Category Archives: trees

Pinchot Sycamore Tree Park (Simsbury, CT)

Date Of Visit: September 10, 2017

Location: Hartford Rd Rt 185, Simsbury, CT

Hours: open daily, dawn until dusk

Cost: Free

Parking: There is free parking for about 10 cars to park.

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes

Website: Pinchot Sycamore Tree Park

Highlights: biggest tree in Connecticut, boat launch, bench to sit

Tips:

  • It may be better to see the size of the tree in the fall, winter and spring when the trees skeleton is visible to fully appreciate the size of the tree
  • The park is the right just before the Bataan Corregidor Memorial Bridge on Rt 185 or just after the bridge, depending upon which way you’re traveling
  • Despite what your GPS says the best road to take to get to the tree is probably Cobtail Way

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Everyday, hundreds, if not thousands, of people pass by a historic landmark without even realizing it.  It is interesting  that so many people miss out on viewing the biggest tree in Connecticut and never know it.

When it was most recently measured in 2016 by the Connecticut Botanical Society, the trunk of the Pinchot Sycamore Tree was listed at 28 feet (8.5 meters) around and 100 feet (30 meters) tall.  It is estimated to be at least 200 years old and could be as old as 300 years.  The tree’s branches sprout in various directions.  With its thick, far reaching limbs, it could easily be used in a horror movie.

The tree was named in honor of influential conservationist and Connecticut resident Gifford Pinchot in 1965.  There was a re-dedication  in 1975.

There are two markers located by the tree.  The first marker (on the left below) is a thank you to all of the groups who have worked to make the park possible.  The second marker (on the right below) is the marker from the original dedication in 1965.  You’ll note the tree’s circumference was recorded as being 23 feet and 7 inches (as opposed to the 28 feet it was measured at in 2016).

To get a better sense of the size of the tree, take a look at the trunk of the this tree in proportion to this model.

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There is also a bench located near the back of the tree that is dedicated to Pauline Schwartz.  The note on the bench states, “Come Have A Seat By Pauline Schwartz’s Favorite Tree” with some designs and, although it is slightly worn, an image that appears to be a person’s face.  Pauline, a native of Bridgeport, CT, passed away in 2013 in Las Vegas, NV.  A bench was dedicated in her honor because of her love of the park.

Behind the tree, almost hidden from the park is a boat launch that offers views of the Farmington River.

The entrance to the park is a little hard to find, unless you know where.  ON Rt 185 just before or after the bridge, there are two green poles that mark the entrance to the park.  The road to the parking lot is short but a little narrow.

As I mentioned in the tips section, it’s probably better to fully appreciate the size of the during the fall, winter or spring when the leaves are off the tree, so you can see the full size of the tree without the leaves hiding the skeleton of the tree.  Below is a photo of what the tree looks like without its leaves (from foursquare.com).


Bare Cove Park (Hingham, MA)

 

Dates Of Visit: July 28 & 30, 2017

Location: Bare Cove Park Drive, Hingham, MA (about 20 minutes south of Boston)

Hours: open daily, sunrise to sunset

Cost: Free

Parking: There are several parking areas.  The main parking area on Bare Cove Park Drive has room for about 40-50 vehicles

Trail Size/Difficulty: 484 acres, easy trails

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes

Fitbit stats: 3:16, 985 calories, 10,069 steps, 4.21 miles

Highlights: scenic, water, family friendly, dock house with historical military items, wildlife

Website: Bare Cove Park

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I made two visits to Bare Cove Park.  The first time I visited the park was July 28th.  I got there late on the 28th and the lighting was poor.  So, I stopped by two days later, Sunday, July 30.

As you can see by the photos, there are some beautiful sunsets at Bear Cove.  Unfortunately, the lighting wasn’t very good, though.

 

Once the site of a U.S. Naval depot (more on this later), Bare Cove Park now is the home to a variety of wildlife.  I found many birds during my visit.  There are also supposed to be fox, deer and other animals at the park.  I didn’t see any of them.  But, I did see evidence of them.

