Monday, June 20, 2011
And I get a little weepy when park rangers wax on about preserving our natural space.
Ranger fact: 450,000 acres of public lands in our little state -- one of the largest of the state park systems. This one... is a grand jewel, and it is having its big ol' birthday.
Take this day trip.
Elm Bank strives to be, and comes very close, but being able to walk inside the Ames house is what puts it ahead. Exterior tours happen every Sunday; interior tours only the 3rd Sunday. It was a state park miracle I was there. Look for Director of Education Joe (no last name, other than The Ranger. Or maybe "Ranger" is his first name and his last name is Joe.) on whom I developed a ranger-crush within moments. Maybe it was the way he said "this land is your land" without irony, or the way he spoke of the Ameses as their personal caretaker. No, it was the enthusiasm and wonder with which he showed us the turn of the century sprinkler system he discovered himself while clearing brush.
I luurved him.
So ok, you don't like 2-story libraries, victorian furniture and mission bells rescued from a war-torn Cuba. I'm surprised you're my friend, but ok. How about this then: 5 ponds with fishing permitted, hiking trails with and without horses, dogs, and mountain bikes? NEMBA calls it "almost paradise," where 45% of the trails are black diamond. I veered off to the Swamp trail (exactly what you think) where none of the aforementioned are allowed and had a little respite.
This is not a rugged hiker's destination. This is for families, young lovers, Sunday parents, wives looking for a nice walk that doesn't make them sweat. There is also a cool-looking farmhouse that was there when the Ameses moved in, and the fishing lodge they built for the boys and their friends. Horseback rides, picnic (hibachis are apparently OK, but no alcohol), open meadows for having a catch, and did I save for the last...
It's a lovely course, in fact. Busy enough so you don't feel like a freak show, and sparse enough that you don't feel pressured. BYO Wham-o brand Frisbee sports disc, or buy/borrow one from the ranger station. Top rated disc golf course in the Bay State. And don't "pfft" and say "out of how many?" because it's 32, smart ass.
I fell in love with this place, as you can see, but I have no need to keep it to myself. I can parade around it pretending to twirl a parasol and plan a hunger strike on my own time. But you have a pile of family to entertain on a summer's day. For $2, park the car and bring a lunch.
You can not go wrong.