Category Archives: traveling

Winter Wildlife Cruise (Boston Harbor, MA)

Date visited: January 23, 20016

Price: $20 for adults, $10 for children (ages 3-11) and seniors (over 65)

This was a special cruise and is not something they do regularly in the winter.  During the spring, summer and fall they have cruises scheduled regularly.

Twenty degree weather and an impending winter storm; what better conditions for a harbor cruise.  Ironically, that statement could not be more accurate.

We were greeted by gulls and rough seas when we arrived at the wharf.

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As we made our way on to the boat for and they announced the cruise would be a three hour tour (in retrospect, that Gilligan’s Island reference should have been a bad omen), I was surprised by how roomy, comfortable and modern it was.  The three story boat had booths on the sides of the cabin area and ample seating.

Even before we left the wharf I took some shots of the bay.  You can see Logan Airport in the distance in some of the photos.

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As the boat left the bay, I took some obligatory photos of the skyline.

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I had to bundle up (and hold on tight to the railing) for the shoot.  I was surprised at how well I handled the overly active ocean.  I’ve never been particularly fond of roller coasters, wavy oceans or anything that moves to and fro quickly.  But, I did fine.  The only time I felt a tinge of sickness was when a fellow traveler described his own feelings of sea sickness (gee, thanks random stranger).  But, that quickly passed.

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There was a variety of sea life, although the choppy waters made it difficult to photograph all of them.  DCR (Department of Conservation and Recreation) officials were on the boat with binoculars on the lookout for wildlife and other points of interest and announcements were made whenever a bird or other animal was sighted.

I did photograph this Eider as he swam with friends.

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and a few other elusive birds.

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Even though it was a cruise for wildlife viewing some of the best views were of the harbor and the islands.

This is Spectacle Island.  Spectacle Island was made entirely from the dirt from the huge construction project known as the “Big Dig”.   it is much prettier during the summer.

These are some photos of Boston Light.  Boston Light is the first Lighthouse in America.  It is still working today.

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The Deer Island Waste Water Treatment Plant began operations in 1995.  It is clearly the jewel of Boston Harbor.  Prior to the construction of the sewage plant, sewage from Boston’s treatment facilities had contaminated shellfish after the sewage had been released.  Lunch, anyone?

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These structures are what is left of the bridge to Long Island (not the one in NY – we didn’t go out that far).  It was dismantled recently.  Personally, I think they should keep them.  They make for a good background for photography.

Below is a slideshow of some of the other shots from my cruise.  It was very windy and the sea was pretty choppy.  I tried to capture this in the photos.

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Finally, I found a cute furry animal named Bailey to photograph when I disembarked from the boat.

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See below for videos of the cruise to get a better idea of just how windy it was.

Winter Wildlife Cruise – Long Wharf

Winter Wildlife Cruise

Winter Wildlife Cruise II

 

 

 


Nobska Beach (Woods Hole, MA)

After a short stay at Scraggy Neck, it was time for our next stop on our Cape Cod Farewell Summer trip.

Our next destination was the Nobska Beach in the quaint village of Woods Hole in Falmouth, Massachusetts.  The Nobska area is so pretty and there are so many attractions because of its sheer beauty, I decided cover the Nobska area in two separate blogs.

The first thing that stands out at Nobska beach are the array of flowers and the makeshift trails at the beach (that and the lack of parking).  The only parking available is on the side of the road along the beach and a scant few spots in front of the light house (I’ll be posting photos of the light house in the second part of the Nobska photo blogs).

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Nobska Beach offers views of both Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island.

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Boats and the ferry make frequent trips to the islands

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If you hadn’t noticed, one of the treasures of Nobska Beach are the rocks and the rock formations.       DSC_0561 DSC_0573     DSC_0658

But, to capture the real beauty of the views from the beach, it was necessary to walk down a narrow trail down to this modest rocky ledge.

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But, the ledge was wide enough for me and my camera.  And the views were well worth the extra effort.

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Nobska Beach is also home to a variety of wildlife.

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At the base of the beach there are two memorials. A memorial for Dennis Jeff Sabo lies under some plants, almost unnoticed.  The memorial does not give any more information than his date of birth, date of death and name.  A Google search yielded no results.  The lack of details about Dennis adds to the memorials’ mystique.

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The other memorial is dedicated to Neilie Anne Heffernan Casey.  Neilie was a passenger on Flight 11 on September 11, 2001. A memorial and bench bearing her name lay in the area now dubbed “Neilie Point”.  A beautiful reminder of an awful day.

