Mass Audubons Rutland Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, a Central Massachusetts preserve a 10-minute drive south of Petersham, is part of a network of contiguous conservation land, including Brooks Woodland Preserve, a Trustees of Reservations property to the north. At the sanctuary, nature abounds: sugar and red maples, white ash, butterflies, dragonflies, and a kind of orchid called nodding ladies tresses. Porcupine and moose roam here, too. Visitors can hike an easy trail past Connor Pond, sometime stop for migrating ducks, and pick up the trail along Rutland Brook, a classic example of the babbling variety. Deeper into the property rise Porcupine Ledges, where old maples stand tall. On a mid-spring visit, the brook for which the property is named offered shallow, if chilly, pools for a 3-year-olds swim. No expensive stylish suit required, as the trail was empty. Perfect, the child decided, for skinny dipping.
Pat Connor Road, Petersham, 978-464-2712, massaudubon.org/Nature_Connection/Sanctuaries/Rutland_Brook.
(Text: Tom Haines; Photo: Tom Haines/Globe Staff )