Parsons Marsh Reserve (Lenox, MA)

Date Of Visit: March 21, 2020

Location: 170 Under Mountain Rd, Lenox, MA (1 hour northwest of Springfield, MA, 2 hours west of Boston, MA, 1 hr and 15 mins northwest of Hartford, CT)

Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset

Cost: Free

Parking: There is room for about a dozen cars in the parking lot

Universally Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes

Trail Distance: .75 miles, 435 acres of wetland

Trail Difficulty: Easy with gentle inclines

Highlights: scenic, wildlife, easy paths, benches, observation platform

Summary: A .60 mile universally accessible boardwalk (both ways) leads to a scenic overlook of the pet friendly Parsons Marsh Reserve.  Along the boardwalk are a variety of trees, plants and wildlife.

Website:    Parsons Marsh Reserve

Trail Map: Parsons Marsh Reserve Trail Map

Established in 2018, Parsons Marsh Reserve is one of the newer hidden gems of New England.  Home to a variety of species and plant life, Parsons Marsh Reserve is the perfect place for a family day or just a walk by yourself.

The reserve is named after John E. Parsons, a New York City attorney and philanthropist who purchased land in 1875 on the west side of Under Mountain Road.  Parsons would go on to build a Gilded Age house and outbuildings along the road. The original house was razed but the barn still stands as part of nearby Stonover Farm (presently a bed and breakfast farther along the road).  But, his memory lives on at the reserve.

As you approach the main entrance and walk along the dirt path, there are antique farm machines and a pond with a very creaky and somewhat shaky board to walk out on.  I did try my luck and it is indeed safe to walk out on.  But it is also not for the feint of heart.   A bench is located in front of the lake for people sit and reflect (within a safe distance of each other of course).  There is also a shed set aside from the pond.  Nothing too interesting was in there.  Just a pair of oars were resting against the wall of the structure.

As you walk along the trail to the pond, you may  notice a work in progress pollinator habitat being built by the Lenox Garden Club and Berkshire Natural Resources Council.  All of the materials being used for the habitat are biodegradable and chemicals are being used for the habitat.  I look forward to seeing it when it is complete.

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The one third of a mile boardwalk along the marsh is an stroll, albeit a bit narrow given these “social distancing times.”  It is also universally accessible.

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The trail, 1,800 feet long, has an 800-foot boardwalk including three bridges. Along the boardwalk there are a variety of plants and trees.  Many of the roots of the trees along the marsh are exposed as a result of the marsh water level dropping.

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There are also large rock outcrops which are the remnants of glaciers from some 20,000 years ago.  But, the highlight of the reserve has to be the outlook platform at the end of the boardwalk.  The outlook offers sweeping views of an open meadow pond at the end of the marsh.

It being early Spring, there was a lot of chirping, screeching and plopping at the reserve (and then there was the wildlife).  But, seriously, there were definite signs of spring evident during my visit.  But, there was no visible activity in the water, save for a few black ducks in the far distance and the birds were elusive.  I do think in a future visit on a warmer day, earlier in the morning I will have better luck finding signs of life there.

Preliminary plans are in the works to create trails that would extend to nearby Kennedy Park in Lenox and parts of Pittsfield.

 

Norris Reservation (Norwell, MA)

 

 

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Date Of Visit: September 15, 2019

Location: Norris Reservation, 10 Dover St, Norwell, MA

Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset

Cost: Free

Trail Size/Difficulty: 2.3 miles (129 acres)/easy

Parking: There is room in the parking lot for about a dozen cars and several universally accessible spaces.  Since the parking lot fills up quickly, especially during the warmer seasons, parking is allowed on the side of the road in front of and next to the lot.  You may find parking in the parking lot across the street (although I never told you that)

Universally Accessible: Yes (there are some boardwalks and even trails, although some of the trails may be challenging as they are rocky and there are some gentle inclines)

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: boat house, pond, boardwalks, fishing,scenic views, wildlife

Summary: Once the site of a mill (an unmarked stone along the trail appears to indicate where the mill may have been located), Norris Reservation has pretty views of the North River.  An old boat house, which doesn’t seem to be in use any longer, offers scenic views and a nice place to rest during hot summer days.

