Sunrise At Wollaston Beach (Quincy, MA)

Date Of Visit: December 4, 2016

Location: Quincy Shore Drive, Quincy, MA

Hours: Accessible everyday, 24 hours a day

Cost: Free

Parking: Free parking is located at the beach and in nearby lots.

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes, although dogs are not supposed to be on the beach from May to September 30, although they are allowed to walk on the sidewalk along the beach year round.

Highlights: Views of the Boston skyline, pretty, long beach, great place to view sunrises and sunsets.

December isn’t usually considered beach weather.  At least, it’s not in New England.  But, some of the best sunrises and sunsets can happen any time of the year.

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For this shoot, I chose to focus (no pun intended) on the clouds.  You never know what you’ll get at the beach, especially during sunrises and sunsets.  My neighborhood could be cloudless and clear.  But, when I arrive at the beach, a five minute drive from my place, it could be dark and cloudy.  Not only that but it could be bright and clear on one side of the beach, it could be quite the opposite on the other side (something I noticed during this visit).

While the clouds on this particular morning looked foreboding and the sun itself was not visible, the colors in the sky were incredible.  Often times, less is more.  Sure, the sun itself is virtually nonexistent in most of these shots but that seems to add more by letting in pink, orange and blues.   The clouds seem to be layered with rays of light poking out threw each layer.

It was a typical December day with temperatures in the 30’s.  But the wind made it feel at least 10 degrees colder.  The steel blue water rippled with the power of the wind.

The most obvious features of the beach have got to be the jetty and, of course, the Boston skyline.

Bandit, a Japanese Chin, enjoyed his morning stroll along the beach.


Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary (Sharon, MA)

Date Of Visit: November 13, 2016

Location: 293 Moose Hill Parkway, Sharon, MA (about 45 minutes south of Boston)

Cost: Members & Sharon Residents: Free
Nonmembers:
$4 Adults
$3 Children (2-12)
$3 Seniors (65+)

Size: 1,951 acres

Hours: Mon-Fri, 9 am-5 pm
Sat & Sun, 10 am-4 pm

Trails
Spring & Summer, 7am–7pm
Fall & Winter, 8 am-5 pm

Parking: There are about 60 parking spots in the lot

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Handicapped Acessible:  Some trails at the entrance may be flat enough to be considered handicapped accessible.  But, for the most part no.

Dog Friendly: No, Mass Audubon trails are not dog friendly

Highlights: miles of trails, observation lookout, wildlife, nature center, acticities throughout the year, fire tower (inaccessible during my visit)

Web Site: Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary

Trail Map: Trail Map

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Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Sharon, MA, may not have moose but it has everything else that makes a sanctuary the perfect place for a weekend hike.  Pretty flowers and trees, scenic views and wildlife are plentiful at Moose Hill.

The nature center at Moose Hill was decorated for the autumn season with pumpkins and a quilted figure.

The trails at Moose Hill are, for the most part, easy with some modest inclines, except for the trail up to the fire tower.  There is also a boardwalk over a red swamp area and some other boardwalks that are a nice touch.

The trail to the fire tower is challenging but it’s not too difficult.  It’s a short incline up to the tower.  Unfortunately, it appears to be off limits.  Usually, signs and barriers don’t stop me but I draw the line at barbed wire.  It’s too bad because the views must be amazing.

Instead of the fire tower, there is a great overlook at the Bluff Overlook on, oddly enough, the Bluff Trail.  Most of the trees have shed their leaves but yyou could still see some pretty colors out there.  I especially liked the branches in the first photoon the left hand side of the group of photos.

It is easy to find beautiful areas to photograph in Moose Hill all year round.  Ideally, foliage season would probably be the best time to visit.  I just missed the peak foliage season but it still looked beautiful.  The shapes of the trees and the way the rocks form borders in the different sections of the park make for great photo opportunities.  It really doesn’t take a lot of effort or talent to find the beauty of the sanctuary.

