Perhaps you can relate to my dilemma.
I’m sick and tired of everything. If I had my druthers, I’d fill the bathtub with wine, stuff the freezer with Entenmann’s chocolate marshmallow cake, lock the doors, and dance to the Go-Go’s until spring. The problem is that I’d run out of wine and Entenmann’s after a couple of days, lose my job, and then have no money to procure additional wine and Entenmann’s. The world is cruel that way.
Plan B? Yes, I think a backup is in order. Might I suggest a day trip to some peaceful, remote, verdant section of Massachusetts? I recommend a locale where you won’t be sandwiched in an anxiety-producing crush of people, or near a television that will be serving up 280 hours of live presidential election updates. A little quiet does wonders for stress reduction these days.
A couple of quick notes before we fill the trunk with chocolate marshmallow cake and hit the road. I’m recommending Massachusetts locations for those of us who live here. If you’re coming from another state, please consult www.mass.gov for Massachusetts COVID-19 travel restrictions. Also, you may only participate in a day trip if you have already voted, or plan to vote. Consider this story null and void to your eyeballs if you have no plans to cast a ballot. Don your mask and fasten your seatbelt, it’s time for a road trip.
WALK THROUGH THE GHOST TOWNS OF THE QUABBIN
I can only recommend a stroll around the Quabbin if my mother is not nearby. You’ll know if you encounter her because she’ll be the one complaining that four towns (Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott) were flooded just so the highfalutin' folks of Boston could have drinking water in the 1930s. Trust me, the woman can hold a grudge. Where was I? Right, a peaceful walk. During the summer, Dana Road, which can be accessed from DCR Gate 40 in Petersham, sees a fair number of cyclists and walkers. But this time of year the numbers taper off, particularly if you head off the main road. Last week I took a side trail to Pottapaug Pond and the only other creature I encountered was a chipmunk. I highly recommend sitting by the pond and thinking about all the wonderful things you’ll do in 2022.
Hardwick Road, Petersham, www.northquabbinwoods.org.
FIND A MOMENT OF ZEN IN CHAPPAQUIDDICK
Going to Martha’s Vineyard off-season already offers the benefit of fewer tourists. Driving (or biking) the extra distance to the Chappaquiddick ferry thins that number even further. Mytoi (pronounced “my toy”) is a Japanese garden located within 14 acres of forest and trails run by the Trustees of the Reservation. Even when I came with friends in the early fall, the crowds had already dissipated. The focal point is a small pond with an arched footbridge. There’s a short path winding through the garden, but its finest feature is the benches that allow you to sit and enjoy the meditative, serene scene. I highly recommend sitting by the pond and thinking about all the wonderful things you’ll do in 2022. Oh, wait, it appears I’ve already written that.
41 Dike Road, Edgartown, www.thetrustees.org.
SIT LIKE A POET IN GREENFIELD AND ENJOY THE VIEW
During fall in New England, people ramble on about the Berkshires as if it’s the only spot in western Massachusetts to enjoy nature. Then again, most people who live in Boston think anything west of Framingham is called the Berkshires. Franklin Country, which is east of Berkshire County (but not much), is the least populated county in the state (take that, Berkshires!) and has been beloved by recluses for more than 100 years. One such recluse was 19th-century poet Frederick Goddard Tuckerman, who left his prosperous family in Boston to enjoy the nature in Greenfield. The scenic Poet’s Seat Tower, which looks like a tower that lost the rest of its castle, is dedicated to the shy poet and offers some stunning, panoramic views of Greenfield and Montague. You can take a short hike up to enjoy the view, or take a slow drive to the vista. There are benches where you can enjoy the silence, or sit and write naughty, poetic limericks about 2020.
Mountain Road and Maple Street, Greenfield, www.bywayswestmass.com.
EXPLORE AN OLMSTEAD-ESQUE PARK IN WALPOLE
Roughly 100 years ago, landscape architect and city planner John Nolen looked into a crystal ball and predicted that people would be clamoring to spend time outside in 2020. OK, that’s not exactly true, but the city planner and landscape architect wrote that parks and green space “contribute to the pleasure and health of urban populations more than any other recreative feature, and furnish the most necessary and valuable antidote to the artificiality, confusion, and feverishness of life in cities.” For those words, written in his 1919 book “New Ideals in Planning Cities, Towns, and Villages,” I think Nolan deserves a round of applause and an “Amen.” Nolan, a disciple of Frederick Law Olmsted, applied those principals to Francis William Bird Park in Walpole. The 89-acre park features Olmstead’s touches, via Nolen’s vision. It has fields, ponds, gurgling streams, and trails for walking and absorbing the scenery. There’s also some modern additions, such as a playground. Think of it as your escape from artificiality and confusion.
Polley Lane, Walpole, www.thetrustees.org.
STROLL THROUGH 600 ACRES IN GLOUCESTER
As you walk along 10 miles of tree-lined carriage roads at Ravenswood Park in Gloucester, you can thank your lucky charms that a 19th-century businessman and philanthropist named Samuel Sawyer bought up more than two dozen plots of land around his home and turned them into a park for your benefit. Parking is extremely limited, which means more quiet time for you. Your walking efforts are rewarded with occasional scenic vistas of Gloucester Harbor, but one of my favorite aspects of Ravenswood (aside from the ease of walking the crushed stone trails and the limited elevation) is that you can simply meander and lose yourself in your thoughts. Also, chances are you’ll hear more birds than people chattering about the sorry state of the world.
481 Western Ave., Gloucester, thetrustees.org.
GET AWAY FROM IT ALL IN GOSHEN
The further you drive away from Boston and its suburbs, the more solitude you’ll encounter. You likely won’t find yourself mask-to-mask at parks in central and western Massachusetts. Since that’s the goal of this story, I recommend you get in your car and try a place like the Daughters of the American Revolution State Forest in Goshen. It is a hidden, untainted gem, which makes me feel slightly guilty writing about, but because we’re all friends here, I don’t mind sharing. During the summer there’s camping, but what makes this place special is the hiking, particularly the view from the forest’s fire tower. Unlike many parks in the state, there’s a handicap accessible trail. The small lake is popular for fishing and kayaking, but a walk on the trails is best for soothing frayed nerves. Lower your blood pressure in the woods for a few hours and then, perhaps, you’ll be ready to face the world again.
78 Cape St., Goshen, www.mass.gov.