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The Wow's What Keeps 'Em Going
May 17, 2013

By Melissa Macdonald, Kids Outdoors Boston Parent Ambassador

For some souls, a hike—a peaceful, contemplative tramp through the woods—is its own reward. But when you hike with kids, it's never a bad idea to have a little wow factor in store as motivation to keep moving. I recently took my twin 10-year-old sons to Leominster State Forest, and it delivered the wow right from the start.

A short, somewhat steep ascent up a set of stone steps across the street from the parking lot's Gates 4 and 5 (off MA 31, a short hop from MA 2) took us in no more than 10 minutes to Crow Hill Ledges, where we paused to stare up at the impressive rock formation so well-hidden in the trees. On this particular day, Owen, Will and I got to watch as climbers threw lines from the top and rappelled down or looked for foot- and hand-holds on their way up. We also checked out a rock inscribed with the names of visitors from years past (think graffiti with class) and found a cave exactly the right size for Owen to investigate.

From there, we connected with the Midstate Trail—which is maintained by the Worcester Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club and runs north-south through Central Massachusetts from the Rhode Island border to the New Hampshire line—and headed southwest toward Redemption Rock. This landmark, not far from Mount Wachusett, is a granite ledge with a backstory dating to colonial days. We had passed it on the road a number of times in the past few years but never had time to stop and explore. By the way, if you're looking for a shorter outing, you can park at either end of our expedition and just explore the immediate areas without going end-to-end.

The going was pleasant, with mostly easy footing and a good mix of ascents, descents, and level walking. Along the way, we passed or sometimes followed old stone boundary markers and went through a patch of what I believe was mountain laurel. About the time that the boys were starting to get impatient about getting to where we were going, a stream crossing bought us a little extra good humor.

A good thing, too, as we still had some trail ahead of us. But just as my “just a little furthers” were wearing thin, we came to where the trail crossed MA 140, and, just after that, there it was: Redemption Rock. Will, our resident historian, soaked in the historic marker's tale of a colonial-era hostage being released at the site, while Owen and I climbed to the top and took pictures.

 

That just left the reverse hike. The boys were looking a little beleaguered at the prospect, but I suggested that we see how close we could get to reaching our destination in an hour and they took off, reinvigorated. We made it in an hour and seventeen minutes without hurrying, and not a single “are we there yet?”

With the climb at the beginning and the approximately four-mile roundtrip, I would recommend this hike for kids as young as age six, if they are sturdy walkers who do not tire easily. Plan your own trip using the park map available at: http://www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/trails/leominster.pdf. Trail maps are also available at the information board in the parking lot, but it is always a good idea to print off a copy at home.

About the blogger: Melissa Macdonald is a featured guest blogger as part of AMC’s Kids Outdoors Boston Parent Ambassador program, which partners with local parents to share their outdoor experiences with this online community and beyond. Melissa lives west of Boston and enjoys exploring outdoors with her three boys: twin 10-year-olds and a six-year-old. Stay tuned throughout the summer for monthly blog posts and trip reports from Melissa, as well as from other local Parent Ambassadors and AMC’s Outdoors with Kids Boston author, Kim Foley MacKinnon.

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COMMENTS

By: a_martone
Posted: 05/17/2013 19:22
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By: a_martone
Posted: 05/17/2013 19:20

Great post!  I am always looking for good hikes to do with the boys in this area. I will have to check it out!

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By: virtualeditor
Posted: 05/17/2013 16:13

I have to comment on my own post: I just realized it sounds like the stone steps part was steep...it's not. It's the ascent after that! But it's very doable!

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