Cohasset. May 22, 2022

Day/Date:  SUNDAY -5/22/22
Town visited:  Cohasset
Had you ever been to this town before? No
Drive to 1st town:   34 miles   Time spent in town:   3 1/2 hours

What did we do in the town/area?  
COHASSET:  (a rocky shore town)
Today was hot, and we were excited to make Cohasset our town to visit for the day as it sits along the coast both East and South of Boston. 

We rolled into the cute downtown area and parked by the town green. We walked down Main St. toward the strip of shops that included a coffee roaster cafe that we had just learned about called SeaBird Coffee & Co. We popped in and ordered an oat milk cortado for Jo and a decaf latte for Jenny. The coffees were yummy. Unfortunately, they were out of bags of coffee beans, so we couldn’t take any home.

After exploring the downtown area a bit and seeing some historic buildings, shops and a Red Lion Inn that seemed similar to the one in Stockbridge, MA (it is NOT related), we walked back to the town green and found the Town Hall and two classic New England looking white churches. We noticed a street called Beach Street, so we decided to check it out. We walked along this newly paved road lined with beautiful homes, many with their backs privy to a beautiful water view. This area was part of Little Harbor. There were many large natural rock formations in this town that homes and other buildings in this town have craftily incorporated in their landscape.

Next, we drove to the entrance of the Barnes Wildlife Sanctuary and had some homemade lunch before spraying ourselves with sunscreen and bug spray for our walk. The 32-acre property that is owned by the Cohassett Conservation Trust, abuts a larger green area known as Wheelwright Park (a park with woodland trails and a skating pond). “The towering trees and glacial rock formations provide wildlife habitat and awe-inspiring scenic beauty…”. We got a little confused by the trails and never saw the pond, but it was a lovely walk (albeit a bit buggy).

Since we felt hot and wanted to cool off by maybe dipping our feet in some water, we drove along the scenic Jerusalem Road to Cohasset’s local beach known as Sandy Beach. But alas, we weren’t allowed to park our car and enjoy even a half-hour of beach and water time here because Sandy Beach is a “private beach” for residents of Cohasset (proof of resident sticker required). We did drive through the parking lot to grab some pics as it is a beautiful beach. While it is understandable to want the residents of this town to have access to the beaches in their own town, it can be frustrating to a visitor. To see so much beautiful shoreline and have no access to the water (or sand for that matter) unless you are affiliated or invited by a resident of this town was a bummer for us, especially on such a hot day. The laws in MA allow for property owners along the water to take as their own the shoreline between their properties and the water, essentially making that beautiful stretch of nature “theirs to claim ownership of.” Because of these laws, towns like Cohasset succumb to exclusivity.

We then drove to another coastal area known as Cohasset Harbor and Minot Ledge, located just off of Border Street. There is some fascinating history here about the Minot Ledge Lighthouse.

Once again, due to residents-only parking restrictions, we were only able to quickly get out and take pictures of the area that also had a replica of the historic lighthouse. BUT, then we did see a little pass-through off of Lighthouse Lane that led us to another parking lot near a little trail called Beacon Trail, a short climb to where, in the mid-1800s, the original signal pole for the lighthouse once stood. We don’t really know if we were allowed to park there, but as there were not many cars there, we did park and walked the trail atop this rock for some fantastic views of Cohasset Harbor. It was beautiful but windy up there!

After driving around a bit more to the edge of Scituate (the next town over) and along many shorelines (so much water in Cohasset), we decided to make one more stop before heading home. Motivated by our desire to pick up some treats to bring to an outdoor potluck dinner with friends, we stopped at Mullaney’s Seafood Market on Chief Justice Cushing Hwy and picked up some shrimp and potato salad. We were super pleased with our decision to stop here! Everything looked excellent, and the shrimp and potato salad tasted fresh and delicious.

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region:  Massachusett, Wampanoag, Pokanoket

Canton. May 21, 2022

Day/Date:  SATURDAY -5/21/22
Town visited:  Canton
Had you ever been to this town before? Yes – briefly
Drive to 1st town:  23 miles    Time spent in town:   3 1/2 hours

What did we do in the town/area?  

CANTON:  What we’ve deemed as The Bird Town 
Our journey to Canton today was chill and a lovely day to be outside. We looked up a couple of destinations online before heading out and learned of a Mass Audubon place with a Wildlife Sanctuary and Bird Art Museum. We read that a woman named Mildred Morse Allen* donated her land to preserve the 121 acres of property that she always deemed as a wildlife sanctuary. Mildred was also an artist and a filmmaker. Before heading to the Sanctuary, we visited the Town Hall, and just across the street was the Canton Public Library. We decided to pop into the library, knowing that they had a few of Ms. Allen’s bird paintings on exhibit somewhere in the library. We found them on the lower floor, and they were beautiful!

