Hiking the streets of Sutton

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

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We are almost to the end of the Midstate Trail! Although we would have liked to finish up today, we did 13 miles and that was enough for this 56-year old who is quite stiff this evening. (Time to do more yoga. I’m not sure why I don’t do more yoga. You can always talk me into a hike, though!)

And what a day we had! It was a beautiful fall day, and the picture I chose for the top of this post shows that. Blue skies, fallen leaves, autumn colors. Hard to believe we are going to be heading into winter hiking soon. A set of micro-spikes is on my Christmas list this year. Already have the snow shoes!

Today’s hike was mostly on roads, some busy, but most bringing us by farms and country homes. At one point two deer bounded from one side of the road to the other in front of us, disappearing into the woods. So, even not in the woods, we experienced the woods. However, the roads were tough on the legs….

Annie’s son Jackson joined us for the first 5 miles, then walked back to his car as we continued south. He is visiting from Colorado. I made him take our selfie because I always struggle with holding the phone and pressing the button. These young kids have the coordination to do both those things at the same time (in a split second) and get everybody in the picture while looking relaxed. Impressive.

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But this is actually the first picture I took on my phone. We walked under route 395. The walk started out on the busier roads.

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But before you knew it, we started passing by farms.

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(A lot of my pictures had sun interference, making them light/washed out. But who can complain about the sun?!)

We also passed by a few old homes. You can’t read the marker on this one, but this is the Learned Davis house, circa 1793.

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Walked by this pond, too.

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And into the woods. Yay!

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Then we came back out again, but at least there were some very rural roads and cart paths.

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The trail guide said this high point had a view of Wachusett. It actually did, behind a tree along the horizon. Not sure we would have seen it if the tree had been leafed out. And you for sure can’t see it in this picture, but it is on the left side of the road, in between the two trees, along the horizon. Trust me.

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Cows!

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A really terrific view from a farm house. But still, the picture doesn’t capture it. This, my friends, is why you need to do the hike yourself, up close and personal. Really, I highly recommend it. It is an amazing experience. We ran into two guys our age-ish who have been friends since they were little who were hiking the trail together. They were from Rhode Island. Nice guys. The thing about hikers? They are all nice. I love the conversations you have on the trail, from a shared love of the outdoors.

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This seemed like a family cemetery. Only a few headstones.

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I’ve lost where this picture comes in the hike, but at some point we hit West Sutton.

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And I took this picture because it was a dried up body of water. Because of the drought this year? I’m not sure, there was running water at the far end. But it was dried up and rather smelly.

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A few more shots along the way, through Douglas State Forest.

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This last one is where we parked the car along route 116 in Douglas. We will finish up the southernmost part of the trail – about 5 or 6 more miles meandering through Douglas State Forest, which is beautiful. By the time we get to do that, will we have snow? Busy holiday / work times for us. So we shall see. But we are planning on a post-hike out-to-dinner celebration whatever day it happens to be. It will mark Annie’s completion of the trail. (I have a couple more legs to fill in closer to home, from Princeton to Spencer, stay tuned!)

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Friday on the Midstate Trail

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

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In order to keep on keeping on with our Midstate Trail hiking, we decided to fit in a Friday afternoon hike, after Annie got out of work. Since we were starting off of route 20, Annie was already at least halfway there. We met at the ending point, then drove back to our route 20 starting point and set off on yet another beautiful autumn day.

It was a shorter walk, but it was really pretty!

And since I am writing this a couple of weeks later, I’m going to mostly just post pictures. What I do remember about the hike is walking in a really beautiful spot that also was next to a VERY noisy gravel pit.

We also walked some power lines and gas lines. (Not a huge fan of either, just get me into the woods!)

We did have some roads but, as usual, they were pretty country roads. And plenty of woods and water, too!

Okay, now for the pictures:

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Only two more legs left to reach the southern MA / RI border!

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Post-election thoughts

Posted by & filed under miscellaneous.

We, in the United States, have just come out of a historic election. It is an election that put many people between a rock and a hard place. There was so much hate on each side for the candidates we were given. Many people voted on policy, even though they couldn’t stand behind either of the candidates as people. I did that, too, which left me voting for the green party.

I think there was a lot of soul searching. I think we all hoped that when this election was over, things would go back to normal. But, most people aren’t feeling normal.

I’ve seen family fights on Facebook. I’ve seen people gloating. I’ve seen people mocking the people who are trying to process things. Maybe social media isn’t the place to process things, but it’s happening there as well as in in-person discussions.

