Monday, November 22, 2021

A Wonderful Micro-Adventure in Story Walks

The Story Walk begins with the book cover.
        I just discovered a new Story Walk at the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls. Perfect for Thanksgiving, though unrelated, the featured story is "Thank the Animals", a Native American tale shared by Passamaquoddy storyteller Allan Sockabasin.

        If Story Walks are new to you, this family-friendly concept combines children's stories with short walks. Storybook pages are presented in sequence on posts for a reasonable distance that can be on a lawn or along a sidewalk or trail. Walking as you enjoy a story is a welcoming way to exercise, or warm up for a longer walk. The Story Walk Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT, in 2007 and developed in collaboration with the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. Now they can be found all over the U.S. and beyond.

Story Walk along Walden Pond's accessible trail.
        The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has been posting Story Walk Adventures in some state parks. Currently, you can find them on the wheelchair accessible trail at Walden Pond State Reservation in Concord, and along the accessible outdoor exhibit area outside the Trailside Museum in the Blue Hills State Reservation in Milton.

        "Thank the Animals" is posted on a lawn which is mostly flat but has some moderate changes in grade that might require assistance for some wheelchair users. The illustrations are a delight. Story Walks offer a pause between pages that allow for discussion and anticipation, as well as fresh air and exercise.

A young child poses next to a winter story page
 in the winter woods.
        Story Walks are temporary in nature, staying installed for a few weeks to a few months usually. "Thank the Animals" is up through January 4, conditions permitting. "Little Otter Learns to Swim" will be up through Thanksgiving at the Trailside Museum in Blue Hills. At this location you can also see a live otter! "Henry David Thoreau Loved the Seasons of the Year" will be in place through November at Walden Pond.

        Watch for Story Walks everywhere - they are often found in association with libraries, children's museums, parks and related areas. If you are interested in creating Story Walks, click here for instructions.

        DCR (Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation) advocates for people to be mindful of the pandemic situation and follow current safe practices outlined by the CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health. 

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Walking Up Wachusett Mountain with Waypoint Adventure

Seated hiker with helper in front and behind.
     This first week of November I had the pleasure of joining a Waypoint Adventure hike on Mt. Wachusett! It was our first DCR Universal Access Program hike on this prominent peak that dominates central Massachusetts. I was especially interested in seeing the TrailRider in use for two participants who cannot walk. This environmentally-friendly one-wheeled rig seems like a cross between a rickshaw and a wheelbarrow. Designed in Vancouver, Canada, it first seems lengthy and cumbersome but is fantastic adaptive equipment when plenty of help is available to assist seated hikers.

     Wachusett Mountain is a scenic state park with rugged hiking trails and spectacular views. A visitor center at the bottom of the mountain offers indoor exhibits and restrooms and is a great place to stop prior to entering the park. From here you can drive to the top via the auto road, however it is closed after October 31st and re-opens Memorial Day weekend. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Cape Cod's Crosby Landing - A Special Spot of Natural Beauty


Cairn and vegetation along Namskaket Sea Path.
       A lesser known part of Nickerson State Park in Brewster, MA is Crosby Landing. While not a designated accessible area it is worth considering a visit, especially if you have someone to assist you if you use a wheelchair. You may be surprised to find that just past a short stretch of soft sand there is a natural hardpacked trail that parallels the beach for a half mile or so, with spectacular bayside views of marsh and tidal flats. It is called the Namskaket Sea Path. The trail width is just wide enough for wheelchair passage though dune vegetation.

        To get there, almost opposite the main entrance to Nickerson State Park, there is a short drive to the beach parking lot at the end of Crosby Lane. Along this paved lane, you'll pass a beautiful old estate, Crosby Mansion. In the lot there is one designated accessible parking space. 

Monday, October 4, 2021

Natural Riverside Stroll at Bradley Palmer State Park

A curve in the boardwalk through a wetland.
         One of the nicest accessible trails can be found at Bradley Palmer State Park in Topsfield, MA. I visited last week to check for damage after a summer of heavy rains and found the trail in great condition overall. I hadn't been there in 5 years or so and it was refreshing to stroll this natural setting along the Ipswich River.

        The half mile trail starts just inside the park entrance at 40 Asbury Street. After you pass through the stone wall entrance, take your very first left down a short lane past a house to the trailhead and a small parking area with two paved accessible parking spots designated.      

