Tuesday, June 26, 2007

North Weymouth & MAINE

Well, I'm sopping wet typing this. I am shirtless, my gut is in full effect, I'm sticky-icky and I'm blasting Slayer. The temps hit 90 today and my first venture into Hingham was a fun albeit moist day. But maybe I should catch up on my posts first.

About a week and a half ago I headed up to Kittery, ME, the first town over the New Hampshire state line, and did a short walk. I have a few friends who live there, some who do off and on, the majority of whom I met in high school, and seeing as they live right on the water, thought I'd drop by to hang out and get a walk in while they finished up work.

Getting off 95 at Route 1, I got to take a drive through downtown Portsmouth, NH, a really gorgeous little city with a lot of history and quite possibly the only decent urban area of
New Hampshire. Be sure to stop by if you're ever in the area. My friend Shaun was slated to pick me up after I was done which was nice because I didn't have to bike this time. Maine begins on Badgers Island,

a miniscule, two-road chunk of land. Aside from a pizza place and some houses, there is very little on Badgers Island. I got around the coastal half in about ten minutes and then crossed the bridge into Kittery Foreside. Mostly residential, I was ducking docks and trudging through some moist stuff when I realized that I had almost walked into the Portsmouth Naval Base! I knew it was there in advance but totally forgot about it even after I had told myself specifically not to forget. In either case, I looked like the sketchiest kid alive walking around the fence back to the road. Thankfully, the guard at the station was really nice and accepted my apologies for being on the property.

After avoiding a trip to the Kittery Police Station, I continued around the Foreside and over the bridge to Kittery Point. I ended at Fort McClary State Park where Shaun and Benny picked me up and drove me back to the island to get my car. All in all a short and uneventful day with a wondrous revelry that night.

Upon getting back to Massachusetts the next day, my good friend Jon Curtiss and I went bridge to bridge and conquered North Weymouth in one day, a most enjoyable affair. We started maybe 1/4-mile from the bridge to Quincy, decided to skip trying the perimeter of a heavily fenced brick fort next to the bridge, and looked for the closest shoreline. We dipped behind a house and began a rather moist day as the tide was on its way into Kings Cove.

After passing a small private beach, we made it along the northern strip of land that borders the Weymouth Fore River. The seawall had nautical flags painted on it and in 6-foot letters: 1902 -- WESSAGUSSET -- 2002. According to Wikipedia, Wessagusset was Weymouth's original name when it was colonized in 1622 as a place for population overflow at Plymouth. The colony fell apart one year later: widespread sickness from winter colds and rampant theft of supplies from neighbors caused the expulsion of all Wessagusset colonists. There have even been reports of some colonists robbing from native graves. There have been some subsequent ghost stories surrounding the burial grounds.

After walking Wessagusset Beach, we came around Jackknife Ledge and onto the Eastern Neck of North Weymouth. We arrived at William Webb Park, the northernmost point of the town and the site of a gorgeous peninsula home to some great fishing. Upon coming down the eastern shore, we ran into two guys, a woman, and 4 kids of scattered ages not exceeding 8. The larger guy called out to us as we had almost passed.

"Hey! You got any papers?"
"No," I replied. "But I have a bowl."
"Well let me pack that shit!" The guy seemed pretty intoxicated but I let him go for it. We sat down next to his friend who was trying to fix a fishing rod. Frail, early-aged, and toothless, the guy introduced himself as Kenny. I noticed he had old bandages and pretty severely scabbed gashes all over his hand.
"Damn," I exclaimed. "What happened to your hand man?" Kenny explained that he had lost a fight with a lawnmower. While all this is going on, I realize that we're drinking, swearing, and smoking pot right in front of these guys' kids. I tried to ignore this absurdly bad parenting but we instead made off on our way, thanking them for their company.

Now walking the banks of the Weymouth Back River (as opposed to the Fore), we accidentally walked through a live construction site, hopped on a condo complex walkway for a second, cut through the Tern Harbor Marina, and went back and forth between backyards and main road River St. Cutting through another condo complex we finally arrived at Abigail Adams Park, a park commemorating the 2nd First Lady of the United States, who lived in what is now nearby Braintree. We met a homeless man who had just consumed half a watermelon and convincingly told me he was good friends with the Needham Police Chief. We walked away, I biked back to my car, stupidly detouring through very steep Great Hill Park, and ended an awesome first non-solo day. Thanks so much to Jon Curtiss for coming along this day. Come on out again soon!

Until next time, see you on the coast.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

First Day Back in Hough's Neck and Quincy nevermore!

So its been a while since I last posted. I've been in Japan, I had an amazing time, and have been slowly readjusting to this time zone. I've also been working a lot so these walks were from a week ago.

