Leverett Pond/Echo Lake (Leverett, MA)

Date Of Visit: May 27, 20176

Location: Main St, Leverett, MA (about 40 minutes north of Springfield, MA)

Hours: Open everyday from sunrise to sunset

Cost: Free

Parking: There is free street parking available on the shoulder of the road across from the lake.  There is room for about 5 cars.

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: pond, poetry box, wildlife, boat launch

Website: Friends Of Leverett Pond

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Located in the center of town inconspicuously on the side of the road, Leverett Pond (also known as Echo Lake) is a 100 plus acre pond with amazing views and abundant wildlife.  In fact, the wildlife is so abundant it threatens the pond itself.  Beavers, specifically, seem to be clogging the dam at the nothern end.  It costs the organization $20,000 to fix this issue and they do not receive funding from the town.  So, the organization relies solely on donations.  But, still, the Friend of Leverett Pond are keep working to solve this problem.

Despite the ecological issues they may face, the pond still looks beautiful.

The pond is popular with boaters and fishing enthusiasts.  I saw two boats in the pond during the short time I was there.

During the winter, the pond is used by skaters.

While there were signs of wildlife, I was only able to see some fish in the water and a bird.

While the lake is a gem itself, one of the hidden treasures is the poetry box located on a tree by the lake.  If you weren’t looking for it you might just miss it.  Just to the left of the boat launch, the box is attached to a tree.

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Inside the box sits a binder with poems, stories and memories left behind by visitors. There are also a few pencils in the box for people to leave their thoughts and poems.   Some of the poems dated back to 2012.  It was not only nice to see this collection of art.  It was also nice to see it has been preserved and no one has stolen or disturbed the poetry box.

Behind the tree is a table for people to sit and read the binder or write their own addition to the binder.  The poems and other writings ranged from the comedic to the serious.  Some were written by children.  Others were written by older people.  Sometimes you could not tell who wrote the poem or what age they were.

Whether you’re a fisherman or fisherwoman, a boater or a poet, Leverett Pond is the perfect to spend the day.


Kites Against Cancer (Hampton Beach, Hampton, NH)

Date Of Event: May 21, 2017

Location: Hampton Beach, 115 Ocean Blvd.
Hampton Beach, NH

Cost: Free

Parking:

April 1 through April 30 – Pay and Display parking is in effect. $1.00 per hour between 8AM – Midnight. Midnight – 8AM Parking is free. Effective 2013 – Pay and Display. You must now return to your vehicle and display the receipt from the pay station in your dashboard. If you do not have a receipt displayed you will be fined.

Effective May 1st – $2 per hour public parking. Pay at Pay Station and Must display receipt visibly on dashboard.

Effective Nov. 4th, 2012 – Free parking begins. (Subject to change).

Winter Parking Ban – Nov. 15th, 2013 – April 1st, 2013 No On Street Parking between 12AM – 7AM. Be aware.

Handicap Parking – Handicap parking is available in any legal metered parking spot providing you have a Handicap Plate or a Hanging Handicap Tag hanging, or visible, in your front window.

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: kites, fund raiser for cancer awareness, face painting, family friendly and dog friendly

Website: Kites Against Cancer

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If you were in the Hampton, New Hampshire area last weekend, those weren’t space ships or dragons you thought you saw in the sky. No, it was the 9th annual Kites Against Cancer charity event at Hampton Beach, NH.  People from all over New England stopped by the beach to fly their kites and help a good cause.

Kites were provided or you could bring your own kite.  There were also kite decorating stations for you to personalize your own kite.  One of the participants, Miss Hampton Beach 2016 (Brooke Riley of Lowell, MA), decorated her kite with the names of relatives who had cancer at one point of their lives.

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Carrie Shaw, advancement officer at Exeter Hospital and the organizer of the event, said they expected 1,000 visitors for the event. Based on the crowds I saw there I am sure there were more than that throughout the course of the day.

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Carrie was inspired by her sister, Anne-Marie Viviano, who passed away from cancer.  In 2002, Anne-Marie had created a charity called Beyond The Rainbow which was designed to help patients pay their bills and meet other financial obligations.  After her sister passed, Carried dedicated herself to continuing this charitable endeavor.  The Kites Against Cancer event is one of the events that helps raise funds for the Beyond The Rainbow charity.

As I watched the sun seekers flying their kites, it was heart warming to see people of all backgrounds and walks of life enjoying themselves.

But some people seemed more interested in the sand and water.

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The types of kites being flown were just as diverse as the people flying them.

