Random Thoughts

Preparing for the Cape, Clear Thoughts, and Survey Responses

August 19-20, 2017

IMG_0685As I head into my eighth weekend of hiking across Massachusetts, logistical issues of the walk still require a lot of time and attention as I look ahead to this weekend.

I’m now more than two hours away from my home in Amherst requiring more driving time to get to the trailhead. I’m also about an hour to an hour and a half’s drive from my closest support, three lifelong college friends who live in Medford and Randolph. I’m deeply grateful to Valerie, Gus and Phil for allowing me to stay at their homes while I work my way across Southeastern Mass.

Todays walk looks like it will be particularly challenging due to potential rain, thunderstorms, heat and high humidity. The walk from Bridgewater to Plymouth is a solid 18-20 miles, which will take about eight hours to complete. It will require me to leave home as early as 4:00 a.m. so I can start about six o’clock.  I’ve been successful starting early about zero times this summer. So we’ll see.

Sunday’s walk from Plymouth to the Sagamore Bridge, another 18 miles or so, will probably be modified as the weather outlook calls for temperatures to reach the high 80s. It’s very difficult and dangerous to walk great distances in high heat.

It’s been about two weeks since I filed my last report about the walk and I apologize. I spent last week working on the MassWalk survey https://masswalk.wordpress.com about what it means to be a New Englander.  Here are some preliminary responses:

Q1: Do you consider your to be A New Englander?

75%      Yes

8.33%   No

16.67% Not Sure

Q2: What does it mean to be a New Englander?

“A quite reserve and a liberal spirit. A healthy appreciation for Mother Nature.

“Hate cold weather but put up with it.”

“More open minded and educated.”

“Having grown up in Vermont, I feel a natural “at home” feeling there that I don’t feel anywhere else, which to me means an affinity with a liberal, mud-on-the-pants relaxedness and a constant longing to be in a certain kind of oak/hemlock/birch forest space that’s cool and moist. I’ve learned more about this identity by the contrast of living in the dry climate of Idaho; which isn’t to say I’d move right back, because Westerners are, on average more open-hearted and social than “reticent” New Englanders, who I think are all badgered by ghosts of Calvinist ministers that live in the floorboards of white churches and the brickworks of old mills.”

“To be rich and white or poor and black (except for the rich black people in the suburbs).”

“Living in MA,Ct,Me,Ri,Vt, NH”

Q3: What makes you feel regionally connected to New England (MA, CT, RI, NH, VT, ME)?

“Growing up in Sagamore Beach”
The seasons, the architecture, the accent, the attitude
“Our own Interstate 91 keeps us connected”
“Cape Cod”
“Our hills and mountains, the coastal beaches and waters, the forested woods and quintessential backroads and small towns. And most especially the beauty of our fall colors.”

Q4: What’s your favorite New England destination?
“Amherst, MA”
‘Boston – maybe even Martha’s Vineyard”
“The Appalacian trail that goes east of Norwich, VT from the top of Holly Hill Road.”
“Newport, RI”

Q5: What’s your favorite New England fruit, vegetable or food?
“REAL maple syrup and warm, spiced, apple cider”
“Native wild blueberries”
“Asparagus, strawberries, fried clams!”
“Wellfleet oysters”

Q6: What traditional New England Values do you hold dear?
“Individual expression of faith and politics”
“Being in communities where a lot of the same kind of people live (New Bedford and Cape Verdeans, Medford and Brazillians)”
“Perseverance, fairness, and a love for our home teams, no matter where you live.”
“Diversity, same sex marriage, trans friendly”
“We are liberal, hear us as we are right more often.”
“If you don’t like the weather wait a minute”
“Conservative personality with liberal convictions”

Q7: What’s your favorite New England season?
“Late Spring”
“Fall, so many celebrations!”

Q8: What New England accent to you most admire?
“People from Western Mass who sound like they’re from the south but they’re really not”
“South Shore version”
“My dad’s family has a southern Mass accent, but I love the Vermont accent the most, and try to imitate it with affection rather than any derision.”
“Hadley accent”

Q9: Who is your favorite New England Senator?
“Ted Kennedy”
“Senator Warren for currently working, Senator Ted Kennedy for no longer with us.”

Q10: What is your favorite New England invention?
“Disposable razor or mircrowave”
“Graham Cracker”
“As I love road trips it has to be the car. “The auto industry was born not in Detroit, but in New England. The two-stroke internal-combustion engine was patented in 1872 by George Brayton of Boston, and the first commercially produced automobile came from the Duryea Motor Wagon Company in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1895.”
“Cranberry sauce”
“it may not be an invention, but there’s a quality to the general stores in northern NE (including upstate NY) which is wonderful: food, gas, tools, winter boots, snowmobile parts. Dan & Whits in Norwich VT is a classic example. Their motto is “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” And they stay open until noon on Christmas!”

