Discontinued towns – hiking the Quabbin

In the late 1920’s, approval was given for the formation of a new watershed / reservoir to feed the growing Boston and metro areas.   In central Mass, there used to be 4 towns: Prescott, Enfield, Dana and Greenwich.   They were discontinued in 1936, as part of the formation of the Quabbin reservoir.  Much of Dana is still above water, as well as portions of Prescott (now known as the Prescott peninsula).   However, Enfield and Greenwich are long since underwater…..the effects of damming up the Swift river.   The land surrounding the Quabbin is not accessible to cars (though the towns’ previous streets still exist), and few people seem to wander in deep to the woods for hiking.   As such, it is an absolutely pristine place to wander the woods, accessible by one of 55 gates.   We entered via Gate 36.

Our hike today was guided by a 20yr old copy of “50 Hikes in Massachusetts.”   Portions of our hike were not ‘hiking,’ but instead true bush-whacking through swamp with waist-high brambles, “grabby plants” and hordes of mosquitoes.    I think it’s time to spend a few $$ and buy an updated copy.   Trails that “used to be” no longer are……..and when the GPS shows it’s only 300′ further to where you’re trying to go, its most frustrating to turn around and re-bushwhack what you just plundered.  However, sometimes, you  just can’t go any further forward …. at least while wearing shorts and not carrying a machete!

Our hike today was supposed to be 4 miles, and take about 2.5hrs.   We decided to let James walk as much as he wished, but brought the frame pack along just in case.   In total (with back-tracking impassable trails) we probably walked 5 miles today, and took about 4.5 hours.   Emilie walked the entire time, she’s one incredible girl!

Em and George heading in the first portion from the parking area.

Sometimes Daddy and Emilie got a bit ahead of Mommy and James.   Mommy enjoyed James’ pace, it gave her time to take lots of pictures and not always be “the one running to catch up.”

Within a few minutes, James was at his usual tearing pace, and Mommy was again left behind.

Emilie found a young Leopard frog in the firepit where we stopped to have a quick bite of lunch.

The trails varied greatly, and in some places, the ferns were rather large.

Emilie wasn’t too hungry, so while we ate, she gathered turkey feathers with quite a sheen to them.

James and Daddy enjoying a bite before hitting the major part of the hike.  The camp sites were lovely, and one was occupied, complete with dart board hanging from a tree!

We finally enter the actual Quabbin reservoir land, via Gate 36.

James was very excited to see all the evidence of woodpeckers, especially as we have one who likes to peck on our house (yes, it’s loud!).  He’s most intrigued by them.

Many critter houses were explored, though no one ever seemed to be home!

I was surprised to see a surviving “Indian Peace pipe” plant, these are usually long gone by this time of year.

As we head further in, the trail narrows a good bit.

Fall is coming!

The entire hike was lined with beautiful wild flowers:

Even on the stone  “beach,” there were flowers!

Also found some berries that were just turning ripe

While James was busy exploring holes in trees (and yelling into them)………..

Emilie was turning over logs and stones, looking for “cool things.”   She found this catepillar-snail-thing.  🙂

We finally made it down to the beaver pond, though none were to be seen (or heard).

One must cross over the beaver’s dam in order to continue upon the trail (yes, this is in the book!).

George and James contemplating the beaver dam crossing.

Then, the first round of bushwhacking commenced.   Em IS on the trail, she’s trying to slide sideways through the reeds.

We finally came out to more views of the pristine pond,  an absolutely lovely place!

James saw a “pinecone” about which he was very excited!

We went down a wrong path,

and walked through this spider’s web (oops!)

(yes, it was a BIG spider!)

But it turned out to be worth it because we saw this really cool tree!

Finally back on track, water is in sight, we’ve found the Quabbin!  James was shouting for all he was worth “WATER!  I see water!”  (Lately, this is one of his fascinations when we drive anywhere…..seeing water)

We cut through a minor bit of forest from the paved, abandoned, road that we had come out to, in order to access the shores.   The kids had a great time throwing rocks in the water, James trying to throw the largest ones he could lift.

We left the lake’s edge, and headed off to find the “end of the road.”  This paved road is original to the discontinued towns, and a reminder of those who used to live here.   The kids found great joy in walking backwards….Emilie started, and of course James had to follow.

Many gorgeous stands of birch along the way.

Em found a lady bug, the shiniest one I think I’ve ever seen.

