Category Archives: Outdoors

The Mole Sisters and the Big Rocks

Catherine and Esme and I enjoyed some time in the woods of Manchester-by-the-HyphenSea today. We hiked the loop at Agassiz Rock, visiting both Big and Little Rocks. The hike was almost too strenuous for Catherine but she was a trooper and didn’t give up. Not even on the steep spots with slippery pine needles and leaves underfoot!

It was a beautiful day and the forest was ripe for exploring. Esme, as is her wont, tried to eat everything she got her hands on; pine needles, acorns, stones, a stick, leaves… It was an amazingly tactile learning experience for her. And a test of speed and agility for me as I swooped in to prevent consumption of above items.

Catherine had the chance to practice her map reading and trail marker following skills. She also dammed up a little stream, walked the balance beam on a fallen tree, and balanced some little rocks. As we hiked she joined me in a rousing chorus of “She’ll be Coming Around the Mountain When She Comes” (thanks to Jason for teaching it to her!) And as a nod to the Mole Sisters she went BoingaBoinga on a piece of moss.

If you’ve never been to Agassiz Rock and you’re in the area you should definitely check it out. And let us know if you’re headed there, we’d love to tag along! All our photos from today are in our gallery. Here are a couple more to whet your whistle:

Earth Day, 2009

This Earth Day started out sunny and warm. With the threat of rain later in the day knew we should enjoy the weather while we could. Catherine, Esme and I went out to the store and purchased a flat of marigolds, three basil seedlings and a handful of other veggie and herb seed packets.

Before heading home we hit the playground for some climbing and the Danversport boat launch for a picnic lunch. So far the sun stayed with us.

Once home, and once Esme was sound asleep, Catherine and I set to work planting the flowers. Catherine did a lion’s share of the weeding, digging and planting. She also rounded up a large number of worms and transported them to the compost bin. I think I’ll call her the Worm Whisperer from now on!

The sun has since retreated behind clouds and it seems rain is imminent. Catherine was a bit upset that we couldn’t plant the seeds in the garden today, so we went in and planted them in some sixpack containers. Hopefully they’ll sprout soon and we can transplant them out into the garden.

Here’s some photos of our flower planting adventures!

Modern Archaeology

I was bushwacking and cutting some brush on the far side of our driveway today. As I kicked around some branches on the ground I dislodged an historic artifact. Brushing off the dirt with my shirt I discovered it to be a Motorola i1000plus cellular phone; circa 2001.

open phone

It’s huge, doesn’t turn on, has moisture in the screen and has become Catherine’s favorite plaything. She’s been calling all her friends on it for the past several hours!


Father’s Day Weekend, 2008

This past weekend, Rebecca, Catherine and I traveled up to Quechee, Vermont to see the Quechee Hot Air Balloon Festival. We camped out at Ascutney State Park, as the Quechee campground was full, but most of our time was spent in and around Quechee and Woodstock. It proved to be a very enjoyable weekend for all of us! Read on for more details and photos!

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A Meager Harvest

I learned some good gardening lessons during my first growing season. Top of the list: Don’t plant your garden (almost) directly underneath the dryer vent. Duh.

I was able to enjoy a few handfuls of green beans and sweet peas over the course of the summer. And I got a couple bunches of cosmos that bloomed beautifully. The green peppers and spinach were totally strangled by the cosmos and the pumpkins and squash were nuked by the dryer exhaust.

The carrots didn’t do too badly. Since I’m an optimist I’ll say that we got a great harvest of “baby carrots”. Those are practically a delicacy, right? They are almost too cute to eat!

Carrot Harvest

All in all, not too bad. Due to our travels the garden didn’t get planted until late in the season and I probably didn’t water and weed it as much as I should have. We’ll give it another try next year!

[edit] I cleaned up the carrots, steamed them, and we ate them whole with dinner. YUM!

Hiketober: Week 5

Week Five is a short week!

Day 29: Appleton Farms Grass Rides, Hamilton, Ma
There are several old carriage paths that lead through the woods here. they are wide and green and quiet. Catherine and I had a nice hike passing by a stone pinnacle that once sat on Gore Hall (once the library at Harvard). Even though we spent just over an hour there we left plenty of trails unexplored for some other day.

Day 30: Warren-Weld Reservation, Essex, Ma
This was a cute little property tucked away down a quiet road. Catherine was particularly fascinated with the leaves today. She loved the way they crunched beneath her feet and she went shuffling through them at the trail head. Once up on my back she kept leaning out to grab leave off the branches of nearby trees.