When we arrived at the Museum of American Bird Art and the Mildred Morse Allen* Wildlife Sanctuary, we were excited to walk the trails and enjoy the little gardens there. Sadly, even though it was a Saturday in May, the museum building was closed, which was disappointing. But there was plenty to do just taking in the grounds and walking the two-mile loop trail. We heard so many bird songs during our walk, including a red-headed woodpecker. We also spotted a small pond with a bunch of frogs hanging around the edge—Aaah, nature.

We both wanted a little “pick-me-up” after our walk, so we headed over to the Alchemist Baker (a bakery on Washington St.) and got a watermelon, hibiscus iced tea for Jenny, an iced coffee for Jo, and a macaroon to share. The woman who helped us with our order was so lovely, and when we asked where she likes to eat nearby, she recommended the Takara restaurant (for sushi) and Amber Rose Cafe (for breakfast). We didn’t end up going to either of those places, but we are glad to note it for later or for you if you plan to have a meal in Canton! And just so you know, we enjoyed our treats very much. Jenny especially liked the tea.

Our next stop was the Tilden House, a farm and house owned and managed by the Canton Conservation Commission, built almost 300 years ago. The beautifully preserved red house abutted the Pequitside Farm. There were walking trails nearby that were picturesque and very lush. We walked up to the community gardens area and back through a cut grassy path. 

Lastly, we stopped by the Eleanor Bradley Cabot Estate. We have been to this estate a few times before, and we enjoy it every time. It features a stately home, beautiful gardens, and walking trails around the property, all managed by the Trustees. Unfortunately for us, a wedding event was about to start so we couldn’t view the gardens or tour the house. It is understandable, though, for it is a beautiful spot for a wedding! 

Fun Fact: Greta Gerwig’s 2019 version of the movie Little Women was filmed at the Bradley Estate. It was the site of Aunt March’s house.

*Mildred Morse Allen 1903-1989

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Massachusett, Wampanoag, Pokanoket

Leyden, Bernardston and Greenfield. April 24, 2022

Day/Date:  SUNDAY -4/24/22
Towns visitedLeyden, Bernardston, & Greenfield
Had you ever been to any of these towns before? No 
Drive to 1st town:  17 miles (from Deerfield)    Time spent in town(s):   8+ hours

What did we do in the town(s)/area?  
Today was day two of our weekend away and it was another great one!

LEYDEN: 
Before yesterday, we had never heard of Leyden. But, the rock climber we met yesterday on our hike in Erving brought it to our attention. “Some of my partner’s family owns a sheep farm, and they have 100 baby lambs right now.” That was all we needed to decide to make it our first stop in another 3-town day in Franklin County.  

This town only has about 750 residents, so the town center was quite tranquil. There was a town hall, a church, and a tiny library on top of a hill that afforded a view of a few farms.  

Since we were only about a mile or 2 from the state line, we decided to drive the small country road that crosses into Guilford, VT. We realized that the Connecticut River is what separates NH from Vermont. So, yesterday, when we were at the NH border in Northfield, we were on the East side of the Connecticut River. Today, we were on the West side of the river, which borders VT. There was a barely readable rusty town line sign showing the border.  

We then headed to Leyden Glen Farm (the place with 100 baby lambs). After a few miles of windy dirt roads, we finally came upon the farm. We looked around a bit but didn’t see any sheep or lambs. We checked out their mini-farm store (which was a cute red shed with freezers full of lamb) and considered a purchase from their self-serve system.

Then, we walked around and used Jenny’s binoculars, trying one more time to spot any animals from a different vantage point. But to no avail. Fortunately, a truck pulled up and parked. The man who got out of the truck was Mark, and it turns out he owns the farm with his wife, Kristin. He told us that he had just been with the lambs and that they keep them over in Bernardston (the next town over) until there is enough grass to graze on in the Spring on their land. He said he would probably bring them over in a week or two. Bummer!!! But, we did buy 1/2 pound of ground lamb and had a friendly chat with Mark. When we asked him if there were any good hikes in the area, he pointed us to a most amazing ridge hike at the Leyden Wildlife Management Area a mile or so down the road.  

We would NOT have found this hike if it weren’t for Mark. After we parked, we walked up this grassy trail (that looked like an old road) to a ridge that gave us beautiful views on both sides. We were both taken aback by the simple quietness and beauty of this place. The pictures don’t really do it justice, but it was stunning. We were on a ridge between Ball Mountain and West Mountain. We will put a picture of where we parked our car if any of you want to find this fantastic spot (pic at bottom of this post). even saw an Eastern Bluebird up there! 

BERNARDSTON:
Our 2nd town of the day was Bernardston, located to the east of Leyden. Driving into town, we came upon some sheep and baby lambs! So cute! Then as we went into town, which was a little more populated than Leyden (about 2000 residents), we discovered a lovely place called The Back Porch (Country Shop & Antiques). This place was located behind the owner’s home, and it was such a wonderful small shop, beautifully arranged and very affordable. Their dog Murphy said hello to us at the counter, and the couple who owns it were lovely. We would definitely come back to this shop to see what new finds they bring in!  