Random Thoughts from August 12-13 hike from Wrentham to Bridgewater

  • High temperatures and little shade are tough conditions to walk in for long periods. Last Sunday I experienced this hiking to Bridgewater. It just felt like the longest 10 miles ever. That combined with little to no shade made it a long day.IMG_0649
  • I finally fell for the first time. A hole in the ground appeared out of nowhere as my foot searched for a place to land. Down, down, I went as my eye gaze quickly diverted from recklessly eyeballing a stone wall to my left to suddenly looking at the ground. Fortunately it was on grass and I wasn’t hurt, but I felt my ego slightly bruised.
  • Thank you to the church ministers and others who gave me a bottle of water during the middle of their outdoor service as I listened from the side of the road. They were holding their service outside due to a power issue the church was experiencing.
  • One of the most remarkable things I noticed last weekend was the change in landscape. Gone are the mountains and big hills. Now I’m facing long stretches of land, a low horizon, Pine trees and long grass.



MassWalk 2017 Summer Playlist

A few weeks ago on a bright Sunday
morning while approaching the crest of a hill on Route 143 in the Town of Peru, a soft steady breeze swirled around me as gospel inspired piano keys started playing over my headphones. The piano intro was  followed by drums lightly tapping out the rhythm in the background and Aretha Franklin began singing:

Looking out on the morning rain
I used to feel so uninspired
And when I knew I had to face another day
Lord, it made me feel so tired

Before the day I met you, life was so unkind
But you’re the key to my peace of mind

‘Cause you make me feel
You make me feel
You make me feel like a natural woman

Aretha Franklin (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, video

And with the sun in my eyes and blue skies overhead, church was in session. I felt so uplifted by the music playing. I felt I had found confidence and serenity in the same moment knowing that I had just scaled one of the tallest peaks in the state; I knew at that moment I was going to make it! Over the next few weeks I started keeping a list of my favorite music tracks while hiking.

I like to listen to music saved on my IPhone in the shuffle mode. So my playlist selection is eclectic, and includes classics from Aretha Franklin, Beck and Donny Hathaway, along with more recent artists Justin Bieber, Jay Z and Janelle Monae.

The playlist also showcases up and coming artists who you may not be familiar with like Mausiki Scales of Atlanta.

I also will tweet the playlist on Sunday.

MassWalk 2017 Summer Playlist:

You Never Can Tell, Chuck Berry

Hotel 49, Chet Baker

Now’s the Time, Charlie Parker

Life Is Worth Living, Justin Bieber

Take A Picture, filter

Las Cosas Pequenas, Prince Royce

Stay, Meshell Ndegeocello

Bustin Loose, Chuck Brown

Funky Guru, Prem Joshua

Ay Vamos, J Balvin

Black is the Color of My True Love’s Hair, Nina Simone, Jaffa (Remix)

August Day Song, Bebel Gilberto

Diamond Dust, Jeff Beck

Freedom Flight, Mausiki Scales

Esperare, Manzero

Random Thoughts · Walls

The Kennedy Institute, A Fork in the Road, Trite Patriotism, Epsom Salt, and Glacial Leftovers

As I head into this upcoming weekend, August 5-6, I plan to take time off from hiking on Saturday to visit the Edward M. Kennedy Institute in Boston.Kennedy Institute

When the late Sen. Ted Kennedy passed away on August 25, 2009, I was deeply moved by the outpouring of tributes paid in his honor. It was at that time the idea of touring Massachusetts first came to my mind. I wanted to see and experience some of what he loved about the people, towns and culture of the state. So I’m very excited I will get to visit the Kennedy Institute this weekend.

Here’s a collection of some of my random thoughts from last weekend’s hike.

During my walk last Saturday from Douglas to Sutton, Mass. random thoughts were flowing through my mind with each bend of the road. The weather was perfect, with temperatures in low to mid 70s and overcast with partial breaks of sunshine.

From the Book of Ezekiel,

"Mortal, mark out two roads for the sword of the King of Babylon to come; both of them shall issue from the same land. And make a signpost, make it for a fork in the road leading to a city; mark out the road for the sword to come to Rabbah of the Ammonites or to Judah and to Jerusalem the fortified.”

  • When I arrived at the proverbial fork in the road last weekend I consulted a stranger for recommendations on which way to go. He advised me to take the road to the left saying it was more scenic. What he didn’t tell me was that it was the longer road to the Purgatory Chasm. Maps that I looked at online beforehand said the walking route was about 8.5 miles. This longer route was about 13 miles and was scenic as the stranger suggested, but it took me longer to reach my destination. While I was grateful for the advice the stranger offered I didn’t plan on walking 20 miles that day.
  • The Purgatory Chasm wasn’t the only glacial rocks I observed last weekend. While they are dramatic and a wonder to see, the number of historic stone walls I passed in the Central part of the state was more amazing. Stone walls are a signature landform that reveals our past and present in New England. Waters-Goffe CemeteryYou see them everywhere. The Stone Wall Initiative is an organization affiliated with the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History. It offers education and other activities for the public interested in learning more.

