Tuesday, October 21, 2008

This time of year is traditionally devoted to visiting the Middlesex and Essex County areas.

Day One: Heading on into the Middlesex Fells, I looked into an old lead from an even older edition of an AMC hiking guide. They mention "small caves" near a trail. My first discovery in the area was a splendid Indian profile amongst the rocks. Then I came across what is likely the "caves" but rock - or even "cave-like" - formations might be a better way to describe them. Farther along the trail, now in somewhat of a valley, a ledge contained another one of these small formations. Certainly much better examples of caves do exist within the Fells. Back on the road and heading past the Great Stone Face formation, I arrived at a rocky summit and park where another cave was reported. Again, a "cave-like" formation is all there was to be found near the top of a vertical ledge. Moving up the road, at the urban Pine Banks Park, I looked into the origin of an old postcard called "A Rocky Nook". I first thought it might be in the main picnic area but soon discovered it lay in a slightly more remote area around the back of the pond. Going out of Town, I passed the Old Indian Cave and a major road intersection where history recorded a large perched erratic once existed - or maybe still exists. Then on to the Bow Ridge area of Lynnfield where old quarries awaited me. One has some elaborate painting on the quarry wall depicting large clusters of skulls, hence the name Skull Rock. I had expected to hike on in to the Great Frog Boulder to give it a measure but took a wrong turn, a little past the Pirate Boulder, ending up almost back at my starting point. So another time. Just to the north, a quickie trip was made in to Ship Rock to get a circumference measurement. While in the area I gave it a go to find Wigwam Rock in light of some new information and picture I came across. Despite running across a number of 'worthy' erratics none seemed to fit the description and picture completely. Finally to complete the day, I took in Witch Rock.

Day Two: I revisited the Chief Wingaersheek profile in an old quarry quite near to my campground. Moving up the western side of Cape Ann, I investigated a new view on a postcard of an old site at Great Rock. Coming up - and around - Halibut, I made my way down the east coast to the granite pier where I took in the seashore with binoculars, looking in vain for the Profile Rock at Devil's Den and the Oldest Inhabitant profile rock formation. Just down the road, I entered Dogtown to tour the Whale's Jaw, measure Peter's Pulpit, and take in the Briar Swamp area including glacial boulder caving at Raccoon Ledges. The rest of he afternoon was a leisurely ride down the coast, stopping at Good Harbor Beach where massive waves pummeled Bass Rocks, likely site of the Old Man's Cave (rock formation). Finishing up the day was Stage Fort Park with Tablet Rock and the very picturesque Half Moon Beach.

Day Three: Rolling into the more northwesterly portions of Essex County I began a day that would see me visiting some extraordinary public lands. The first stop was at Den Rock Park (one old reference calls this the Devil's Den) home to a magnificent outcrop of rock. Very small caves have been formed in the fracturing and falling on parts of the ledge. There are several old postcards on this site including a nearby bridge called the Witch - or Den Rock - Bridge over the Shawsheen River. Farther north near the New Hampshire boundary, I had the report of a glacial boulder being an ancient land boundary. Not that this is unusual, even Wigwam Rock was a marker, but this historical report came complete with a street address! Successfully found, I wandered west once again entering Middlesex County. Here I had the report of another rock used by famed preacher George Whitefield, possibly near a local cemetery. I guessed which cemetery it may have been, only to find upon visiting, it was a very modern cemetery. Too modern to have been there in Whitefield's days. So on to the library where I culled through old historical records to come up with the probable site. Just as interesting was the mention of a rock in town, inscribed by the Native Americans with a map! This time I got the correct cemetery, found the likely Whitefield rock, and even found an elderly resident who told me the location of the 'map rock'. BUT the owner of that rock was not home, so I shelved it for another visit. Dropping down south to the land where granite was once quarried, I visited conservation land with old lime quarries. Then on to the local pulpit rock which I was told is at a pile of rocks. It was more like a rock wall extending a bit out from a slope in an adjacent home's yard. Hard to believe this existed over a century and a half ago, but very near to the 'wall' was a rock that would have served as a more practical pulpit. Nearby, the 'Fox Hunt rocks" was on more local conservation land. Just as I was finishing up my final photos, the predicted rain began to fall ending the day for me. One note of interest on the trip home: I had been told of a cave along the Mohawk Trail by the son of a cave owner last year. Since then I've looked for it several times unsuccessfully, but then the foliage and road conditions made that difficult. Finally on this trip home - a small cave entrance was spotted among the ledges to await future investigation.