The Beal family hikes and plays in The Middlesex Fells year round, but when it comes to putting down stakes and sleeping under the stars we go farther afield.
We are thankful we were able to squeeze in a lot of camping this summer, including the third annual unofficial Babes in the Woods alumni camping trip. We went to Lafayette Campground in Franconia Notch in New Hampshire. Thanks to the program, one could say these kids learned to hike before they could walk. I’m not being facetious here. Due to the uneven terrain on the trails, your muscles move in new ways and your sense of balance is used differently. These old friends feel right at home in the woods. (Can you have an old friend when you are three and half? Perhaps if you met at a couple of months old!)
The children were thrilled to play, explore, and sleep in their tents. The group took their Fells-honed hiking skills and applied them to a handful of kid-friendly hiking trails in Franconia Notch. This year, we tackled the Falling Waters Trail, the Artist’s Bluff and Bald Mountain Loop, and parts of the Pemi Trail. We had great success cooking around the campfire and the parents were able to exchange kid-friendly food-prep ideas. We usually check out one of the many family friendly White Mountain attractions and this year included a train ride.
Even though this casual event took place in a different reservation, it related to the mission of The Friends of the Fells in a couple of ways. The Babes in the Woods program dropped us in nature and inspired us to continue our long-standing love of combining recreation with ideas about preservation. Another goal of the Fells programs is to bring people together to forge friendships and networks to enjoy nature and work together spread awareness about our lands. It definitely worked with this crew!
This all brings me to my next point. The Middlesex Fells has long been known for strong programming, and it has grown exponentially in the last few years with new hikes and partnerships, and things like the Forest Kindergarten. I think many of our blog readers admit to spending a lot of time in the Fells—enough that it feels like a second home. If you feel some ownership, that is a good thing! It is public park land, and we want you feel compelled to make use of it and protect it.
But our leaders and volunteers do field a lot of questions about “taking it to the next level”, especially from participants with kids. They enjoy the programs so much they are hungry for as many ways as possible to expand, develop, and use their outdoor knowledge. Of course The Middlesex Fells offers copious physical challenges and new experiences. The Skyline Trail is nearly eight miles of mostly difficult terrain. The 32-mile Greenbelt Walk pushed some members to their limits, for sure. With seasonal changes happening by the day, it is a new experience every time you walk in.
But you can’t camp overnight in The Middlesex Fells. You can’t summit a 4000-footer. But that doesn’t necessarily prevent us from trying to give people what they are requesting in creative ways. We could host camping and backpacking clinics even though you’d have to travel to put the knowledge to practical use. We could potentially organize hiking field trips to parks and trails with higher elevation or different kinds of terrain. There are very few limits to the types of programs we could look into and explore. Do you have a dream hike or class? What kinds would you be interested in taking? Are there any you’d be interested in leading or teaching? Please share your ideas with us!