The Story of Me

Posted by & filed under my life, poetry.

As I looked into the mirror tonight and saw my wrinkles

I wondered, when do I have enough wrinkles that I cross the line into elderly?

Then I realized that there is no line to cross but that I am walking the line –

a linear journey from birth to death

and that the wrinkles are my story.

The story of me.

From little girl to fifty-something,

fighting gravity and expectations,

my biggest wrinkle a furrow in my forehead,

a message from my soul.

 

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Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017!

Posted by & filed under my life.

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Well, hey everybody. It’s been a whirlwind year! I hope yours was ultimately full of love and life and goodness. There have been some difficult things on a global level, but the longer I live the more I realize I need to take my eyes off of the world stage (besides doing my civic duty) and focus on the local stage. We have the biggest impact in the world right around us, and ripples spread into ever-widening circles. I refuse to be frozen by fear. There is too much work to be done!

Speaking of work, I retired from IBM. I had a great gig there for 15 years. But it was getting more and more technical, and after trying to work successfully in 3 different technical environments, I called it quits. I need to produce and create. It felt like someone had tied my hands behind my back and attached a ball and chain to my leg. Excruciating. I do miss the web UI work, though. I was getting into web animation and responsive design (making a web page look good on all devices) and we finally got to drop accommodating older browsers.

My heart was torn, anyway. I keep being more and more pulled by the plants and the natural world – herbalism (my focus for this year is to finish up my studies that keep being put on the back burner) and gardening (I hope to have a farm “stand” at the end of my driveway this year). I also need to figure out how to maneuver all the laws of food production/having a business. But that will come. I’m moving forward in this direction. We’ll see what the future brings. It may only ever be a hobby/ministry. Only time will tell. Because I still like photography and writing and crafting…oh my! I will NEVER run out of things to do.

In the meantime, I am helping out at a local wellness bar. And doing some babysitting on the side.

Okay, enough about me! As I said, we had a great year. It was the year of weddings, for us. We had 4 – our daughter’s, our “other” daughter’s (my daughter’s best friend, Erin), and our friends’ daughter in January and then their son in September. What happy occasions to spend with friends and family!

And two more of Kelly’s friends besides Erin got married. So fun seeing all these kids grown up and settling into their lives.

Here is a picture of our new blended family! (The wedding party is in this picture, too.)

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Second gal from the left is my niece Carlene (some tall genes on Andy’s side of the family). Fourth gal is Erin, who got married a month later, then Tracey and her ever-expanding family (she is having another baby in March), our parents, us, Kelly and Greg, Greg’s parents, and on the far right is Greg’s sister Kristina and Alex.

Speaking of Alex, earlier this year Alex started dating Caroline. We love her. And she is into words (an avid reader and an English teacher). She won my heart over the day we first met her when she ordered Red Raspberry Rage ice cream “because of the alliteration.”

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And speaking of love, Roby came from Italy to attend Kelly’s wedding! Such a wonderful gal.

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And, also, speaking of love. This guy.

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Landon continues to delight all of us. He is such a joy. And quite expressive.

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As for the rest of Landon’s family, mom Tracey is still working as a surgical vet tech, dad Roberto is teaching tennis, and they still live in Norwalk, CT with their 3 kitties. And soon, baby girl Mahoney!

Back to Alex, he is still working at 9-Point Medical, in the finance department.

And Kelly is still working for the NYC Wine and Food Festival, while Greg works for Credit Suisse. They took some time off to go to Alaska for their honeymoon. The pictures Kelly kept sending us could make a person jealous!

Andy is still working hard at Reliance Engineering. He also has a little side vending machine business going. If you are local and your office wants a vending machine, give him a call!

So this year Andy competed again in the Senior Games. He started training at CrossFit in preparation for the high jump. And he wound up qualifying for the nationals in the high jump, long jump, and 200 meter race. He’s going to compete in Alabama this summer in the jumping. We are going to rent an RV to go down there and see if we like traveling that way, in preparation for maybe getting one ourselves in the future.

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Andy continues to do CrossFit (he got hooked). So add that to tennis and basketball.