And finally we found it………the end of the road.  Where literally, the paved road just heads off into the lake.  I can not even fathom the backlash if such a project were proposed today.

As if to confirm the point………follow the stone wall with your eyes into the picture, and then notice that it turns to the left and runs underwater.   Someone’s former fields.

James wandered off into that soft mush mud and promptly fell on his butt.  He was NOT happy to be wearing mud shorts, so we scooped him up and put him in the pack for the first time.    At that point, we decided to turn back.   As we back-tracked on the paved road, we were able to find a cellar hole from a previous resident, and their deeeeeeep well.

Not only did we see flora, but we also saw fauna.   This first one is for Grandma Nancy! 🙂

Sometimes we were not the observers, but the observed.

I wish that I had shot a few pictures of the “trail that wasn’t.”   But it was so awful, I just didn’t even think of it.   The book headed us down a former grassy road.   The problem became obvious at the far end of it, where we were to emerge back near the beaver dam.   I think that in the 20+ years since this was written, the trail has disappeared into swamp, due to the beaver activity (and expansion).

As we headed home along Rte122, this gorgeous view of the Ware river appeared in Barre.   The reflection of the pines in the river and the absolute stillness of the water were just stunning to behold.  These pictures don’t do it justice!

It was a wonderful day to be out in the woods, and we greatly enjoyed our hike.   Looking forward to another one next weekend hopefully!



An evening in the backyard

Just felt like grabbing an old manual focus lens (Nikon’s 35mm, f/1.4, mine is roughly 28yrs old, by its serial number) and wandering the backyard.   Most of these are shot at f/1.4, thus the very limited depth of field.

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Hiking Wachusett aka the “*I* do it!!!” hike

Being a gorgeous day today with lovely dry air, we headed west to the town of Princeton and hiked up to the summit of Mt Wachusett.   The summit is 2006 feet, and our ascent was 1.4 miles, rising 750 feet.   For the trip up, James rode on my back in the Kelty backpack.   I suspect the days of him riding are soon coming to an end.   We decided we’d let him try hiking down, and created a monster in doing so.  He will absolutely NOT accept any help, even if it means tumbling down rocks, over tree roots and being laid out many times.  Slow is not in James’ vocabulary.    There was one section where the Jack Frost trail joins the High Meadow trail where footing is precipitous, and the trail barely a body-width.   James was carried, under great protest.  My sincere apologies to those of Central MA who must surely have heard all his exclamations this afternoon!

This is the trail map.  We went up the red line (Harrington trail) and down via the yellow line (Mtn House, Jack Frost, High Meadow and Echo lake trails).

Trail map

At the start, we headed up a long hill to the Princeton Light & Water company’s new windfarm, updated in May of 2010.   Later, we’ll see these windmills again from an overlook, and get a perspective of how far we’d hiked.   This one was spinning nicely, wish I’d used a slow shutter speed to show it.


Heading up the Harrington trail, footing is pretty decent.   This leads into a wetter area where the bugs significantly increased, though no mosquitos.

Harrington trail

And yeah, I’m not kidding.  It’s starting already.  Things are so incredibly dry!!  We saw many trees already starting to turn along the roads.  Hopefully a good season for color!

Early color

Things start heading uphill, and footing gets more interesting, especially when wearing 34lbs of wiggly James.  Every time we saw a set of markers, he would excitedly yell in my ear “Another one!!!!!!!”   🙂

Heading to the steeps

Em and George (and yes, that’s the trail just below them)

Em and George

Gymnastics has it’s advantages, and Em scrambled up the mountain like a mountain goat born to do so!

Emilie the mountain goat

The view from an overlook (no, not the summit) , showing us just how far we’d come.   The car is parked just down at the base of the hill below those windmills.   This was about an hour into our hike.   Only  10 more minutes to the summit!

View from an overlook

We got to the summit in an hour and 10 minutes (trail is prescribed as 1:30), not bad with 2 kids along.   After walking and looking around (and being able to see Boston!), we sat down and had lunch in the shade of a tree.   The kids greatly enjoyed the fish pond, loaded with hundreds of goldfish (they looked too small to be koi).

After lunch, we started our descent and decided to give James his legs and see how he did.   We created a monster!  He wanted to go as fast as possible, and had no respect for rocks, tree roots or large boulders.   Any time assistance was offered, he’d indignantly refuse, loudly stating ” I do it!!!”    Every time he fell, he’d quickly pick himself up, quickly assure us  “I’m fine!” and then be off again.   There were sections of the trail where such behavior simply wasn’t safe, and he protested VERY loudly when he had to be put back in the pack for about 5 minutes.