Hungry for lunch, we found a local pizza and sub shop called Antonio’s. Here we enjoyed some delicious roast beef sandwiches on the porch, watching the Sunday afternoon happenings in this quiet town.  

Lastly, we headed to the town hall and library for our usual pictures. Then, it was off to the big city of Greenfield!

GREENFIELD:
This city had more bustle to it, but not quite as much as Amherst or Northampton (which have many college students). Greenfield does have a college, though, Greenfield Community College, which enrolls about 1600 students at a time.

We parked and walked around, taking in the City Hall, Catalpa Coffee, and the Franklin Community Food Co-op. We also noticed several Bee Statues. We wondered what those were about. It turns out that Greenfield has a Bee Fest every year in honor of Lorenzo Langstroth, a Greenfield pastor in the mid-1800s who was also known as “the father of modern beekeeping.” These statues, painted by local artists, were part of the 2021 festival.

There was also a department store in the middle of town called Wilson’s, which closed right before Covid hit. Willson’s had been in operation as a full-line department store from 1882 until 2020. 

Next, we hopped in the car to visit Pierce Brothers Coffee Roasters, the makers of Fogbusters Coffee. The first address we had for them must have been old because it took us to a run-down mill building a few blocks from the downtown area. But, there was an interesting shop in this mill building that the owner of The Back Porch in Bernardston had told us about., called Innovintage. We didn’t hop in but would love to in the future.  

The next address for Pierce Brothers Coffee Roasters took us to an industrial park. This seemed more like it! We also saw the headquarters for-Pure Pro Massage Lotion (a company known by many massage therapists such as Jo). Who knew they were there?!  

We ended the day with a hike at Rocky Mountain Park. We hiked the Sachem Head trail (about 1.8 miles) and then went up to the Poet’s Seat Observation Tower. We saw some great views of Greenfield, the largest city in Franklin County, population of about 17,000.  

We had a great weekend exploring some of the most rural parts of this beautiful state.
  (map pic of where to park for the Leyden Hike)

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: 
Leyden & Bernardston: Wabanaki, Abenaki
Greenfield: Wabanaki and Pocomtuc:

Erving, Gill and Northfield. April 23, 2022

Day/Date:  SATURDAY -4/23/22
Towns visited:  Erving, Gill & Northfield
Had you ever been to any of these towns before? No
Drive to 1st town:  80 miles    Time spent in town(s):   8 hours

What did we do in the town(s)/area?  
ERVING:  Did you say hiking with goats?

We set out for a weekend of adventures in the Pioneer Valley, and we were not disappointed.

Today was a three-town visit day that started off in Erving, MA, a town that reveals itself just as the speed limit on Rte 2 goes from 55mph to 35mph. Our first stop was Erving’s Town Hall, which was right on Rte 2, and Freight House Antiques, a store just across the street. The store had a big sign out front that said, “‘Fogbuster’ Coffee by the Pierce Brothers” which lured us in. We hadn’t heard of that coffee brand before, so we had to check it out. Here, we learned about the Pierce Brothers, who are local roasters in Greenfield (a couple of towns over) and they have recently re-branded their Air Roasted Coffee as Fogbuster. The woman inside the store said their coffee was delicious and so, we bought some decaf.

But the Freight House Antique store isn’t a coffee place. It is an antiques/country store with a lot of cool stuff such as hooks, antiques, stone sculptures, etc… They also have a luncheonette (with outdoor seating) which, after our hike, we came back to for some delicious sandwiches. 

Our Hike
When we arrived at the destination of our pre-chosen hike, Farley Ledges Trail, the lot was full, so we had to turn around and find another place to park. Just across the road and down a bit, there is a neighborhood street (Maple St) that we turned on. A friendly man in a van could tell we were wondering if we could park there and kindly approached us and steered us up the street a bit to a neighborhood-designated ‘extra’ parking area for hikers of the trail. Awesome.

Our 2-mile hike at Farley Ledges was great (we did the red trail). Almost immediately, there is a big wooden sign with the names of different rock areas for climbers and the distance it will take to reach them. We could also see a couple of rock climbers straight ahead on the first rocky area on the hike. About 1/3 of the way into our trek, a dog started barking at us. His name was Walter, and he was super cute. His owner (yikes, we didn’t catch his name) started talking with us a bit, and we told him about our quest to visit all of the towns in MA. He excitedly asked if we had gone to Leyden yet, and explained that someone in his partner’s family had a sheep farm there called Leyden Glen, and they just had 100 baby lambs! (we took careful note of that fact and incorporated it into our plans for the next day!) (more on that in our upcoming post for April 24)

The rest of the hike provided some beautiful views, a waterfall crossing, and a surprise meeting with a few other hikers and their tag-along goats. YES, we said GOATS! (see pics). Roaming free the way dogs would on a hike, we came up close and personal for a moment with these unusually tame and friendly four legged kids. The people they were with were younger and faster than us so they came and went quickly. We did thank them for making our day though. 

