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.

 

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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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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