Stavros Reservation (Essex, MA)

Date Of Visit: April 22, 2017

Location: 8 Island Rd, Essex, MA (about half an hour north of Boston)

Hours: Open daily from sunrise to sunset

Cost: Free

Parking: Parking is very limited.  There is not a parking lot for this reserve.  Parking is allowed on the grass at the side of the street

Size/Trail Difficulty/Time to Spend: 3/4 mile loop, easy trail with a moderate incline, your visit should last half an hour to an hour at the most

Handicapped Accessible: No, the trails are too steep in some parts

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: stone structure, popular birding destination, scenic views off the water, pretty trees

Website: Starvos Reservation


What better way to celebrate Earth Day then a visit to Stavros Reserve in Essex, MA?

It was a windy and raw day, more like a fall or winter day than a spring day.  But, such is the weather for New England.  I just considered myself lucky that it wasn’t snowing.   This is New England after all.

Stavros Reserve is easy enough to find.  Parking, however, is a different story.  After driving past the reserve in the hopes of finding a parking area, I turned around and settled on a parking spot on the grass by the side of the road.  Several cars (5-10) could probably squeeze in this parking area before the side of the road narrows to accommodate the traffic on Island Rd.

At first glance, Stavros Reserve doesn’t seem like much.  The moderately steep roughly quarter of a mile incline features some scenic views, pretty trees

and this creepy looking tree that reminded me of the trees from the Wizard Of Oz.


Once you reach the end of the trail, you’ll see a stone structure that was once a fieldstone base of a 50-foot, three-level tower built by Lamont G. Burnham in the 1880s.

The top of the trail at the reservation has some eye catching views.

Inscribed on the marker under the tree is:

“This land is a memorial to

James Niclis Stavros

For the enjoyment of all who find

Renewal of spirit in nature

Mary F. Stavros

May 17, 1986”

As an aside, I fell in love with Essex while I was there.  Antique shops and well manicured colonial style homes line the main streets.  It’s an old New England town, incorporated as a town in Massachusetts in 1819, that has kept its charm.

The birds, seagulls specifically, were acting strangely while I was there.

That was enough for me.  I saw a flock of seagulls.  So I ran.  (only people over 40 might get that one)

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Family Farm Fest (Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, MA)

Date Of Visit: April 15, 2017

Location: Old Sturbridge Village, 1 Old Sturbridge Village Rd.
Sturbridge, MA

Cost: Adults $28.00
Seniors (55 and over) $26.00
College Student (with valid college ID) $14
Youths (4-17) $14.00
Children age 3 and under Admitted Free

(if you do visit again within 10 days of the purchase of your ticket, your second visit is free)


March – April
Open Wednesday – Sunday | 9:30 am – 4:00 pm

Open Daily | April 15 – 23 | 9:30 am – 4:00 pm

May – October
Open Wednesday – Sunday | 9:30 am – 5:00 pm

(hours vary upon the season)

Parking: Free parking with the purchase of a ticket is available for about a couple hundred cars.

Handicapped Accessible: Yes.  Old Sturbridge Village offers handicapped parking, and , upon request, wheelchairs for some visitors.  Only about half of their historic buildings are wheelchair accessible

Web Site: Old Sturbridge Village


Warmer temperatures and longer days of sunlight are not the only things coming to Old Sturbridge Village.  The baby animals have also arrived!

Just in time for April school break, Old Sturbridge Village is home to a variety of barnyard animals.  It is always a treat seeing the baby animals at the living history museum.


I have already made multiple visits to Old Sturbridge Village (click here to view my original post about my first visit there in July of 2016) and I am sure to make many more visits when they have fun events like this one.

Although they did not have as many animals as the Strawbery Banke Musuem’s baby animals exhibition, Old Sturbridge Village still had a wide variety of animals to view and, in some cases, pet.

Many of the animals, particularly the little ones, were pretty tuckered out after all that traveling and playing.

Meet Jake (on the left) and Patrick (on the right).  They are donkeys who were rescued from a farm in Texas and are looking for a good home, if you’re interested!

In the fields in the middle of the common area, there were chickens, alpacas and pigs and other animals in their pens.

This mommy hen was digging for food for her chicks.

There were also living actors playing parts of the people from that era (the 1830s).  They also interacted with the audience and they were very informative.

Fun fact: it took a shoemaker about one whole day to make…that’s right one shoe.  One.  Well, I guess it’s a “fun fact” unless you’re one of the shoemakers.