There is also a beekeeping harvest hive and a real hive located near the harvest hive.  Both looked inactive.  A bench sat precariously near the now destrcuted hive.  “Be At Peace” is engraved on the backing of the bench.  Good advice.

I was a little disappointed by the lack of visible wildlife during my visit.  I got there early (between 7 and 7:30) but I still didn’t see any of the larger wildlife that is known to be there such as deer, foxes and coyotes. I did see these little critters, though.

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chipmunk, Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, 11-13-16

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red squirrel, Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, 11-13-16

And this owl.

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Fooled ya!

But, this owl is an actual part of the sanctuary.  It’s part of the “unnatural trail.”  The unnatural trail is a family friendly trail that is geared more for children.  The trail is about a quarter of a mile that has objects that you normally don’t find on a trail (like shovels and shoes for instance).  The children are then asked to identify the randomly placed objects and answer questions about what was on the ttrail.

There is also the Billings Barn (the white building) and a maple sugar shack which campers use to make sugar from the sugar maple trees.  During maple sugar harves season, the campers and people at the sanctuary leave buckets attached to the trees to harvest the maple sugar from the trees.

 

 

 


Illuminate Thanksgiving (Plymouth, MA)

Date Of Visit: November 19, 2016

Location: Downtown Plymouth, MA (Water, Court and Main Streets)

Hours: 24 hours a day, everyday until the holidays

Cost: Free

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: holiday decorations

Web Site: Illuminate Thanksgiving

Plymouth, MA, is beautiful enough on its own.  But, Plymouth during the holiday season is simply magical.

As part of their holiday season in Plymouth, MA, Plymouth 400, an organization which promotes the celebration of the upcoming 400th anniversary of the Plymouth Rock landing which will occur in 2020, helped illuminate Plymouth.

The festivities began with a celebration of some of the residents of Plymouth, MA and the surrounding area and some entertainment at the Hedges House on Water Street.  The entertainment consisted of interpretive dance, an acapella rendition of John Lennon’s song “Imagine” and a celebration of a family in Massachusetts who helped start a charity which helps buy cellphone minutes for soldiers overseas (Cellphones For Soldiers).

After the Plymouth 400 celebration, the city was aglow with holiday decorations (both Thanksgiving and Christmas).

I was a little disappointed at the lack of decorations and some of the decorations weren’t lit by the time we got there.  In fact, some of the better decorations were not on Main and Court Streets but off Water Street like these decorations at CabbyShack and The Tavern On The Wharf.

It is not a long walk to get from Court Street and Main Street.  Just walk straight on either street (Main Street becomes Court St and vice versa).  I was able to take a few photos of the holiday decorations on Main and Court Streets.  It still was enough to get me into the holiday spirit, although it pales in comparison to some of the other displays in New England.  At the same time, the scaled down decorations somehow gave it a more “small town” and tasteful feel to it which is also nice.  Let’s face it, some places can overdo it with the lights and decorations.

The decorations are still up and a few more have more than likely been added.  Plus, there is the annual Kiwanis Christmas Tree Lighting Friday, December 2 from 5:30 to 8 which will really get the city’s holiday season in gear.

I did see a cute dog at the Plymouth 400 celebration.  Tully, a 3 and a half month old Labrador, was in the holiday spirit!


The National Monument To The Forefathers (Plymouth, MA)

Date Of Visit: November 19, 2016

Location: Pilgrim Memorial State Park, 72 Allerton St., Plymouth, MA

Hours: Sunrise To Sunset

Cost: Free

Parking: There is ample parking at the statue and street parking available on Allerton St and on nearby streets

Dog Friendly: Yes

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Highlights: Largest solid granite sculpture in the United States,

Web Site: National Monument To The Forefathers

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Mostly known for the tourist attractions Plimoth Plantation and Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Massachusetts is home to another lesser known, but no less impressive attraction.  In  fact, Plymouth is home to one of the largest sculptures in the states.

