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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Family Fun with the Trustees of Reservations: Central Massachusetts

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has declared June the “Great Outdoors Month,” hoping to inspire people to get away from their screens and experience the majesty of the state. Hit any of the Trustees 110-plus locales and you’ll walk away happy you made the effort. This is certainly true of today’s itinerary, which includes several hidden gems in central Massachusetts that few people outside that region know about. 

If you’re heading from the eastern part of the state, reacquaint yourself with the Old Manse in Concord. Built in 1770 for the Reverend William Emerson, the three-story house is best known as the place where grandson Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote his book, Nature. The daily Children’s Tour of Old Manse includes a sing-along at the 1865 Steinway. The grounds are a good place to picnic before walking to the Minute Man National Historical Park next door. Also note that similar to Naumkeag, which I talked about in yesterday's Berkshires post, Old Manse will be having their own Free Fun Friday on July 3rd. Events include a kid friendly tour, music on the lawn, guided landscape tours, and more.

From Concord head west along Route 2 to Leominster, home to the 157-acre Doyle Community Park. Walk through woodlands, open fields, meadows, formal gardens, and parklands on some 3 ½ miles of easy trails that lead to the former estate of the Pierce family. Better yet, visit the park with picnic basket and blanket in tow the night of July 10 (5:30 pm to 8 pm) to hear a family music concert. 

Continue along Route 2 west and then veer north and less than 45 minutes later, you’ll arrive one of my top 5 favorite Trustees sites, Tully Lake Campground. By all means, plan on spending at least one night if not longer to experience the beauty of this placid lake and stunning nearby waterfalls. Many Trustees members bring their own kayaks to paddle to the sandy isles. But don’t fret because they also offers kayak rentals and stand-up paddleboarding lessons. Rangers guide paddlers to see beavers and teach kids how to fish. Hiking trails lead to majestic Doane’s Falls, where Lawrence Brook tumbles over a series of ledges before it reaches Tully Lake. Also don’t forget to bring mountain bikes, since there’s a great 7-mile loop around Long Pond.

Another mistakenly overlooked Trustees site, Chesterfield Gorge, is a 90-minute drive to the southeast. Here, the East Branch of the Westfield River drops dramatically through rock walls that are close to 70 feet high. Below the gorge, fly fishermen are usually seen casting their lines into the riffles in hopes of hooking a trout. Take deep breaths of sweet pine as you walk through the thick forest on the East Branch Trail. This 7-mile long dirt road is open to both hikers and mountain bikers who can ride through neighboring Gilbert Bliss State Forest.

Nearby Cummington, the home to poet William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), is your final stop on this jaunt through central Mass. Bryant, as he documents so well in his poetry, always preferred country life to city life and would spend all of his summers here until his death. Look out at the meadows, forest, and Berkshire foothills and you realize little has changed thanks to conservation efforts. It’s still a slice of bucolic heaven, one that’s best observed with a picnic lunch made by the Old Creamery, just down the road. A big Bryant Day Celebration is planned for July 18th, from 10 am to 4 pm. Civil War re-enactors will be on hand to offer cooking demos, singing by the Hilltown Choral Society and The Ne'er Do Wells, plus children’s activities like creating period crafts. Sounds like a country hoedown that Bryant would have enjoyed. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/23/15 at 06:00 AM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

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