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Massachusetts

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Raft the Deerfield River in Massachusetts

This coming spring, due to excessive snowfall these past three months, New Englanders are blessed with more water in our backyard than we’ve had in years. “This May proves to be one of our best yet,” says Bruce Lessels, co-owner of the rafting outfitter, Zoar Outdoor in Charlemont, Massachusetts. Many of the whitewater rivers, like the Deerfield that Zoar Outdoor runs, gain their momentum from dam releases at power plants. The more water these plants have in their reservoirs from snow and rain, the more water you have to surge over rapids in a raft or kayak. Raft Zoar Outdoor’s most popular trip, the Zoar Gap. Minimum age is 7 and rates range from $69-$97 depending on age. Their highly regarded white-water kayaking school is also one of the best places to learn the sport in the northeast.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/03/15 at 06:00 AM
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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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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Family Fun with the Trustees of Reservations at Martha’s Vineyard

Few folks realize that the Trustees are the largest private owner of farmland in Massachusetts with five working community farms across the state serving over 1,300 CSA members. Now you can add Martha’s Vineyard’s FARM Institute to that growing portfolio. This spring, the Trustees announced their plans to integrate with the Katama-based farm, known for their educational programs and summer institute that attracts close to 1000 children who are interested in learning about agriculture. Expect even more exciting program offerings at the Farm Institute to happen in 2016. 


The Trustees has a longstanding commitment to the preservation of open space on Martha’s Vineyard. Start your tour of the island with a short ferry ride over to Chappaquiddick at their Japanese-style garden called Mytoi. Azaleas, daffodils, dogwoods, and rhododendrons line the fresh water creeks. On July 10th from 4:30 pm to 6 pm, kids will get to help restock the garden pond with goldfish. 

A short stroll from Mytoi and you reach the Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge and East Beach. The waters of Cape Poge are one of the best places to birdwatch on the Vineyard. Ospreys, oystercatchers, piping plovers, terns, and the occasional bald eagle nest here. To get a close-up look at the birds, sign up for the 2-hour Wildlife Discovery Kayak Tour with the Trustees that happens daily from 10 am to noon and 2 pm to 4 pm. Or you can simply rent kayaks and venture out on the water for a self-guided paddle. Please note that you don't need to bring a car to Chappaquiddick. The Trustees offer complimentary van pickup for guided tour participants on the Chappy side of the Chappy Ferry. Call 508-627-3599 for more information and to book your reservation.

Chappy offers one of the most pristine stretches of beach on the island at Wasque Point, also under the helm of the Trustees. Wasque is a great spot to try your luck surfcasting for stripers and blues. Or simply get lost in this glorious seascape by heading out on 1.5 miles of trail. 

Beach lovers will also love Long Point Wildlife Refuge in West Tisbury, where families can spend the day body surfing, swimming in the sheltered ponds, or explore Long Pond Cove by kayak or paddleboard, which are available for rentals. Families can also grab an Exploration Backpack, full of supplies for a day of adventure like binoculars and scavenger hunts. Every Tuesday from 5:30 pm to 7 pm, bring your mat, towel, and water for yoga on the beach. There’s also a chance to go on a moonlight paddle and return to the beach of Long Point for a campfire three nights this summer. 

Another great spot to escape the crowds is Norton Point Beach, just off Katama Road. Be sure to deflate your tires to 15 psi using the air hose next to the entrance before you drive on the sand. Then choose a spot on the beach and savor the serenity.

End your day with a walk through Menemsha Hills. If you scale Prospect Hill, the second highest point on the island, you’ll get spectacular views of the Menemsha Harbor and Gay Head Light, especially during sunset. Also worth checking out is the adjacent 18-acre property, The Brickworks, where clay was once used to manufacture highly sought after bricks that were shipped to Boston, New York and Newport. It’s open to the public for the first time this summer. 

If you’re taking the ferry from New Bedford to the Vineyard, be sure to make a stop at the Allen C. Haskell Public Gardens. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands once sought gardening advice from the renowned horticulturalist Haskell, so expect to find an exotic showcase of plants and trees surrounding one of New Bedford’s oldest homes. The Trustees acquired the property in 2013 and began a lengthy $2 million overhaul to preserve this cherished urban oasis. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/24/15 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, June 25, 2015

Family Fun with the Trustees of Reservations: the North Shore

Most people affiliate the Trustees with that glorious stretch of Atlantic Ocean shoreline called Crane Beach, recently named one of the “Top 10 U.S. Family Beaches” by National Geographic Traveler. Today’s itinerary will get you to Crane Beach and the adjacent Crane Estate, which looks incredible after a $2.1 million restoration of the Grand Allée, but first we want you to work up a sweat before swimming in the ocean waters. 


