Friday, September 19, 2014

Walking with Friends

The trails at Norwell's Norris Reservation are wide enough for two people to walk side by side.

While attending a memorial service for a friend in August, it occurred to me how walking together – and the conversation that usually takes place while we’re on foot and side by side – tends to enhance relationships. It might be two friends, or it might be romantic partners, or it might be some other configuration, via family or work. But especially when these walks become a regular happening, when they provide a weekly (or monthly or quarterly . . . ) time to check in with one another, the two people involved not only grow closer to each other, but also gain valuable insight into their own selves.

One of the eulogists for my friend related a story along those lines. She and our mutual friend had gotten to know each other when their children were infants -- new mothers pushing their strollers together around town. In later years, they would meet for walks in the woods, or on the beach, and their “walkies” (spoken in a British accent) became a steady and reliable way to keep in touch, and help one another remain grounded as they navigated the various channels through which their lives led them. I was touched by the story, and – since I too have been fortunate to develop a number of friendships by walking together -- it got me wondering if this is universal theme.

I suspect that it has something to do with one’s mind being dually occupied. Walking requires a certain amount of energy. The conversation often fuels the steps, but at the same time, the steps fuel the conversation. It’s different from sitting and enjoying a cup of coffee together. Perhaps it’s because we’re not looking at each other – instead we’re watching where we are going. There is a sense of freedom – to let the mind wander, to try out new ideas, perhaps saying them aloud for the first time. Some of my most memorable -- and revelatory -- conversations have taken place on foot.

Autumn is probably my favorite time for walking. It’s neither too hot nor too cold. It’s neither muddy nor buggy. And the fields and forests tend to be really pretty – at least around here, as the leaves and grasses turn color and begin to fall.

The list that follows includes some of my favorite places to walk with a friend. These spots feature trails that are – at least some of the time – wide enough for two (conversation can become awkward when there is a leader and a follower). And they are large enough that one can take a decent, hour-long walk without retracing one’s steps. All feature beautiful landscapes as well. Pavement – while often convenient -- has a distinctly different feel from sand or grass or the forest floor.

Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary - Winslow Cemetery Road, Marshfield. Fields, forests, boardwalks through a red maple swamp, plus the Green Harbor River. Managed by Mass Audubon.

Norris Reservation - Dover Street, Norwell. Numerous views of the North River and Second Herring Brook, with both cart paths and woodland trails. Managed by The Trustees of Reservations.

Nelson Memorial Forest/Phillips Farm Preserve - Union Street, Marshfield. Wide logging trails and narrower paths through forest with views of the salt marsh and the North River. Managed by New England Forestry Foundation and Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Massachusetts.

North Hill Marsh, Duxbury – Mayflower Street, Duxbury. Woodlands, wetlands and varying types of trails around bogs and a large, bird-friendly pond. Managed by Mass Audubon.

Willow Brook Farm Preserve – 99 Barker Street, Pembroke. A former farm, now mostly wooded, with boardwalks and also a meadow trail. Managed by and Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Massachusetts.

Luddams Ford/Indian Head River trails - Elm Street, Hanover. Follow the trail along a former railroad bed up one side of the Indian Head River. Take short detours toward the water for spectacular views. Managed by the Town of Hanover.

Whitney and Thayer Woods – Howes Lane, Cohasset. A huge network of cart paths and wooded trails, featuring glacial erratics (huge boulders) and some truly impressive rhododendrons. Managed by The Trustees of Reservations.

World’s End – Martin’s Lane, Hingham. This place has almost everything. Views of the ocean, the marsh, and Boston. Trails through the woods and across fields and along the shore. Wide trails, narrow trails, cart paths. Managed by The Trustees of Reservations.

Humarock/Rexhame Beach – Scituate and Marshfield. Many local beaches, due to geography, tidal restraints, or property lines, don’t permit much of a walk. But whether you enter from Humarock, near Fourth Cliff, or Marshfield, via Rexhame Beach, you will be able to cover a lot of ground.