If you look closely at the little bird photo at the end, the bird has his or her lunch.

 

There was a crisp pre-autumn chill in the air when I made my way to Bare Cove Park.  It reminded me of the mornings you whittle away before the college and pro football games start.  But, I’d rather spend my day at Bare Cove anytime.

The views are simply amazing.

 

The thing that stood out to me mostly are the variety of pretty trees and flowers at the park.

 

Bare Cove is only 484 acres and it’s very easy to get around, even without a map of the park.  Trust me, I didn’t even get lost and I always get lost.  The trails are easy with hardly any inclines and they are mostly paved if you stay on the main trail.

 

Because of its proximity to Boston, Hingham was considered an important location for the military to produce ammunition and other supplies during World War II.  The magazines, or manufacturing  buildings, ran 24 hours, 7 days a week and employed thousands of people at is peak.

The dock house (only open Sunday from 12-2) has a variety of items from World War II that were manufactured in this very same area.

 

There are also two memorials outside of the dockchouse as well as other items from the days of the hey day at Bare Cove.  The ammunition depot was closed in the early 1970’s.

The memorial to the left, lying vertically on the ground, is dedicated to the men and women who worked at the ammunition depot during World War i, World War II and the Korean Conflict.

The memorial to the right standing up is dedicated to naval crew members who were lost when some ammunition exploded on a ship they were loading.

 

While dogs are allowed at Bare Cove the park is not considered a “dog park” per se.  All dogs are expected to be leashed or respond immediately to voice commands.  In my visits there all of these dogs fit into both or either category.

Here are a few of the cute four legged visitors at Bare Cove that I ran into during my visits.

Hickory is a 7 year old tree walking coon hound.

 

Bronn, named after a Games Of Throne charcater, is a 9 month old Newfie.  His mommy was teaching to fetch.

 

Gracie is a super friendly 2 year old pitbull.

 

Tundra (on the left), a 2 year old Golden Retriever, just got finished with his swim and was getting ready to go home.  His sibling, Piper (on the right), didn’t want to leave..

 

During my first visit, on the 28th of July, I met a very nice lady with three dogs.

America is a 10 year old mixed breed dog who got that name because the dog is a mix of many breeds, kind of like how America is a mix of all kinds of people.

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Sophia is a 6 year old chihuahua.

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Lily is a 10 year old Lab and Collie mix.

 

 

Bruiser is a 6 year old part pitbull.

 

Below is a video of fireflies at Bare Cove Park.  The lack of light and various animal aand bird noises give it a little bit of a spooky feel.

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Today’s featured link is a link to a 30 minute documentary that explains the history of Bear Cove Park.  The documentary was put together by Scott McMillan, the very same man who gave me a detailed tour of the dockhouse.

 


Harold Parker State Forest (No. Andover, MA)

 

Date Of Visit: June 25, 2017

Location: 305 Middleton St., No. Andover, MA (about 30 minutes north of Boston and about 1 hour southeast of Concord, NH)

Cost: There are several parking stations to pay per the hour or you can park at the headquarters which is what I did.  There wasn’t a charge to park at the headquarters the day I visited.   The charge to park at Berry Pond is $5 for MA vehicles; $6 for non-MA vehicles

Hours: trails are open sunrise to sunset.  Berry Pond Beach is open 10am-6pm from June 25- Sept 5.

Parking: There are several parking lots throughout the automated pay stations.

Trail Size/Difficulty: 35 miles of logging roads and trails/easy with some challenging inclines

Handicapped Accessible: Yes, the main paves trail is and Berry Pond has several handicapped parking spaces right near the beach.

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: wildlife, beach, lakes, extensive trail system, campground area, rock climbing

Website: Harold Parker State Forest

Trail Map: Harold Parker State Forest Trail Map

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One of the more vast state forests I have visited to date, Harold Parker State Forest boasts over 35 miles of trails and roads, a beach (Berry Pond), several ponds and lakes and a variety of wildlife.  I spent over 6 hours there and, while I did cover a lot of ground, there was surely some a lot I didn’t see.  Tip of the day: if you do go, bring a trail map!

