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”
“Lobstah”

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?
“Fall!!!!”
“Spring”
“Late Spring”
“Fall, so many celebrations!”
“Fall”
“Summer”

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.”
“Maine”
“Hadley accent”
“Boston”

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

Q10: What is your favorite New England invention?
“Basketball”
“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.”
“Volleyball”
“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.

 

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

Irritations

  • 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!
Random Thoughts

Fairy Tales, Cows, Uber and Mud

Fairy Tales, Cows, Uber, and Mud —

Charlton to Douglas, Mass.,  July 22-23, 2017

  • During my hike last weekend I followed two sections of the Midstate Trail, sections 10 and 11, from Charlton to Oxford and Oxford to Douglas State Forest, where I’m about five miles north of  the Rhode Island state border. This  weekend I plan to pick up where I left off in Douglas and hike to the Purgatory Chasm State Reservation in Sutton, before concluding in Mendon, the last town in Worcester County on my journey to the Southeastern part of the state.
  • I was a little challenged when I actually started hiking in forests along the Midstate Trail. Up to this point in my cross state MassWalk, I’ve primarily hiked flat, open, asphalt roads across the Berkshires and the Pioneer Valley. Stepping foot in the woods was new to me because I didn’t grow up attending camp, or going backpacking. After checking over my shoulder a couple of times to make sure no bears were pursuing me, I pushed aside my fears and kept strolling like a baddd ass Philly dude.  “Yo, what’s up toad,” “high ya’ doin little chipmonk.” Eventually my fears settled down and I stepped off the trail where my foot became lodged in about six inches of mud. I cringed at losing my shoe, as I looked at cake of mud on it. No city person would have an easy time with this.IMG_0335I had to pull really, really hard to get my shoe out of the mud. That’s when I realized I was going to have to find peace with dirt and getting dirty. The next day when I approached a muddy wet path I just plowed through the water not caring about getting wet or muddy – I was just going to have wet feet.
  • Two to three hours passed on Saturday without seeing a single person as I walked through quite, lush woodlands, following utility right of ways that traversed the Worcester County Midstate Trail  landscape sometimes traveling in an east-westerly direction before turning north-south.
  • The hike from Charlton to Oxford, Mass. was about 6-7 miles. The trip began in Oxford where I parked my car at the end of the trail. From there I hailed an Uber to drive me to the trailhead in Charlton which came to $14. Since arriving in the central part of the state I’ve become dependent on Uber to help me reach the trailhead which is usually 12 to 15 miles away. In the Berkshires, and throughout much of Western Mass., there was no Uber or limited taxis service to shuttle me between certain locations. I remember one taxi company in the Berkshires wanted to charge me $50.00 for a twenty mile ride. Saying no thank you I began to hitchhike a few times to get here and there. While its not my preferred methods for getting around, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
  • Whenever I arrive in a town that I am ending my journey, I usually park my car next to one of the most trusted institutions in every community — the local public library. If the library is open I can use their bathroom, get directions, access the internet to send and receive messages, look at local books on hiking, and print out a last minute map if needed. Most libraries also have free public parking.Cow Pass Under Rt. 20
  • Highlights of Saturday’s trip included getting lost and reorienting myself to find a cow pass somewhere under Route 20 (see picture), passing through Historic Charlton, discovering a really cool old Road Sign (see pictures gallery), and being able to say I’ve walked over and under the MassPike in Charlton.
  • On Sunday, my friend Michael Richardson, whose visiting from Boise, Idaho, joined me on the trail as we hiked from Oxford to Douglas, about 14 miles. We met up in Douglas anIMG_0410d left his car there and drove back to Oxford in my car. It was our first time seeing each other in more than 10 years. Michael was in excellent shape and had no problems going the distance. We had a lot to talk about as our lives have changed. As he approaches 50 years old, he was very reflective on life, being a parent, marriage, separation, family, deIMG_0403sired happiness, and business.
  • Some of the highlights of the day included taking in majestic sweeping views standing atop a mountain in Sutton, Mass. overlooking corn fields, Wachusetts Mountain to the North and Douglas to the south. And of course Black and White Holstein cows taking a break.
  • Michael, also talked about a new book idea he’s working on that he read in a essay titled On Fairy Stories” an essay in “The Monsters and the Critics.” The verse Michael  shared, was from Tolkien. He said “On Fairy Stories,” he’s really talking about fiction in general — not just “fairy tales”….

 We need in any case to clean our windows; so that the things seen

clearly may be freed from the drab blur of triteness or familiarity — from

possessiveness… This triteness is really the penalty of “appropriation”:

the things that are trite, or (in a bad sense) familiar, are the things that

we have appropriated, legally or mentally. We say we know them. They

have become like the things which once attracted us by their glitter,

or their color, or their shape, and we laid hands on them, and then locked

them in our hoard, acquired them, and acquiring ceased to look at them.

Random Thoughts

Random thoughts from West Brookfield to Charlton, Mass.

Random passing thoughts I had on my walk, Sunday July 16, 2017

  • On seeing lots of bugs and other small creatures travelling in many different directions, I was reminded that all living things are on their own journey even if they appear to be just flitting from here to there

    “Everything turns, rotates, spins, circles, loops, pulsates, resonates, and repeats.”

    Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

  • I love the richness of time I have while hiking to be able to reflect on all living creatures.
  • Thirst, when it comes to quenching my thirst I am still a neophyte on the trail. Up until yesterday, on most of my walks I’ve been able to make it through the hike on about 50 ounces of water, essentially two Poland Spring sport size water bottles. This was possible because it’s been a mostly cool summer up to this point. Yesterday as temperatures soared to the upper 80s, I couldn’t get enough water in me. At leasIMG_5634t two times I had to stop and ask strangers for water. I drank well over 100 ounces (about 3 liters) of water while on the trail. To remedy this problem I plan to buy a water reservoir system to insert in my backpack and prepare to carry more water on days when the temperature is in the high 80s.
  • Walked out of West Brookfield this morning without incident.
  • During my walk yesterday, I felt like I’ve hit the outermost ring of the metropolitan Boston area based on the density of the increased population of houses and cars that I encountered while walking through some of the neighborhoods of Brookfield, East Brookfield and Charlton.
  • Why are there so many brackish colored streams across the Pioneer Valley and Central Mass. ?
  • Quaboag Pond – a gorgeous lake in Brookfield with boating docks!
  • Favorite roads of the day: Shore Drive in Brookfield and Podunk Road in East Brookfield.
  • Favorite road from the Williamstown to West Brookfied: Taconic Trail (Route 2), Williamstown, Lindsay Road, in Worthington between Route 143 and Four corners, also in Worthington.