I work as a barista at a local wellness bar. People are coming in and talking. Some visiting for quite awhile. People are trying to figure out what happened. A few are very angry. A lot are experiencing grief. Many are very worried for the future of our country. People with kids are saying that they didn’t know what to tell them the day after the election – even crying at the thought of breaking the news to them.

People are feeling unsafe.

I don’t think we’ve ever experienced this before.

This is not a result of just policy. This is mostly the result of hateful rhetoric – ever the course of months – from the president elect of these United States. Only we aren’t united. Not anymore.

Why am I writing this blog post? I’m writing it because I want the people who are happy with the election results to back off. I want them to let others who are really struggling just be. Don’t be jumping in the face of a grieving person. That’s just not nice. This was an extreme election. Give people some grace and space. Let the candidate you are happy with prove to the rest of the world that things are going to be okay. Because that’s what you believe, right? So sit back, relax, and wait for everything to fall into place.

And, believe me, I understand how YOU are feeling. “Why do we have to back off? We really do think this is a great thing!” It’s okay, back off anyway.

Meanwhile, those of us who are trying to hold onto hope have some work to do. Here are some things to consider:

The racism that has been exposed by this election has been brought out of its dark hiding places. Now that we can see it, maybe we have a better chance of cleaning it up. (BTW, have you seen this campaign? I’ve started wearing my pin.)

People are waking up to the realization that we can’t look to government for answers. We need to start within ourselves and at the community level. I think there are a lot of people planning on getting more involved to make this world a better place. At least that’s what I’ve heard in my discussions. My own focus has been – and will continue to be – health, wellness, and the environment. And – always – for all people to feel loved and valued. Pick something. You’ll feel good about doing something to make the world a better place, no matter how big or how small a thing it seems. And believe me, it’s a huge thing.

Men – especially white men – have the opportunity to do a LOT of good right now. To speak up when “the guys” are objectifying women. To speak up for people of other races. To be an example to the younger generation even if the “good ol’ boys” won’t change.

This is going to open up a lot of conversations between parents and children on how to treat people with respect, kindness, and love. It also raises the observation that even though you hold a leadership position, you may not necessarily be a leader – a good lesson for children to learn. A good lesson for all of us to learn.

I think this election is going to be the impetus to a kinder, gentler country. It may seem like just the opposite of that right now, but I think that’s why it will happen. It may take awhile, but I think we are on our way.

And to all the young adults devastated by this. I understand. Stay strong. Your voice will be heard as more of the older generation dies off. Meanwhile, work for everything you’ve already been working for – acceptance of all people, globalism (as opposed to nationalism), the environment, and working towards healthy food systems. And all the other things I haven’t mentioned. Follow your passions and your passions will change the world. And teach the rest of us. Some of us may be slow learners – it’s hard to give up old ways – but stick with us!

Lastly….

May all beings know peace.

May all beings know love.

May all beings know tolerance.

May all beings know safety.

May all beings be blessed.*

*Credit for this way of prayer/raising consciousness goes to Matt Kahn, who I originally listened to as the result of a comment on a Facebook post about the election and loved this way of sending out the opposite energy of what we and the world are experiencing.

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Hiking and History

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

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Today Annie and I hiked through Spencer and Charlton. At one point, we entered a historic district of Charlton. That was pretty cool. I think this hike had us on the most roads of any of our hikes so far, but they were mostly rural – except for crossing over the Mass Pike (bridge) and under route 20 (cow tunnel).

We hiked around 10 miles and missed a couple of pieces of the trail, which has been re-routed and doesn’t exactly match the guide we had. At one point we missed walking through an orchard, which would have been nice, but the guide actually mentioned a sign we saw BEYOND the orchard, so we were really thoroughly confused. The lady working at the orchard didn’t know anything about the mid-state trail, but the girl across the street at an antique store told us an alternate way to get back to the trail. I think we decided next time we hike the trail we’ll go south to north (in reverse of our current direction) and see if the trail is easier to follow. Annie mentioned also bringing some yellow markers, a hammer, and nails, to make things clearer for the next hikers! (Doubt if we’ll do that, but…tempting.)

I continue to be amused that the trail guide says to watch carefully for markers. Okay….

But, that’s what makes this an adventure!

Here are the photos from today’s hike. Lots of them because there were lots of interesting spots along the way!

Hunting area:

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Lots of signs along the way, many of them talking about re-routing the trail.

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I think this was the point of the trail that Annie mentioned the movie Deliverance…

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Not a lot of places to stop for a snack. We did here, standing up.

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We hiked along gas pipelines too much on this hike. Totally bummed me out. Sun, water, and wind energy, for the win! No more of this fossil fuel stuff.