Green Harbor/Duxbury Beach – Marshfield and Duxbury. High tide will impede your progress from Green Harbor, and without a sticker you will have to park at the inland side of the Powder Point Bridge, but if you time it right, you can walk for miles on what is probably the area’s most beautiful beach.

 
by Kezia Bacon
August 2014 
 
Kezia Bacon's articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. To browse 15 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit http://keziabaconbernstein.blogspot.com

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Climbing Mount Greylock



My parents grew up in Adams, Massachusetts, in the northwest corner of the Berkshires. Adams is noteworthy for its textile mills (now mostly dormant); as the birthplace of suffragist Susan B. Anthony; and for Mount Greylock, which is the tallest mountain in the state. As a child, I enjoyed visiting its summit with my extended family, both by car and on foot.

That was back in the days when my grandparents were alive. During our visits, it seemed I was always discovering new relatives -- a seemingly endless parade of aunts and uncles and third cousins, twice removed. Our visits to Adams have tapered off dramatically now that only a handful of family members still live there.

Abel, my son, has heard about Adams for as long as he can remember – mostly through stories told by his grandparents. But other than a funeral he attended when he was 18 months old, until this summer he had never experienced it. He is now eight, and he was enthusiastic about a Family History tour, so we planned an excursion for a few days in July – my son, my parents, and me.

The idea was to tour the town and point out all the landmarks, to visit Abel’s Great-Great Aunt Florence (aka Cioci Flo), and if the weather permitted, to climb Mount Greylock. We lucked into a warm sunny day that was only moderately muggy. Not bad for mid-July.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has done a great job making Greylock accessible. I found, online, a set of recommended hikes, and was able to compare distance, duration, and level of difficulty to find a trail suitable for an 8-year old, his mother, and his grandparents. (Trail maps are also available at Visitor Centers in Lanesborough and North Adams.) We chose the Cheshire Harbor Trail, which begins in the foothills, and winds its way up the mountain for about three miles before connecting with the Appalachian Trail for the final mile to the summit.

I won’t say it was easy. It was a steady uphill climb over uneven terrain. Since it had poured buckets the night before, there were a lot of wet patches that we had to tiptoe over, or around, to avoid slipping.

But it wasn’t super-difficult either. My son, who wasn’t quite sure he would like this thing called hiking, rose to the challenge. There were moments of boredom for sure (a four-hour uphill hike is asking a lot of a child), but there were rewards. We had been telling Abel about the Appalachian Trail (AT), which runs from Georgia to Maine, and its thru-hikers – the men and women who traverse the entire thing. Halfway up the Greylock section of the AT, we were fortunate to meet a couple of them. “Cocoa,” a Minnesota-based student at Williams College nearby, had been hiking since April with his brother, “Banyan.” After sharing with us some of the highlights (care packages) and low points (norovirus) of their journey, they bestowed upon Abel his own trail name: Dragonslayer. It was inspiring to meet these young men who had been hiking -- day-in, day-out -- for months, and still had quite a journey ahead of them.

We had set out on the trail at 10am, and by 1 o’clock we were eager to get to the top, to have lunch. As tired as we were, we knew we were close when all we could see above us was sky. Before heading into Bascom Lodge, we went up to the Veterans War Memorial Tower, and then over to an observation area, to peer down over Adams from 3,491 feet. We could see Cioci Flo’s house, as well as the homes of several other family members past and present. Then it was time to eat. Food always seems to taste better when you’ve worked hard.

After lunch, and a quick exploration of the lodge, we were ready to head back down. We were hoping it would be a quicker descent – and it was, but only by an hour or so. Those wet spots proved to be even more challenging on the down slope. When we reached the car just before 5 o’clock, seven hours and who knows how many steps after we’d started, we all felt a sense of accomplishment. Abel said he would like to do it again, and also climb other mountains, but “not this summer, okay?”

That evening, after picking up take-out dinner, we lounged in our hiking clothes on the porch of our hotel – boots off, feet bare – relishing our experiences. It had been a very pleasant day, filled with conversation, challenge, new terrain and beautiful scenery – a great way to spend time together.

The mountains here in Massachusetts are not all that tall. But especially for families with beginning hikers, they may pose a suitable challenge. Friends have recommended Sugarloaf (South Deerfield), Norwottuck (South Hadley), Wachusett (Princeton), and Mt. Tom (Easthampton), so perhaps one of those will be next on our itinerary.

 by Kezia Bacon 
July 2014

Kezia Bacon's articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to the preservation, restoration, maintenance and conservation of the North and South Rivers and their watershed. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. To browse 15 years of Nature (Human and Otherwise) columns, visit http://keziabaconbernstein.blogspot.com