An Idiot’s Guide to Bolton Pond Trail

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

Episode 1 of The Hiking Diaries

BoltonPondTrail (12)

I begin my hiking diaries series with a trail I’ve never hiked before. And it tripped me up. Hence the name of this post. It’ll all become clear as I go along. And I can’t even officially mark off this trail, because I only hiked a portion of it. Twice. In other words, I walked in circles.

But let’s start at the beginning. This is the beginning…

Bolton Pond Trail entrance

As I mentioned in my introduction to The Hiking Diaries, there is usually at least one special moment during a hike. Something that takes your breath away. Or something neat you notice. Or something that takes you by surprise, like the time an owl flew over my head.

There can be other surprises too. Like today. When Koda decided to poop right at the entrance of the trail. Not in the woods. Right on the trail. So I memorized the spot, walked back to the car, got a poop bag, found the poop, picked up the poop, brought the bag back to the car and left it outside so I didn’t stink up my car, then returned to the trail head.

Maybe I should have taken this as a sign that the hike was going to be no routine hike.


One of the first picture-worthy things I noticed were these dead trees. I have a thing about trees.

Along Bolton Pond Trail

Dead. But still standing as sentinels.

And right beyond them, a pine forest.

Along Bolton Pond Trail

I have a thing about pine forests, too. Really, pictures can’t capture them. They aren’t just in front of you. They are all around you. And if you’re like me, you become a part of them.


I soon came to this sign:

Bolton Pond Trail Sign

The weird thing about it is that there was a trail that went off to the left. And a trail that went straight. And a trail that went to the right, where this sign was pointing.

It is highly unlike Wachusett to not label the other trails. Highly unlike them.

And like a good hiker, I followed the sign. And went to the right.

One thing I noticed as soon as I went that way was the abundance of this ground cover….

Along Bolton Pond Trail

Wintergreen? My herbal brain started going into overdrive. I already found a huge stand of witch hazel on the mountain.

I plucked a leave, bent it, and smelled it.

It wasn’t wintergreen. I haven’t looked it up yet. I shall call it “faux wintergreen.” It was everywhere. And it would have been a great foraging find. Alas.


We passed by a big brook, with plenty of water. And this uprooted tree. Uprooted trees are a common sight on the mountain.

Along Bolton Pond Trail

Continuing along the stream, it became clear that Columbus wanted a part of it. So I brought the dogs down. And they drank and dipped. By dipped, I basically mean Koda laid down in it. She does that a lot when she is hot and tired and thirsty. But we had just started out on the walk, so maybe she just does it because she likes water.

And then… AND THEN! The most magic moment of all. We came upon Bolton Pond.

Bolton Pond

Yes, it’s beautiful. But the magic moment was when a great blue heron took off from the close side of the pond, and with it’s beautiful broad wingspan, flew just above the pond to the other side, in a slow motion movie that I captured in my mind. As you see, the water was mirror calm, and the gentle motion of the bird as it flew created a few seconds of peace that filled my soul.

The dogs went in the water. I wish I could let them off leash, to have a good frolic and swim, but Columbus wouldn’t have come back. I know this about him. He would have been after that bird and that peace that filled my soul would have burst like a bubble.


Soon after, we came to this spot.

Along Bolton Pond Trail

It is hard to tell from this picture, and I missed it the first time around, but there is a trail that goes straight ahead. It has a dead tree leaning in front of it. Tricky. But the larger trail goes to the left.

I went left.

See those two trees with blue markings like this in the prior picture?

Bolton Pond Trail Marker

Those are trail markers. And I missed them.


As we walked on, down the wrong trail, I took this picture.

Along Bolton Pond Trail

Because it always amazes me to find these stone walls in the woods, on a mountain. What, did people farm ON the mountain, at one point? Crazy.


Soon, I came to another sign that looked just like the first sign.

Bolton Pond Trail Sign

Because, um, it was. Only I didn’t realize it. I actually came out from the straight ahead trail. If you remember, I went to the right. And so, it appears, the trail circled around and came out back at this same spot.

Okay, now I was confused. And really curious. This loop wasn’t on the trail map. I decided to follow the trail that, in this picture, goes to the left.

I followed it, came out to another trail. Studied that carefully (okay, when I hit this dead pine tree and the trail forks left, take the left). Turns out I needn’t have worried. The dogs knew the way back.

I eventually got to this bridge.

Along Bolton Pond Trail

Kind of neat looking. Kind of rotted. But I walked over it without falling through and soon came upon a parking lot for the mountain where the ski facility stores all kinds of trucks and there is an outbuilding. Ugly. Did a 180, and pondered the following question….