Clocking in at 81 feet, the National Monument To The Forefathers is the the largest solid granite sculpture in the United States. The granite was quarried in and transported to Plymouth from Hallowell, Maine.

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The monument, also known as the Pilgrim Statue, was created by Hammatt Billings, a Boston architect, illustrator and sculptor.  Billings would never got to see the sculpture in its final stages.  Billings died 15 years into the construction of the monument, or about half the time it took to construct the statue.  After Hammat Billings’ death his brother, Joseph, worked with a group of other sculptors to complete the project.  Dedicated on August 1, 1889, after 30 years of construction, the sculpture was meant to be a memorial to the Pilgrims who settled in the area.

The memorial has several statues within the memorial itself.  Statues representing Liberty, Peace, Tyranny, Education, Wisdom, Youth, Law, Mercy, Justice, and Morality surround the monument.  The monument wwas position to face Northeast towards Plymouth Harbor and, perhaps not coincidentally, towards Plymouth, England.

Faith, the statue at the top of the monument, is 36 feet tall and made of solid granite.  The Faith statue itself is listed as the 32nd largest statue in the entire United States and its territories.  The statue is pointing to heaven with her right hand.  In her left hand she is clutching a bible.

True to its description as a monument to the forefathers, all of the names of the passengers of the Mayflower.  Recognize any names?  Clearly, Massachusetts, as it would be later part of, was not all that progressive jusging by how women were considered “the wife of” the male passengers.

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The park offers grand views of the statue and it is said that before all of the construction and the planting of trees in the area many years, you could see the monument from miles away.  The park allows for some scenic views of the monument.

The memorial is surrounded by a spacious park and there is lots of room to walk your dog.  China, also known as China Doll, a rescued Siberian Husky and Lab mix, was enjoying the park while I was there.  She looks so happy!


Happy Thanksgiving (Robinson Park, Agawam, MA)

Date Of Visit: November 24, 2016

Location Robinson State Park, 428 North St, Feeding Hills Rd (Agawam), MA

Parking: about 10 parking spots are avaiilable in the back entrance on Feeding Hills Rd.  There is additional parking in the main entrance and by the beach area.

Cost: Free this time of the year when the park is unstaffed, $8 MA vehicle, $10 non-MA vehicles during “season”

Size: 1,025 acres

Handicap Accessible: Yes, but some parts of the main trail, which is paved, have sharp inclines.

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: pretty views, wildlife, biking/hiking trails

Thanksgiving in Western Massachusetts.  What could be more emblematic of New England?  As it turned out, I’m not the only onr who feels this way.

As I approached the back entrance to Robinson State Park, every parking spot was taken (some spaces were parked 2 cars deep).  I did find a spot just in front of the main entrance )the gates were closed on this holiday, however).  Who knew a park would be so busy on a holiday?  At least that is how I used too think.  Now, it makes complete sense.

In the past, I never understood why people would spend Thanksgiving Day, or part of their Thanksgiving, at a park or some other outdoor attraction.  People should be home with their family, watching football or the parade and stuffing their faces, the younger me would say to myself.  But, now I get it.  What better place to spend the early mornings of Thanksgiving?   What better way and what better place to be thankful, especially at one of my favorite paarks.  In fact, I like it there so much I have posted about Robinson Park in the past.  But, I took a few different trails that I had never hiked on before this time.  At 1,025 acres, Robinson State is so big it could take days to thoroughly walk or even bike all of the trails.  So, I figured I would work up an appetite for my Thanksgiving dinner with a jaunt there.

The trees were barren and leaves carpeted the ground.  Only a few months ago these brooks were teeming with frogs and other amphibians.

I always love to see that one plant that has survived the elements.

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Theere is also a lot of eviddence of what the park used to be like.  A beam stands in the Westfield River, a reminder of the railroad bridge that once ran through the area.