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Olde Mystik Village (Mystic, CT)

Tucked away in the quaint village of Mystic, Connecticut, stands the hidden gem known as The Olde Mystic Village.

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At first glance, Mistick Village may seem like a nondescript shopping center.  But, Mistick Village is much more.

There are many cramped stores for specialty merchandise such as custom made clothing and hand made jewelry, pet shops and eateries that dot the village.  It would be easy to dismiss it as just another shopping center. But Mistik Village has many unexpected charms.  One of the biggest surprises at Olde Mistik Village is something very unique.

Right there, smack dab in the middle of the village is a pond.

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Forget about the cinema and the fudge shop.  The ducks are the most popular attractions at the village.  People feed them their dietary recommended food.  Signs prominently remind people crackers and bread are not safe for the ducks to eat.

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They are not restricted to the pond area either.  You can regularly see the ducks roaming the walkways of the Mistik Village.

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And, since so many people feed them, they are not shy.

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The flowers and trees at Mistik Village are another unique feature of the shoopping center.

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Yes, that is a birdhouse on the flag pole.

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Keeping with the aquatic theme, a waterfall leads to a stream with koi fish.

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Some of the most charming elements of the village are the decor.  Walkways are furnished with wooden gateways.

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Wooden chairs rest in front of this fashion shop.

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Various structures are scattered throughout the village.

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Of course, the Mistik Village is a dog friendly area.

I met Theo and Rebel.  Theo was happy to see me.  Rebel, on the left, not so much.

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I also made a friend at Old Mistik Village.  Charley is a rescue dog from Hurricane Katrina.  His dad told us how, after noticing Charley, he arrived at the dog shelter at 5 a.m. to  make sure he could adopt him.  Charley is a very special dog.

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Mount Greylock (Lanesborough, MA)

If you want to feel on top of the world, or at least on top of Massachusetts, there’s no place like Mount Greylock.

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Clocking in at 3,491 feet and about an hour and a half west of Springfield, MA, Mount Greylock is the highest point in Massachusetts.  With its miles of hiking trails and scenic views, Mount Greylock is the perfect destination for hikers and nature lovers.  There is also a paved road to the summit with places to pull over to view the scenic beauty.

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There are also some cute and pretty attractions off the main trails.

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Even the views and flowers at the Visitor Center were captivating.

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Along the trails

But, the pinnacle of Mount Greylock is the tower that sits atop the summit.  First built as a tribute to the veterans of the first World War, the tower now serves as a memorial to all service members who have served the country.  When it is lit each night, the tower is said to be able to be seen from 70 miles.  The granite from which the tower was came from my hown city, Quincy (pronounced kwin-zee), Massachusetts.

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Mount Greylock State Reservation is a dog friendly park.  During my visit there were many dogs out enjoying the views.  DSC_0649

Izzy was patiently waiting for his mom outside the visitor’s center.

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Peanut was getting ready for his big hike.

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Max was tired from hiking the trails at Greylock.

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This fella was enjoying some rays.

Most of the wildlife at Mount Greylock was hidden during the day.  But, I did see this grasshopper.

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Mount Greylock is also a popular spot for paragliders.  In fact, several paragliders took off from Mount Greylock during the day.

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Mount Greylock is also a stop on the Appalachian Trail.  It’s a long way to Georgia.  Maybe I’ll try it sometime.

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Granville State Forest (Granville, MA)

Granville State Forest is 2,000 plus acre state forest and campground located in, you guessed it Granville, Massachusetts.  Be advised, the trails are long in between the various ponds, brooks and various other attractions.  But, you can drive on the unpaved roads if walking isn’t your style.

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Located about 45 minutes from Springfield, MA, Granville State Forest was once a popular hunting spot for the Tunxis.  I didn’t run into Tunxis during this visit.  But, I did see some stunning views.  Take this waterfall, for instance.

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But, to really get a sense of the beauty of the Hubbard River, one must get off the beaten path, or bridge as it were in this case.

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It’s amazing the things you see when you get off the main path.  Like this Frog with his lunch.

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Or this artful graffiti, especially the curse words.  It’s vary quaint.  Oh, you crazy kids.  At least I hope it was kids who wrote it.

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There are also an abundance of pretty flowers and trees.

