The middle day of winter greeted us with unseasonably mild weather. Wanting to get out in the springlike day and explore somewhere new with our boys, my wife, Jamie, and I set out to investigate Gloucester’s Goose Cove Reservation, which is nestled into the west shore of Cape Ann and along the banks of the Annisquam River.
The 29-acre reserve offered a delightful 3/4-mile walking loop out over a rolling landscape and across intimate, rocky shorelines. It was the perfect spot to get out, stretch our legs and refresh along a sheltered cove.
We arrived shortly after lunch to warm, damp air moving in gently from the southeast and midwinter’s sun shining through a low, parting cloud cover. Barely February, it felt like late March. Darting kingfishers and fluttering woodpeckers met us at the trailhead and invited us in with cheerful chirps and flashes of white and red. Swooping up and down as if riding an invisible wave, they flew ahead and led the way into the tiny forest.
We walked along melting ice and squishy, spongy earth down a narrow path that sliced through stands of tall birch, beech and unusually slender oaks. Bright sunlight shone in through bare limbs from seemingly every direction. Trees dripped morning ice that tapped and hissed on the melting forest floor. Everything was slick, shiny and glistened of a midwinter thaw — the perfect scene to lift wintered spirits.
Rolling along a glacial moraine that formed a perfect ridge upon which to walk, the trail led us through fields of lichen-covered erratics and trodden oak leaves and alongside a small frozen swamp that begged the boys to stop and explore. They poked and chopped at it with sticks and hopped atop exposed, frozen-in logs and boulders. I joined them on the ice to play, but not for long — a simple clear of Jamie’s throat, and we boys knew we were too far out. It’s always nice to be looked out for, especially over 6 inches of water.