This hike was truly an adventure and worth every moment! 


After lunch, we headed to
GILL:
Now don’t be confused (as we were) when we tell you that we visited the campus of Northfield Mt. Hermon boarding school while in Gill, MA. I mean, there is a town of Northfield after all, and we are heading there next, but it turns out that, while part of this school was initially founded as a school for girls in Northfield in 1879, the fully consolidated campus (a merger with a school for boys) now stands in Gill, MA.

This campus is so beautiful and comes with an actual farm on the premises. There are also athletic fields and buildings (even a facility for the rowing club), a church, dorms, arts buildings, a fitness center, and more: a pretty sweet (and seemingly expensive) boarding school that sits in a very serene and picturesque location. I knew about this place as my college roommate went here in the 80s, but I didn’t understand that the landscape would look quite like this. 

From NMH, we headed towards the Town Center of Gill, a historic district green, town hall, and library with a more recently built tavern, known as simply Gill Tavern, across the street. 

On our way to the town center, we took in more of the scenic farms with tiny mountainous backdrops. We even passed by a hilly pasture with two striped cows next to a sign that said, “Everyday Farm.” And yeah, we grabbed a pic. It was just another example of the sweet beauty in this town.

Our final stop in Gill was the Upinngil Farm Store, where they sell milk, cheeses, fruit and vegetables, local goods and crafts, and baked goods. We bought some apples & some more Fogbuster coffee (this time, we got regular). Next to the farm’s barn, we saw some young cows playing with each other. It was kind of adorable.

NORTHFIELD: 
Northeast of Gill, and sitting at the top of the state, is Northfield, MA. We headed here next and parked at the visitor center parking lot for the Northfield Mountain Area. This site is the trailhead for many hiking trails and rock climbing ledge trails. There is also a nice recreation area at the base with some fields, tables, and a yurt (maybe they rent this out?). Anyway, since we were already tired from our hike earlier in Erving, we just walked around the flats of this area for a bit, chasing a few birds and butterflies while deciding that we’d love to come back to this spot for a hike someday.

We then headed to the town of Northfield, visiting the town hall and a couple of stores on this main strip with a mountain view and a very small-town vibe. 

The two main stores were Mim’s market and the Super IGA. Both stores had displays with local coffee beans from a few different local brands, making us happy. The IGA market is located right next to a Unitarian Church called First Parish, and it turns out that Dean’s beans (a coffee roaster in nearby Orange, MA) made a coffee blend called Parish blend with a picture of this church in Northfield! All of this; locals supporting locals stuff makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. We walked along this main road passing by a school, a guesthouse and an art gallery.

We drove past a small college campus *(which turns out to have once been a part of the original/former NMH campus) and the library and a small golf course on our way to the NH state border. It was right here at the border where we saw the Northfield Drive-in- it’s currently closed, but we’re sure it will be opening again soon to the delight of both NH and MA residents!

As we are spending the weekend up here, we decided to call it a day and head to our hotel in Deerfield and grab some dinner; for tomorrow, we’ve got three more towns to visit!

*(There is a bunch of history info on the NMH website about the varying and different owners of the former Northfield Campus throughout the years).

Indigenous/ Native land info for this regionErving: Pennacook, Wabanaki
Gill & Northfield: Pennacook, Wabanaki, Abenaki

Newburyport & Newbury. April 18 & 19, 2022

Day/Date:  MONDAY – 4/18/22 & Tue 4/19/22
Towns visited: The city of NEWBURYPORT & the town of Newbury
Had you ever been to any of these towns before? Yes
Drive to 1st town:  54 miles   Time spent in town(s):   12 + hours

What did we do in the town(s)/area?  
Our primary mission of this town visit was to spend time with our good friends Camie, Rhys, and Gracin (age 4.9) who were visiting from Utah. Rhys grew up here in MA, so they are on an epic cross-country adventure and rented a house in Newburyport near Rhys’ family for a few days. We were so excited they invited us up for an overnight!

THE CITY OF NEWBURYPORT:  
We drove to their AirBnB through an industrial part of Newbury. Jenny saw a fox in front of an office building on the drive, carrying its dinner (a bunny). More on Newbury later!

We then entered Newburyport and found the house they rented. It was in a neighborhood full of beautiful old 1700s-style homes, tightly packed together. It’s easy to imagine fishermen living in these parts many years ago. The house was near Cashman Park, a park with fields and play structures set along the Merrimac River. We explored the park a little bit (Gracin really likes the swings there) before heading inside to have some dinner (Rhys’ famous homemade pizza). Then, we had a glow-in-the-dark party with some glow sticks that Jo had brought.  

All four of us had fun reading Gracin a bedtime story. Then, afterwards, we had a good long talk with our friend, Camie, before retiring to bed. A big wind and rain storm came through that night, so we didn’t get the best sleep. But, it was sunny by morning. After Gracin had a quick trip to urgent care (tick bite!), we all headed into the downtown area of Newburyport.

