WHO: Globe staffer Jenna Russell and her daughters, ages 2 and 4
WHERE: Seaside Park in Marblehead
WHAT: A woodsy winter walk with a view
Around this time of year, staying indoors with small children starts to get tricky. I’ve played as many games of Candy Land as I can stand; our canisters of Play-Doh are all dried up or empty. So on a recent Saturday — cold but not frigid, and sunny — we headed out to breathe fresh air again.
Seaside Park in Marblehead, a 33-acre gem off Atlantic Avenue, may be best known for its classic wooden baseball grandstand, built in 1916 and on the National Register of Historic Places. It also boasts one of the town’s most popular sledding hills, a daunting slope perfect for snowy-day thrills. Less well known is the walking trail through the woods at the back of the park, a short but lovely route with a breathtaking payoff. The path is not advertised, and understandably so; this tiny fringe of woods, the size of a big backyard, brings out protective instincts in even the casual visitor.
And yet it offers outsize charms. Set free to roam the easygoing terrain in their parkas and mittens, the children meander through a grove of trees, over a thick carpet of fragrant, burnt-
orange pine needles, brilliant in the sun. There are muddy ruts and rocks to navigate, but nothing worrisome; the path splits and comes back together — choices without consequences. Walking with my 2-year-old while the 4-year-old and her 5-year-old friend race ahead, it takes perhaps 10 minutes to follow the route to its end — where we are rewarded for braving the chill.
The trail emerges from the woods onto a cliff over Marblehead Harbor, the sparkling view encompassing Marblehead Neck, the causeway connecting it to the mainland, and the blue stripe of ocean beyond. The harbor is quiet this January day, but come summer, kids will have lots to watch: kayaks and windsurfers; lobster boats and yachts. We linger there above the water, where rocky ledges make convenient benches, taking it in while closely watching the kids: This scenic dropoff is not marred by fences, and children require close supervision.
Ready, soon enough, to be back in motion, the kids gallop happily back down the path, yelling about the monkeys living in the woods. We spot no monkeys — just a few dogs on walks — yet somehow, in densely built-up Marblehead, the setting is just wild enough to feel exotic.
Back in the park, the children cobble together another half hour of entertainment: swarming over the small playground; watching some young men shoot baskets; searching for lost balls in the tall grass by the tennis courts. We pile back into our cars with a giddy glow, having conquered winter — at least for an hour.