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About a mile from the bridge over the Hubbard stream, there is the two acre Bahre Pond.  Bahre Pond has some pretty views.

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It is also teeming with wildlife, like this water snake.

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And this frog who thought he could hide from me.

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Granville State Park also has some paths off the main trails that have some hidden gems.

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The main attraction at Granville State Forest has to be the waterfall.  Below is a short video of the waterfall in all its splendor.


Hampton Ponds (Westfield, MA)

Pretty waterscapes are not regulated to the coastlines of New England.  Hampton Ponds State Park is proof of this.  A cute, expansive series of ponds that dot the Westfield area, Hampton Ponds is a popular area for swimmers, sun bathers and boaters.

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Upon reaching Hampton ponds, I was greeted by a gaggle of geese.

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And this one solitary goose.

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Hampton Ponds has some very impressive trees.

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But, it was the vivid greens and wild flowers of the ponds that stood out to me.

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Dragonflies also seemed to enjoy the greenery of Hampton Ponds.

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The water is so transparent at Hampton Ponds, you can see the fish that inhabit the waters.

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Birds are also plentiful at Hampton Ponds.  This swallow sort of blended into the sand on the beach head.

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Boaters and kayakers took advantage of the warm weather and clear waters at Hampton Ponds

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The motorboats created pretty ripples along the glassy water.

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Hampton Ponds doesn’t have any long walking trails.  But, it does make up for it with its pretty views.

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Hampton Ponds is also a popular spot for dogs.

Hercules stopped playing so I could take his photo.

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Sparky happily posed for his photo.

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Hampton Ponds is also the perfect place to reflect

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or to go fishing

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or to just play in the water.

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Mittaneague Park (West Springfield, MA)

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Legend has it the Native Americans called Mittaneague (pronounced Mit-tin-aig) “the valley of falling water.”  The park more than lives up to this description.

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Mittineague Park was, without question, the park with the most difficult terrain to travel that I have visited while writing this blog.  The sharp inclines, fences furnished with barbed wire and “no trespassing” signs, overgrown brush, unkempt make shift trails and other obstacles made it difficult to photograph.

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It is a shame because Mittineague has some wonderful views.

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Mittineague also has a tunnel under the railroad tracks that run through the park.

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During my visit, the train passed by on the rickety rails.

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and kept going…

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and kept going…

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and going…

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and, well, you get the picture…

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But, the gem of the park must be its stone bridges and walkways.

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Mittineague also has an impressive assortment of trees.  They are majestic not just in their stature but also in their sheer beauty.

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There is also a variety of plant life and wild flowers.

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Mittineague is also teeming with birds

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frogs

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and, of course, dogs.

Lucy did a great job fetching her frisbee.

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Lincoln posed proudly with his mommy.

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And Annabelle smiled broadly for her photo.

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Mittineague also has well manicured soccer fields and baseball diamonds and its basketball and tennis courts as well as a play area for kids.

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Or, the kids can just go for a swim in the various brooks and waterfalls at Mittineague.

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Cutler Park (Needham, MA)

If you think all state parks are the same, with all the standard fare, you’ve obviously never been to Cutler Park.

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Named for the State legislator, Leslie B. Cutler, who helped the Department of Conservation and Recreation of Massachusetts acquire the land, Cutler Park is majestic in its beauty.

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You are sure to find something to like about Cutler Park.

Whether it is the rolling hills,

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Transparent water

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Or abundant wildlife, such as these robins, chipmunks, moths and even canines…you won’t regret the time you spend there.

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Master of camouflage.  Can you spot him?

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Ever the comedian, Layla stuck her tongue out when I took her photo

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Ladybug was wet from her swim in Cutler Pond.

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Bodi was a good subject.  Too bad I had my telephoto lens on.

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Bella decided to cool off while I took her photo

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England gave me a big smile when I shot her photo

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The 600 acre Cutler Park also boasts an array of colorful plants and flowers.  Such as cat tails, chrysanthemums and loose strife just to name a few.

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Cutler Park’s trails vary from dirt trails, makeshift narrow rocky trails and wood bridges over the marshy land.  The tall trees provide good shade and shelter from the elements.  It’s easy to get off the beaten path, literally.  But, be cognizant of where you are, Cutler Park is a huge park and one could easily find oneself lost or turned around.  Not that I would be speaking from experience or anything.

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One thing I noticed that I had not remember seeing before was the clouds reflecting on the shimmering waters of Cutler Park.

