thankfully yesterday bruce pushed back our departure time by an hour because i woke up this morning at 10am. bathroom, shower, breakfast (pineapple chobani greek yogurt), then made a packable lunch (grilled ham and cheese sandwich, a half-sour pickle, 3 mandarin oranges). then i had to figure out what camera equipment to bring: 18-200mm lens, 60mm macro lens, fuji 3D camera and my panasonic lumix just in case there was any telephoto shots i couldn't reach with my normal telephoto lens. i thought about bringing the wide angle as well but that would've been too much to carry. i also brought along two frozen bottles of water and a container of picaridin bug spray. bruce called at 10:20am to let me know he was ready to go, but i told him i needed a little more time. i finally knocked on his door by 10:50am.
i haven't natured in many years, or the kind of naturing i used to do when i motorcycle to some far away eastern massachusetts destination to hike and photograph. i'd already visited a lot of places and was just sort of jaded as there wasn't much new to see. the only other times i've natured is when i went with my sister to the winchester fells to walk the dog. so this trip was in the first time in a while, and hopefully the start of more nature trips for the season.
whitney and thayer woods was the destination. bruce brought it up during his wedding on saturday, remembering a place that had a nice rhododendron pathway. we both recalled it was a reserve up north but turns out it was actually south of boston, in hingham/cohasset. the last time we went was almost exactly 10 years ago. that time we were also trying to catch the rhododendron blooms. we saw some, but was underwhelmed, and figured it was because of the different blooming times for the different flowers. but around the neighborhood recently it seems all the rhododendrons and azaleas have been putting on a color show, so we figured that would be the best place to see something spectacular.
we took 93 from the turnpike. i made a mistake and said to connect onto route 3 when it should've been 3A. bruce realized at a certain point we should take an exit. after pulling up google maps, that exit was just seconds away, exit 15. from there we let google maps direct us via voice navigation through a confusing array of twists and turns until we finally managed to get back onto 3A. there are several trail heads into whitney thayer but we wanted the one closest to the rhododendron path, and that trail begins opposite the cohasset plaza shopping center.
there was a gravel parking area in a grassy field of yellow flowers (hawkweeds, buttercups, dandelions). there were already half a dozen cars. we got out and prepared. i sprayed my hands and face with bug repellent. bruce with his aversion to potentially harmful chemicals opted to forgo protection. we took a look at the visitor's kiosk info, picking up a color trail map (i'd printed out a black & white version). dogs are allowed here and a woman who just arrived asked us if it'd be okay if she released her dogs from her car. two trails started from the parking lot: we picked the leftmost trail as it was the closest one to the rhododendron path.
bruce wore his green rain boots figuring it'd be muddy and wet on the trails. though practical, they were not comfortable, and he regretted wearing them. there were a few muddy areas, but the trails were dry for the most part. the greatest nuisance wouldn't be the mud however, as we soon started hearing the incessant buzz of hungry mosquitoes. that's not surprising, as much of the trail we were on snaked through marshland. though they didn't bit my face and hands, i forgot to spray the top of my head, and i got a few itchy bites there. i couldn't apply more repellent as i left the bottle back in the car (i'll never make that mistake again!).
a second annoyance was the explosion of caterpillars. i believe they were immature tent caterpillars that recently hatched, as they were still quite small, but the forest canopy was filled with them, and in matter of weeks i can easily imagine much of the trees (mostly beech) to be deforested. the annoying part came from the caterpillars' habit of suspending themselves by a silk thread, so we kept running into them as they hung in the air as we made our way through the reservation. the biggest fear was accidentally getting one in the mouth.
our first glimpse of woodsy colors was actually on a small parcel of private property embedded inside the reserve. it was chained off and we didn't know whether or not we could walk through until 2 ladies walking dogs told us it was perfectly fine. here on this private property were some colorful azaleas along the path, whites and pinks. the pinks were most interesting since they resembled roses (maybe they weren't even azaleas). later on we spotted some rattlesnake weeds growing the ground, and some wild sarsaparilla.
not long after we were in the woods and soon after we were inside of milliken memorial path, bruce asked if we could stop and have lunch by a hilltop seat we discovered. we ate while satellites of mosquitoes orbited around us. a couple walk down the path and back out again, and a mountain biker pedaled towards the entrance.
driving down we saw a lot of rhododendron and azalea bushes on full display, so that got us more excited as to what we'd find in the forest. when we finally made our way through the milliken memorial path, reality didn't meet our expectations to say it mildly. according to the trustees website, this path was planted in the late 1920's. i'm sure in its days it was quite spectacular, but nearly a century later, through neglect, through being overgrown by neighboring trees, this honored pathway "which is lined with rhododendrons, azaleas, and other bright, blooming shrubs from more southerly clime" (according to the website) is glorious no more. true, the website itself never advertised it as something spectacular, so maybe it hasn't been great in a long time. there are far better and prettier rhododendrons and azaleas growing in the front yards of surrounding residential neighbors than there were here in whitney thayer woods. this being our 3rd visit to see these flowers and being disappointed, i doubt we will return again.
the path wasn't entirely devoid of colors: here and there were some blooming rhododendrons and azaleas. but the flowers were few and far in between and not very spectacular. there were a few rhododendrons that weren't in bloom yet (which makes me think that they bloom earlier when they're in full sun instead of a shady forest). there were also tall sheep laurel shrubs that hadn't bloomed yet either (they appear later in the season).
i discovered soon after we arrived at the reservation that bruce was still smoking. he lit up in the parking lot, then occasionally when we were in the woods. he was surprised just as i was that smoking is technically not banned according to the reservation guide lines. i always thought the reason why you don't smoke in the woods is because of the danger of forest fires. anyway, later on the cigarette smoke was a welcomed distraction because it seemed to keep the mosquitoes away.
we returned home via quincy shore drive, which should've been the way to get to whitney thayer. after a shower, i went back out again to the community garden to water my plants. i bicycled down to the cafe sometime after 5pm to meet up with my parents and my aunt and grandmother for dinner at MDM noodles in brighton.
we arrived at the municipal parking lot next to MDM noodles. unfortunately it was full, so we got off first while my father went elsewhere to find parking. actually, he could've parked directly behind the restaurant, where there were a handful of free parking, but the lot is sort of hidden and impossible to see from the street. my mother got the chongqing-style mala feng, my grandmother got the seafood noodles, while the rest of us each got the mutton broth noodles. it was good, but the hot handmade noodles made my sweat like i'd just came out of the pool.
afterwards we returned the cafe where i got dropped off so i could retrieve my bike and return home.