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Visit Skinner State Park for a Big Perspective

People stand on deck overlooking river valley.
        September is a great month to visit Skinner State Park. October will be even better for fall color. I have been twice in the last two weeks - weekdays offer far fewer visitors than weekends. The wheelchair accessible Summit House perched on Mt. Holyoke offers a chance to appreciate a historic structure and some 19th century history. What everyone comes for is the scenic view of the surrounding Connecticut River valley. The entire outdoor walkway around the old hotel is fully wheelchair accessible. You can also contemplate some big perspective from atop the Holyoke Range.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Adventuring Along the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail


Big puffy clouds over a smooth
expanse of water and distant mountains.
    The most beautiful rail trail in Massachusetts is in the Berkshires. The Ashuwillticook Rail Trail travels 12.7 miles from the Berkshire Mall at its southern end, northward through the town of Adams and a mile beyond. Along the way mountains are visible on either side and wide expanses of water provide delightful scenery while passing through the town of Cheshire.

    Last week I rode the northern section from Cheshire through Adams for the first time. What a treat! Where else can you ride a bike along a gently rushing river for several miles? This year's heavy rain has given the Hoosac River a lively energy. You can follow it through wetlands and below mossy cliff faces as it races along through the woods, then out into bright sunny meadows north of Adams.  

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Short Strolls Through Time and Space in Western Massachusetts

A big round white rock at the entrance of the Geology Path.
        Some special places in the Greenfield area allow for very unique strolls through time and space. While at Greenfield Community College last week I discovered their Geology Path, part of an outdoor learning lab on the grounds, right outside the Covid testing area. On this accessible path of perhaps 200 feet, you can leap back 500 million years or so. At the Great Falls Discovery Center in Turners Falls, you can take an indoor stroll that covers 410 miles.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Adaptive Watersports in Boston with AccessSport America

A windsurfer on calm water, assisted by Ross Lilley.
Looking for FUN? 

Seeking some warm weather ADVENTURE before the end of summer? 
Consider AccessSport America! This Boston-based adaptive sports organization is changing people's lives for the better, even during the pandemic.
Activities offered include windsurfing, kayaking, outrigger canoeing, stand-up paddling, rowing, cycling, soccer, fitness training and sports camps.

Benches and shade along the beach walk.
          I visited an AccessSport program at Malibu Beach on the south shore of Boston this week. Malibu Beach seems like a strange place to adventure in the city, with busy roadways on either side. I was surprised by the spacious opportunity to soak up the elements - sun, air, earth and water - and feel both fun and freedom. The unpopulated beach area offers accessible restrooms and an accessible beach stroll above the high tide line. Few people come to swim or sunbathe - its a great place to get some fresh air and open space off of William Morrissey Boulevard. Just be aware there is not much shade. The beach sand is a bit denser than on conventional beaches. 

Friday, June 18, 2021

Check out Mary O'Malley Park in Chelsea!

Guest Post from Laila Soleimani of DCR's Universal Access Program. Laila is an Outreach Specialist working to help people discover new opportunities.

Tucked away in an inner suburb of Boston, you will find Mary O’Malley Park. If you’re looking for an easy, leisurely, accessible stroll or just a beautiful place to spend some time relaxing in the urban outdoors, then this is just the spot for you! Last week, I had the opportunity to visit this family and dog-friendly location on a quiet, spring Thursday morning.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Exploring the Southern Berkshires - Bash Bish Falls and BNRC Trails

I took a step back in time this week and traveled to the Berkshires, where at higher elevation, spring is a week or so behind the Connecticut River Valley and urban places. It was a relief to have less pollen to contend with in these allergy prone times.

It also turns out to be a nice time to visit Bash Bish Falls State Park- before the crowds arrive for the summer. With a jumble of big rocks and a cascade ending in an 80' drop, this waterfall will not disappoint - but it is also a serious people magnet. This popular park in the southwest corner of Massachusetts is heavily visited from Memorial Day through Labor day and probably well into the fall. The main entrance is in New York state, where this park is called Taconic State Park. It is a quick trip from the New York City area. I would think twice before going on weekends. There can be 2-3000 people visiting this small rugged park to picnic and enjoy the cooler temperatures and cold water rushing off of adjacent mountains.