Choose between a mountain bike ride in the fishing town of Gloucester or a short hike up a hill in Andover that rewards you with vistas of Boston’s Prudential Center. At Gloucester’s Ravenswood Park, ten miles of former carriage path trails wind through hemlock-covered grounds, leading to a must-see overlook of Gloucester Harbor. The crushed gravel and wide trails is ideally suited for novice mountain bikers. Not to mention, it’s a great way to escape the Cape Ann crowds in summer. 

At Andover’s Ward Reservation, opt for the 1-mile (round-trip) climb up Holt Hill. You’ll stroll through forest and alongside meadows past old stone walls. Keep on climbing the grassy trail until you reach the short summit overlooking the expanse of Merrimack Valley and yes, the Pru. 

Four and a half miles long, Crane Beach in Ipswich is known for its smooth surf and dunes. Members of the Trustees can obtain a parking sticker for $75 and park free for the entire summer at one of New England’s best-loved beaches. New this summer, Crane Beach will be open late to offer Drive-In Movies, including a snack bar. Also don’t miss being on Crane Beach during low tide (around 11 am) on August 22nd, when Dutch artist Theo Jansen will create one of his signature “Strandbeests” to coincide with an upcoming show at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. It’s impossible to describe. Just check it out

Soak up the sun and then make your way to the Crane Mansion or Great House. This spring, The Trustees announced the launch of an initiative to celebrate its cultural sites with a new “Bringing Our Stories to Life” campaign. Not surprisingly, the Crane Estate, the property the Trustees consider the crown jewel in their collection, is at the forefront of this initiative. Children will like the new tour, “Guest of the Cranes,” where it’s 1929 and you’ve just arrived to visit your good friends, the Cranes. After touring the mansion, walk down the striking Grand Allée, with camera in hand, and stop at the recently renovated Casino, which originally served as an elegant pool and entertainment space used by the Crane family. The Casino is now open to the public for lawn games, and inside you can play pool and buy ice cream.

If your plans include one of the Thursday night concerts on the grounds this summer, you might be wise to spend the night at the bottom of the hill at The Inn at Castle Hill. The 10-room inn, where children 12 and over are welcome, was recently voted the top property on the North Shore by North Shore Magazine. The setting is hard to top. Look out from their wraparound porch onto miles of uninterrupted salt marsh and beach. 

Breakfast at the Inn at Castle Hill takes full advantage of the eggs and milk farmed just down the road at the Trustees’ 1000-acre Appleton Farms. Open to the public, Appleton is the oldest continuously operating farm, in existence since 1638. Stroll on grassy trails past rows of veggies to the Appleton Old House. Better yet, go on a Quest, an outdoor scavenger hunt and follow the clues to a hidden box at the end. Pick up a pocket-sized Quest Detective booklet and you can go questing at a dozen other Trustees sites located around the Greater Boston area. Also note that Appleton Farms’ eggs, cheese, yogurt, milk and grass-fed beef will soon be found at the Boston Public Market, ready to make its debut in July. Though don’t use that as an excuse not to visit the farm in person. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/25/15 at 06:00 AM
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Family Fun with the Trustees of Reservations: Greater Boston

If you live in the Boston area and need a quick escape outdoors, look no further than a Trustees property. Some of my family’s most memorable day trips in the region have been to Hingham’s World’s End and Dover’s Noanet Woods. I’ll be delving into those sites in today’s itinerary, plus more.


Starting in Metro West and continuing counterclockwise around the 95/93 beltway that circles the city, we hit a favorite mountain biking locale, Noanet Woodlands. 17 miles of shaded trails weave through woods, skirt ponds, and lead you to Noanet Peak, which rewards you with views of the Boston skyline. Kids will enjoy the popular Caryl Trail, a half-mile walk to an old mill site. New this summer is a guided full moon and meteor shower hike for families in late July throughout August. Across the Powisset Street parking lot is the classic Powisset Farm which dates back three centuries. Take a leisurely walk through the farmstead, complete with chickens and pigs, then follow an easy, one-mile loop trail into the neighboring forest. 

Not far from the Noanet Woods in neighboring Medfield is another quintessential retreat for families, Rocky Woods. Walk around Chickering Pond or enjoy a longer excursion on carriage roads. New this year for families is the Night’s On, Lights Out Family Campout on August 1st. Pitch your tent in the evening and then participate in games and recreational activities. As the night darkens, you’ll go on a night hike before sharing stories around a campfire with S’mores. Pre-registration is required.