“How the heck does this all relate to the trail map?”


I eventually wound up back at the trail entrance and checked my phone for the time, and decided I needed to figure some things out.

So I re-hiked the trail. Which is when I figured out that I had missed the correct trail after the pond.

And, what this means, is that I have to go back and do this again. Because, as it stands, I didn’t complete Bolton Pond trail. But I did hit some unmarked trails and explored them. Not part of the plan, but adventures do not go as planned.

Otherwise, they’d be boring.





The Hiking Diaries

Posted by & filed under the hiking diaries.

I’ve hiked most of the trails on Mount Wachusett during all my years hiking it. But some of them not very often, while others I could hike in my mind, I hike them so regularly. As I was wondering if I’d hiked them all, I thought, “wouldn’t it be a fun fall activity to hike all the Wachusett trails?” And so that’s what I plan on doing.

Most of my hiking is done in the morning before work, but some of the trails beg more time than that. For instance…wouldn’t it be fun to walk from the Audubon sanctuary all the way up Harrington trail to the top of the mountain? That one will have to be done without the dogs, since the Audubon sanctuary doesn’t allow dogs. On second thought, maybe it wouldn’t be fun if I couldn’t take the dogs.

Okay, I’ve just amended this activity to be an adventure with the dogs. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll get up extra early for some of the longer hikes. (Because, truthfully, it’s much more fun hiking in the morning when the mountain isn’t crowded than tackling it on the busy weekends.)

Just to get you oriented, here’s a map of Wachusett Mountain….


Yes, it’s a small mountain. Someone once told me it’s actually the minimum height to be called a mountain (2,005 feet). However, in googling that piece of information, I found that there is no official definition of a mountain. Some geographers put a mountain at 1,000 feet above sea level. The Oxford Dictionary puts it at 2,000. By whatever definition, Wachusett certainly isn’t a tall mountain. Here are some other mountain heights to compare it to:

  • Mt. Greylock, Adams, MA: 3,491 feet (the highest natural point in Massachusetts)
  • Mt. Grace, Warwick, MA: 1,617 feet
  • Mt. Monadnock, Jaffrey/Dublin, NH: 3,166 feet.
  • Mt Washington, White Moutains, NH: 6,289 feet

By the way, you’ll be seeing more of this map as I mark off the trails I’ve completed. And blog about them. Because every hike has at least one special moment. And usually more.

A rainbow of belief

Posted by & filed under faith.

How can a person go from one set of beliefs to another? I feel like I’m a case study for why we need to understand that a person’s set of beliefs does not define them. Have I gone from an intelligent person to a dumb one? Or the other way around? Was I okay when I believed one thing but I’m not okay now? I listen to people saying the things I used to say and think and it’s so surreal. I used to believe those things and now they sound so foreign! And truthfully, I don’t know where I stand on some issues and I don’t care.

Belief is complicated. I think if we just hang out with people who believe what we believe there is a comfort, but there is not enough room for growth and understanding. Our world needs growth and understanding. We need to step outside of our comfortable places and see the big, wide world as it is. Full of a jumble of people with different ideas. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet ideas. And those ideas overlap at the edges and blend, making a most magnificent, brilliant, cherished rainbow. Universally loved. If we could just see each other as a piece of rainbow, a slice of light….

And here’s another thing. When your beliefs do a flip – or partial flip – as mine have, you begin to learn that the beliefs don’t really matter. The people believing them do. And if my beliefs prevent me from loving you, then I’d just as soon toss them out the window and start again. And I’m pretty sure that’s what got me to where I am now in the first place. I’ve opened my heart to the sky and let my beliefs be carried away on the wind. My heart feels so much lighter.

photo credit: mini rainbow via photopin (license)

A tale of two truths

Posted by & filed under poetry.

I speak my truth.
You speak yours louder.
There is no room for my truth
alongside yours.
You live your life
shut down to any new ideas.
They don’t matter.
one day,
you discover your truth is a lie.
you finally open your heart.
And we walk side by side again,
you living your new truth,
me living mine.

Our home

Posted by & filed under health.


I watched a documentary called Home tonight.  Gosh, I got kind-of depressed and almost stopped it but at the end it mentioned positive things. Thank goodness!

There was good information in the tough parts, however….Our population is exploding and we are depleting our resources. It would well serve us to learn the lessons from Easter Island. The sun is free. As long as the earth exists, the sun will shine on it. And yet, we are raping our land using up fossil fuels. Monoculture is a problem. Our voracious meat-eating appetites are a problem. We NEED to live in a more sustainable way to survive.