Website: Norris Reservation

Trail Map: Norris Reservation Trail Map

Named after Eleanor Norris and her husband Albert (who she gifted the land in honor in the wake of his passing in 1970), Norris Reservation was once part of the thriving shipbuilding industry.  While the ship building companies have long since left, the reservation and some of the buildings still remain.

One of the most prominent reminders of the shipping industry, mills and boating that took place at the reservation are the boathouse (aka “boat hut”) near the end of the trail and the mill stone placed at the beginning of the trail.

 

From the deck of the boathouse, there are some great views.

 

The trails at Norris Reservation are easy.  A boardwalk passes over wetlands that encircle Gordon’s Pond.

 

Since it had rained earlier that morning and, due to the warming temperature, there was a slight mist at the reservation.

 

There was also some very pretty light and shadows visible at the reservation as the sun began to shine through the cloud cover.  While I was driving to the reservation, I had noticed the golden colors, despite the fact it was a bit past the actual “golden hour.”  Luckily, the colors and rays of light were still present when I arrived.

 

Near the mid-point of the trail, where it curves, there is a nice view of the North River.

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While I didn’t observe some of the animals known to inhabit the reservation (such as beavers, water snakes, turtles), I did see a duck, frog and this cute chipmunk who seemed to be looking out for predators.

 

There was also some natural work of art at the reservation.  These spider webs were visible on the boardwalk.

 

Fishing is also allowed at the reservation.  One of the visitors there told me trout is a common type of fish there.

Norris Reservation is a dog friendly park.  Scout, a 2 year old Golden Doodle, was taking in the seasonably crisp pre-autumn weather with his dad.

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Since I don’t usually find light like this during my visits, even during the golden hour, I would mention some basic tips about lighting.  While, I am not expert and there are many videos on YouTube that offer advanced tips on this, I thought I would mention some things I noticed while I took my photos.

The first “duh” thing may be to make sure your not shooting directly at the sun and to hide behind a tree or other obstruction, so the light doesn’t give you any flare or sun spots.  Also, what you photograph isn’t what you saw when you were shooting, even if you do use the best settings.  I kept the ISO at 100 (and I wouldn’t recommend increasing it too much since you want to show the contrast between the ray of light and the darkness and shadows).  I also kept my aperture open (with an f stop between 3.5 and 4.5) and a slower shutter speed (between 1/15 and 1/60 sec).

You can always make adjustments in post production.  But, I only used minimal editing (such as cropping and adding very little exposure and contrast) because I want to “get it right in the camera” and show what I saw as I saw it.  This is particularly true with any photo that includes light, be it sunsets, sunrises or when the light is shining through the clouds or trees.

Attached is a very helpful video about how to shoot natural light in nature

The Nature Trail And Cranberry Bog (Foxboro, MA)

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Date Of Visit: May 18, 2019

Location: Patriot Place, behind Bass Pro Shops, 1 Bass Pro Dr, Foxborough, MA

Parking: there is parking available in front of Bass Pro Shop and additional parking usually reserved for visitors to the New England Patriot games across from the shop

Cost: Free

Hours: Open daily sunrise to sunset

Trail size/difficulty: .6 miles, easy

Universally Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: scenic views, wildlife, easy trails

When one thinks of Patriot Place a cranberry bog and nature walk are probably not the first things that come to mind.  Yet, nestled right behind Bass Pro Shops at Patriot Place is a hidden trail with an array of wildlife and pretty views.

The trail, which can be easy to miss, is located right behind Bass Pro Shop at the end of the Patriot Place Plaza. But, before you begin the trail, there is a sitting area with a bench to rest on.