Continuing southeast, the Bradley Estate in Canton is easily found off of the highway. While the Georgian brick home and gardens are a popular spot for weddings, families will love seeing the llamas and sheep on the property. On July 9th from 3 pm to 5 pm, try your luck with Family Games on the grounds. The July 23rd Art Quest will lead families to four different destinations around the property. Each family member will then have an opportunity to experience the landscape through art. 

The Trustees purchased the 36-acre Governor Ames Estate in 2012 and what a gem this Easton property is. Trails lead under centuries-old beech trees to small serene ponds, sweeping meadows, and an elegant 19th-century stone stable. Don’t miss the 2nd Annual Legacy Event this coming Sunday, June 28th. Held from 11 am to 4 pm, the event features live music throughout the day as well as hands-on art programs, walking tours of the grounds, canoeing, and interactive children's programs including a Stegosaurus Scavenger Hunt, Cookie Monster Kitchen, and a children's entertainer to end the day.

Last but certainly not least is another crown jewel in the Trustees collection, World’s End. South of Boston, World’s End juts out of Hingham Harbor like a rooster at daybreak. In 1890, noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead was hired to transform World’s End into a “planned community” of 150 homes. Thankfully, this never came to fruition. The 251-acre estate was farmed and owned by one family until the Trustees of Reservations purchased the property with the help of the public in 1967. A 4-mile walk (jogging is also popular here) starts on a wide path bordered by white pines, hickories, oaks, and bracken ferns. The trail narrows as it hugs the rocky shores of the Atlantic Ocean, with views of the Boston Harbor and the city skyline. Upcoming programs for families include Learn to Kayak on June 28th and Trees and Bees on July 9th.
 
 
Also, don't forget that the Trustees own and manage 60 community gardens in Boston and hold year-round gardening classes, workshops, and events. For example, in Mattapan (30 Edgewater Drive) on July 11, from 1:30 pm-3 pm, kids can learn about bugs and go on a scavenger hunt. 
 
It’s been a pleasure to work with the Trustees again, especially their powerhouse publicist Kristi Perry, who knows all 113 properties intimately. Please take another look at all the blogs I wrote this week on the organization. There is a ton of events happening this summer and I don’t want you to miss out. Come to the August 22nd “Strandbeests” event on Crane Beach and please say hi to me in person. In the meantime, I’m off to Istanbul and Cappadocia, Turkey, back again with a new post on July 7th.

Have a wonderful 4th of July and keep active!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/25/15 at 03:30 PM
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Monday, November 02, 2015

Exciting Changes in the Newton Food Scene

It’s not everyday that I write about my hometown, Newton, Massachusetts, but I’m excited to tell you about the latest batch of restaurant openings. For once a week this past decade, Lisa and I have been having lunch at Coffee Corner in Newton Highlands, home to the best tuna melt, iced coffee, and salads in the area. Owner Danielle sold Coffee Corner in the spring and has now opened Newton’s Nectar (87 Union Street) in a great space across from the T in Newton Center. Nearby, the owners of the consistently tasty fare at Sycamore will soon be opening Little Big Diner, an East Asian-style diner featuring ramen, rice bowls, buns, and more. In Newton Highlands, Boston’s favorite burrito, Anna’s Taqueria will be opening in mid-November at the former Baker’s Best site. Last but certainly not least, New Haven’s Frank Pepe’s, home to one of my top 10 pies in New England, the white clam pizza, is finally making its debut in Massachusetts on December 1st at the former Paparazzi’s in Chestnut Hill Mall. Never thought I’d be saying this, but the Newton food scene is happening. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/02/15 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, May 05, 2016

Visit a Massachusetts Cheesemaker This Summer

According to the Massachusetts Cheese Guild, there are now 22 artisanal cheesemakers across the across the Commonwealth. Some, like Dave Smith at Smith’s Country Cheese in Winchendon, have been in business since 1985, creating Gouda wheels from his Holstein herd. Eric and Ann Starbard at Crystal Brook Farm in Sterling milk 60 goats to make their award-winning chevre. Berkshire Cheese in Dalton is another pioneer in the state, producing raw cow’s milk blue cheese since 1998. Order a map from the Massachusetts Cheese Guild, call a cheesemaker in the morning to see if production is scheduled that day, and then bring the family to see how the cheese is made and to hopefully hug a cow or two. You won’t regret it. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/05/16 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Memorable Spring Bike Rides, The Westport Ramble, Massachusetts

South of New Bedford lies countryside so fertile, you’ll feel like you’re in Vermont.  Stretching from Dartmouth, Massachusetts, to Little Compton, Rhode Island, the area is known as the Heritage Farm Coast. It has the sunniest and most temperate climate in New England and thus the longest growing season. Vast dairy farms, cornfields, even vineyards, border the Westport River as it washes into the Atlantic. Add the dunes of Horseneck Beach and you have the perfect country and coast ride, especially in the spring before the beach traffic starts to arrive. 