We started at the Tannery Marketplace, which has taken some old buildings (that were once a tannery) and turned them into local shops. We visited a great bookstore called Jabberwocky and a toy store as well. (Rhys’ uncle wrote a book about being a spy in the CIA, and they carried it in the local author’s section of the store.) There were restaurants, a home goods store, a dance studio, a bike shop, and many more! It was nice to see so many thriving small businesses. And, it’s really cool when old, interesting buildings get repurposed.  

We moved on, deciding to take the car to park a bit closer to the heart of downtown. We walked along Waterfront Park from the parking lot, where the Merrimac River begins to empty out into the ocean.  

Next, we searched for, you guessed it, coffee!!!! There were many great coffee shops in this city. Rhys took us toward where he had remembered Plum Island Coffee Roasters being; near the water. But, we found out they had closed. Then, later we found them again in a different location. It turns out, they merged with a cafe called “Souffle” and are now roasting beans again! We were delighted to see this as we had read about their closure (due to a greedy developer – and we know all about that 😦 ). It sounds like the town really rallied and fought to keep them open on the waterfront, but they did not win. So, when we found them in a shop located on Market Square, Jo grabbed some of their beans to go. Between these times, we stopped at another coffee shop called Battlegrounds Coffee (a veteran-owned coffee shop and roaster) for an actual cup of coffee. Their coffee was quite good!!!  

Next, we searched for, you guessed it, coffee!!!! There were many great coffee shops in this city. Rhys took us toward where he had remembered Plum Island Coffee Roasters being; near the water. But, we found out they had closed. Then, later we found them again in a different location. It turns out, they merged with a cafe called “Souffle” and are now roasting beans again! We were delighted to see this as we had read about their closure (due to a greedy developer – and we know all about that 😦 ). It sounds like the town really rallied and fought to keep them open on the waterfront, but they did not win. So, when we found them in a shop located on Market Square, Jo grabbed some of their beans to go. Between these times, we stopped at another coffee shop called Battlegrounds Coffee (a veteran-owned coffee shop and roaster) for an actual cup of coffee. Their coffee was quite good!!! 

Right in the center of town is a playground for kids! Rhys said that when he was young, it was a bit dangerous. There was a rolling log that kids would try to stand upon but would inevitably fall off. But, now it is safer, and Gracin enjoyed some time on the structure.  

Then, we hopped back in the car, and Rhys drove us to Plum Island, an 11-mile barrier island that is part of Newburyport, Newbury, Rowley, and Ipswich. It was a very windy day, and we hopped out of the car to see some pretty intense waves! These were the biggest waves that we have ever seen in MA!  

The Town of Newbury:

After a late lunch back at the Airbnb, we said goodbye to our friends 😥 and headed back to Plum Island to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge to walk the Hellcat Boardwalk Trail. It was a well-marked and well-maintained boardwalk that let you see all the features of this amazing place – the ocean, forested wetlands, and marsh. We would love to come back when all the beach plums bloom. (After all this is how Plum Island got its name!)

Then we drove the entire stretch of land to the end at Sandy Point. Along the way, we saw a bit of wildlife. We saw a beautiful great egret. Notice its black legs! We also saw a turkey and a turtle crossing the road. 

We parked at Sandy Point and walked on the beach for a bit. It was beautiful, with late-afternoon light, smooth rocks, and soft sand. The part of the beach to our left was temporarily closed for the nesting season of the piping plover. We can’t wait to see those little ones emerge soon!

We then headed into the town of Newbury. Our GPS took us to the wrong town hall, so a local pointed us in the right direction in the village of Byfield. Byfield? That isn’t on our map! Newbury is comprised of three distinct villages – Old Town (or Newbury Center, Byfield, and Plum Island). In the Old Town, we saw Old Town Church and the historic Coffin House built around 1678.  

We headed into Byfield to find the Town Hall and found out that it was located in a business park with a storage center and a fertility clinic! Some of the neighborhoods in Byfield were very rural and beautiful, with windy roads.

We also passed the “The Governor’s Academy” in Byfield, the oldest continuous boarding school in the United States. It was founded in 1763 by a grant in the will of William Dummer, an early governor of MA. In 2005, the school decided to change its name from the “Dummer Academy” so as not to deter students from enrolling! 

As the daylight was waning, we decided to call it a day. Today’s town visit was quite memorable, complete with friends, coffee, the ocean, blue skies, and much history!

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Pawtucket, Wabanaki, Agawam

Avon. April 16, 2022

Day/Date:  SATURDAY – 4/16/22
Towns visited:  Avon
Had we ever been to any of this town before? No 
Drive to town:   28 miles   Time spent in town:   3 1/2 hours

What did we do in the town/area?  
AVON:  (This marks town # 117 which means we have seen 1/3 of the towns in MA! Check out our video for a fun glimpse into our journey so far)

Avon is a tiny town and was our pick for our 117th town which means we have visited precisely one-third of the 351 towns in MA!

