with local school kids on their spring break, my sister had the week off from nanny duty. she'd made all these grand plans to drive up to vermont and new hampshire to go hiking with her dog, but i told her that wasn't a good idea and tried to discourage her. when she asked me if i wanted to go visit ravenswood in gloucester, i said yes. although it was a bit far, the drive was only an hour compared to the several hours it'd take to leave the state.

i'd been to ravenswood twice before. it's a bit far for me to get to via motorcycle, but the first time was with bruce in 2004, the second time with my sister and dog in 2010. ravenswood's significant in that it was the first naturing spot i'd ever seen sundews before. when i came with bruce (in july) there were a lot of mosquitoes; when i came with my sister last time (in march) there was a lot of flooding. this time around there was neither of those nuisances.

i was reluctant to come out because it's still a bit early in the season to see anything. plants are slowly emerging from the ground, trees slowly blossoming, and hardly any animals. the temperature was a little cold, low 60's but with a medium breeze that made it feel colder in the shade.

surprisingly, ravenswood allows dogs, which isn't always the case with nature reservations, since dogs have a tendency to trample plants, chase animals, and use the place as a public bathroom. although the parking lot was full, we didn't see many people, probably at the rate of a person every 30 minutes. this low traffic preserve meant it was fairly clean, just a few stray dog droppings on the main trail going into the forest.

one of the first things i did when we arrived was to roll over a log. underneath: 2 red-lined salamanders.

there were also many spots that appeared to be vernal pools. i didn't really see anything interesting until we got further into the magnolia swamp trail: there were eggs, hundreds of them. and from the looks of them, they were frogs eggs, but rather salamanders, since they were coated in jelly (frog eggs don't have the jelly envelope wrapping up the eggs). the fact that there were so many was pretty amazing, but even more so was they were just along the boardwalks, close enough to touch (normally the eggs would be found in an inconvenient part of a vernal pool that's hard to get to without getting wet).

our trail started along the magnolia swamp trail (yellow), then doing a clockwise loop to the scenic vista at marker 9, then following the hill trail (orange) back onto the main path (old salem road).

i took a lot of 3D photos, but i also turned on the GPS tracking function on my camera, just to see how much of a battery drain it'd be. it wasn't that bad, i think shooting video is a far bigger power drain than leaving on GPS tracking. i went through a battery about 2/3 of the way into the hike, and i still had 2 more spares. GPS tracking is cool because afterwards i can see a crumb trail of where we were with photo documentation (if you dig around the EXIF data of these photos, you can see the GPS coordinates). they're also good if i ever want to revisit a photo site.

besides the cache of (yellow-spotted) salamander eggs and the few red-lined salamander sightings, there wasn't too much wildlife. i could see ferns starting to emerge from the marsh, although no skunk cabbages. there were also red maple flowers littering the boardwalks.

the reservation itself is interesting: not so much pines (as it is at winchester fells), but more of a birch-beech combination.

i also used the panoramic stitching function of my camera. i still don't get the hang of it, i've yet to create a complete 360° panorama. usually the stitching stops around the 180° mark.

panoramas are interesting but they have very low resolution, something like 2 megapixels on a camera with a 14 megapixels sensor. can be of any length, but the height is always fixed at only 864 pixels. i think it has something to do with the fact that it's easier to stitch low resolution photos than it is for high resolution ones.

from the scenic vista we could see gloucester harbor and eastern point lighthouse, an audubon facility that can be visited (free for members, a slight car parking fee for others during high season).

hill trail (orange) is pretty for all the numerous glacial erratics strewn throughout. the trail is still pretty easy to navigate, no scrambling like there are at the skyline trail at winchester fells. it actually started to get foggy while we were descending back to the parking lot and we could hear the pinging of the lighthouse, possibly to warn boaters.

at 2 ponds along hill trail were signs telling owners to leash their dogs, since these were vital vernal pools. i went down to check one out, could hardly see any eggs, i saw a lot more (and a lot closer) back at the marsh trail. we leashed hailey at the first pond but she was so antsy that we let her go by the second one, making sure she didn't run towards the water.

we got to belmont around 5:00. my mother had already made some fried rice so we could eat when we got back. we were all glued to the television, hoping for some updates about the marathon bombing. the FBI then held a special press conference, where they revealed photos of the suspect. suspects it turned out, 2 young men with backpacks. the photos were pulled from camera and video sources. they weren't the clearest images, but at least now the world knew who they looked it. and they looked white! which corroborated my own theory that this is the work of domestic homegrown terrorists, and not an international jihadist cabal.

i was surprised the FBI did this, because apparently they still haven't found the guys yet despite all the manpower. but then i thought it could also be a strategy, that they knew exactly who they were, and were using the photo release as a way to flush them out.

later in the evening, back at home, things were pretty uneventful. i'd stopped watching the news, where they were just rehashing the newly released photos of the bombing suspects. i was surfing my movie channels, taking advantage of my premium package, when i got an e-mail from my sister around 1:00. she said she heard grenades and guns going off from belmont. my sister talks in hyperboles, so i figured this was another one of her miscommunications, until i turned onto the local channels and saw the breaking news on every single network.

i knew about the shooting of the MIT police officer earlier in the evening, right around when the 11:00 news was ending. i didn't think much of it at first, but now i was watching the aftermath of a shootout that happened in watertown, the town adjacent to both belmont and cambridge. it seemed like it was the same suspect that shot that MIT cop. but the elephant in the room was could this be the marathon bomber? i didn't think it was (what were the chances? photos released a few hours earlier, and now we have them on the run?), but i was hoping it might be. i went to bed with the video of the cops seemingly having arrested somebody who looked nothing like the marathon bombers.