Nearby: Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and Sandy Point

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Last July, a few weeks before I visited Ohiopyle, I explored the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and Sandy Point State Reservation on Plum Island. The island is about an hour's drive north of Boston just beside the quaint town of Newburyport, one of my favorite towns on the North Shore.  On my first visit to Newburyport, I passed the sign to Plum Island only because I did not have sufficient time to explore it properly. So I returned a couple months in the height of the summer, when it was flocked by not only birds, but beach-goers and the like. Situated along the Atlantic Flyway, the Parker River Wildlife Refuge's most important visitor is the migratory bird, of whom this refuge was established for in the 1940s.  It's a place of multiple habitats including salt marsh, forest and sandy beach. The latter was by far the most popular destination when my mother and I visited, but it was the paths we found in Sandy Point Reservation, found on the tip of the island, that were the most enjoyable for us. The good weather prompted by abundant sunshine allowed us to enjoy the island to the utmost as a nearby escape from Boston. Though I imagine both sites offer a different type of allure on a damp day when its features are hidden by fog. This morning Boston endured the presence of snow yet again, and I think we will take any type of weather at this point, besides the cold. Fog and rain would be infinitely better, though we'll hope for blue skies like the ones from last summer found on Plum Island. 

Ohiopyle State Park

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

March is the month I give myself permission to think of summer. Spring cannot truly be called thus in New England-what we experience, if we experience anything besides winter at all, is something called mud season, and it's as uninspiring as it sounds. What thrills me at the moment is the thought of July and a land called Ohiopyle. It's an area south of Pittsburgh, happily positioned in the Laurel Highlands. Last summer I made a journey during one of my visits back to the burgh, and I never had the chance to share the pictures. Now is something of an appropriate time, all these months later, when I'm daydreaming about hiking through the highlands and having picnics beside waterfalls. The first two pictures are of Cucumber Falls and it's truly a must see in the state park.  Besides the many waterfalls, the natural waterslides are also a sight to see and beckon throngs of swimmers in the summertime.  There's also rafting on the Yough River (Classes III-V) and two Frank Lloyd Wright homes to tour including Fallingwater. In addition, the Great Allegheny Passage Trail, which runs from DC to Pittsburgh, goes right through Ohiopyle. It's a lovely area and one I am all too happy to think of during this last stretch of the New England winter. 

January and Santa Fe

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Since my return to Santa Fe nearly two months ago, the city of Boston has received more than 100 inches of snow and suffered from the harshness of brutal temperatures that seem unshakable. When I left for New Mexico, our still budding winter could be called "mild," with an enthusiasm that was premature. All the trials of a true and proper New England winter have been realized since then, and no doubt will continue to be experienced through the beginning of March. It has been beautiful at times, but in a city, winter is more annoying than anything else. It's quite a shame. 
In Santa Fe,  however, winter could be revered. The delicious, intoxicating smell of piƱon wood wafted through the town from the start of the day to its end, just as we knew it would. It's an aroma I wish we could live with each day (or at least each winter) here in the Northeast. I can't imagine ever tiring of it. It's the type of smell which kindles a sense of fulfillment. Though we were a few weeks past Christmastime, the luminarias were still lit each evening atop the adobe buildings. It's a reason alone to visit Santa Fe in the winter months. My neighborhood in Pittsburgh had an attachment to lighting luminarias on New Year's Eve, and they've always had a spellbinding effect on me. I thought they might be gone  in Santa Fe by Martin Luther King's weekend, but I was pleasantly surprised. 
 Crowds were few but eager, and at times we felt we had the town to ourselves.  During the days, the sun shone like it was a proud duty to uphold. As soon as it set behind the mountains, the fires were lit and we exchanged our sunglasses for shivers. 50 degree temperatures during the day relinquished themselves to what felt like more New England nights, with highs only in the teens. Winter seemed civilized. We could enjoy our few, but precious days of visiting Bandelier, horseback riding, and shopping near the Plaza, without the burden of cold that is a daily reality here in Boston.  Yes, it was cold at night, but only appropriately so. The mountains needed their presence to be felt in the dark, when we could no longer see their peaks. We only had the pleasure of a few days, but they were surreal ones, dominated by a landscape that inspires almost an immediate forgetfulness of our daily realities. The airplane rides back were painful ones. And then came our 100 inches of snow. 
Cheers to New Mexico, then, and to spring, should it ever choose to arrive. 

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