On our way into town, we noticed an interesting building across from the Avon Middle High School (grades 7-12th), and it turned out to be the Avon Public Library. It seemed like 3 or 4 narrow buildings that were linked together. We went inside, and it was smaller than it appeared. It was pretty quiet there (like libraries are), so we moved along fairly quickly.

From the library parking lot, we were able to walk over a little bridge to the Town Hall Offices parking lot, so we did that for our usual Town Hall pic. 

We drove along Main St. to see what was going on in the downtown area, and we made a quick stop at a small town park called John DiMarco Park. A sign there states that the area was once the location of an orphanage called the Swedish Lutheran Home for Children in the early 1900s. The park had some Easter decorations and some homemade decorative birdhouses mounted on many of the trees.

We also noted some older historic-looking buildings such as Blanchards Tavern and a picturesque church near downtown Avon. 

We then headed to Olu’s African Market, and we were greeted with such friendliness. A woman came up to us and asked if we needed help, just as we were saying to each other that we should ask for suggestions. We said, “yes” and, she walked us throughout the entire store, explaining different foods and spices and how many people use them. We bought a bunch of stuff, including spices to make pepper soup, chin chin (a Nigerian snacky treat), palm oil, and black-eyed peas. When we asked her name, she said that she was Olu and that her husband had named the store after her. They opened a year ago during COVID! Olu and her husband are Nigerian. We really enjoyed learning about the foods and loved how personable she was. You could tell that the store was a place that brings West African folks living in the area together.  There were two women hugging in the store, having not seen each other in a while.  We hope to go to ‘grandma youtube’ (as Olu put it) to find some delicious recipes!

From here, we ordered lunch from an African restaurant in town called Tambo’s Kitchen. After learning about Egusi sauce from Olu, we decided to order that with chicken to give it a try. We also ordered Nigerian fried rice with chicken which was a good thing because it turns out that we didn’t like the Egusi sauce as much as we wanted to (though the chicken on both dishes was very good!). The main ingredient of the sauce is ground Egusi seeds (a melon grown in West Africa).  It was a real pleasure to discover both these independently-owned businesses.

With Avon being so small, the only thing left to do was head over to the D.W. Field Park to drive around the multiple ponds and walk along some of the trails. Part of the park is in Brockton, and part of it is in Avon. We drove around the whole thing but took our walk in between the Avon reservoir and Beaver Brook. This place is vast, and we enjoyed driving through it all.  It looked like the park is well-used park by the residents of both Avon & Brockton.  We saw people walking, fishing, biking, and sitting by the water.  

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Massachusett, Wampanoag, Pokanet

Wilmington. April 9, 2022

Day/Date:  SATURDAY -4/9/22
Town visited: Wilmington
Had you ever been to this town before? Yes /No 
Drive to 1st town:   31 miles   Time spent in town:   5 1/2 hours

What did we do in the town/area?  
We brought our friend Lynn on our town visit today to Wilmington. What a treat to have her tag along!

We have to admit, we knew the weather was a little “iffy” today as scattered rain was in the forecast, but it seemed like it might be just some passing rain at some point. However, we intentionally made the Wilmington Town Forest hike our first stop to get that in before any rain started, hopefully. We noticed a historic site before we reached the forest, so we pulled over to check it out. It was the Joshua Harnden Tavern/Wilmington Minutemen Hdqtrs. It’s a preserved 18th-century tavern where Harnden, a colonel in the Revolutionary, once lived. Next door is an old building with a sign that says Headquarters for the Wilmington Minutemen. Outside on the building’s shutters are painted wooden apples and with a peek in the window, one can see a long table and chairs. The museum/tavern, unfortunately, is only open Tue and Thu – which meant that we didn’t get to go in and see the tavern. So, we moved along.

We made it to the forest, and we did succeed at staying dry for the most part. We trekked up to the top of a hill where there was a water tower and continued to follow the blue trail til it looped us back to our car. It was about a 2-mile hike: and it did start drizzling at the tail end of our walk, but it wasn’t so much that it would deter us.

We thought it would be a good idea to get some food next, so we looked up a sandwich spot on Upton St. This area, in general, seemed to be pretty industrial. We passed by a few industrial parks, including the distribution center for New England Coffee (which was very big!). The sandwich place that Jenny had looked up was eluding us as we drove around this industrial park. We finally moved on to the place Jo wanted to go to anyway; a place called “As Good As It Gets Cafe.” (We later learned that the place Jenny was looking for closed down in 2019- so no wonder!) On our way there, we stopped at a very old burying ground (1731) near a church and investigated the ornate etchings on the gravestones; cherubs, skeleton faces with angel wings, and more. These are the kinds of things you don’t see anymore in cemeteries. Plus, they had a stone structure that said “Town pound.” Town pounds were historically structures where stray animals stayed, waiting for their owners to come and pick them up. In Wilmington, the one we saw is a replica of their original town pound.