Day 31: Halloween Surprise Reservation, Middleton, Ma
After trying on two occasions to find this trail (and failing) we decided to take our last hike of the month on a trail I spotted on the same road. There was only a sign with the usual message: carry in, carry out- watch for hunters- be respectful. With out a map we went in blind and quickly came upon a rude bridge and a wooden staircase going up the bank on the other side. We walked for a while through the woods and with no sign of a loop trail, we turned back towards the car. A pleasant hike, indeed.

I feel as if there should be some sort of wrap up now that the month is finished. I had a great time hiking my way through October. I was thrilled that I was able to find a distinct hike for each day of the month all so close to home. I now have an arsenal of great places to go for hiking, picnics and romps in the woods. I feel as if I had become jaded by the abundance of commercialism in this area, and this month I was reminded that there is more to the North Shore than malls and movie theaters. I spent some quiet time with my daughter showing her God’s handiwork and I had time to myself to ponder His plan for me.

Leanne suggested creating a GoogleMap of the locations that we hiked in. Thank you, Leanne, here it is!

View Larger Map

Hiketober: Week 4

Hiketober: Week 4

An iffy week for hiking. We had some great days, some not so great.

Day 22: Ravenswood Park, Gloucester, MA
When we got to the park this morning the entire parking lot was full. Ravenswood is obviously a popular place to get some fresh air. I found a spot on the street, popped Catherine in the backpack and we were off. There were several trails to choose from, but we decided to take the “Magnolia Swamp Trail”. Although I hate to admit it, all I thought of along the trail was Shrek! I think the word swamp will forever equal Shrek for me. The trail was nice, it went down steeply into the swamp and then wove its way through the woods before hiking back up the steep grade. Catherine was non-plussed, I think, as she slept through most of the hike.

Day 23: Life sometimes just gets in the way.
No hike today for various reasons. I’ll try to make up for it later.

Day 24: Urban Hike, Freedom Trail, Boston, MA
Peter and Catherine and I spent the day showing Sara, Matt and Bella around Boston. We walked much of the Freedom Trail from the North End to the Public Garden. It was a long day on our feet, but fun to play tour guide again!

Day 25: Sally Milligan Park, Beverly, MA
Another hidden gem here in Beverly. We were able to carve out a good half an hour hike out of this woodsy enclave.

Day 26: Pingree Reservation, Hamilton, Ma
It was sunny this morning but dark in the forest in Hamilton. I love the way that the sun filters through the trees so that it is dark in one spot, but very bright in others. The darkness and the quietness made for a very peaceful hike. We moved slowly along the trails stopping often to consider a twig or leaf. Catherine has been taking charge of the map holding duties so I occasionally have to stop to wrangle the trail map from her. Across the street there were several dog owners heading down the trails of the Appleton Grass Rides. We’ll have to try the trails there soon.

Day 27: Rain

Day 28: Extreme Laziness brought on by other plans and late night baseball.
Sometimes it is nice to play a game where you make up the rules. It’s nice to follow them, but sometimes it is even nicer to change them. We got up, went to church, had lunch, went to a Marines Band concert, had dinner and watched the Red Sox. That’s a pretty full day!

Hiketober: Week 3

Alrighty, here’s the rundown of Week 3 of Hiketober.

Day 15:a) Long Hill, Beverly, Ma b)Ferncroft Pond, Danvers, Ma
We made two hikes today to make up for missing Sunday. Catherine and I enjoyed the trails around Long Hill in the morning. We were a little concerned by the sign, “attention: Hunters allowed 5am-10am. Stay on marked trail” but it was 9:45am and since Catherine’s a pretty loud gal I figured the hunters would hear us coming long before we knew they were even there. For what it’s worth, we didn’t see any hunters.

When Peter got home from work the three of us headed to the Ferncroft Pond trail here in Danvers. It is one of several trails marked as “open space” in town. There was an overlook platform up above the pond and wetlands and a not-too-long trail that looped it’s way through the forest. Just the right length for a predinner hike. Here are a few pictures.

Day 16: Alt Woodland, Beverly, Ma
This was another little hike tucked into a little neighborhood on Grover Street in Beverly. We only had a short time before I was due at the YMCA so we hiked the loop quickly. I am still amazed at how many little trails we’ve been finding that are right in front of us, yet we’ve never known about them. This trail looped out and back and although we knew there were houses within yelling distance, it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. Nice.

