Winter Island (Salem, MA)

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Date Of Visit: February 2, 2019

Location: 50 Winter Island Rd, Salem, MA

Hours: Open daily sunrise to sunset

Cost: Free

Parking: There is a parking area for about 20 to 30 cars at the park as well as street parking for about 2 dozen cars on Derby St before you arrive at Winter Island Rd

Handicapped Accessible: Yes.  However, some trails may be too steep

Dog Friendly: Yes

Size: 45 acres

Highlights: lighthouse, scenic views, military historical attraction, beach, easy trails, boat storage and launch areas, camping sites

Summary: Once the site of a fish drying and ship building location by the early settlers, Winter Island is now a haven for beach goers and boating enthusiasts.  Winter Island has easy trails with scenic views.  The most popular highlight of the park is Pickering Light which is located along the rocky shore.

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Ask anyone about Salem, MA, and you’re sure to hear about the House Of The Seven Gables, the Salem Witch Museum or one of the other historical museums, homes and shops that dot the city.  But, the best part of Salem may be miles (or more precisely a mile and a half) away from the historic downtown area.

Winter Island has a rich history as a shipbuilding area (a facility is still located there for this purpose) and as a defensive point for colonial and American forces during Queen Anne’s War and the American Revolutionary War.  It would continue to act in this capacity throughout the 19th century.  The area is also used to dry dock boats in the off season.  The area is used for people to camp in the RVs in the warmer seasons.  So the land is used year round.

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The lighthouse at Winter Island, Fort Pickering Light (aka Winter Island Light), was built to warn and protect sailors from the rocky coast.  Built in 1871, Pickering Light stands 28 feet above sea level,  It is built of iron lined with brick.  There used to be a bridge that connected the lighthouse to land.  I wish they had that there now!  Instead I had to walk down some rocks to get some photos up close.  The rocks can be slippery, especially this time of the year as it can be icy on the colder days.

There are also some military fortifications on display at the park.

From left to top left to bottom, Winter Island is a bunker installation and some markers in memory of those who were lost during war or other conflicts.

There is also a short trail that loops around park and offers some pretty views of the harbor.  Like most places, the best times to visit are during sunrise or sunset (or just before each time of day).  But, it is especially true here.  The orange, gold and blues help to accentuate the beauty of the park.  I spent quite a while at the park to ensure I could capture a few shots just before sunrise.  You gotta love those “golden hours.”

Don’t let the warm colors of the sunset fool you.  What looks like chunks of ice in these photos is actually ice on top of the lobster traps in the water.

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There are lots of ducks, seagulls and other birds at Winter Island.

There also seems to be a lot of reconstruction at the park.  This building looked like it was being gutted and perhaps renovated for future use.

A hidden gen within this hidden gem is Waikiki Beach.  The first sign you’ll see after you arrive at the entrance to the park is probably going to be the sign to Waikiki Beach.  While it may not compare to the beach in Hawaii that shares its name, it is a second close.

In the colder seasons you may find people skating or practicing hockey on the pond.

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The beach is usually packed with sun seekers and beach lovers during the warmer months, it is also a popular place for people to go and play with your dogs during the winter months.

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Rigby is a 5 year old mixed breed dog. His mom told me he had fun playing with Oliver at Waikiki Beach.  I have photographed Oliver in the past.  As his Instagram profile states he is a “good boy.”  You can find him here on Instagram or at oliverbestdog.

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Similar places I have visited:
(Hidden) Things to do in the area:

 

Fort Revere (Hull, MA)

Date Of Visit: January 12, 2019

Location: Fort Revere, Telegraph Hill, 60 Farina Rd, Hull, MA

Hours: Open daily from dawn until dusk

Cost: Free

Parking: There is room for about 10-15 cars in the parking lot

Handicapped Accessible: The fort is not handicapped accessible but there are views that can be enjoyed from the hill at the parking lot

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: scenic, historical, picnic areas, barbecue grills

Summary: The former site of American fortification during the American Revolution, Fort Revere has also scenic views and picnic areas.

Websites: Fort Revere

Mass.gov Fort Revere Website

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As most people about Hull, Mass, and they will undoubtedly reference Nantasket Beach, the old Paragon Park and maybe even the Red Parrot.

But, the most beautiful part of Hull may be hidden up an otherwise unremarkable side road. In fact, you may easily drive by Farina Rd if you are not already aware of the beauty that sits atop the road.

For Revere offers some of the most beautiful views this side of Boston.