We pulled into the strip plaza where the “As Good As It Gets Cafe” was. There was a little wait to be seated, so we perused the menu in that downtime, trying to decide between breakfast and lunch. Places like this are always tempting with their all-day breakfast menus. Our yummy meals really hit the spot, and the cafe staff were all so very nice. Our waitress, Jen, was attentive, down-to-earth, and personable. After we ate, Lynn hit up their “to-go” area and grabbed a few muffins to take home. 

The rain had picked back up again, so we drove towards the Town Hall. The town hall was not in the town center area but instead 2 miles away. When we reached town hall- we were surprised to see a one-story-perfectly round building that looked like an elementary school. We drove around the building and grabbed some pics. From here, we went to the Shawsheen River Aqueduct. 

Aqueduct: An artificial channel (or water bridge) that is constructed to convey water from one location to another.

The Shawsheen River Aqueduct was constructed as part of the creation of a canal in order to allow the use of the waterway to expedite the transfer of imports and exports. The stone structures that remain there now are relics of the working structure that existed between 1803 and 1851.

It was really raining when we happened upon the Aqueduct, but we got out of the car anyway, took some pics, and walked around trying to imagine it when it was in use. Then we hopped in the car and drove a few miles before reaching the border of Billerica and turning around. By the time we drove back through the area with the Aqueduct, just 5-7 minutes later, there was hail hitting our windshield and hail pellets lightly covering the road and ground. Outside it was 50 degrees. It was the weirdest 10-15 minutes of weather we have experienced in a long time!

By the time we got back to the center of town, the rain had lightened up enough for us to quickly check out the historic town center with the 4th of July Hdqrs (we don’t really know what that is), the Gazebo, and small green area, and the Memorial Library). Then it started back up again, adding in some occasional thunder.

We went to Elias Country Store and bought some treats and then drove to the Town Beach at Silver Lake in the rain! Too bad we couldn’t go swimming because it looks like such a lovely little spot for folks to go and enjoy some recreation. 

Good job, Wilmington!

Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: Pawtucket, Massachusett, Agawam

Petersham and Lancaster. April 2, 2022

Day/Date:  SATURDAY -4/2/22
Towns visited:  Petersham & Lancaster

Had you ever been to any of these towns before? Yes /No 
Drive to 1st town:  70 miles   Time spent in town(s):   7+ hours

What did we do in the town(s)/area?  
Today’s town visit title…
Farms, Forests, Flooded Towns and Food!
PETERSHAM:  
OMG you guys-Petersham (pronounced Peter-Sam) is such an interesting and sweet town! And, TBH, it’s actually more than one town because another town, once known as Dana, sits near and at the bottom of the part of the Quabbin Reservoir in Petersham. And, yeah, we went there, sorta.  


But before we tell you about that, we want to tell you about our first stop at the Petersham Curling Club. This club is one of about four dedicated curling clubs in all of MA (there are other curling club groups, but they use multi-use ice rinks). We were so happy that the club was open today. When we went inside, the lobby had a few parents sitting in chairs watching through the window at the kids taking curling lessons. We joined in with these parents, watching the kids learn and practice strategies to release the stone and use the curling broom.  The club lobby had wood-paneled walls, a shelf with trophies, a bar (used for evening rental events and post competitions, we assume), a kitchen, and a viewing area. 

We don’t know much about curling other than that it is one of the world’s oldest team sports and it is an Olympic sport. It looks like a lot of fun for folks of any age. Who knows, perhaps we’ll visit one of the other four curling clubs and actually get a chance to play?

We brought our bikes with us today to visit our next destination; the Quabbin Reservoir and the lost town of Dana. We did the 7.2 mile out and back ‘Quabbin reservoir at Gate 40’ trail. The trail is an old road that is sometimes paved and sometimes gravel and dirt.

At just about the 1 1/2 mile mark, we reached the historical site of Dana Common. Dana was a town in MA that was originally settled in 1676 (but incorporated in 1801). But in 1938, the town was forced to disincorporate in order to make way for the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir so the buildings were leveled or moved. The Quabbin Reservoir project was a major effort set underway to meet the need for public water supply for Boston and 40 other towns. There are a few stone wall remnants as well as little posts by the open field of the common that feature pictures which, are an eery reminder of the schoolhouse, store, and homesites from long ago. 

Three other towns were lost to this massive undertaking of the Quabbin, but their locations are within other MA towns- so don’t be surprised if we bring you more about this history in some future town visit posts. 

We continued past the Dana Common, riding our bikes along the old Greenwich Dana Rd. to the end of the trail, which was a little past a rocky bridge that crosses over the water of the Quabbin.

I’m not going to lie; we were pretty ready for lunch after this exploration, so we headed to the Petersham Common to visit the Country Store. Before we tell you about our food fun in the store, we have to mention that the Common has several buildings, including the Country store, that are Greek Revivalist style architecture. We can’t quite figure out why but it was noticeable! It could imply that this was a popular building style from 1830-to 1860 in the area.  