Day 17: Town Forest, Danvers, Ma
I had a map today. The map didn’t stop us from losing the trail and getting a bit lost. We even hiked around a bit in land marked “NO TRESPASSING!” It was all very exciting. I’m still not sure how we lost the trail, I was standing at a tree with a blaze on it, I looked around and there was no trail to be seen. The map assured me that it was a loop trail so we bushwacked our way around, determined to find the trail. After hiking under some massive power lines (see the ‘no trespassing’ comment above!) we reentered the woods and eventually found a trail that led us back to our car. We also saw a beaver dam and an 1800’s family cemetery.

Day 18: Stoney Cove & Presson Reservation, Gloucester, Ma
In all the times I have driven up 128 into Gloucester I have seen, but never stopped at Stoney Cove. I always assumed that the pulloff on the highway was just a boat ramp. Today we discovered that it is much more than that. The trail leads away from the highway and winds its way out along the water. The trail splits and you can explore the salt marsh or head out around the cove. There are several great places for sitting on the rocks by the water and Catherine and I were tempted to spend the whole day there watching the sea gulls and cormorants.

Day 19:Beverly Conservation Area, Beverly, Ma
Once upon a time, circa 2002, Peter and I went geocaching in these very same woods. We spent an hour or so looking for the cache and getting horribly attacked by mosquitoes. It was horrible and we never did find the cache and I’ve never had the inclination to go back. But time goes on and things change and Catherine and I attempted the hike again. We took a loop trail (have I mentioned how much I love hiking in circles?) that went up some surprisingly steep hills and then back down them. Compared to my last experience here it was a great time.

Day 20:Tompson Reservation, Gloucester, Ma
We were headed to Gloucester today do a little shopping at the Children’s Drop and Shop so Catherine and I snuck a little hike on the way there. At Tompson Reservation there is a ‘summit’ called Sunset Mountain. It is just a hill, but the top is all rock and there’s a descent view. The weather was practically summer-like and we hung out at the top soaking in the warm sun and coolish breezes before heading back down to the car. Ahhhh, fresh air.

big rock

Day 21:Tompson Reservation
In starting this adventure I had thought that I would try to find 31 distinct places to hike. Today we went back to Tompson Reservation because there were many trails that I didn’t hike on andI wanted to show Peter the view from Sunset Mountain. We hiked through “Boulder Field” where there were, surprisingly, tons of boulders! Big ones too, that had huge cracks in them and huge slabs that had cracked of long ago and slid down. It was very cool. There were some rock climbers making their way to the top of one of the boulders. We just hiked around the back side and looked down on them from above!

Hiketober: Week 2

We’re hiking forward, one week closer to November!

Day 8: Rained Out!
Totally disappointing!

Day 9: Willowdale State Forest, Ipswich, Ma
We didn’t have a trail map with us during this outing which made us a bit hesitant to make any quick turns. I made sure to look for landmarks as we went along and drew a mental map of our route in case we had to retrace our steps back to the car. Luckily we were able to make a couple of loops through the woods and over the streams that eventually wound back to the trail head. The woods were quiet and peaceful and a bit wet from the previous day’s rain.

Day 10: College Pond, Danvers, Ma
This trail was created by the Danvers Open Space Interns and was a quick little hike not far from home. Perfect for a day when the rain was threatening! The trail drops down quickly from the road into a mix of wetlands and forest. At the far end of the loop the trail branches off onto a long wooden pier that stretches out into College Pond. We didn’t see any wildlife today, but I can imagine that it would be a great spot for seeing herons, egrets, geese and other waterfowl.

Halibut Point

Day 11: Halibut Point State Park, Rockport, Ma
Today was another chilly, misty day on the north shore. That wouldn’t keep Catherine and I from the trail, though! We drove up 127 to Rockport and hiked around the quarry at Halibut Point. This state park has trails that wind down to the rocky coast, a great lookout point high above the water and small trails that lead to the quick dropoffs at the edge of the quarry. The park was pretty quiet, but we did see two men fishing and a little boy leading his grandma down the trail. There are some pics from the hike here.

Day 12: Goose Cove, Gloucester, Ma
Yesterday, while driving to Halibut Point, I noticed a sign on the side of the road for Goose Cove, part of the Essex County Greenbelt Association. Today, between a previous engagement and the afternoon rain, we went up to Goose Cove. The trail head has a parking area that could fit a couple cars and was the perfect location for a prehike, tailgate picnic. We had a little lunch and hit the trail. We were only on the trail a total of twenty minutes but it was a nice little hike. The trail was in the trees all the way to the end where it opened up to a nice view of Goose Cove. Having only seen it from the road this was a nice new perspective.

