besides the sound of my cellphone alarm clock, there's another sound i wake up to every morning, and that's the sound of my next door neighbor sarah jen cooking, since her kitchen window is right by my bedroom window. this morning was no except as i heard her making breakfast next door. i'm not sure what she eats, but whatever it is, it sizzles. bacon? scrambled eggs? sausages? whatever it is, she eats it every morning, which is surprising, because she's a trim young woman.

after a shower, after watering my plants, after eating a leftover slice of buffalo chicken pizza, i got ready to roll. i decided to go to whitney and thayer woods (including turkey hill) in cohasset and hingham, south of boston. i memorized the directions then left the house with my usual naturing gear. i drove my parents' ford explorer, which made me feel kind of guilty, and the whole time i was rehearsing in my mind what i'd say to people if they decided to give me shit for driving a SUV. i left around noon and i only hit traffic at two points, once underground in the big dig tunnel, and another time on route 3. route 3 is the highway you take to get to cape cod, and although traffic was moving, it was congested. i got off after a few exits, i wonder if that congestion stretches all the way down to the cape, that'd be scary. word to the wise: if you're going to the cape, leave at the crack of dawn.

the whitney and thayer woods is an 824 acres reservation owned by the trustees of reservations. there are several places to park, and i decided to go with the one closest to turkey hill (elevation 190 feet). there were no maps available from the information bulletin board (all the bins were empty) so i was reluctant to get lost (although i did have my gps turned on). i basically wandered around the 60 acres area of turkey hill, which includes a vast field area. from on top of the hill you can see cohasset harbor as well as a great view of boston. on top of the hill stands two tall cellphone towers along with a water tower. fields are good places to see wildflowers, and wildflowers are good in attracting insects. most of the vegetation growing here were tall grasses though, and the insects that came to feed on the wildflowers were mostly bees and wasps, with the occasional large butterfly flapping through. here and there were patches of milkweed, which seemed to attract the most amount of insect activities. i examined the leaves for signs of monarch butterfly activities but didn't see anything.

milkweed beetle larva

unknown plant bug (top)

unknown plant bug (side)

orchard spider (bottom)

orchard spider (side)

eastern comma
(2" wingspan)

great spangled
(top, 4" span)

great spangled


it was very sunny and warm when i first got there, but by the time i got to the bottom of the hill, the clouds came in and it looked like it would rain, although it never did (even though i could smell the rain). i found some blackberries (first time ever) and ate a few. i found raspberries as well but they were tiny in comparison and more sour.




i went northeast, about half a while, where i ended up at another parking lot off of route 3A. i then followed a path that lead through the woods, where it seemed there was a steady increase in the number of mosquitoes. later i'd discover that i was actually walking along the edge of a swamp. i knew there was water nearby, because i could see all the orange jewelweed flowers and the wilting skunk cabbages, but i just didn't put the pieces together in my head that i was walking into a mosquito death trap. i went less than half a mile of that trail before i ran back out the opposite way, chased by mosquitoes, buzzing in stereo from each ear, biting my back through my sweat-soaked t-shirt. i did all i could to not break into a full-blown panic as i retraced by steps and came back out into the clearing of the fields, where the mosquitoes seem to much less out in the bright sunlight. next time, i'm wearing a jacket, and i don't care how hot it gets.

jewelweed flower

jewelweed seedcase

skunk cabbage spadix

the only thing i got out of that deep woods experience was finding a pointed blue-eyed grass flower. i didn't think anything of it at first, just a pretty flower, half an inch diameter. after looking it up in the field guide though, these flowers are actually related to irises, and the flower looks just like an iris flower (although it looks like it has 6 petals, it's actually just 3 petals and 3 sepals, just like an iris).

pointed blue-eyed grass



feeling much better after escaping from the forest, i walked down to weir river farm. some young mothers pulled into the empty parking lot with their minivans. apparently you can rent out the farm for birthday functions, as mothers and strollers and toddlers and babies and boxes of present walked down to the farm as well. the mothers seem to resent my presence there (i probably wasn't looking so hot after my bout with bloodsucking insects, but i was friendly and said "hi"). one of them even tried to run me over with her stroller, "sorry," i said, as she unapologetically tried to push her way through me (think of me when i key your car, lady).

having suffered enough already today, i decided to go back to the comfort of cambridge civility, but that when i noticed the sudden influx of bird activities. in the sky, raptors circled in the air. later, after consulting with a field guide, i realized they were actually turkey vultures (i've never seen a vulture here in new england! how exotic). i could've also sworn i saw a hooded warbler, and there were several all yellow warblers flying through the thickets, if i had to guess, pine warblers. and then i saw the most amazing thing of them all, hummingbirds! male and female, females are sort of dull, the male had a shiny metallic green back. at first i thought they were dragonflies, then i realized they were birds, but they were too small to be birds, and then it dawned on me that they were hummingbirds. i know they exist here in new england, but i've never seen them before. the first time i ever saw a hummingbird was in san francisco back in 1992, and only when i went to costa rica last year have i seen them again.

turkey vulture

pine warbler


i left close to 5pm, after spending 4 hours walking less than 2 miles (roundtrip) of trails. i finally found a copy of the trail map at the farm, and there's definitely a lot more stuff i didn't see, i'm tempted to come back again tomorrow. the traffic was better going back, although there was some congestion in the tunnel leading out to storrow drive.

i took a shower as soon as i got home (in the bathroom mirror i could see my back dotted with mosquito welts), then did two loads of laundry. i watched the red sox game, they beat the rangers again, in spectacular offensive fashion. i cooked up some dumplings for dinner and had some more watermelon for dessert.