This looks like a damn or some other waterflow management system that is now dry save for a brook that dribbles on by below.

I came across this falcon during my hike.  I was surprised at how close I got before the bird flew away.

I also came across lots of squirrels.  This one was resting ona tree limb enjoying a snack

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Robinson Park is a dog friendly paark.  I saw and heard lots of cute dogs during my time there.  All of the dogs I photographed happened to be rescues.  It was very refreshing to see so many rescued dogs there.

Annie, a mixed breed rescue, struck a pose for me.

Jessie, on the left, is a 3 year old Lab mix.  Shadow, on the right, is a 13 year old Lab mix as well.  They are both rescues.

Daisy, a yellow Lab rescue from Tennessee, had fun playing with her stick.

I hope everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

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2016 Ethan Howard Memorial Charity Rig Race (Auburn, NH)

 

 

Dates Of Events: Nov 12 & 13

Location: Little Lake Massabesic, Depot Rd, Auburn, NH (about an hour north of Boston and 30 minutes south of Concord, NH)

Cost: Free to attend, registration fees apply if you participate in the event

Parking: Ample parking was provided on the grounds and there are additional lots on Depot Rd

Handicap Accessible: Yes

Highlights: sled dog races

Web Sites: Ethan Howard Memorial Rig Race

New England Sled Dog Club

Named after the late Ethan Viktor Howard,  the Ethan Howard Memorial Rig Race is an 2 day annual dog racing event held in Auburn, New Hampshire.  In addition to working for Manchester Water Works (which is located near the venue of the race), Howard was an avid sled dog musher and outdoor enthusiast.

The Ethan Howard full day racing event includes racing rigs of 2,4 and 6 dogs.  There were also races with bicyclists and their dogs.  The racing rigs raced first because of the weather conditions.  The colder weather conditions, which are more evident in the morning, affect the cyclists more than it affects the rig racers.  As the weather warms, it is easier for the cyclists to race.

Some of the rigs used for racing are shown below.  Whips or any other devices are not used to encourage the dogs.  Lead dogs respond to the vocal commands of the racer.  Many of the racers encouraged their dogs with phrases of appreciation such as, “good girl/boy” and other chants.

I was able to photograph from the sides of the racing trails.  But, with my telephoto lens, I was able to take a few photos while I stood on the trail and still had time to get out of everyone’s way.

Some of the dogs looked as though they were looking at me and mugging for the camera as they ran by.

Little Lake Massabesic is a wonderful park.  The  trails were pretty even with some slight inclines. It is perfect for runners, hikers and cyclists as well as the occasional sled dog racer.  The distance of the trails for each race was different.  But, they ranged from 1 to 3 miles.

You could see evidence of how hard the dogs were working on the trail.

Indie, the black and white spotted dog on the left, and Virgil, the brown and white marked dog on the right, were particpating in the race later that day.  I thought the markings on Indie and the shape of Virgil’s ears were very striking.

There is a misconception about sled dogs and their guardians.  It is one that I, too, used to think.  Some people think the dogs are mistreated or abused.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The guardians of these dogs love them as much as we love our pets.  The dogs also enjoy racing and are bred and raised to race.  Much like how a horse or human runner likes to compete and run, so do these dogs.  And the connection between the dogs and guardians couldn’t be any more obvious.

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Not all of the cute dogs I saw were competing in the races.

Theo is a 5 year old Wooly Husky.

Henry, a 15 month Husky, Pointer and Greyhound mix, was very excited to go to the race!

Lexie is an 8 month mixed breed.  I think I see some Retriever in her.

A few more dogs I saw at the event.

Video of one of the 8 dog sled racing teams.


Lady Of Salem (Salem, MA)

Date Of Visit: October 29, 2016

Location: Essex St, Salem MA

Hours: Most are available daily 24 hours a day

Cost: Free

Parking: Parking is available at the New Liberty St and Congress St parking garages as well as additional lots in the city

Dog Friendly: Yes

Handicap Accessible:  Yes, most Lady Of Salem figureheads are handicap accessible.