Halibut Point

Day 13: Breakheart Reservation, Saugus, Ma
Peter chose our hike for today: Breakheart Reservation. It is hard to believe that there is a huge reservation tucked behind frantic Route 1 in Saugus. We took the Ridge Trail which turned out to be a moderately difficult hike. The trail went up and over several hills, the tops of which were rocky, providing satisfying scrambling opportunities. There were some nice views of Boston and the surrounding areas and we enjoyed our 2+ hours on the trail. More pictures from Breakheart can be found [here](

Day 14: Project!
Umm. We got busy working on a house project…I’ll make up the hike tomorrow, I promise!


Y’know, I love hiking so much that I have declared this month Hiketober

The Goal: To go on a hike every day in the month of October.
The Method: Tie on sneakers, grab your water proof backpack from and water and GO!
The Gear: Saucony Sneakers, Nalgene water bottle, Snugli Cross Country Baby Backpack
Intended Outcomes: Happiness, Good Health, Exploring local open spaces, Family Bonding

The First 7 Days:

Day 1: Monday: JC Phillips Reservation, Beverly, Ma
Peter and I had explored these woods once before (while geocaching in 2001) and I thought it would be a nice place to start our hiking journey. The trail is not too long but it goes from a stroll along the edge of Wenham Lake to an uphill climb in the forest and back down again.

Day 2: Tuesday: Proctor Farm, Danvers, Ma
Proctor Farm is a small tract of land just North of 128 on Conant Street. There are two or three trails through the property that appear to have been cleared as a Boy Scout Eagle Scout service project. The hiking was easy, and the scenery not all that exciting, but still a good place to get out and get some fresh air.

Day 3: Wednesday: Pearl Hill State Park, Townsend, Ma
Catherine and I were out visiting in Townsend. While Nonni was at an appointment in the afternoon we strapped on our sneakers and headed to Pearl Hill. I’ve spent a ton of time over the years hiking, skiing, sledding and goKarting at Pearl Hill but this was Catherine’s first visit. We followed quite a bit of the “Friend’s Trail” and then took an unnamed trail or two that doubled us back through the campground. Then we walked down the sledding hill road and back to the car. The hike took us a little over an hour and Catherine slept for the whole second half!

Day 4: Thursday: Endicott Park, Danvers, Ma
Along with the Children’s Barn, the horses, the playground and the large open fields that are great for running in, Endicott Park boasts a “Fitness Trail”. You know, the kind of trail with stations along the way with signs that direct you to stretch, do sit ups or hop over logs…This trail was our hike for day four. Unfortunately, the hike took all of ten minutes, and most of the stations were in sad disrepair. Since ten minutes was a little short we continued walking around the perimeter of the park, past the community garden, around Glen Magna Farm and past the fishing pond. We finished up with a long chat with the horses and some play time at the playground before heading home.

Day 5: Friday: Manchester-Essex Wilderness Conservation Area, Manchester, Ma
We found this location a bit by accident because I was a bit anxious while looking for our intended destination. I got antsy and jumped at the first pull off with a trail map! We took a nice long hike in the woods here north of 128 and east of Chewbacco Lake. We meandered the trails, changing course at each trail intersection. The property has a scenic wooden bridge/walkway that makes its way across a large swamp and we also came across some early 1900’s, stone town line markers. Part of our hike ran parallel to 128 and as we hiked along we watched the cars zip along! Again, Catherine conked out about 20 minutes in. These longer hikes seem to wear her out!

Under the Rock!
Under Little Agassiz Rock

Day 6: Saturday: Agassiz Rock, Manchester, Ma
This is where we meant to go yesterday, so we made a second go at it with Peter along. It is also the first time we had a camera with us, as mine has been out of commission lately. The trail was a 1 mile loop and an easy hike. It is a satisfying hike up to Little Agassiz where the view opens up over the Manchester area and you can scramble around on the open rocks. Hiking down the back side of the hill brings you to Big Agassiz, who’s size (30 feet tall!) is somewhat obscured by the flora around it. We met another family with young’uns up at Little Agassiz but our two families had the trail to ourselves.

Day 7: Sunday: Gordon Woods, Wenham, Ma
We missed out on Homecoming yesterday at our Alma Mater but we hit the trails there today instead! The trails seemed to be in much better condition than when I was an undergrad, and they were marked with colored blazes as well. We made a long loop up around Round Pond, past the ropes course and back down to Coy. The weather was deliciously fallish and the two mile or so hike was just what we wanted for a quiet Sunday afternoon.