There were also vendors at the event such as DeNutte’s Delights.  DeNutte’s Delights produces $1,000 of goods to sell with all of the proceeds going to the Kites Against Cancer charity.  Whatever goods they do not sell at the event are donated to the charity.  Try the “Monkey Farts.”  Yes, that is an actual scent name of a product they sell.

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Carrie has made Kites Against Cancer an annual event that has grown bigger and bigger each year.  This year’s event included face painting, a balloon shaping artist, a card which people could sign in memory of those who have been lost to or survived cancer as well as music and speeches by special guests.  There were also an estimated 50 to 60 volunteers helping to make sure the event off smoothly, according to Carrie.

Kites Against Cancer is also a dog friendly event.

Scout is a 3 year old Yellow Lab.

Tryton is a 14 month old mini Schnauzer.

Noah is an 11 year old Pomeranian.  He was wearing his special sweater for the event.

Rosie is a 15 week old English Bulldog

If you missed this year’s event, you can attend next year but you want to support this cause or if you want learn more about the Beyond The Rainbow Fund, click on the link below:

Beyond The Rainbow

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Eastern Marsh Trail (Salisbury, MA)

Date Of Visit: May 21, 2017

Location: Friedenfels St, Salisbury, MA

Hours: accessible everyday

Cost: Free

Parking: There are 15 total parking spots designated for the rail trail.  There are 5 spots in the main parking lot on Friedenfels St at the entrance to the trail.  There are also 10 parking spots across the street from the main parking lot.  There is a larger parking lot in front of the main parking area that is a private lot.  Don’t park there as your car could be towed.

 

Trail Size/Difficulty: 1.4 miles, flat, easy trail.

Handicapped Accessible: Yes, the main trail is handicapped accessible.  The side trails are not accessible due to the rocky trails and steep inclines.  There is ramp to the right of the staircase to the trail at the parking area.

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: scenic views, wide and easy trail, side trail, dog friendly, family friendly, benches to sit at, wildlife

Fitbit Stats: 1.8 miles, 502 calories, 4,504 steps (one way)

Website: Eastern Marsh Trail

Once the site of a grand railroad that ran from Boston to sections of Boston’s North Shore and New Hampshire, the Eastern Marsh Rail Trail is a true gem of the coastal section of the north shore (cities and towns north of Boston).

The railroad, which would be extended over time, began operating from Boston to Salem in 1838.  It would later be extended to Salisbury and other territories in Massachusetts and New Hampshire in 1840.

Alas, the last train crossed the Merrimack River in 1965, leaving behind abandoned rail lines.  Eventually, it was proposed that the rail lines should be converted to rail trails.  Now, many decades later, instead of being used by noisy engines often carrying dangerous cargo, the rail lines are being used for exercise, dog walking and just enjoying nature.

The 1.4 mile Eastern Marsh Trail connects to the Clipper City Rail Trail  to the south and the Ghost Trail to the north.

The Eastern Marsh Trail, which is part of a system of trails along the coastal north shore which includes Newburyport and Salisbury.

The trails at Eastern Marsh Trail are flat with no significant inclines.

The Stevens Trail is a short trail (about .4 mile) that hooks up back to the main trail.  There are some views and a cute bridge along the trail.  You may see a few chipmunks along the way.  It has some minor inclines but I would classify it as easy.  This trail is not handicapped accessible due to the rocky terrain and a bridge that only has steps and no ramp.

The views along the trail are beautiful.

There are still remnants from the original railroad at the beginning of the trail.  Maybe some day they will revive the rail!

This mural from the Salisbury Art Stroll held on May 13 was still remaining along the trail.  I just missed it by a week.  But, I may have to drop by next year to check out the art on display.  This mural was a collaborative effort worked on by a group of artists.

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There were lots of little critters on and off the trail.  I would hear rustling in the trees or bushes in one direction only to be distracted by some other sound of activity in another direction.

Birds

turtles

and chipmunks

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are just a few of the animals you may see on the trail.

But, birds, chipmunks and turtles aren’t the only animals who frequent the trail.

The trail is a popular with dogs and their walkers.

I love the “side eye” Peter, a 14 year old Golden Retriever, was giving his human walker in the first photo.  All he wanted to do was greet me and say hi.

I love how May’s white fur looked against the background.  May is a 6 year old Golden Doodle.

Look at the big smiles on Mako (on the right) and Murphy (on the left)!  Mako is 6.5 years old and Murphy is 7 years old.  They are both Labradors.

