10 LATE AUTUMN STROLLS
Crunchy underfoot, a chill in the air, color everywhere
Don’t let a little nip in the air deter you from catching the last vestiges of foliage before all the leaves fall. Grab a jacket and take a riverwalk in Vermont, stroll a beach on Long Island Sound, hike the rugged Maine shoreline where Winslow Homer loved to sketch, or revisit a suburban jaunt in the woods run by Mass. Audubon. Sample one of these and you’ve earned your mug of hot apple cider:
CLIFF WALK Prouts Neck, Maine
This small town has changed little since Homer painted every nook and cranny of these shores from 1883 to 1910. Outside his studio, juniper trees he planted slope from his backyard down to the moors, eventually reaching the jagged gray rock that lines most of the neck’s shore. The best way to mark the centennial of Homer’s death is to follow in his footsteps and take the same walk he took many mornings with his dog, Sam, a white wire-haired terrier. The mile-long Cliff Walk created by Homer’s brother, Charles, was designed to preserve the most scenic part of the peninsula. Even to this day, the Prouts Neck Association has kept this boulder-strewn shoreline free of houses so walkers have an unfettered view of those crashing waves.
FOX RESEARCH AND DEMONSTRATION FOREST Hillsborough N.H.
In 1922, Caroline Fox bequeathed to the state her 348-acre farm with house and barn. The state has since added more land, totaling 1,445 acres, built an environmental center, forestry museum, and created more than 20 miles of well-marked trails through the woods. Indeed, most of the abandoned farmland Fox left is now woods, perfect for strolling. This includes the 4 1/2-mile Ridge Trail, which winds through a forest of maples, pines, hemlocks, and birch before arriving at Mud Pond. www.nhdfl.org/new-hampshire-state-lands/state-owned-reservations/fox-state-forest.aspx
SABBADAY FALLS Waterville Valley, N.H. Families with young children will appreciate this easy walk off the Kancamagus Highway, 16 miles west of Concord and the junction of Route 112. The one-mile round-trip winds through tall birches and beeches before heading down the stone steps to the falls. Watch the cascading waters plummet over the rocks into a pool, just reward for toddlers and their parents who made the trek.
WEST RIVER TRAIL, JAMAICA STATE PARK Jamaica, Vt.
This riverbank trail follows an old railroad bed that was built in 1881 and long ago lapsed into decay. The highlight is Hamilton Falls, which tumbles and pools spectacularly down 125 feet of granite ledges, making it Vermont’s highest waterfall. If there’s a fall dam release from the Ball Mountain Dam upriver, you’ll get to see white-water paddlers tackle The Dumplings, a set of enormous boulders. www.vtstateparks.com/htm/ jamaica.htm
MARSH-BILLINGS-ROCKEFELLER NATIONAL HISTORIC PARK Woodstock, Vt.
When I think of an idyllic late autumn stroll, crunching over dry leaves on a deeply forested trail while breathing in the first chill of winter, this is the place that comes to mind. The park is the first unit of the National Park System to focus on the theme of conservation history and stewardship, the main concern of Frederick Billings. Beginning in the 1870s, Billings designed a forest with numerous tree plantations and constructed a 20-mile network of carriage roads to showcase his work. Tour the exhibits in the Carriage Barn, then hit the carriage path trails through Billings’s dream 550-acre forest. Eleven of Billings’s original plantings remain, including groves of Norwegian spruce and Scottish pine from the 1880s, mixed with an indigenous Vermont blend of white pine and white ash. The longest carriage path trail circles around The Pogue, a gem of water backed by Mount Tom. www.nps.gov/mabi/
CLIFF WALK Newport, R.I.
The state’s most popular trail is perched on rocky shores above the Atlantic, ocean on one side, the backyards of the massive Bellevue Avenue mansions on the other. In the summer months, this 3 1/2-mile route is crowded with hundreds of folks yearning to see the sloping lawns and back sides of those summer “cottages’’ the Vanderbilts, Whitneys, and Astors built at the turn of the 19th century. Come fall, you’ll pass the occasional dog walker as you take in the expanse of the sea all by your lonesome. Park your car on Narragansett Avenue near the walk and proceed to the right. You’ll soon spot The Breakers, the Italian-style villa commissioned by Cornelius Vanderbilt in 1895. Another highlight is the red and gold lacquered Chinese-style pagoda at Marble House. www.cliffwalk.com
NAPATREE POINT Westerly, R.I.
For your last beach walk of the season, try this stretch of sand on Long Island Sound that starts near the historic Watch Hill carousel. Listen to the waves as you saunter along Napatree’s crescent-shaped beach. The spit of land curves back toward Rhode Island, similar to the way Provincetown fishhooks on the Cape. As you reach the point, the winds begin to howl, the surf seems a bit more ominous, and the sand changes to large battered rocks. You can spot the small harbor of Stonington, Conn., and the dome of trees atop Fishers Island, N.Y. On the return trip, view the Victorian houses that cling to the bluffs of Watch Hill.
EARTHPLACE, THE NATURE DISCOVERY CENTER Westport, Conn.
Driving past the multimillion-dollar estates tucked behind the stone walls of Westport, you finally reach this divine spit of land left undeveloped. Sixty-two acres of deciduous forest, open fields, and swamp area border more than two miles of walking trails. A good introductory walk is on the Swamp Loop. Birds greet you on the soft trail, a welcome respite from the hum of Interstate 95. Passing through a section of stately old elms, don’t be surprised to see wild turkeys wandering the grounds. Along with deer, pheasants, and the occasional fox, the turkeys call this forest home. www.earth place.org/things_to_see/ trails.html
FORT HILL TRAIL Eastham
Before you even start, go across the street and walk under the jaw of a whale, the entrance to Captain Edward Penniman’s house. In the mid-19th century, Penniman climbed the whaling ranks, from harpooner to captain, amassing a fortune in the process. When he returned to the Cape in 1867, he built this house in the ornate Second French Empire Style. Ascend a short hill and you’ll be treated to sweeping views of Nauset Marsh and the long stretches of sand at Nauset and Coast Guard beaches. Heading inland through a section of red cedar trees, the trail arrives at an overlook called Skiff Hill before veering left onto the Red Maple Swamp Trail, my favorite part of the route. A boardwalk snakes over a murky swamp through a copse of tall red maples, evoking the feel of a small enchanted forest.
BROADMOOR WILDLIFE SANCTUARY Natick
Located in the western suburbs, this 600-acre sanctuary is run by the Massachusetts Audubon Society. Nine miles of trails weave over marsh and the Charles River on boardwalks and into a thick forest of tall pines. Rest atop one of the bridges to look for great blue herons as they spread their wings and take flight. Other natives include kingfishers, osprey, and wood ducks. Trails are open dawn to dusk. www.massaudubon.org/Nature_Connection/Sanctuaries/Broadmoor/index.php
Steve Jermanok, author of “Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England,’’ can be reached at www.ActiveTravels.com.