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Fun cairn. There was supposed to be another one, according to the map, but we totally missed that one on a confusing part of the trail.

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Theme of the day. And I took this picture so we could refer back to it if we got lost. Which we did!

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Really, even most of the roads were pretty. (But, when we headed back into the woods for the final stretch of the trail we were happy to be back hiking instead of walking.)

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We crossed over a railroad bridge….

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And then we heard a train coming, so I ran back and snapped this photo!

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If you look closely, you can see the wakes of some geese on this pond.

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This place was pretty cool, especially as we came to it from the back side and were trying to figure out what it was. Many, many outbuildings and all with crosses. The place is called “Holy Virgin Mary Spiritual Vineyard.”

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And right beyond it was a cemetery.

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And beyond that, this interestingly decorated home. That’s a human skeleton walking two skeleton dogs….

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Another cemetery.

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And NOW we enter the historic district. I’m afraid I snapped a lot of photos this walk. There are only so many “in the forest” photos you can take. But when you are walking by other landmarks on roads, well, it’s a whole other world of photography (even if it’s only iphone photography).

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This is the apple orchard where we missed the trail.

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And Charlton public lands across the street.

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And this historical sign, which was in the trail guide.

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As was this tavern.

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And beyond it, where the trail comes out of the orchard. The part we missed. Because the trail guide is CONFUSING!

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More history in the historical district.

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This was a battlefield.

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The view looking back towards the tavern, just to give context of where we were.

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And a schoolhouse, with an outhouse. (Poor Annie, I was slowing us down a bit I was taking so many pictures!)

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Crossing over the Mass Pike.

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Yay, entering the woods again! I thought the red fire hydrant in front of the historical and trail signs was an interesting juxtaposition of elements.

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Oh boy, now I was on a picture-taking roll and even started taking more in-the-woods photos.

Here’s a neat brook. Further on we had a challenging brook crossing (could we get across without getting wet? – we did – but I didn’t get a photo of that).

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It was surprising seeing so much green in this one spot, since most of the world right now is autumn colors.

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Old, interesting, trees…

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An abandoned factory. In the middle of the woods. Kind-of strange place to find a factory.

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And now, the end of our hike, a cow path under route 20 and up the hill to our car on the other side! A few pictures….

Looking at the approach up to the cow path.

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You can see both the entrance AND the exit.

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Here we are in the entrance.

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Heading towards the exit.

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Annie caught me taking my last shot of the day! PS, in these blog posts, some of the photos are Annie’s!

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And, we’re out!

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Another great hike!

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Zigging and Zagging through Spencer

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

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Because of weather and life events, it’s been a few weeks since Annie and I have hiked the Midstate Trail. Today we got back to it, picking up the trail at a spot Annie hasn’t hiked yet, beginning at Browning Pond (in the photo, above) and ending at Sibley Memorial Stone.

It was a beautiful hike through woods, fields, and across a reservoir dam. We also walked on the edge of private property, getting slightly lost in people’s back yards. Signage is less than optimal in some places. We had to backtrack. At one point, on the far side of the dam crossing, we missed a sign and so hiked off-trail for a bit until we picked it back up. Both of us were tired enough that we didn’t need to be purists and go back to find the trail sign that we missed.

We did remark that it felt like we were zigzagging a lot.

“Weren’t we just walking in the opposite direction a minute ago?”

There are a lot of signs telling people to stay on the trail and no trespassing. In some places, the trail feels less than friendly. And Annie, at one point, reading the “stay on the trail” sign exclaimed “we’re trying to!”

There was one really cool shot of a stone structure in the middle of a field with the moon low and faint in the sky behind it. It would have been a beautiful picture, only someone had put a Trump/Pence sign in front of the stones. Ruined what I considered THE shot of the day.

Here are some shots we did take, however.

Camp Marshall. This looked like an awesome camp. Annie’s significant other attended this camp when he was younger….

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There were a couple of shelters on this stretch of the trail.

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This was the view from the top of Moose Hill.

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And here we are walking over Moose Hill Dam (the reservoir you can see from the top of Moose Hill). I thought this was one of the prettiest spots of the hike. I’ve never walked across a dam before.

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These next two are looking back in the direction from which we came.

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Just an interesting shot along the way. An old well pump over an old tub.

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Some cows, and a calf lying down. I needed to tell you that or you’d never know. They are too far away in this shot.

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This is where we crossed route 9. Busy crossing. Right along the Spencer/Leicester line.

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And now we enter Burncoat Pond Wildlife Sanctuary. It was very pretty in here.

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And here we are at the end of our hike!

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And a look back to where we’d just come from.