Me, I’m trying to get a regular yoga practice going. And my project this fall was to hike the Midstate Trail, some which goes through our town. It’s 92 miles long, from the Northern border of Massachusetts to the Southern border, through the middle of the state. I’m hiking with a friend named Annie who has finished (she hiked a few sections closer to home before we started hiking together)! I did reach the end (with her), I just have a 12 mile Barre-to-Spencer section to finish up. And I got some micro-spikes to hopefully finish up this winter.

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Hands raised in happiness, accomplishment, and celebration. That is my wish for you this coming year!

And let us all be the change we wish to see.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

PS I used Tracey’s Christmas photo (I took it) at the top of this post. This would be our Christmas photo, taken by Kelly. This tells the story of our dogs, in a nutshell. Happy Holidays from Koda and Columbus.

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Princeton to Barre

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

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On Monday, Annie and I walked one of the sections of the Midstate Trail I had not done yet. We started at Wachusett Meadows in Princeton (the panorama, above) and walked to Barre Falls Dam.

See the road in the right-hand side of the above photo? We were parked beyond the barn and headed further down the road, where it really becomes an untravelled road, except by person or wagon or the many creatures of this world. I did remark once along our hike that there sure was a lot of forest for the animals. Made me happy thinking of them living unbothered by us humans.

One of the first things we saw was that we weren’t the only ones who had walked the trail. Our feet are beside their tracks. Turkey? Or Pterodactyl!

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This is Four Corners in Princeton. This land has been designated conservation area and connects two wildlife corridors. We entered on the far right side of this picture and continued on to the left, beyond Annie.

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The trail goes in the woods and comes out by Old Colony Road. I sometimes walk this part with my friend Vivian and our two dogs (I leave Columbus at home, he can’t be trusted to come back if I let him run free).

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The winter woods have a beauty all their own.

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Here is the bridge on Old Colony Road.

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Loved our silhouettes! (Also loved that I just spelled silhouettes right on the first try!)

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Here’s a video of the waterfall on the bottom of the photo.

Beyond the bridge, we crossed railroad tracks.

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We walked on Old Colony Road Extension….

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And into a beautiful area called Savage Hill. In all the years I’ve lived in Princeton, I’d never known of this area.

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At some point we entered Rutland, and passed by a friend’s house.

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But we were never on the road for too long. Lots of woods!

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This is my silly hunters-are-in-the-woods attire. I’m going to get an orange vest. This is all I had to work with at my house. But it was functional.

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We wound up walking 12 miles this day. Both of us were very tired. At just about this point, we weren’t sure which way to go, because the parking area is beyond the trail. But we wound up following the midstate markers and came back to a spot where we could see the parking lot. We will start from there on our next leg! (And at that point I’ll take a picture of the dam.)

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PS if you are a local, Barre Falls is a wonderful place to cross country ski or snowshoe!

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The end! (For one of us)

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

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Let me just start off by saying I didn’t do blogging about this section of the midstate trail justice. Because I didn’t remember to write it up until now. But I will try to remember some of it!

First off, Annie’s daughter Cece came with us. Isn’t she cute? Heck, aren’t they both cute?

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Whenever a member of the younger generation is among us, I give them the honor of doing the selfie.

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If you noticed, we are all in bright clothing. That’s because hunting season had begun. Our last leg was through Douglas State Forest. There were a lot – A LOT – of pickup trucks along the side of the road as we found our drop-off spot for the car. I’m not a fan of being in the woods when hunters are, but Annie is even less of a fan.

We saw a couple of them in the woods. And we did a lot of singing. Annie and Cece had never heard “The other day I met a bear,” which is a song I learned in girl scouts, for the couple of years I was a girl scout. So I led them in that song. I forgot the last verse until after the hike, however.

Here’s the song, if you are interested. And I didn’t realize that “the end the end, the end the end, etc.” lyrics were actually part of the song until I listened to this! I thought we had just added that as kids.

A couple more pictures from along the way….

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And here we are at the southern trail marker! I think Annie is the one that saw it and gasped. Thank goodness we didn’t miss it!

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It looks very much like the start marker! I put the picture of both of us with it at the top of this post. We were very happy.

And Annie was ESPECIALLY happy. She has finished the trail! I still have a couple of sections to go, nearer home. When we complete those, we are going out to a celebratory dinner with our hubbies.

Meanwhile, here’s Annie at our celebratory lunch, post hike. Congratulations, Annie!

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PS Douglas State Forest is beautiful. Really, the whole trail hike is beautiful. You should do it.

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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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