Really. Truly. I know I talk about this a lot, but that’s because it’s really, really important. Critically important. Life-changing important.

Let me just tell you that I am one of the people who thought climate change was a hoax. I’m almost ashamed to say that, but I was. Until I started really connecting to nature and studying permaculture and herbalism. The thing is, whether you believe in climate change or not, living in a more sustainable way will benefit the planet.

Earth care. People care. Fair Share. A more moderate, sustainable society. We’d likely need to give up some of our conveniences. Is the betterment of our world worth that? I think so.

I’m really hoping that the people who want to move in this direction become the majority. My vote for our government officials from this point forward is going to involve me examining their stand on these issues. Not just their words – their ACTIONS.

And I pledge to continue to learn to live my own life in a more moderate, sustainable way. For all of us. Here’s to waking up.


photo credit: GEBCO_08 with Shaded Blue Marble Landmass via photopin (license)

Let’s all do this together!

Posted by & filed under health, real food.


I listened to a Hay House Summit talk today about health and food. The speaker had cancer. She went the conventional route and the cancer only got more aggressive. Then she went to Mexico to do Gerson therapy (what I would pick). She spoke of drastically changing her diet, of being religious about eating organic, about planning ahead for trips by researching organic restaurants, taking her own snacks for the plane.

Why does it have to be this hard? If we want to live this way we really have to pull away from society. I know when I go out to restaurants I am not getting organic food. I know when I go to a friend’s house I am most likely not getting organic food. Unless it’s a pot luck and I eat what I brought. Same at most family members’ homes.

The speaker spoke of two things that resonated with me. One, about loving yourself. Two, about not eating this way out of fear, because then it’s all about negative energy. It’s about eating this way out of love. Because if you love yourself you want to treat yourself right. You want to give your body the fuel it needs to run, not gunk it up with toxic chemicals.

You wouldn’t put oil in your car’s engine, would you? Then why put poisons in this miraculous body you’ve been given?

She also said one more powerful thing. What I say all the time. Why wait for the diagnosis to eat healthy? Why not start now and prevent the diagnosis?

If we all did this together we would fix our food system. And I wouldn’t have to compromise my body to be social. I serve organic food to anybody who comes to my home because I want to give their beautiful selves real food. This isn’t just about me. This is about you, too. Now, step up and help me heal this beautiful planet and the beings who dwell on it.

Love you. Namaste.


A Tale of Two Labels

Posted by & filed under buyer beware, real food.

When it comes to reading labels when buying packaged food, the only one that matters is the ingredients label (and yes, the nutrition label is good as well). Bottom line, read the back of the package. (Caveat, the word “natural” means nothing now if you read it anywhere in the package. Lots of time “natural flavorings” means it includes MSG.)

Let me show you….

Here are two coconut waters:

Both say pure coconut water. But let's flip to the back of them. First the Zico:

Just coconut water. Yes! What we would expect from a label that said pure.

Now the Vitacoco:

There's the coconut water. But what? Some added sugar? Why? And added vitamin C. Some people may like that, but the problem here for me is that the front label says PURE coconut water.

Here's the definition of pure:

Not mixed or adulterated with any other substance or material.

I think the thing that bothers me the most about all of this is that I like to trust people. And I expect people to be honest. I am, even when it's hard. Words have meaning. If you use them in ways that aren't true, you have emptied them of their meaning. Just because you are a corporation doesn't give you license to lie. Or change the meaning of words.

This is why I'm opting out of the industrialized food system little by little. My trust of it has eroded to pretty much zero. For now, for foods I can't grow like coconuts, chia (I tried), and other warm-climate foods, I need to trust labels. I need to trust the words used on them. And I don't. And that makes me really sad about more than just food.

And I don't want to be sad. So I'm going to be happy that there are some companies making good food. And they are the ones getting my business. Until I figure out how to live totally off my land, that is!


Be the true you

Posted by & filed under my life.

The title of this post is a message to myself. Yes, it’s to all of you who read this, too. But I’m trying to give myself a little pep talk. Okay?

I’ve always felt different. And people have noticed. I was teased as a child. You don’t get teased if you fit in. It’s when you stand out that you become a target.

But, being gentle (for the most part – there is certainly a feisty part of me), I didn’t know how to fight back. And so I didn’t. And I practiced flying under the radar, making myself smaller, blending in.

There’s consequences when you do that. You lose who you are. And you wind up letting other people talk you into how you should live your life. You go along with the status quo, even though you are anything but – and even the opposite of – the status quo.