The trails at Harold Parker are generally easy with some moderate inclines.  Due to the various streams and wetlands, there are also several boardwalk trails.

 

Harold Parker is a popular spot for cyclists.  According to the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA) the single track riding rates at Harold Parker State Forest are: 30% easy, 30% moderate, and 40% difficult with some rocky sections.

It is a little difficult finding the exact entrance to Harold Parker (I found 3 different addresses but I included the address of the headquarters at the top of this post).  It’s not a bad thing, though, because you can park in any of the various parking areas.  Just to make  sure to pay at the pay station when you do park.  You can also drive to each different parking area as the main road is paved and fairly wide enough for traffic, cyclists and hikers to share the road.

I began my day at Stearns Pond, one of the many ponds in the area.  Fishing is allowed and I met a friendly fisherman who goes there regularly to cast his lines.  They also allow non-motorized boating in the ponds.  There is an annual fishing festival held in September at the state forest.

 

Stearns Pond is only one of the many ponds, rivers and streams at Harold Parker State Forest.  In fact, it’s hard to keep track of which pond or river you are at, even with the aid of a map.  But, there were some amazing views from the various bodies of water.

 

Unexpectedly, I came across this huge rock.  I bet there’s a good story about this rock.  I couldn’t find anything about in my research, though.  It’s one big rock, though!  Right!?

 

One of the highlights of Harold Parker is Berry Pond which is essentially a beach area and playground for children and families.  It was a perfect beach day and the beach was packed.  But, with photographic trickery I was able to photograph the beach without showing the sun bathers and swimmers.  After all, not everyone wants to be seen in their Speedo.

 

Walking along the SKUG Reservation Trail, I came across the site of an old quarry and soapstone mill, the Jenkins Mill.  There’s not much now to indicate it was once a quarry.  If not for the marking on the map and a few rocks dispersed around the area, I would not have known it was once there.  It’s kind of a shame that something that meant so much to so many people and was once such an important part of the area is now little more than a blip on the screen.

 

There are lots of birds, chipmunks, frogs and other critters visible along the trail and in the water at Harold Parker.

 

Harold Parker State Forest is a dog friendly park.  However, I didn’t see as many dogs as I thought I would.   I did manage to see these three cuties, though!

Suzie is a 7 month old English Setter.  She is hearing impaired.  So, she can hear some sounds.  Her dad uses signals to help him communicate with her.

 

Bella (or “Bell”) is a 9 year old Beagle and Lab mix.

 

Herbie is a 1 year old Pit mix.

 

Below is a video of one of the brooks that runs through Harold Parker State Forest.  Enjoy!

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Parsons Reserve (Dartmouth, MA)

Date Of Visit: April 23, 2017

Location: 50 Horseneck Rd, Dartmouth, MA

Hours: Open everyday, sunrise to sunset

Cost: Free, but a $2 donation is appreciated

Parking: There is a free parking area across the street from the reserve for about 50 cars.  Since the daffodils are a big attraction there, it filled up by the time I left and people had to wait to get the next available spot

Handicapped Friendly: No, the dirt trails have some slight inclines and the wooden planks used to walk over the streams are very narrow

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: daffodils, wildlife, family friendly, easy trails, vernal ponds

Lowlights: Parking is very difficult unless you leave early on the weekends during daffodil season or go during the weekdays.  It is not as busy after the daffodil season has ended

Website: Parsons Reserve

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Undoubtedly the highlight of your trip to Parson Reserve has to be the sea of yellow and white daffodils.  The short daffodil season (the season usually begins the second week of April and ends the first week of May) is one of the busiest times of the year at Parson.

The entrance to parson Reserve is not easy to find if you don’t know where to look,  So, keep your eyes open and use the address listed above in your GPS.

A stream empties at the entrance to Parson reserve.  A nondescript entrance is located just past the rocky stream.  A short walk (about half a mile) along a well defined trail with a gentle incline and signs pointing to the daffodil field as well as a bench for weary travelers leads to the daffodil field.