Highlights: brilliant works of art displayed mostly along or near Essex St

Web Sites: Lady Of Salem Facebook Page

Lady Of Salem

Although Salem is known for the witch hysteria of 1692 and the commercialism that is largely based on this tragic part of their history, Salem has so much more.  It really is a shame that is what people focus on.  In fact with such programs as  Creative Salem and the Salem Beautification Committee – who created this art program, Salem has seen a resurgence of the arts and entertainment that has always been a part of the city.

One of the exhibits recently in Salem is the Lady Of Salem figureheads located throughout the city.  The nautical inspired art is meant to celebrate Salem’s rich maritime history.  These figureheads are meant to closely resemble the decorated ornaments that used to be attached the front of ships.

While some artists have created more than one figureheads, they were mostly created by different artists.

Unfortunately, not all of the figureheads are on Essex St (the last in the group of photos below is on Derby St and one is inside the Salem Old Town Hall) and some have been either vandalized or removed for some other reason.  Also, many of the figureheads almost seem hidden and very hard to find without the help of the map, and, even then, I still had a hard time finding them all.  Add in the massive crowds this weekend and it made it very difficult to find them all.  In fact, I only found about half of them.  It does seem like a fun activity to do with your family.

The Lady Of Salem art display began in June of 2013 and they are brought out periodically.  This past year it was on display frpm Juen until October.  The figureheads are beautifully crafted and, if you look at them closely enough, you can imagine seeing them on the front of a ship, bobbing up and down.

Salem is an old city and some of the streets are cobble stone or not in the best condition.  While Essex St is pedestrian friendly, some of the sidewalks in the city, such as Derby St where one of the figureheads is located, can be hard to navigaate.

Figureheads on ships have an interesting background.  Figureheads on ships were all different in design and name, but they do have many similarities, particularly in their significance.  Figureheads were said to embody the spirit of their ship.  They were believed to placate the gods of the sea and ensure a safe voyage.  Almost every prow had a carved figurehead on them.  The figureheads replaced heads of animals and, at times, people that used to be placed at the front of ships in the hopes of looking out ahead for the ship’ss safety.  Eventually, eyes were painted on the ships and then figureheads became the standard decorative piece.  It was the best choice by far.

The figureheads vary in some respects.  While they are all shapely females (it must be lonely off at sea), some are scarier than others while others seem more wholesome.  There’s even a KISS-like figurehead (you’ll get this when you see them below).  All of the figureheads were either sponsored by or loacted near local businesses which would explain why some figureheads have some unusual artwork on them, such as the phrase “I heart pizza.”  I am not sure sea-faring people of that day even knew pizza was a thing.

The figureheads are not scheduled to be on display any longer (although I haven’t been there to confirm this).  But, I am sure they will most likely be on display again in the future.  They were, for a limited time, on display in the Peabody Essex Museum in Sale, MA (also on Essex St).  The link at the top of the post has photos of all of the figureheads.

The figureheads below were all displayed on Essext St. during my visit.

Artist: Nick Papadimitriou.

Artist: Jean Pare

Artist: Alicia Irick Cohen

Artists: Mr. Bleckley’s 5th grade art students (Bates Elementary School, Salem MA)

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Artist: Vonne Bittercup

Artist: Shalimar

Artist: John Devine

Artist: Kenneth Glover

Artist: Dori Phillips

Artist: Maryellen Halliwell

Artist: YMCA/Girls Today Program

Artist: Cynthia Mikula Smiszek

Artists: Karen Lamesa and Tina Armstrong

Artist: Sheila Billings

Artist: Keri May Killam

Artist: Jill Pabich

Artist: Sheila Farrens Billings

Artist: Mary-Ellen Smiley

Artist: Jeanne Pare-Kapnis