The .6 miles is an easy trail that has a pair of boardwalks and  dirt trails.

The boardwalk offers a great place to view birds and turtles.

But turtles aren’t the only aquatic critters at the trail.  I noticed a few snakes (Northern Water snakes) along the trail.  I thought it was funny this snake was on the side of the trail, yet nobody noticed as they walked along the trail.  While Northern Water Snakes are not venomous, they do have quite a nasty bite.  Fortunately, I do not speak from experience.  But I have read they can be dangerous if provoked.  They”re cute as a button though!

I also saw this animal there.  But, he or she didn’t move much, though.

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Leashed dogs are welcome to the trail.  Kobe, a 9 month old King Charles Cavalier, enjoyed the trail while I was visiting.

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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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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.

Bare Cove Park (Hingham, MA)

Date Of Visit: March 30, 2019

Location: Bare Cove Drive, Hingham, MA

Cost: Free

Hours: Daily, sunrise to sunset

Parking: There are 2 parking lots.  The larger parking lot located at Bare Cove Drive has room for about 100 cars.  There is also a smaller parking lot off Beal St

Trail Size/Difficulty: 484 acres, easy

Handicapped Accessible: Yes, there are paved trails but the side trails may not be accessible to all

Dog Friendly: Yes (see website for rules for taking dogs to the park)

Highlights: wildlife, birds, nature, lake, easy trails, cycling, running, scenic, museum

Website: Bare Cove Park

Map of Park: Bare Cove Park Map

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Once the site of a ammunition depot, Bare Cove Park is now a 484 acre park full of wildlife, scenic views and trails for running, cycling or just walking.

There is a variety of birds and other wildlife at the park.  Foxes, coyotes and even deer have been reportedly seen at the park.  So, do keep this in mind if you do bring your dog.  I didn’t see any aforementioned animals at the park.  But, I did see a diverse group of birds there.

Granted, I did have to go off the beaten paths to view some of these birds, particularly the hawks and kestrel.  But, you should see lots of cardinals, blue jays, sparrows and other smaller birds in your travels, even on the main trails.

The main trails are paved and wise in most parts.  So there is lots of room for cyclists, runners and people walking with their dogs.

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One of the many great things about Bare Cove is that it is beautiful all year.  You might think that it wouldn’t be very pretty during the early spring time.  You’d be wrong!  But, seriously, the natural colors and the trees are majestic.  Even the multi colored ones. Alt If you are looking to see plants and flowers and other colorful views I do recommend visiting in the mid to late spring, summer or, of course, fall.

One of the hidden historical aspects of the park is its military past.  The area was used to produce and distribute munitions and other military devices. Until 1971, military goods were produced here.

In an effort to commemorate the service of the people who worked at these depots, there is a small museum with exhibits, photos, military tools and other gadgets that were made at the depot.

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There is also a viewing area to watch videos and DVDs about the history of the depot and how Weymouth and Hingham, MA contributed to the war effort.

There are two monuments outside of the museum.

One of the monuments is dedicated to all of the workers who helped the war efforts.

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The next memorial is dedicated to the workers who lost their lives when a ship they were unloading, the USS FY 415, exploded and sank on May 11, 1944, when signal rockets caught fire.

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Another interesting part of the area near the museum is that the posts which the bots tied onto when they originally unloaded their munitions at the depot are located in front of the museum.

There is also a fire museum nearby.  During my visit, a fire truck from the museum was on display at the park.

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But, the hidden history doesn’t end there.  A sign posted on Bare Cove Path indicates that an Almshouse (called “Town Farm”) used to be there.

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In short, almshouses were a place for the indigent or those who could not care for themselves.  To find out more about Almshouse, you can refer to my previous blog post about Almshouses.

With its winding trails and access to water, Bare Cove Park is a great place to take your dog.