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We both found the 11-ish miles we hiked very tiring today. Maybe it was all the leaves underfoot. (I fell down at one point because of them.) Maybe it was the 3-week break in between. Not sure.

But there is nothing – NOTHING – like hiking in the woods to make you feel alive, happy, and at peace with the world!

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Hiking to Crow Hill

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

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For some reason, I love Crow Hill. I’ve only visited it a couple of times, and when I’m on top I surely don’t want to go near the edge. (Stupid fear of heights issue for this hiker.) But it’s a really cool lookout and I think it’s great that there is a place for people to rock climb in my town of Princeton. This top picture is one of the views from the top. You can also see Wachusett peaking out in that right corner and if you hike more north you get even a better view. See?

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But I’m getting ahead of myself. Crow Hill was the end of our hike! It was our goal for the day, but we also left a car near the Wachusett Inn in Westminster. Just in case we ran out of time or stamina.

Our hike started in Ashburnham, at Jewell Hill Rd. It’s the third time we’ve parked there, since we got lost the first day and didn’t make it to the car parked there that day. It’s been part of every hike we’ve done so far! No more. We are moving on Jewell Hill Rd., it’s been nice to know ya.

Soon we got into Westminster, which was the bulk of the hike. And I forgot to take any pictures until we got to the Muddy Pond shelter. And then only because Annie reminded me! It’s one of the places you can camp along the way. Looks like a pretty nice place to camp out.

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This time Ann Marie hiked with Annie and I. Our numbers are growing!

Muddy Pond is beautiful.

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During the hike, we walked on a couple of roads (and crossed over route 2 via a bridge), but not for very long. My favorite road crossing was a place called Grafitti Bridge. I’m not sure what the rest of the graffiti was. All I saw was the peace sign and the word “Imagine” underneath. I never expected that and thought it was beautiful. A perfect symbol of how I feel every time I’m out hiking.

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This hike also took us through some fields. This one….

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And a cow pasture, complete with a sign for us to close the gate behind us (that’s it on the right of the gate but it’s too dark to read), some boy scouts, some cows…

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and some cow plops…

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Here’s a panoramic view of the place:

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I know you can’t really see the cows, but they were there, up in the left corner by the barn (which is also hard to make out).

We walked up along the side of the pasture, and as we exited (via another gate), there was a mailbox with a guest book inside, which we signed.

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A lot of our hike was through woods. Most of it was, actually. Just glorious. Have I mentioned how much I love the woods? Annie and I talk about our love of the woods every hike. I love that I’ve found someone who is drawn to the woods like I am.

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Eventually, we came out near the car we parked at Wachusett Inn. Ann Marie had to leave us at that point, because of time constraints. But Annie and I were feeling good physically, had the time, and decided to continue to Crow Hill. It was a pretty neat hike the rest of the way. There were some narrow trails through brush, and some historical steps that had been built a long time ago. We got a good workout on some hills.

And at the top of Crow Hill, those incredible views. And the satisfaction of completing a 6-ish hour hike of 14-ish miles.

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I’ll leave you with this neat picture of rock climbers I took as we hiked back down to return to the car.

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Hiking the midstate trail through Ashburnham

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

hikers welcome

Today was the second leg of the Midstate Trail. We started at the parking lot of Mt. Watatic and ended where it crosses route 12 in Ashburnham.

We (Annie and I) walked mostly through forest, on cushy pine needles in some places (a welcome respite for tired feet), up a couple of mountains / hills (great interval training), through someone’s field, and along the edge of a couple of roads before heading back into the woods again. It was an overcast day, which was lovely hiking weather. At one point we were in a pine forest with a bunch of rocks and it was wet and cool. That happened on a hillier part of the hike so it was quite welcome.

I was going to map my hike (via the app) but it wasn’t cooperating. So I’m not going to publish a map. But I will post some pictures! Here you go. No selfies, so I could actually post pictures of us this time.

There were lots of stone walls along the way. And pine-needled paths. Oh, and I bought myself some hiking pants!

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This was our view of the day, a lookout spot on Mount Hunger. We are looking North, towards New Hampshire. The mountain you see is Mount Watatic, which we hiked on the first leg. The water is Stodge Meadow Pond. The lady in blue is Annie! She’s a great hiking partner.

View from Mt. Hunger

There were lots of ferns. This spot had so many of them on both sides of them in their fall colors that I felt like taking a panorama. That’s the trail alongside the stone wall.

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We basically were walking through a field of ferns. Awesomeness.

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At one point, we walked through someone’s field. Hey, is that a bonfire waiting to happen?

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In any case, at this point we are done with all the elevated hiking. Onward to the car!