Off goes James!

I'm free!

George withdrawing an offer of help which was refused with great indignity!  James wanted to jump/run off of every rock.

No help Daddy!

A really cool bright orange and yellow shelf fungus that we passed.

Orange shelf fungus

The boy who loved to find trail markers!

Another one!!

In the final stretch, jockying for who is first.

The crew

The terrain changed frequently with elevation, ranging from rocky & rooted to smooth and peaceful, like this hemlock forest.

Hemlock forest

James??  No, he’s not with us, he’s on his own course.

Where IS James going??

Just about done!

Coming through the wall

At the end, we found the pond FULL of frogs!  Never having hiked here this late in the season, we never knew how plentiful they were.   We easily saw 20, if not 30!  This was very exciting to both kids, and Emilie was particularly amazed at how they swim.

Frogs in the pond

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And so life goes……..

Just a quick update, as I’ve been gone for a bit.   On Thursday, July 15, 2010, Bort died.  He was 14 years, 3.5 months.  He gave us many wonderful years, and we’re happy he was part of Dr. Waters’ Longevity study.  Hopefully much will be learned from these excessively long-lived dogs.

Emilie with Banja (on table) and Bort (on ground)

Shortly following Bort’s death was the death of our ~15yr old Siamese cat, Sammie.   She was in complete renal failure, so the course of action was obvious.   While Bort now rests on the “shelf of dead dogs” next to Froli, Sammie is out in the front yard under some lovely flowers.  The kids helped us bury her.

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A morning at the lake

Had a grand time this morning over at the lake.  Got the battery charged for the underwater P&S and enjoyed taking pictures of George and the kids.

Em, loving her new goggles.

The fish who come to visit you, and sometimes see if you taste good!

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Em lost her first tooth!

After a refreshing morning of swimming this morning at Lake Winthrop, we returned home for lunch.  I went up to change out of my wet suit, and when I returned downstairs, there was Em, tooth in a baggie, and big smile on her face.   Her first tooth came out! 🙂   So of course, here’s the obligatory picture.

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Broadmoor Audubon sanctuary

We had a lovely morning today over at the Broadmoor sanctuary in Natick.   I decided to go ‘lite,’ and not haul the big camera and the heavy lenses.  Instead, I brought along the 6yr old Nikon D70……..and for a ‘dinosaur’ as digital cameras go, it does quite fine.

Emilie planning our route.

James leads the way

We saw turtles, covered in duckweed (next to the really tall weed near James)

Looking for frogs

James: fascinated by water

Lots of gorgeous lillies

This way James!!

Still looking for frogs, we can hear them, they’re REALLY loud!

Found one!!!!!!!!!!

We also saw dragonflies and raspberries, much to the kids’ delight.

The kids are already looking forward to our next visit, hopefully with Daddy next time. 🙂

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Shot from above

The usual photographic rule of shooting kids (or animals) is to get down to their level.   The Family Photojournalist blog had an assignment:  shoot down on your kids!   The idea was to get elevated above the action, and then shoot down, wide angle, and show the whole story.

We made two attempts.  The first was this afternoon, but the light was harsh, and even in the shade, the dappling was really distracting once the photo went over to B&W.   I was perched atop a step-ladder, the kids were trying to stand on soccer balls (this was great fun!).

Our second attempt was later this evening after dinner.  I stood on the slide, camera in tripod, and held tripod by it’s feet……basically making it into a boom arm.  I have a wireless remote trigger that was held in one hand, so that both hands could be holding the <heavy!!!> tripod/camera contraption.   Em had just dropped the remains of an ice cream cone, much to Vikka’s delight.

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Father’s Day 2010

Marlborough has a Hot Rod show put on by a local Masonic lodge, so we made the trek over today.  Extremely steamy, but a good morning, none the less.   The cars line Main street and one can just amble through.

Enjoying hot dogs and ice cream

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June 16 – Strawberry picking

We went over to Sunshine Dairy in Framingham, now known as Sunshire Farm b/c there is no more dairy (or on-site ice cream making), and had a blast picking strawberries.   James was litereally red-handed from squeezing and eating just about every strawberry he picked.  What a day he had!

Who me? NO, no strawberries in MY mouth!

I finds……….

I eats!!!!!!!!!!

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