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Kayakers are prevalent at Cutler Park

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People weren’t the only ones having fun in the water.  Ducks were dunking and Roscoe was fetching.

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Also, off the beaten path you can find a tunnel, presumably once used when the state park was used as a water supplier.  Now, it carries graffiti and memories.  If tunnels could tell stories.

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A rickety staircase leads to some rail road tracks. Weirdly, the MBTA’s Commuter Rail runs through Cutler Park.  Granted, it is off the main paths, but it still out of place.  At least some people have a pretty view on their way home.

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As inviting as public transportation can be, I decided to drive to Cutler Park.  But, whether it is by plane, train or automobile, you should visit as well.


Mount Tom (Holyoke, MA)

Sometimes you find treasures in the most unexpected places.  Such is the case with Mount Tom.  Tucked away off Route 202 in Holyoke, Mount Tom is a 20 minute drive outside of Springfield, MA, is not one of the first parks that comes to mind when you think of the plethora of state parks in Western Massachusetts.  In fact, it almost seems to pride itself on being a hidden jewel.  Unless you were specifically looking for the park, you could easily pass right by it. DSC_0859 While there is not a designated parking lot for Mount Tom and barriers prevent cars from entering the paved trails, you can usually find parking just outside the park.  Or, since there are various entrances to the many trails, you can find places to park along the side of the road to the main entrance. The first impression of Mount Tom is slight disappointment.   Pretty views of flowers and landscapes are spoiled by chain link fences. DSC_0874 DSC_0871 However, with some effort and ingenuity, you can work around these barriers.  With the aid of some strategically placed rocks and other objects that you can climb, you can get some beautiful, unobstructed views of the park and Western Massachusetts DSC_0881 DSC_0894 DSC_0892 DSC_0891  DSC_0887 Mount Tom is also a popular spot for paragliding (the speck between the two wires is a paraglider) DSC_0908 There are a variety of flowers such as black eyed susans, sumac and daisies .  Although various plants are plentiful, I found many of the flowers and plants to be somewhat drab and not artfully laid out.  I suppose this does give Mount Tom a more natural feel.  But, the colors didn’t pop off like they do at other parks, such as Stanley Park and Prescott Park in New Hampshire just to name a few that I have visited recently. DSC_0915 DSC_0938 DSC_0909 DSC_0111 DSC_0077 There is also a variety of wildlife at Mount Tom.  Both creatures big and small reside at Mount Tom such as frogs, falcons and groundhogs.  There were also some chipmunks and a variety of birds that were too elusive for this photographer to capture. DSC_1001 DSC_1002 DSC_0997DSC_0102 We also spotted fresh hoof prints from an animal, most likely deer, that had recently been in the area. DSC_0049 Along the way , we found some buildings in disrepair and graffiti riddled because, of course, what else would you do to a perfectly good abandoned structured?  Just another example of why we can never have nice things.  The graffiti and vandalism aside, the structures gave a nice backdrop to some of the shots. DSC_0958 DSC_0957 DSC_0972 DSC_0999 Finally, we arrived at the crater like area of Mount Tom.  Although many people lay claim to the inspiration of Mount Crumpit from Dr. Seuss’ Whoville in the story/show/movie How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Squamish in British Columbia for one), Mount Tom is rumored to be the inspiration for the tale.  Since Theodor Seuss Geisel (“Dr. Seuss”) was from nearby Springfield, Massachusetts, it is a good chance this is the place that inspired him.  See for yourself (and these aren’t even the “best side” of the hill). DSC_0012 DSC_0009 DSC_0030DSC_0028DSC_0029  DSC_0027   DSC_0032 DSC_0034 It’s a long way down there.  Be careful. DSC_0015 Satanists in Holyoke.  Who knew? DSC_0008 Having traveled a “good distance” (not to be too precise), we agreed it was time to head back.  Along the way, we saw flowers and landscapes that made for fine landscape photography. DSC_0964 DSC_0994  DSC_0989   DSC_0977 DSC_0970 Bees and butterflies hovered over and landed on the plants, lighting and pollinating them.  The orange looking objects in the photos are not flowers but rather butterflies. DSC_0060 DSC_0061 DSC_0985 DSC_0983 A brook runs through Mount Tom. DSC_0930 DSC_0927  DSC_0931 The cliffs and jagged rock that formed on Mount Tom were formed many years ago from faulting and earthquakes.  This, coupled with the cooling and heating of the Earth’s surface made for some unique shapes and surfaces. DSC_0088  DSC_0085 DSC_0084 DSC_0083 Of course, no blog post of mine would be complete without a photo of a dog.  None were present during my stay at Mount Tom.  So, I made a special stop at Westfield Dog Bark (yes that is the name).  Mollly was my obedient subject.  But, she seemed more interested in something in the distance. DSC_0124 Mount Tom is massive and little did we realize at the time the majesty awaiting us on the other side of the rocky hill.  It was only after I had googled images of Mount Tom that I realize many of the other parts of the park that we did not reach.  That clinched it.  Another trip to Mount Tom is in order.


