Hiking and History

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.


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…


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


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.


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.


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


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.)


We crossed over a railroad bridge….


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


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


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.”


And right beyond it was a cemetery.


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


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).


This is the apple orchard where we missed the trail.


And Charlton public lands across the street.


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


As was this tavern.


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


More history in the historical district.


This was a battlefield.


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


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


Crossing over the Mass Pike.


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.


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).


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


Old, interesting, trees…

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


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.


You can see both the entrance AND the exit.


Here we are in the entrance.


Heading towards the exit.


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


And, we’re out!


Another great hike!


Zigging and Zagging through Spencer

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

browning pond

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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


And here we are at the end of our hike!


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


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!


Hiking to Crow Hill

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.


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?


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.


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

Muddy Pond is beautiful.


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.


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…


and some cow plops…


Here’s a panoramic view of the place:


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.


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.


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.


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


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!

lots of stone walls

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.

lots of ferns

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


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

the field

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


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!


My next hiking adventure – the Midstate Trail

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.


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.


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.


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


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.


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)


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.

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

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.
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)


I come to the garden alone

Posted by & filed under faith.


I was in my garden today. And the song, “I come to the garden alone” came into my head. I sang the verses I knew. Then I just kept asking “why?”

And I knew I didn’t have to say more than that one word. Because it encompasses it all. I even started to type out some of the whys in this post and changed my mind. Because why stands on its own. The rest of the words seem to water it down.

My garden brought me some respite, but no real joy today. And later in the day I stood in my 6 feet+ tall Valerian patch and breathed in the fragrance of the flowers. A peace wash over me. I gave thanks. But after I left that patch, the pain of this world returned.

I understood today why many people over the years have retreated to monasteries and in other ways left society.

I contacted my soul sister today to ask her how she was feeling. She was feeling the same. I figured that would be the case. We feel the world similarly.

And so this tough day draws to a close. And my heart still feels broken and raw for this world. I need to disconnect. I can’t take any more pain. Not the circumstances. Not people’s reactions to the circumstances.

You will find me in the garden.




Posted by & filed under poetry.

netYou lied to me today.
You know it.
And I know it.
I watched you like a fish stuck in a net
slowly wriggle free with a few words here
a few words there.
Finally, you breathed a sigh of relief
as the net fell away.
Only you didn’t escape.
I let you loose.
You weren’t worth fighting for.


photo credit: Any Catch? via photopin (license)


Rich man, poor man

Posted by & filed under miscellaneous.

In all these years I’ve lived a privileged life, I never realized something until watching two documentaries the other day. One, called Human. The other called Living on One Dollar. Both can be found on YouTube. The realizations were about poverty.

I remember my days of scraping to get by. Of working really hard to get ahead. Saving, saving, saving and going without. I wasn’t handed much by my middle class parents. I ate ramen noodles and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch during college. I remember my mom giving me money to buy some clothes once, when I told her the story of how my two rich roommates would trade outfits with each other but no one wanted to borrow any of my clothing.

It was hard, but it wasn’t impossible. I did it, with sacrifice. And my dad pulled himself out of poverty by putting himself through college at Northeastern, back when that was the intent of the college, to allow people time to work to pay their tuition. My dad didn’t come from the middle class. His parents were blue collar and hard working but didn’t make money beyond paying for the necessities. They never owned a house.

So, this has always been my perspective. Work hard, make sacrifices, and you get ahead. Part of that sacrifice for us was me working much of the kids growing up years, and choosing a job that paid well even though it also demanded much and I would have much rather just have been able to focus on being a mom.

But, really, what a privileged life I’ve led. And I know it. When people complain about money, I know I am rich compared to most of the world. It’s all about perspective. I don’t think most of us realize we have enough money. We always want more.

So, back to the documentaries. In Human, there were a bunch of people talking about their work. And poverty. They worked long hard hours at terrible jobs and they didn’t know what else they could do. One man said he didn’t have the intellectual strength to figure out a way out. Another man told – with tears in his eyes – of how two of his family members died because they couldn’t afford the medical care they needed.

In living on One Dollar, a group of young men voluntarily went to Guatemala to live like the people there live. They brought enough money to live on one dollar a day and had a system where they pulled out a number randomly each day to mimic not getting paid some days. They started living on rice and beans. They quickly grew hungry and lost the energy to do the work they needed to do to survive. They interviewed a Guatemalan who said some days his children just had tortillas to eat. And during those times they didn’t get the nutrition they needed to have the energy to go outside to play.

Did you process that, dear reader?

There are people that are in poverty where it is so bad that they can’t figure out how to get out. Where, even if they can buy food, they have to buy cheap stuff to fill their bellies but it is devoid of nutrition which makes them what the privileged world would call lazy.

These people need our help. Period. As fellow human beings with compassion.

Yes, there are and will always be truly lazy people in this world. Just as there will be evil people. But do we want to punish those who could really use some help to make enough money to live because some people abuse that help? And do we really think America is great when this is happening on our own shores? Really, it is happening all over the world. Affluence and poverty, side by side.

I say it’s time for us all to wake up and snap out of this crazy nightmare. Reconsider your perspective on the truly poor and let’s all use our brains and other talents to figure a way out of this mess. And those of us with money also need to carefully consider how we are spending it. Are we buying things that perpetuate the system of slave labor on substandard wages? That’s what one man in Human said. That we need to hold ourselves accountable.

I end with this…