Okay, nerd alert: I could listen to these living actors (I hope they’re “living”) all day.  But, I couldn’t spend too long as I had photos to take and only so much time to spend there.  One day, I plan on just spending the entire day and taking it all in.

These aren’t real actors in case you were wondering (although in the first photo, the woman looking mannequin looks like a ghost).  These mannequins are dressed in common attire of the day.

The kids got a blast out of the firing of the musket (he was shooting blanks).

Thiss gentleman was building the frame of a house, with a little help from some friends.

Of course, I couldn’t resist taking photos of the beautiful buildings and landscapes at the village.


DrainSmart (Salem, MA)

Date Of Visit: April 9, 2017

Locations: Throughout Salem, MA

Highlights: DrainSmart Mural Project, sights and sounds of Salem

Think twice before you drop that seemingly harmless piece of paper on the sidewalk.  That is what the DrainSmart murals located throughout the city of Salem, MA, seem to be saying.

The DrainSmart Program was created to help create awareness of how littering causes so much pollution in our waters.  As the murals state, everything that enters the sewers drains to the ocean.

There were 12 murals planned for the city.  I photographed 5 of the best looking works.  Unfortunately, I could not locate some of the others or the others I did find had been worn away by pedestrian foot traffic and the elements.

Click here to see what they were supposed to look like.

The DrainSmart murals weren’t the only works of art or signs in the area.

Halloween isn’t the only time people dress up in Salem.  The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers held a Regency Dance Weekend in Salem, MA, while I was visiting.  The participants all wore attire that represented the time they were recreating.

Whenever I am in Salem, I am always taken by the historical significance and the architecture of the area.  This building, the Witch House, is the last standing structure with direct ties to the Salem Witch Trials.  In this house suspected witches and other people who were considered witnesses were tortured and threatened to confess to participating in witchcraft or witnessing witches.

It’s also fun just walking around and checking out the sights and sounds of Salem, particularly on such a pleasant spring day.  They are building a hotel on Essex St and I noticed on the side of this building an old sign for Pickman Place.


It’s always refreshing for me to see buildings that have stood the test of time and still stand today, even if they may have different tenants.  I may have an unhealthy attachment to historical buildings and landmarks.  They bind us together.  In a world that is ever changing and making way for new and better, it’s important to keep our history close at hand as well.  Imagine all of the different people who have walked those same streets, enjoyed the very same entertainers we have.  These streets could tell stories.

This side street where the Salem Witch Trials Memorial stands will be packed shoulder to shoulder in a mere 200 days.  On this day it was desolate.


As was the mall.  There is something about the Museum Mall in Salem that seems creepy and kind of scary when there’s not a crowd there.

There were also musicians out in the warm weather.  You might not recognize the second musician.  He usually plays his instrument with a mask at the very same location during the Halloween season.

There were also some very cute dogs out in Salem during my visit.

Mojo is a 4 year old Airedale and Pointer rescue from Tennessee.


Duke is a 9 month old Hungarian Vizsla.  I wonder if he’s related to Dennis?

Art In The Park (Lappin Park, Salem, MA)

Date Of Event: April 9, 2017

Location: Lappin Park, Essex St, Salem, MA

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Highlights: Aspiring and casual artists painting and drawing works of art


Once known exclusively for the tragic Salem Witch Trials and tales of haunted attractions, Salem, MA, has become a hub of artistic and creative expression.  The “Art In The Park” event held last weekend (April 9) at Lappin Park (also known as the park with the Bewitched statue) is proof of this.

This was the first “Art In The Park” event and it was such a success another event has been planned for May (details of the upcoming event can be found near the end of this post).  The idea came to a school teacher who resides in Salem, MA.  And, the Salem Collective of Arts And Musicians (SCAM) ran with the idea.

Gary, one of the organizers of the event, told me, it was great seeing people from all walks of life, ages and backgrounds getting together to bond over art.

From novices to skilled artists, all were welcome to participate.  This family’s work of art was aptly called, “Family.”

This work of art was a collaborative effort with at least 3 or 4 people taking turns working on it.


This work of art was created by the creator of the event, John.



Another Art In The Park event is scheduled for Sunday, May 7 at Lappin Park in Salem, MA , at 11 a.m.  Minimal materials will be provided.  For more details, check out their Facebook page:Art In The Park.

Below are some photos of the exterior of the SCAM building on Essex St

Although they weren’t interested in painting, I saw a lot of dogs in Salem enjoying the beautiful Salem weather.

Bella is a 2 year old rescue from Alabama.  Although her exact breed is not known, her mom thinks she probably has some Lab in her.  Either way, she cute’s as a button!