Rows and rows of daffodils greet you at the end of the trail.

Bunny, a 6 year old Chocolate Lab who was adopted during Easter, enjoyed the daffodils!

One of the great things about my visit to Parsons is that there are also lots of trails to explore at the reserve which I had not expected.  The easy flat trails have some pretty trees and, I assume when they bloom, flowers.

There is also a vernal pool.  The staff who were there handing out maps, said they are supposed to be tadpoles there this time of the year.  I did not see any.  But, I am sure they’re there!

There were lots of critters at Parsons.  I saw this cute little guy, a garter snake, as I was leaving the reserve.  This is why I always take the less used trails (or go off trail).  A lot of wildlife gets scared by the crowds and noise and consequently, you have to explore a little to find the good stuff.

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There were also a lot of birds at the sanctuary.

Just to re-emphasize the issue of parking.  Try to arrive at Parsons by 10 on the weekends during daffodil season.  I am an early riser.  So, I found a spot with no problem.  The parking area has room for about 50 cars and it fills up quickly on the weekends this time of the year.  When I did leave around 10:30, there was already a line of cars waiting to get in to the lot.

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When I drove by even later (around 3) the entire side of the road was full of cars and the lot was full.  So, the best time to go is early in the morning or on a weekday.  But, it’s definitely worth getting up early for!

 

 


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 of the water, pretty trees

Website: Starvos Reservation

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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.

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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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Buttonball Tree (Sunderland, MA)

Date Of Visit: January 5, 2017

Location: 158 N. Main St, Sunderland, MA

Parking: You can park on the side of the road at or near the tree.  It’s a residential area so please be safe when viewing

Cost: Free

Hours: everyday, 24 hours a day

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: “widest tree this side of the Mississippi”, biggest sycamore tree in Massachusetts, 300 plus year old tree

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On a nondescript road in Sunderland, MA, stands a tree.  A big tree.  But, no, this is no ordinary “big tree.”  This is the widest tree in the Eastern part of the United States.

The Buttonball tree, located on N Main St,  is over 113′ high, with a girth of 24’7″ and has a spread of 140′.  Pretty big, huh?  The locals think so.  Because of its size and its legendary status, locals have dubbed the Buttonball Tree, “The widest tree this side of the Mississippi.” It is also considered, wrongly, to be the “biggest” this side of the Mississippi.

In fact, another tree in Massachusetts may hold this claim.  Or, at the least it may be the tallest this side of the Mississippi.  The Eastern White Pine in the Mohawk State Forest in Charlemont, Massachusetts, is listed at 174 feet in height.  And there are many others that are taller than the Buttonball.

For instance, the “Boogerman Pine” (186 feet tall) located in the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina, is considered by many as the tallest tree in the U.S. east of the Mississippi.

In addition to these trees, there could be some huge, crazy big tree in some forest or park somewhere that has yet to be recorded.  As you can see, it is a hotly contested claim!

So, the claim of “largest tree east of the Mississippi” is a title that has been debated.  But, the Buttonball still holds the title for widest tree this side of the Mississippi.  OK, enough fun tree facts.  For now.

Who knew it would be such a contentious subject!  Who knew there was so many details about these trees? But, there’s more to the tree than it’s girth and height.  Besides, it’s not the size…never mind.

While the title for largest tree east of the Mississippi may be up for debate, one thing is for: the Buttonball Tree is one big tree!  It is the largest sycamore tree in Massachusetts and one of the largest trees of any kind in Massachusetts.  Once part of the Sunderland forest, the tree now stands in a residential area.  I bet the neighbors just love all the attention.   (another) Fun fact: because of their longevity, during the 17th and 18th century sycamores were sometimes planted at the door of new house for newlyweds as “bride and groom” trees.  The trees lasted much longer the marriages I am sure.

Not only is the Buttonball Tree big, it is historically significant.  And old.  I mean really, really old.  The tree is estimated at being between 350 and 400 years old.  And you thought you were getting long in the tooth.