 
Turn left out of the Westport Middle School parking lot onto Old Country Road to start this 21-mile loop (give yourself at least two hours). A right turn onto Pine Hill Road heads downhill, but the route is relatively flat for most of the ride. Within a mile, you’re lost in acres of farmland. Historic Cape Cod shingled houses and barns are bordered by old stone walls. Continue on lightly traveled Old Pine Road to see cornfields edging towards the horizon. A mile later, turn right onto Hix Bridge Road and then left a half-mile beyond that onto Horseneck Road. The Westport River appears on your right, a strip of dark blue snaking through the green pasture. 
 
Around the halfway mark, the ocean starts to appear on your left and the area becomes more developed.  A good choice for lunch is the Bayside, known for their cod wraps and lobster rolls. Veer right on East Beach Road for expansive views of the ocean. Another right onto Route 88 leads to the sweeping beach and dunes of Horseneck Beach State Reservation. After crossing a small bridge which rewards you with views of the harbor and its numerous fishing boats, turn right onto Drift Road. This leads to Old County Road, where you turn left to return to your car. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/12/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, May 16, 2016

Trustees Sites Not To Be Missed, Tully Lake Campground

This coming Saturday, May 21st, the Trustees of Reservations will kick off their 125th anniversary celebration with a “Home Sweet Home” Historic Open House Day. The Great House on the Crane Estate in Ipswich, the Old Manse in Concord, and seven other historic homes will be open to the public for free. To get the festivities rolling, all this week I’m going to divulge 5 unheralded Trustees sites that might not be on your radar. The non-profit conservation organization maintains over 100 sites in Massachusetts including their crown jewel, Crane Beach. Others, like Tully Lake Campground in Royalston, should be on your list. 

 
Come to this tranquil Tully Lake where there is little or no motorized boat traffic and tents-only campsites and you’ll understand why campers return year after year. Many bring their own kayaks to paddle to the sandy isles and within sinuous Tully River. The Trustees offers kayak rentals and stand-up paddleboarding lessons on Sundays in season. Hiking trails lead to stunning Doane’s Falls, where Lawrence Brook tumbles over a series of ledges before it reaches Tully Lake. Rangers lead paddlers to see beavers and teach kids how to fish. You may want to bring your mountain bike, since there’s a 7-mile loop around nearby Long Pond. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/16/16 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Trustees Sites Not To Be Missed, Bartholomew’s Cobble, Sheffield

At the southernmost point of the Berkshires, near the Connecticut border, you’ll find Bartholomew’s Cobble. Walking on the Ledges Trail, the Housatonic River snakes through dairy farms on the left while eroding limestone and quartzite rocks form the cobble to your right. Take a slight detour at Corbin’s Neck to get a closer view of the river and the cows resting on its banks. Then continue on the Tulip Tree Trail to stroll uphill through a forest of tall hemlocks before reaching a clearing. At a short summit, take advantage of the bench to sit and take in the views of Mount Everett and Mount Race, part of the Appalachian Trail. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/17/16 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

October is Cranberry Harvest Season in Massachusetts

The Cranberry Harvest Celebration at Makepeace Farms in Wareham, an hour south of Boston near the Sagamore Bridge to Cape Cod, might be over, but it’s still a great time to visit the bogs of Massachusetts during harvest time. We brought a journalist from Cape Town to the region last Thursday and were mesmerized by the men working waist-deep in the flooded cranberries colored a brilliant red. A.D. Makepeace Company is the world’s largest cranberry grower, a founding member of the Ocean Spray co-op, and the largest private property owner in Massachusetts. Cranberries have been cultivated in this part of the world for approximately 200 years. The temperate climate is perfect for growing cranberries with warm days in summer and cold nights in autumn. We watched as workers culled and then vacuumed up the cranberries into a truck that heads to a nearby Ocean Spray processing plant to make cranberry juice, cranberry sauce, and craisins. The harvest continues until mid-November and A.D. Makepeace is offering one last guided tour of its bog this Saturday, October 29th, at 9 am. Afterwards, stop by Tihonet Village for sandwiches and salads, chocolate-covered cranberries, and treats from their bakery like tasty cranberry macaroons. I grabbed a pint of fresh cranberries after a worker told me how to make homemade cranberry liqueur with equal amounts of cranberries, sugar, and vodka. I’ll tell you how it turns out. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/26/16 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.

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