Family Weekender: Boston

Plum Island Bike and Hike
  |  Gorp.com

Twelve-year-old Charlotte, the leader of our pack, had vanished, enveloped in a swirl of morning mist. We heard her before we saw her. "Guys, look!" she hissed. "To the right!" Pulling our bikes to the side of the road, we watched as a white-tailed doe and her fawn nibbled on dew-drenched grasses.

Early morning is a magical time to pedal through Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. The calm stillness that surrounds you is just an illusion: the salt marsh and freshwater wetlands are teeming with activity. A glance at the salt pan along the roadside reveals a great blue heron, still as a statue. Snowy egrets appear like polka-dots against the tawny landscape.Although the refuge road is open to cars, it's wide enough to cycle safelywith kids.

Just when little legs are weary of biking, you reach the turn-off for Hellcat Swamp, a two-mile nature trail. A boardwalk takes you into a world lush with plant life, color-splashed with butterflies, and humming with birdsong and twittering insects.

Next, meander over to the observation tower. Climb the tower steps, passing a playhouse-size beaver lodge, and look north toward the ocean: On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Isle of Shoals.

Heading back, look for the pull-off to the beach. Follow the footpath amidst lumpy dunes andswaying sea grass to get to a spectacular barrier beach. It's perfect for wandering and tide-pooling, although the pounding surf makes it risky for swimming. But who can resist running, sandpiper-like, to tickle their toes in the surf?

The refuge is open year-round, 6 a.m. to sunset. Five dollars per car; two dollars per bike. The beach, or sections of it, may be closed when piping plovers are nesting. Call (978) 465-5753.


Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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