 


Hudson Valley Arabian Horse Show (West Springfield, MA)

Date Of Event: May 13, 2017

Location: Eastern States Exposition Center, 1305 Memorial Avenue
West Springfield, MA, Coliseum Building (Gate 2) (about 2 hours west of Boston, and 10 minutes west of Springfield, MA)

Cost: Free

Parking: Ample free parking was available at the Exposition Center

Website: Hudson Valley Arabian Horse Association

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: Arabian horses, horse judging contests

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If it’s spring time it must be horse showing time at the “Big E.”  There are several horse shows scheduled there this spring and summer.  Since the weather in New England has been less than “spring-like”, I felt a nice indoor event watching beautiful horses would be the perfect event for a washed out weekend.

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Hawk is an Arabian/Pinto horse.

It’s always nice seeing the horses with their riders and trainers.  You can see the care they take with each horse and just how much they love their horses.

The Arabian horse show took place over the weekend of May 12-May 14.  I attended the morning show on May 13.  During my visit, the horses and the riders were being judged.  The horses were judged on appearance in the first event.

Then, the horses and riders were judged on their riding skills.

People of all ages rode.  The youngest group of riders was the 10 and under group.  I am always amazed at how someone so young can control a horse and not show an ounce of fear.

Dogs also like to watch horses apparently.

The person who was dog sitting this dog didn’t know the dog’s name.

This cute little is called Gingo.

If you missed the Hudson Valley Arabian Horse Show, fear not.  There are many more horse shows (specifically shows sponsored by the Arabian Horse Club of Connecticut) scheduled in the upcoming weeks and throughout the summer at the “Big E.”  See below for a schedule of events at the Exposition Center.

Eastern Exposition Calendar of Events

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Robert E. Barrett Fishway (Holyoke, MA)

Date Of Visit: May 13, 2017

Location: 1 Bridge St, Holyoke, MA

Hours: (hours during the 2017 Fishway Season)

May 3 through June 11, 2017
Days: Wednesday through Sunday
*Also, open Memorial Day, May 29
Time: 9 am – 5 pm

Cost: Free

Parking: There is a small parking lot for about 10 cars.  Additional parking is available on Bridge St on the sides of the dirt road at the entrance

Handicapped Accessible: No.  I did not notice an elevator to access the fishway.

Dog Friendly: No.  Dogs are allowed on some of the property outside.  But, they are not allowed past a certain point and they are not allowed in the building (service pets maybe allowed though)

Highlights: family friendly, educational, historical

Website: Robert E Barrett Fishway

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Every year around this time of the year, thousands of shad, bass, eels and other aquatic critters make their way to the Holyoke Dam as part of their annual migration.  That’s where the people at the Robert E Barrett Fishway come into the picture.

The Robert E. Barrett Fishway staff have been helping fish (mostly shad) make their migration since  the mid to late 1800s when they actually had to use buckets, ropes and levers to help the fish along.  Now, they used modernized technology to help thousands of fish a day make it along the dam.  In 2016, they helped 422,649 by their manual count done by college interns.  The interns use a clicker to count each fish.  And you thought your job was tedious.

These days, the fish are carried up by a mechanical cage-like trap pictured below that collects the trapped fish about every 10 minutes.  These traps can carry 500 to 700 fish at a clip.

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The fish are attracted to the stream that leads to the fishway by, of all things, oxygen.  Peter, our friendly tour guide, told us they add oxygen to the water and the fish, with their keen senses, are attracted to this slight change.  Once they are channeled into the stream, the fish are trapped between two gate-like structures and visible behind a glass window where they are counted by the interns with clickers.  They are also visible to the thousands of visitors who stop by each year.

The fishway is named Robert Barrett, the former President of Holyoke Water Power, who, in 1955, was inspired to create the first fish elevator on the east coast of the United States.  Since then, the fishway has emerged as one of the busiest fishways in New England, if not the nation.

I have always thought fish were cute and resilient.  A lot of people don’t seem to agree on this (at least on the “cute” part).  But, think about the dangers and obstacles they face every day from predators (including people) to nature itself, the fish has withstood so much and still perseveres.   In fact, we have a lot (or at least those things) in common.  Think about it.  Something so small and, frankly, taken for granted gives us so much and overcomes so much.  Yet, we often consider them insignificant or “yucky”.   Then again, the fact so many people don’t appreciate them, makes me do so all the more.  In any case, I was very excited to see them all through the windows at the fishway.