Looking for something a little more rustic than Charlestown, I dropped my bike off near the Germantown library in Quincy and headed back over to Wollaston Beach to finish things up. There was a lot less beach than I remember having left and as it was high tide the walk seemed to be going rather quickly. After passing the bridge by Merrymount Park to the west and encountering a few No Trespassing signs on boat docks, I came upon a sign barring my entrance to Chickatabot Beach saying I had to be with a Merrymount Association member. I went around the corner though and there was an unmarked entrance to the beach and a sign welcoming me to Adams Shore.

I had gotten a late start on the day but getting around Post Island and finally reaching Nut Island at the tip of Hough's Neck felt really good. I sat on a bench there dedicated to the memory of Patricia "Pat" Brennan who asked that the bench be placed there in her name as it was her favorite spot on Nut Island. The view of the Boston skyline is pretty unbeatable from there. There was also a lot to learn about it. There is apparently a 4.8 mile sewage duct that runs from Deer Island to Nut Island. The headworks facility in Quincy converts sludge to fertilizer pellets and then sells them to farmers: a great method of reuse in my opinion. The maintenance of these islands is run by Boston Harbor Islands, a division of the Boston Harbor Project. Apparently Boston Islands were once used as Indian internment camps during King Philip's War in 1675.

After Nut Island, I attempted to walk around what I now know is Quincy Great Hill, a steep tract of brambles and rock that I wasn't able to get around. I had to hop a fence and hike back to the road and followed the seawall until hitting Manet Beach where I met a woman searching for shells. When I got closer, there was a horseshoe crab crawling around slowly by her feet.

"I just saved that thing," she said. "He was on his back but he just didn't want me to flip him over. Thankfully I did." The crab had some sand on the top of his head and looked a little miffed. As I left the woman, I looked out over the whole beach which I now realized was filled with the skeletons of beached crabs that didn't make it. Digested by kelp and lining the shore, their bodies formed lines of debris from the receding tide. I continued around the south side of Houghs Neck, finally getting out of Quincy Bay and into Rock Island Cove. Rock Island itself was an interesting walk. Surrounded entirely by wetland, I encountered some moistness but was thankfully directed to a horse trail that went straight through the wetland.

I got back to the road after the trail and found another walking trail that led back to the edge of Germantown and right where my bike was! It was overall a nice day with very few hindrances.

The next day, I finally finished Quincy. I had a little blister action and some dampness but a good early morning Sunday stroll.

A good portion of the day was street walking. Continuing around Rock Island Cove, Germantown was pretty marshy so I was resigned to the sidewalk a fair deal. I finally came across a school, Snug Harbor Community School. I didn't know the age of the students as it is Sunday. They had No Trespassing signs there but they only applied while school was in session. Kinda makes sense, right? Either way the school looked overgrown, sort of run down and I wouldn't be surprised if it wasn't operational.

Coming up around the southeast side of Germantown, there were a variety of drab colored and dilapidated projects which are also home to one of the few stretches of beach in the Cove. Known as Gull Point, the beach itself was in subpar conditions, a mattress here, some cans there. A fish carcass nearly scared me half to death. Arriving in Town River Bay, I could see where I had left my bike across the water. It looked so close until I came upon the rest of the bay. It felt like a false peak when I go hiking!

I turned out to have not been in Germantown at this point--as some graffiti informed me--I was in Adams Shore, endearingly known as A-Shore. I got a kick out of that. I also came across a treehouse shoddily built with little materials but seemed rather sturdy nevertheless. I got back onto Sea St, the main road through the area, via a trail I found and made my way past the Quincy Police and Navy Operational Support Center. Coming upon the high school or at least what looked like one I avoided the marsh that invaded their back field and continued onto the parking lot. A cop turned in to the lot just as I did but gave me no hassle.

I wish the cop had warned me about where I was walking into though. Today was a day when topo maps would've been extremely handy. After finding a nice wooded trail through some light wetlands, the trail just sort of ended and the wetlands got a lot wetter. Thankfully I had my boots on but I went past ankle depth a few times and soaked my sock. I got away from the growing moisture from the tide coming in and tried to beeline through the forest. Brambles and prickers were everywhere and I ended up doing a lot of crescent kicks and stick whacks to get them out of my path. I finally emerged from that horrible thicket on a driveway for a hockey rink where a guy pointed me to a shortcut back to Sea St. I strolled past the Mt. Wollaston Cemetery and down through some car dealerships over to a small inlet where I grabbed some food and watched people fish.

After fueling up, I continued down 3A (or the Artery as most call it (pronounced "Ahtery")), got blocked by a security guard from entering a wharf/residential community, and walked to the Fore River Field. From far off I heard a lot of yelling in what sounded like an Eastern tongue. When I came up over the hill looking out on the field, there was a lively cricket match taking place which I watched for a few moments. I know very little about cricket but watching the bowler is always a treat for me when the Pakistani kids play at school. That street leads to the Mound St. Beach, a small plot of sand looking over the bay with the field behind. I ducked some docks in front of a small marina and then made my way back to my bike right before the bridge to Weymouth. A wonderful end to a long journey through a city I shall never see again.

The south shore trek continues. Until then, see you on the coast.