Without further delay, ladies and gentlemen…the Buttonball Tree….

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In 1987, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of signing of the Constitution, a plaque was engraved in a stone and placed in front of the tree.  The plaque is engraved with the following:

1787 THE NATIONAL 1987 ARBORIST ASSOCIATION AND THE INTERNATIONAL SOCIETYOF ARBORICULTURE JOINTLY RECOGNIZE THIS SIGNIFICANT TREE IN THIS BICENTENNIAL YEAR AS HAVING LIVED HERE AT THE TIME OF THE SIGNING OF OUR CONSTITUTION

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Fort Foster State Park (Kittery Point, ME)

 

Date Of Visit: January 21, 2017

Location: Pocahontas Rd, Gerrish Island, Kittery Point, ME

Cost: $10 per vehicle; pedestrians or bicyclists $5 adults/$1 under 12 (free during the off season)

Hours: Dawn to dusk for pedestrians; gates open 10 a.m.-8 p.m. (presently closed for the season, opens in May)

Parking: The gate was up during my visit so everyone parked along the road in front of the entrance.  When the parking is officially open, there are parking areas available.

Park Size/Trail Difficulty: 88 acres, easy trail difficulty

Handicapped Accessible: Yes

Dog Friendly: Yes

Highlights: fort, trails, family friendly, play area for children, jetty, views of Kittery, lighthouse

Web Site: Fort Foster State Park

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As a disclaimer, since it had previously snowed in Maine and the weather turned much warmer, the trails were slushy and muddy and I didn’t have my boots on.  So, I wasn’t able to walk the entire trail system at the park.  However, the trails I did walk were pretty even and easy to navigate with a few slight inclines.

Named after John Gray Foster, a Major-General in the United States Army, Fort Foster Park has so much to offer the entire family.  Kids (and a few adults) will love plating at the playground area, especially the playhouse with the tree growing out of it.

Or, if you’re a military history buff,you will enjoy the various military installations.  This is one of the forts at the park.

The trees at Fort Foster State Park are particularly majestic.

The southernmost park in Maine, Foster Park also has a pier with wonderful views of the Piscataqua River and the Whaleback Lighthouse.  To the right of the lighthouse isWood Island Life Saving Station on Wood Island.  It looks like a bridge or perhaps another pier in the water to the left of the pier on the way to Eood Island.  I loved how the clouds played with the landscape and gaave an ominous yet beautiful backdrop to the river.   .

The tide was low and the sand was surprisingly firm,.  So I was able to walk out pretty far and get some shots of the water and the landscape across the water.  The Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse can be viewed across the river in the final photo.

The Piscataqua River, which flows into Portsmouth (NH), is a busy waterway for birds and boats.  I saw quite a few of both in or above the river.

It’s funny how you see so many funny things on the trails at parks.  Anyone lose a shoe or croc?

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Fort Foster State Park is a dog friendly park.  I saw many cute dogs at the park during my visit.  But, as one visitor told me, during the spring and summer the park is packed with dogs.  Since it was an unseasonably mild January day, I ran into a fair share of them.

While I was walking the path to the park, I saw a man throwing a ball to a cute dog.  So, of course, I had to ask for a photo.  Charlie, a 1 and a half year old Feist, is looking so intently at his dad because he wanted him to throw the ball to him.

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As I walked along the park, I saw another beautiful dog in a beautiful setting.  Omar, an 8 year old Greyhound, is a rescue who used to race.  He is now retired but he still likes to run and play.  And, as you can see by the photos, he loves his mom.

Missy, a Golden Retriever, and Ruby, a Flatcoat Retriever, (from left to right) both 6 months, are sisters.  Because of the sharp, dark color of Ruby’s fur and the shadows from the sun, it was hard to pick up her features.  But, trust me she is beautiful.

Java The Pup is an 8 year old (almost 9) Poodle.  Not only is he cute, he also does tricks!

Below is a video (360 degrees no less) of the low tide at Fort Foster.

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