing purposes.  Also, some of the money was spent to revitalize and “spruce up” the Lappin Park area where the statue was installed.  “Spruced up” may be in the eye of the beholder.  I think they mowed the lawn.  They also very subtly (cough cough) put their stamp on the property.  This is only one example of how the city profits off the tragedy.

Now, it seems the victor is clear.  You’ll be hard pressed to be able to take a photograph at the statue at least during Halloween season.   Trust me.  I know this first hand.  Kids climb the statue.  Older folks look fondly on the statue as a tribute to their past.  And, perhaps most funny, very young people and tourists can be heard asking “Who is this a statue of?”  You’ll rarely, if ever, see anyone protesting the statue (they protest other things but not the statue).  It seems the city of Salem has indeed become bewitched.

Below is a video that shows some of the controversy  surrounding the statue

 

 

Ames Nowell State Park (Abington, MA)

Date Of Visit: April 7, 2019

Location: 781 Linwood St., Abington, MA (30 minutes south of Boston, MA or 1 hour northeast of Providence, RI)

Hours: Open daily dawn until dusk

Cost: Free

Parking: Free parking  for about 50 or more cars

Trail Size/Difficulty: 700 acres/Easy to moderate

Handicapped Accessible: Yes, the main trails are handicapped accessible

Dog Friendly: Yes

Website: Ames Nowell State Park Website

Trail Map: Ames Nowell Trail Map

Restroom facilities: Yes

Highlights: pond, wildlife, scenic, fishing, running trails, paths for dirt bikes and cycling, picnic tables, ball fields, grills, horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking, cross country skiing and snowshoeing during the winter

Tips:

  • the park was hard to find by GPS – try looking for Presidential Dr and hook up to Linwood that way
  • The trail is not a loop – when you get to the boardwalk on the main trail turn back and backtrack to the beginning of the trail

Summary: Ames Nowell has activities for the entire family.  From the scenic views, fishing spots, pavilions and sporting activities, Ames Nowell has a variety of ways to enjoy the park.  The main trail is handicapped accessible and the park is dog friendly.

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Named after the grandson of Oliver Ames, the 35th governor of Massachusetts (1887-1890), Ames Nowell was purchased during the the Great Depression when the previous land owner could not afford the taxes for the land. It is now a haven for hikers, fishing enthusiasts (bass and pickerel are said to be abundant there) and anyone else who enjoys being out in nature.

Proving that it is indeed a hidden treasure, I had a hard time finding Ames Nowell.  The best way to get there is to punch Presidential Dr in your GPS and follow it on to Linwood Rd.

When you do finally arrive at Ames Nowell, your best bet is to go to the left and follow the trail that way.  That is the path that leads to the major attractions.  I went in both directions (left and right) on the main path and following the trail to the right only led me on a short, very muddy trail.  The trail ends at the residential homes that act as boundaries for the park.  I was able to take a few photos and there are some pretty views.  But, it’s not worth traveling on it unless you’re just looking to add some mileage to your hike.

The jewel of the park is Cleveland Pond.  The trail follows the side of the pond.  Fishing and non motorized boating are allowed at and in the pond.

The trails at Ames Nowell are graded as moderate.  I would consider them more on the easy level, especially if you stay on the main trails.  There are boardwalks, bridges and other man made structures to walk on during your travels.

Of course, I did not stay on the main trails.  That is the best way to capture the beauty of Ames Nowell after all.

There are a wide variety of birds at Ames Nowell.  Hawks, kestrels, cardinals and woodpeckers are just a few of the many types of waterfowl and birds present at the park.

Birds aren’t the only animals you’ll find at Ames Nowell.  Deer, fox, coyotes and other four legged animals are said to roam there.  I didn’t see any of them during my visit.  But, I did see mt first garter snake of the year.

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While the trails are mostly well defined and the website for the park recommends visitors stay on the main trails, I took many of my photographs off the main trail.  In fact, if you take any of the side trails near the end of the trail by the boardwalk you will find yourself in a huge field with paths for dirtbikes and ATVs.  It also where I was able to photograph the kestrel show above in the group of bird photos.  There are also side trails off this open field that have vernal pools.

Ames Nowell is dog friendly and there were many dogs at the park during my visit.  Kea was one of the cute dogs I saw at the park.  Kea, whose name is of Hawaiian origin that means “white”, is a 10 year old Westie.

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For those of you still waiting for spring, I did see a hopeful sign of spring!

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