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Kevin, a 2 year old Boston Terrier, posed for me during his walk around the park.

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Cooper, a 9 year old Golden Retriever, played fetch in the water during his visit.

 

North River Wildlife Sanctuary (Marshfield, MA)

Dates Of Visits: March 16 & 17, 2019

Location: 200 Main St., Marshfield, MA

Hours: Open daily dawn til dusk (office is open Mon-Fri, 9:00-4:00)

Cost: Free for members, Nonmembers: $4 Adults, $3 Seniors (65+), $3 Children (2-12)

Parking: There is free parking for about 30 to 40 cars

Trail Size/Difficulty: 225 acres, 5 miles of trails (universally accessible: 0.5-mile loop)/ Easy.  See website for additional information.

Handicapped Accessible: The Fern Sensory Trail is universally accessible.  But the other trails are not handicapped accessible.

Dog Friendly: No, MASS Audubon trails are not dog friendly

Website: North River Wildlife Sanctuary

Map: North River Wildlife Sanctuary Trail Map

Highlights: wildlife, wide variety of birds, observation deck, sensory trail

Summary: Easy trails, a variety of wildlife and birds (with one special bird), boardwalks and an observation deck are just some of the features of this park

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It’s not everyday that you see an eagle.  At least not in the suburbs of Massachusetts.  But, that’s exactly what happened during a visit to one of the hidden New England treasures in Marshfield, MA.

In trurgh, Marshfield is home to a lot of different wildlife.  You may find beavers in some of the rivers and ponds.  There are coyotes, wolves and deer in the area.  But, eagles are a different matter.

While I was walking along the River Loop Trail, a .5 miles trail that loops around the field across Summer St, I noticed a very large bird soaring above the treetops.  I froze at first, not believing what I had seen.  A Bald Eagle, not a common bird in these parts, was indeed flying above me. It’s unusual to see birds like this in Marshfield.  Later during my visit, one of the workers at the Audubon informed me that an eagle had a nest in that area.

There are a variety of other birds at the sanctuary such as cardinals, blue jays, red winged blackbirds and chickadees.

I have to make a confession though.  I sort of cheated.  There are bird feeders located in front of the office which made it easier to photograph some of these birds.  But, I was able to photograph a lot of the birds on the trails.

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The trails are fairly easy to negotiate.  In fact, the only issue I had walking on them had more to do with the time of the year I visited.  The temperatures had risen melting much of the snow which created mud puddles, then froze over making it it a little icy.  But, this should not be an issue now.

The first trail at the sanctuary is the Sensory Trail.  There are educational exhibits along the trail such as a display that shows examples of needles and bark.  Visitors can touch the display and see the difference between the two materials.  There is an exhibit that shows the lifecycle of a butterfly along the trail.  The sanctuary also has solar panels which they use for energy.  There are boardwalks along the trail as the area is rather marshy.  Unfortunately, I could not access all of the trails on the Sensory Trail due to the flooded and muddy nature of the trail.

There is one tricky part to accessing the other trails at North River Wildlife Sanctuary.  To access the observation deck and the other trails that lead up to it, you must first cross Summer St (see attached link to the ap of the sanctuary for more details).  It can be a busy road depending on when you visit.  Do use caution while crossing the street.

Once you cross Summer Street, you will see a field with a nesting area, which I don’t usually see birds using, and a trail that loops around the area.  You can also view the aptly named North River from the top of the area.

If you’re lucky, you may see a few chipmunks and red squirrels along the Red Maple Loop which is accessible off the main trail (the River Loop trail).

The most popular attraction (besides the eagles) is the observation deck off the again aptly named North River View trail.  The observation deck offers pretty views of the North River and the surrounding Marshfield neighborhood.

As I was leaving the sanctuary I did see one hopeful sign.  Spring is indeed springing!

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Similar Places I Have Visited:

Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary (Marshfield, MA)

Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary (Topsfield, MA)