As people may have noticed, I’ve gone inside myself this last year (or maybe it’s longer, I’m losing track of time), pulled away into nature and time with God without the noise of man telling me who God is. He’s nothing like what I’ve been taught, and what I’ve struggled many, many years to believe. I’ve always connected with him more in nature and quietly, by myself, than anyplace else, and told that wasn’t enough. Well now it’s enough.

It’s everything.

There is a great book by Sue Monk Kidd called “When the Heart Waits” about her mid-life journey of finding herself. Who’d have known that I’d have my own similar journey. I’m trying to find the pieces of myself I lost. The pieces I have squelched in the process of getting along in this world.

I have a ways to go, I think. It’s kind-of a roller coaster ride and I still have to live the life I’m in (and it’s a wonderful life, don’t get me wrong). But this I know….even if I’m going along on the outside, I’m not on the inside. I’m becoming me. Slowly, ever so slowly. The true me.

I was going to write something about this true me, but I’m not ready. Because it all comes out defensive. And my goal is to get a place where I am so totally accepting of myself that I don’t give a damn what anybody else thinks.

Working on it, working on it.

And so, let me end with this thought….The world needs us to be our true selves. Otherwise, why were we born? Just to take up space and become another brick in the wall?

Our real selves

Posted by & filed under my life.

There are some things we can’t change about ourselves. Maybe we can with surgery, but if we don’t want to do that, our physical appearance is pretty much what we’ve been given at birth.

Like big noses, big hips, baldness, lots of wrinkles, insert whatever here: ________.

These things are all “less” than the human physical ideal. Not exactly sure who sets that ideal, but maybe it’s just part of us because little kids tease each other about physical attributes. Or maybe they are just picking on “different.” I remember as a little kid a neighbor of the same age asking me why my eyes were so wide open/big.

Wide-eyed innocence, maybe? Let’s just say growing up that sure can get squelched. All of a sudden, I let that kid make me think something was wrong with my eyes.

And I was not one of the lucky ones to get a small button nose. My nose has a bump in it and is not small. It’s a combination of my dad’s nose and my mom’s nose. Funny how that works. It was really tough growing up with this nose – kids can be so cruel. But what is even worse is when I run into someone who is suppose to like me, suppose to be my friend, who teases me about it. Luckily I don’t run into that too often. But I just did fairly recently and guess what?

Jokes about someone’s less-than-perfect physical qualities hurt. No matter how old you are.

The scripture in the Bible that says, “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” applies here.

But what really prompted me to write this were some jokes made towards a bald person in my family this past weekend. By other family members. At least two of them.

How is that okay? Tell me, how is that okay? I’m sure he’s used to it, I had to get used to the nose jokes. But at least I don’t hear them too often by friends (barring that recent one) and family.

So, perhaps we cannot change our physical experiences. But I’ll tell you what we can change. We can change the words that come out of our mouths. And we can do that by changing our hearts. By learning to love everyone for who they are. By celebrating differences and uniqueness. By getting a better self-esteem and/or outlook on life so that you don’t have to cut people down to make yourself feel better. By learning – maybe from this blog post – that it’s not okay to make fun of someone’s physical features. It’s just plain mean.

Let’s all work on changing the things about us that we can change for the better, and learn to love our physical selves just the way we are. Because who we are is more than our outsides. Our physical body is just our shell. The real us is inside. In our hearts.

Love, me

Me, profile view

This Easter

Posted by & filed under faith.

Jesus, on this Easter Day, when everyone focuses on your resurrection – so much better than focusing on and celebrating your death, at least – I want to think about how I move forward in my relationship with you.

I really want to understand your teachings. Because I think you came here to teach us, and we’ve turned it all into a religion where you are the only way to God and all others who love God are condemned to an eternity in hell. Even the Jews, of which you were one.

Why doesn’t that seem to make no sense to more Christians?

Why, when you spoke in parables, were some of your words taken literally?

Why have we not realized the profoundness of your teachings, even when you led us by example – like by practicing non-violence even to the point of not trying to defend yourself when condemned to death. And asking for forgiveness for those who killed you because you realized their ignorance.

You realize ours, too.

Please help me read your words with fresh eyes. I find myself stuck in a place of rejection and repulsion by much of what is written in this book that used to bring me such comfort. Help me through that, please, so I can walk with you and God in confidence, not defensiveness. So I can be an instrument of your peace and love. Even if I don’t fit the mold.

Please help this world, Jesus. Help heal man’s inhumanity to man. Nothing has changed since you left. We still condemn each other to the point of death. And most of it is because of religious differences.

I breaks my heart. I’m pretty sure it must break yours, too.