The views of Boston Harbor from Fort Revere are nothing less than breath taking. Boston Light is visible in the foreground and Graves Light stands behind it in the distance.

Once used as a American military installation during the American Revolution and later used as the site of a storehouse, Fort Revere is a truly hidden historical treasure. Although it is a shame it is used more for graffiti and other unproductive activities.

The steps at the fort are in disrepair. So be careful if you do visit.

On July 14, 1976 (Bastille Day) Fort Revere dedicated a memorial that commemorates the French forces who served and died at the fort in the American Revolution.

The memorials are written in English and French.

The graves from some of the people who served there still remain below the fort. You may notice rocks left on some of the tombstones.

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The bridge on to Spinnaker Hill Lane leads to Hog Island and there are pretty views of the coast of Hull.

There is also a tower that is no longer in use at Fort Revere.

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Fort Revere is a dog friendly attraction. These two Cocopoos (a Cocker Spaniel and Poodle mixed breed) named Sajac, the brown 10 year old dog in front, and Deacon, the white 1 year old dog in back, enjoyed walking around the fort.

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Bear Hole Reservoir Trail (West Springfield, MA)

Dates Of Visits: December 26 & 27, 2018

Locations: Bear Hole Rd, West Springfield, MA and 175 Bridle Path Rd, West Springfield, MA

Hours: Open daily, dawn until dusk

Cost: Free

Parking: There is a parking area at the end of Bear Hole Rd for about 20 cars

Trail Size/Difficulty: 1,700 acres, 2.6 mile gravel and dirt loop, easy with a few average inclines

Handicapped Accessible: No, some of the trails are rocky, unpaved and steep

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: vernal pools, waterfall, running, hiking, cycling, dog friendly (leashed), waterfall, wildlife, scenic views

Map: Bear Hole Reservation Trail Map (myhikes.com)

Websites: Bear Hole Reservoir Trail (alltrails.com)

Bear Hole Reservior Trail (myhikes.com)

Nestled at the end of what may seem like any other side street off Dewey St in West Springfield, MA, Bear Hole Reservoir Trail is truly a hidden gem.  If not for a relative who clued me into this hidden treasure, I may not have known it existed.  In fact, the first time I drove to the reservoir, I wasn’t quite sure I was going the correct way.  I’m sure many people drive by the main road that leads to the reservoir without realizing it.

Once thought to be the home of the Woronocos, a sub-group of the
Pocumtucks, Bear Hole Reservoir Trail has many natural wonders.Bear Hole Reservoir, which was built in 1956, was meant to deliver drinking water to the residents of West Springfield.  However, according to a 2012 report states the Bear Hole Reservoir and Treatment Facility has been inactive since 2011 although the West Springfield Works Department do still monitor the water supply.  Reports of seepage, poor construction and spalling concrete are a few of the reasons the reservoir is not in use for the town’s water supply.  However, it seems like it could be used as a water supply if there were drought like conditions or the main source of water was compromised.

The first attraction at you will probably see at Bear Hole is the waterfall and stream that leads to the head of the reservoir.

A variety of wildlife, such as deer, bears and even the occasional beaver have been reported and photographed at Bear Hole.

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I found this beaver chewing on a piece of vegetation when I went off the main trail.  There is a worn trail off the main trail by the waterfall, which is part of the Paucatuck Brook, where you can walk closer to the stream of water.  Although I didn’t see any deer, I did find evidence of them.

The head of the reservoir, which was partially frozen due to the cold temperatures, and the views along the way are a sight worth seeing.  The short hike is definitely worth it.

The tree-lined dirt trail is easy.  The only steep part is the incline from the front part of the reservoir onto the second part of the loop.  It may be better for some people to backtrack from the way you came as this trail is easier.  But, it will be longer than taking the loop back.

There are lots of pretty views along the trails, especially this time of the year with the icy vernal ponds.  I suppose that’s kind of ironic to type that.  But, I have gained a deeper appreciation over time for the skeletal tree structures and the icy bodies of water.  Bear Hole is proof that beauty does not only exist during the warmer seasons.

Leashed pets, and maybe some well behaved dogs off leash, are allowed at Bear Hole.  One of the dogs I saw on the trail is Roxie, a 3 year old Basenji (Africa’s “barkless dog”).

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I look forward to bringing more of Hidden New England to you.  If you would like to learn more about the hidden gems of New England, please take a moment to check out my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/hiddennewengland/ and like or follow me there.  I plan on posting links and other information on my Facebook page that may not be included in my blog posts.