“Abandoned stone walls found in the woods all over New England have a long and fascinating story. Long before their recent re-discovery in the mid-20th century, the vast majority of stone walls were in the process of falling apart and decomposing within the woodlands of New England. And before that, they were built by early American farm families using stones that heaved up from the subsoil during agricultural activities such as the tillage of crops and the pasturing of livestock.  All of this took place long after the stones were buried by natural organic processes, stones that were quarried from rock by the last ice sheet to cover New England and then scattered over the landscape. The ice sheet responsible for this was passing over the hard rocky surface of the heavily fractured continental crust of northeastern North America, which had been created during an earlier episode of mountain building responsible for creating the ancient Appalachian Mountains.  In turn, that ancient rock was made of the residues or older rock, which were made from elements gathered during formation of planet Earth and the rest of our solar system. The story of stone walls begins with the Big Bang, and ends with the present moment.” Stone Wall Initiative, University of Connecticut


  • Lawn Mowers – As I have journeyed from West to East across the state, I’ve noticed noise pollution has gradually increased as I pass through rural and suburban neighborhoods alike. In rural areas, I would see houses maybe every 1/3 of a mile apart. Now that I have arrived in more densely populated suburban hoods, houses are now only a few dozen feet apart. And with that change the noise created by lawn mowers has become louder as more owners decide to cut their lawns at around the same time on Saturday mornings. They’re mostly men, who are funny beings when it comes to maintaining their lawns. Some like long blades of grass while other cut it short like buzz cuts. But it’s the noise of those riding tractors that drives me crazy. Noise created motorcycles passing is by far worse.

  • Being in the Moment – I became upset with myself for not recognizing important moments as I experience them on the trail. Last Saturday while seeking information at the Purgatory Chasm Visitor’s Center, a very nice deaf woman struck up a conversation with me when she pointed at a picture on her IPad of a beautiful butterfly she saw in the park. We started exchanging written messages on paper turn-taking back and forth during our conversation. After leaving the visitor’s center, I suddenly realized that was a moment I should have taken more time to understand what she was doing. I didn't allow myself the time to be in the moment with her because of the miles I still had ahead me. Drats!

“I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

James Baldwin, A Native Son

  • American Flags – I love taking pictures of flags waving gently in the wind, tastefully displayed in handsome, dignified, and respectful manners. boston highway flags_1500913015441_3838581_ver1.0_640_360So why do I have strong feeling about flags tied to fencing on highway overpasses? Does it have something to do with the flags  being zip tied and chained to a fence limiting its freedom of movement? Recently I've noticed a lot of Veteran groups targeting bridges over major highways to display American flags across Eastern Mass.  I personally find this trite and I'm tired of seeing them and I wish highway departments would order them taken down. As a New Englander this overt nationalism is not home grown like the phrase "Boston Strong," but a localized import from other parts of the country. Are Veteran group's doing this to raise financial support for their programs? What if patriotic non-profit groups decide they want to advertise their organizations on overpasses? Will highway departments allow these groups equal opportunity?Nationalistic fervor of any kind scares me.

American Flags II

  • Are Americans scared of changes occurring around them? That's one of the questions I asked myself as I hiked through Central Mass. where I observed a proliferation of American flags on lawns, front doors, highway bridges, dropped from barns, almost everywhere. The proliferation, interestingly, is occurring in mainly upper middle class neighborhoods where houses cost $500,000 or more. Is it a sub-conscious fear, an outward expression of pride and patriotism, or a subtle way of showing support for conservative political ideologies en vogue? In poorer neighborhoods that I passed through like Northbridge, Mass. I didn't see any overt patriotism on display. I'm not a flag waver and I personally find this type of political shouting from the door step of one’s property distasteful. New Englanders to me have always had a strong sense of independence and do not need to wave flags in front of their homes, or from the back of their truck, to show they are patriots. It’s inherent in our culture.
  • From a racial perspective, I believe many of the flags that I observed in conjunction with other lawn signs that proclaimed support for various local town police departments together signaled a white code to neighbors. Or white America's Unshakable Confidence in the Police. This article by the Marshall Project explores the different racial confidence Americans have on supporting police departments. IMG_0470
  • Other markers that disturb me include make shift grave sites near accident sites. Over the weekend I saw from the highway an former accident site where someone put up a large grave headstone.

Lastly A Thank You

  • After my 20 mile hike on Saturday I drove up to Randolph where I stayed with my friend Phil J. and his wife, Susan. Susan allowed me to use her electric foot massager/bath to soak my tired, achy feet in lavender scented Epsom salt. After about 20 minutes my feet were so relaxed and happy I couldn’t thank Susan enough. Foot care is for real!