The Country Store was fun and very cute. Inside, there was a small grocery section, a modest wine section, tables, a wood-burning stove to eat food from the cafe (Ari’s cafe), and a selection of local books and items for sale by local artisans. We partook of a delicious turkey sandwich, green velvet soup (pureed veggies and white beans), a cookie, and some Dean’s Bean’s coffee. We liked our meal so much that we decided to buy some more soup to take home and enjoy later! We grabbed a quart of the Portuguese kielbasa and kale soup (a great choice) and some local kombucha and canned coffee.

After lunch, we decided to stop at the North Common Meadow, a small parcel of land preserved by The Trustees., which was just 1/8 of a mile down from the store. Unfortunately, it was wet and muddy, so we didn’t explore too deeply. 

Next, we drove through Nichewaug (see Native American history below). It was a really lovely drive, and along the way, we saw many horses, alpacas, some pigs and goats, and an old cemetery. We couldn’t stop saying, “Oh, look! Cute!”

We then drove to Gate 37 and did a short hike to the water’s edge (yes, the Quabbin). Along the route, we practically tripped over a snake (very small, but we both screamed, Jenny louder than Jo!) and we also saw our first butterfly of the season, the Mourning Cloak.

Our final stop in Petersham was the Fisher Museum at the Harvard Research Forest. There was a bit of conflicting information on their website about whether or not they were open on Saturdays, and it turns out that they were not (well, they will be, but not until May). We were, however, able to take a short hike around the grounds and into the forest, which was pretty cool. We learned a few things along the trail, like how some trees can grow back from their stumps while others (the red pine) will not grow again once it has been cut down. The Harvard Research has been in operation since 1907 and includes one of North America’s oldest managed forests. The Fisher Museum includes some dioramas of the forest, which we would love to come back and see! There are also buildings for research, dormitories for visiting students, and greenhouses.  

As daylight is lasting longer these days, we had it in us to explore another town today so, we got back in the car and drove 35 miles east to the town of Lancaster.

LANCASTER:
We started out visiting the Town Hall – like we do. 
Lancaster Town Hall was adjacent to the town library and a church which, was once a meeting house designed Charles Bulfinch (you know, the guy who designed many buildings including, the MA statehouse, Boston Common and Fanueil Hall ⚜️).   

We immediately learned (from the gigantic sign in front of town hall) that Lancaster is the oldest town in Worcester County.

As we started looking up other things to explore in Lancaster, we happened upon a listing for a little preserve shop called Peg’s Preserves. The internet said that the store was open until 5pm and it was 4:54pm so we hightailed it over there to see if we could make it in time. We got there (it’s more of a house than a store) literally at 5pm- but there was no sign there and it didn’t seem like anyone was around. We later looked into it further and it looks like Peg moved to Georgia- so… well… ummm, we won’t be enjoying Peg’s preserves and jams anytime soon. Doh!

We headed back towards town common area to explore a very large building that seemed intriguing. Turns out it was part of the campus for Dr. Franklin Perkins School (aka Perkins programs); a special education school for children and adolescents who experience an array challenges and need support. The building was part of a campus that looked quite expansive.

We thought about grabbing a little snack so Jenny found a place online called BullSpit Brewery (yes, you read that right) that said was open til 6pm. We just wanted to grab some fries or something and see a local joint, so we headed that way. During our drive, we passed the South Lancaster Academy and happened upon a Trustees site called Dexter Drumlin. A drumlin is basically an elongated hill that was caused by glacial action. It can look like an egg coming up from the land. Dexter Drumlin stood out as this fully mowed grassy lump with a little path leading to the top. It was fun to see.

We made it to BullSpit Brewery which, happened to be next to a country store called Kalon Farm Country store. The country store was an unexpected treat. We walked in and there was an array of sauces, meats, prepared foods and, the canned local beer from BullSpit brewery located next door.  When we noticed that no one seemed to be next door, the woman at the country store informed us that the brewery did not get its license renewed (Lancaster has a history of being a dry town and apparently is very limited in what they allow regarding Alcohol licenses). She said they recently got approval for some outdoor events but that have since opened a place in Maynard.

We didn’t get our fries, but we did purchase some chorizo, corned beef hash, and pulled pork.  Jenny purchased 2 single beers that she is excited to try.  We already had some corned beef hash for breakfast and some pulled pork for lunch, so, yeah, they did not disappoint!  

With our backseat full of locally sourced goodies and our bodies satisfyingly tired, we headed back east to Newton.


Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: 
PETERSHAM- Nipmuc (in 2016, a parcel of land (2 1/2 acres) was given back to the Nipmuc Cultural Preservation Group by University of the Wild founder and later the same group purchased even more of that land (18 more acres). The land, which is within the town of Petersham, is called Nichewaug.

Nichewaug

LANCASTER- Agawam & Nipmuc