Nora is a 5 year old Chihuahua.  Don’t you just love those ears!

As an fyi, the Salem garage (at least the one on New Liberty St where the Museum Plaza is) no longer has attendees in their parking garage.  They have automated their pay system.  Gone are the friendly faces that greeted you as you entered and left the garage.

Although it seems like a minor change and for the better for some, I’ll actually miss having a person taking my money and wishing me a good day instead of paying a lifeless machine.  It’s funny how such a small and seemingly innocuous change can bother me so. I suppose it’s also a sign that things are changing (and I suspect there will be many more changes coming to Salem).  Or, it could just be another sign the machines are taking over!


Norris Reservation (Norwell, MA)

Date Of Visit: April 8, 2017

Location: 10 Dover St, Norwell, MA (about 30 miles south of Boston)

Hours: Daily sunrise to sunset

Cost: Free for Trustees members, $5 parking fee for non members

Parking: There is a small lot by the entrance for about a dozen cars.  It fills up quickly during the summer and other peak times

Handicapped Accessible: No, the trails are too rocky and they often get muddy after rainy days

Park Size and Trail Difficulty: 129 acres, 2 miles loop trail, 2.5-3 miles of trails if you walk the side trails.  Trails are easy and accessible for people of all ages.

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: ponds, streams, boardwalks, old mill site, old boat house, herring and other fish, birds, if you’re lucky you might see a beaver or other type of wildlife

Lowlights: Be careful of ticks (I brought home 3 with me)

Web Site: Norris Reservation

Trail Map: Norris Reservation Trail Map


Once the site of a mill and the current site of an old boat house, Norris Reservation boasts white pine and oak trees, wetlands and a boardwalk teeming with wildlife as well as pretty trees with leaves that look like they’re still in foliage, pretty rock formations and plant life.

Truly a hidden jewel ( be careful driving to the parking lot- I drove past the entrance and had to enter through the exit of the small parking lot), Norris Reservation is a fine park to visit throughout the year.  During the winter, trails can be accessed with snowshoes if needed.  The flowers and trees are vibrant during the spring and summer and the trees are ablaze with foliage during the fall.  During my visit, it was a rather average spring day.  It was windy to begin but settled into a pretty standard spring day, albeit a bit on the cold side.  You can see the ripples in the water from the wind in some of the photos.

Along the walkway as you enter the reservation along Eleanor’s Path (named after the benefactor of the park, Eleanor Norris), there is a pond and a little waterfall.

I got to break out my new gear, my Canon EOS 8D for this shoot.  So, I was very excited to take it on for a test drive.  I’m still getting used to the buttons and how it operates.  But, I hope the photos are an improvement from my previous shots, especially as I get more familiar with it.

The main trail at Norris Reservation is probably the red trail which eventually takes you to Gordon’s Pond.  Gordon’s Pond has a boardwalk with scenic views and a small waterfall.  The pond is encircled with trees and it is popular with fishing enthusiasts.

Named after Albert P. Norris, whose wife donated the land upon his death, Norris Reservation hugs the North River which was once the center of pre-Colonial era ship building.  Along these side trails, you can find a lot of scenic views and bird life.

Along the McMullan Trail is the old boathouse.  I’m not sure if it’s operational for use and you’re not allowed to tie boats or dock there.  But, it is a nice place to hang out on the deck and take in the beauty of the area.

There is also a granite block in the Granite Boulders section of the trail.

There is also an abundance of birds at Norris Reservation.  I was able to shoot this robin, some black birds and a baby loon at the park.

Norris Reservation is an ideal place to take your pooch for a walk.  I saw dozens of cute dogs during my hike at Norris.  Below are some of the more photogenic dogs I saw on the trails.

Argos is an 11 month old White Shepherd.  I had never seen such a fluffy, cute pure white dog.  He really did stand out to me.

Delilah (on the left) is a 2 year old Boston Terrier and Harley is a 10 year old Yorkie and Shih Tzu mix.  They posed so well!

Colby is a 7 and a half Bernese Mountain Dog.  What a cute smile!

