Leaving the swamp behind, we scurried down from the ridge and out to a rocky shoreline overlooking a sleepy winter cove. The sweet smell of organics from the forest mixed with salty air blowing in from over downtown Gloucester. The scent brought my mind further into spring, though I looked out across an icy cove with darkening gray skies to the west.
The boys climbed and scrambled boulders that lined the shore. Roots of aged cedar trees clung to the boulders, delineating two worlds: the muddy forest and the exposed, rocky shore. The kids used the roots as footholds, climbing up and over boulders, chasing in and out of the trees, and generally making way over super-cold water. They had a blast burning off energy, while unknowingly prepping for summer rock climbing.
Jamie and I sat on sun-warmed slabs and watched the pack ice move and crunch with the outgoing tide. Like fluffy, layered pastry, the ice lay in sheets from repeated tidal flow. It boomed and cracked, crunched and creaked, and carried every sound from across the cove: a crackling backyard fire, a barking dog and the distant slamming of a porch door.
Worried the kids would soon get a bit too courageous climbing over icy water, we called them in to make our way back to the trailhead. Under a darkening sky and through chilling air, we walked together, back up the ridge and through the forest that Essex County Greenbelt has thoughtfully protected for the past 48 years.
The middle day of winter is a special day for me. Growing up on my family’s farm in Newburyport, it was nearly considered a holiday. It marked the end of dark and blustery days and ushered in later sunsets, chickadees and swelling buds all around.
Our time together walking the trails at Goose Cove was sweet and relaxing, and one I’ll fondly remember midwinter when both my boys have grown and gone. Then, perhaps, they’ll write of their own midwinter walk. I’d love to read that.
Justin Chase is an avid naturalist who lives in Amesbury and grew up in Newburyport. He is the author of the blog Outdoors, By Cracky! Visit his website at www.outdoorsbycracky.com, or contact him via email at email@example.com.
If you go
What: Goose Cove Reservation
Where: Washington Street in Gloucester, about two miles from Blackburn Circle
Parking: Gravel lot, limited to five cars
Total acres: 29
More information: www.ecga.org