Witch City (Salem, MA)

When people think of Salem (MA), they often conjure thoughts of the witch hysteria, ghosts or a litany of other things that may go bump in the night.  But, this isn’t fair nor accurate. No, Salem is more than “haunted houses” and stores that sell kitschy souvenirs. Nor is it only fun to visit during the Halloween season. Still, it did feel a little odd wandering around Salem without a Fall chill in the air or leaves crunching beneath my feet.  But, it wasn’t any less fun.

Salem, being an important port for trade in early colonial days, is rich with tradition and history.  One of the main ports of trade is at Pickering Wharf in Salem Harbor.

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Anchored in the wharf is The Friendship.  The Friendship is a reconstruction of a 1700’s trading ship.  Tours are available, except today as they were renovating the ship.

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Stately, rustic buildings dot the coast line. The ornate building with the dome atop it is the Custom House.  It is sandwiched in between the Salem Maritime National Historic Site (to the left) and the Simon Forrester House.

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There is also a lighthouse located at the end of the pier.

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Ducks and other birds frequent the harbor.

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Pickering Wharf has a variety of restaurants where you can enjoy fish, lobster and, well, fish.  It is also a hub for tour groups (whose favorite past time seems to be getting into my photos) and the occasional dog walker.  I found this dog who is all black, except for her front left paw.  DSC_0467

I could spend all day at Pickering Wharf.  But, in the interest of time, I began my journey to some of the other attractions in Salem.  The best part of visiting Salem is noticing the attractions and sites while you’re walking to each destination.

There was this house that caught my eye.

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There was this display outside the Salem Witch Museum.

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Irzyk Park, named after Brigadier General Albin F. Irzyk, has this retired Army tank in the park.

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I also bumped into Aida

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As well as Simba and Jasmin

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Eventually, I found my way to Winter Island.

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Winter Island is a hidden jewel within the outskirts of Salem.  A mile from the downtown Salem area, it is used as a RV/trailer park as well as a place to launch boats and hold functions.  I walked the mile to Winter Island from downtown Salem. It is pretty much a straight walk or drive from tge downtown area.  But, if you choose to drive. there is ample parking outside of Winter Island.  There are an array of flowers and a pond (more like a reservoir) with a power plant adjacent which gives a nice touch.  Geese and ducks are abundant there.

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There is also a beach and an area for bird watching on Winter Island (it’s not really an “island” (it is more like a peninsula) but I will let it slide.  It was the beach, Waikiki Beach, that was most impressive.  Rocks are scattered along the beach and make shift trails on the hills behind the beach offer private views of the beach.  Since it was low tide, I was able to walk along the rocks for better views of the harbor.  A lighthouse gives a nice touch and birds and flowers are abundant.

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A closeup of one of the many flowers on Waikiki Beach.

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The lighthouse (Winter Island Light,),not the photographer, is tilted.DSC_0704

A bee pollinating.

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The rocks at Waikiki Beach give the beach a unique landscape and offer a chance to get better views.  It also attracts a variety of bird life.

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There is also an area for bird watching at Winter Island.  Although they are easily scared away, I did capture these images of a Robin and a Red Winged Black Bird.

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There is also an old ammunition bunker in the bird watching area at Fort Pickering on Winter Island.

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It’s a shame that Salem is only remembered for the more commercial aspects and urban legends.  It isn’t all about being scared in Salem.  In fact, this is the scariest thing I saw all day.

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Of course, no visit to Salem would be complete without a photo of Roger Conant, the founder of Salem, and a visit to the World War II Memorial at Salem Commons.

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You can keep yourself quite busy just visiting the parks, beaches and assortment of other attractions in Salem all year round, not just during Halloween.  But, of course, I’ll be back in October anyways.