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North American Alpaca Show (West Springfield, MA)

Dates of Event: March 31-April 2, 2017 (photos taken April 1)

Location: Eastern States Exposition Center, Mallory Building, 1305 Memorial Ave, West Springfield, MA (2 hours west of Boston, MA)

Cost: Free

Parking: ample parking is provided, free of charge, at the rear and side of the Mallory Building

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Highlights: Alpacas, Alpaca shows, products made from Alpaca fleece

Web Site: North American Alpaca Show


Known for their seemingly ever present signature smile and calm demeanor, alpacas are one of the more popular animals in the New England area.  Alpaca farms have been springing up more and more in the Northeast area.  In fact, the New England Alpacas Owners and Breeders Association (NEAOBA) lists 85 breeders in the New England and New York area.  Many of these breeders and owners met last weekend at the Eastern States Exposition Center in West Springfield, MA.  The owners and breeders came as far away as Phoenix, New York and parts of Maine and Vermont.

Besides being absolutely adorable and generally calm animals, alpacas are said to be very smart animals.  They often tend to pack together, you know like you expect from alpackas.  Okay enough word play.  For now.  As you can see from the photos below, they do like to be close to each other.

But, I did manage to get a few Alpacas on their own to photograph which was hard to do since they were all packed in there together (I told you I wasn’t done with my word play).  There are so many different colors and sizes.  Fun facts: the average alpaca can grow to be 150 to 175 pounds!  They also have a life span of 15-20 years and can grow to be as tall 3 feet at the shoulders and 4.5 feet tall by the head.

I also liked this “Alpaca photo bomb”


Alpacas are shown and judged (they all received ribbons from to last place) and they are generally calm while they are being shown, except when their personal space is encroached.  But, overall they were very graceful.

Some of the alpacas appeared to mouth the metal fencing of their pens.  This is not uncommon.  In fact, one owner said he keeps baby teething rings for his alpacas and they enjoy using them.


Most of the alpacas were very friendly, albeit a little guarded.  But, once they warm up to you, they were very social.  In fact, they seemed to pose for me.  That is what I noticed most about them.  They seem to have a lot of personality.

There were also several people selling many products made from alpaca fleece.  They sold a variety of products made from  alpaca fleece.  They were even selling alpacas made from alpacas (fleece). Being an animal lover, I inquired about the shearing process and I was informed that it is a simple, quick process that does not hurt the animals.

One of the cool things about these cuties is how they communicate to each other in a variety of ways such as through posture, the movement of their tails and some of them even make a noise the owners and breeders call “humming”.

Ludlow Clock Tower (Ludlow, MA)

Date Of Visit: March 25, 2017

Location: Ludlow Mills, East St and State St, Ludlow, MA (about 2 hours west of Boston, MA and 15 minutes northeast of Springfield, MA)

Parking: There is a parking lot at ghe side and rear of the building.  There is also parking available in nearby parking lots



A few of the great things about New England are the old buildings and historical structures.  It’s funny how we can become attached to inanimate objects.  However, I don’t really consider these buildings as being dead or never having been alive in the first place.  The people and the activity in the buildings give them an energy and a life of their own.  Yeah, I really do have strong feelings about brick, stone and concrete structures.  Maybe I should look into that.

Buildings and structures (especially abandoned ones) are like living, breathing entities with countless stories to tell.  They are not just buildings.  They become fixtures of their communities.  Such as the case with the Ludlow Clock Tower and Lower Mills area.  In fact, the the clock tower is such a prominent fixture of the town it is depicted on the town seal.

Oddly, the clock remains stuck at 10 past twelve o’clock at the front facing clock and 11:45 at the side facing clock (it was a little after 10 a.m. when I took the photos).


The Ludlow Clock Tower, or at least the building attached to it, is scheduled to be renovated as part of the Massachusetts 351 Project.  As part of this project, some of the space will be set aside for senior housing by the  WinnDevelopment corporation.  Some of the space will also be taken by HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital which is estimated to cost $288 million and  house 53 hospital beds.

Although it is good the space will be put to good use, it is sad the once prominent manufacturing facility will be renovated.  With the walls, bricks, and probably a little asbestos, a lot of history and memories will be demolished.

The clock tower , which was constructed as part of the complex in 1886 by the Ludlow Manufacturing and Sales Company, has seen various business and tenants roam its hallways over the years.  The commercial space has seen many changes from the horse and buggy days to the current days of motorized vehicles.



At its height in the 1920’s, before the Great Depression, the commercial space is said to have employed over 4,000 people.  Now it stands largely unoccupied in stark contrast to the busy manufacturing powerhouse it used to be.

Like many other buildings and facilities, the Lower Mills facility fell victim to modernization.  Lower Mills stopped their operations in the 1960s.  Currently, 38 small businesses occupy the space.

Een though the building and neighborhood will clearly be better for the renovations and modernization (there is also a river walk way being considered), I can’t help feeling the neighborhood will lose just a little of its charm.