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I didn’t get a picture of the Christian camp we passed, but that was kind of cool. Can’t remember the name of it! There was a wooden cross and logs arranged as pews in a pine forest.

It appears the last leg of our hike went through a land trust. We stopped and read the sign. My big question was, what if you already were carrying firearms (one of the rules)? Would you have to turn back? Luckily, we weren’t violating any of the rules! The second sign was on the other end of the land trust and where our hike ended (besides the short walk back to the car).

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These are just iPhone photos, but it gives you an idea of the hike. It was way more beautiful in person!

Lovin’ our fall adventure!

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My next hiking adventure – the Midstate Trail

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

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Today my new fall hiking adventure began. Last year it was hiking all the trails of Mount Wachusett. This year it’s hiking the Midstate Trail. And if we don’t finish it in the fall (it’s 93 miles total), we’ll finish it up in the spring. As long as we keep on hiking, that’s all that counts.

I’m hiking it with a friend named Annie. We took a selfie. I’m sorry, I’m not posting it. Talk about getting too close to a camera…..need one of those selfie sticks.

The trail map put out for the Midstate Trail is less than wonderful. We got a little lost trying to find the beginning. That granite marker sitting on top of the stone wall (picture above). We wound up going up Mount Watatic first then taking a trail down to the marker. But we missed a turn and got lost. I wound up pulling out my phone and opening up Google Maps and we saw that we had hiked past the MA border. So we turned around and went back down a path we had debated taking earlier (the missed turn). Sure enough, the marker was down there.

This is the marker at the top of the mountain.

Basically, we hiked a total of 7 miles in and around this mountain. A nice place to hike, but we never got to where Annie left her car. We just went back to mine. So next time, we start at the parking lot for Mount Watatic and head south.

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For future reference – or yours, if you are planning on doing this – the entrance to Mount Watitic is on route 119 in Ashburnham. We got there via Fitchburg to route 12 towards Ashburnham (there is a marker to the trail head a little beyond Jewel Hill Road, where we parked Annie’s car). Then you can drive into Ashburnham center and take a right onto Ashby Road (rt 101) and then a left onto rt 119.

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Once you’ve parked your car at Watatic, here’s a map:

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Stay to the left and head back to the NH state line, then take the Wapack trail and stay right on the Midstate Trail. However, that doesn’t get you to the top of the mountain, which would be a shame to miss. I’m not even sure we hit that section of the midstate trail because we took Wapack to the top. I guess we might have to have a do-over when we start the next leg. Too bad there isn’t a great Midstate Trail map. (I’m not kidding, check this out. The guide is a little better, but still not wonderful.) I’m going to have to create one when this is all done!

Also, the trail guide says to follow the yellow triangles. Wapack Trail is has yellow triangle markers. A portion of the Midstate Trail had blue triangle markers. It really was all very unclear. But that’s what makes an adventure! And it was a great hike today. I love mountains.

Addendum: I went to EMS Sports today looking for a better trial guide. There is a book put out by the AMC that has a bunch of trails in MA, but it is all descriptive. Still, I read the description of what we did and I think that piece of the trail I highlighted actually must be part of the top of the mountain. No elevation marks, so hard to tell. I was going by the old ski trail marks, but maybe they were beyond where we were standing.

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See it that way

Posted by & filed under poetry.

the heart of a child

Life is beautiful.
If you see it that way.

Life is ugly.
If you see it that way.

The way we see the world is a reflection of what is inside.

People are beautiful.
If you see them that way.

People are ugly.
If you see them that way.

The way we view other people is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves.

You are beautiful.
I see it that way.

Please see it that way yourself.


There is always something that inspires me to write. It’s usually me working things out. I’m always working things out. 🙂 In my life right now, I am watching two people go through a similar hard thing and watching one person handle it with grace, the other lashing out. And sitting down to process that, this is the poem that came out.

photo credit: Summer Time of Childhood via photopin (license)

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They said

Posted by & filed under poetry.

All you need is love

You’re ugly.
You’re weird.
We don’t like you.
They said.

Really?
Why did you do that?
You’re supposed to do it this way.
They said.

Don’t!
Leave that alone.
No, you can’t try that.
They said.

Be a good girl.
Do what you are told.
Stop asking questions.
They said.

Quit daydreaming.
Focus.
Get this done.
They said.

Make lots of money.
Have a career.
Be successful.
They said.

You’re a sinner.
You are destined for hell.
You will suffer for eternity.
They said.

They can say whatever they want.
I’m not listening anymore.

Neither should you.

🎼 All you need is love. Love is all you need.


photo credit: Love is all you need…. via photopin (license)

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