After they are released from the cage, the fish make their way along the Connecticut River.

Turkey vultures and other birds of prey, perch on the various tree branches by the fishway for easy pickings.

Even if you can’t make it to the fishway for the annual fish run, you can go for a walk, observe the bird life or even take your dog along the property to enjoy the beautiful views.

On the grounds of the fishway is one of the original ways that helped power the dam.  It sure has come along way from those days.

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Peter was our friendly tour guide.  Unfortunately, the flash didn’t go off for the photo I took of him.  But, I wanted to include his photo anyway.

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Unfortunately for the shad, there was the annual Shad Derby Tournament the 2nd and 3rd weekends in May.  Fishing enthusiasts were bringing their catches to the parking area of the fishway to be weighed for the $1,000 cash prize.

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Chalk It Up To Poetry (Salem, MA)

Date Of Visit: May 7, 2017

Location: Old Town Hall, 32 Derby Square, Salem, MA (about 30 minutes north of Boston)

Websites: Chalk It Up To Poetry

Salem Public Art Commission

Highlights: Verses from people’s favorites poems written in chalk on the grounds of Old Salem Town Hall

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Chalk it up to Salem.  Or, more accurately, chalk it up to poetry.

As part of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, Salem gave its visitors the opportunity to write down some lines from their favorites poems.  Or, to add some of their own.  It’s just another example of the artistic flair of the people who flock to the artistic hub just north of Boston.

Perhaps you’re an Emily Dickinson fan, or maybe Adrienne Rich is more your speed. Or, maybe you prefer poems or words of your own. Whatever you’re tastes, last weekend (May 5-7), you had the opportunity to write your favorite lines of poetry on the paved path leading to the Old Salem Town Hall.

What was so nice about the poems written in chalk was some of the poems were not written by popular poets.  So, some of the visitors may have been introduced to poets they were not aware of.

No part of the area was safe from the words of the poets, not even the walls of the old town hall.

While it is not clear if this is going to be an annual event, I am sure there will be more artistic events in Salem in the hear future.

Is there a line of poetry or work from a certain poet you would have written in chalk at Old Salem Town Hall?


Ravenswood Park (Gloucester, MA)

Date Of Visit: May 7, 2017

Location: 481 Western Ave, Gloucester, MA (about 1 hour northwest of Boston)

Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset

Cost: Free

Parking: there are 10 parking spots in the lot outside of the park, parking is also available on the side of the road near the park.  10-20 cars can safely fit in the area by the side of the road

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Trail Size/Difficulty: 10 miles of trails and former carriage roads. Moderate hiking. Carriage roads are covered with dense crushed stone and are generally wheelchair accessible.

Handicapped Accessible: The main trail and carriage roads are accessible at least for a while.  I walked it for over 2 miles and it was an easy, wide trail.  The side trails are much more rocky and challenging.

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: wildlife, lakes, vernal pools, easy to moderate trails

Fitbit Stats (distance walked, steps taken and calories burned according to Fitbit watch): 7.8 miles, 17,637 steps, 1,586 calories burned)

Website: Ravenswood Park

Trail Map: Ravenswood Park Trail Map

Although it is more famous for its long stretches of shoreline and its fishing industry, Gloucester is also home to some beautiful parks.  Boasting 10 miles of trails and several bodies of water, Ravenswood is teeming with wildlife.

One of the highlight of the park is Fernwood Lake.  Fernwood Lake is bisected by a walking path with open areas to photograph the lake and the animals that inhabit. it.

I took the Cedar Swamp Trail and hooked up onto the blue blazed Fernwood Lake Trail.  This trail is an easy 3 mile loop with many birds and trees along the path.  Of course, I went off trail to get some of my photos and I had to redouble my steps since I got a little lost.  So the hike was much more than 3 mile loop.  I took this trail partly because I thought it would be less traveled than some of the other trails and it was.  I didn’t run into many people taking these trails.  It has been a very rainy spring.  So there were lots of puddles and the area was very green.  The trails can be extremely rocky in some places, especially along the loop I took.  I did see a few runners.  But, not any cyclists.  As a side note, bikes are banned from March 1 until April 30 during the muddy season.

During my hike, I saw evidence of beavers

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And I saw these buds which will soon become blueberries.

During my visit, I saw turtles, birds, a few dogs that were visiting as well as some other critters.

Mica is a 5 year old Australian Sheepdog.

From left to right is Masy, a 3 year old Lab, and Riley, a 9 year old Lab.

Lucas is a 9 year old rescue Catahoula.