Take a Hike! Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary

We did a little something different with our hike to Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary in Hopkinton, Massachusetts: we went three times during the week of July 18th.

I sent the e-mail out to the homeschool groups about the hike, and a mom e-mailed back asking how stroller-friendly the trail was. Well, as I’d never been there, I couldn’t really answer that question. So I decided to take the kids out on Wednesday and check out the scene.

For the first hike, it was just me and the kids. We didn’t have a map, and to be on the safe side, we stuck to the wide cart path out to the pond and back.

Cart path from the trailhead.

The second hike was on Friday with another homeschooling family. On this hike, I re-learned what poison ivy looks like after so many years out west (luckily, I learned this the easy way, by having the people we were with point it out to me). We took the Pitch Pine Trail, the shorter loop on the south side of the cart path, out to the pond and took the cart path straight back.

Not poison ivy.

The third hike was on a Sunday. This one was the kids, my husband, and me. We went out to the pond on the Pitch Pine Trail and came back via the Sassafras Trail, the longer loop to the north of the cart path.

Sassafras Trail

For all of the hikes, we followed the directions to Waseeka listed on the site (the site warns against using GPS or online directions to find the sanctuary), which were easy to follow, for the most part. We almost missed the turn into the parking area, though. The sign is clearly lettered but rather small and points directly towards the street rather than angling one direction or another, so you have to be pretty much on top of it to see it. You drive between two trees to enter the parking area. There’s no information kiosk and no trail maps, but the trails are easy enough, you don’t really need a map.

There’s also no bathroom, which isn’t a problem for those who don’t mind using nature’s bathroom, but for people (like my children (and, I admit, myself)) who prefer to use man-made facilities, this can make for a slightly uncomfortable hike. It’s not far from Hopkinton, though, so it’s easy to find businesses where you can grab a snack and use the facilities, if necessary. That’s how we ended up with a large bag of pretzels in the backseat of our car on the ride home.

From the parking area, there’s a main cart path that leads straight out to the pond. This path is wide and mostly smooth. My daughter and I agreed that it would be pretty good for a jogging stroller, although it might get a little more difficult closer to the pond where the trail narrows and becomes more grassy as you walk across the earthen dam.

On either side of the cart path is a loop trail, the Pitch Pine Trail on one side and Sassafras Trail on the other. Pitch Pine is the shorter of the loop trails, but neither is exceptionally long. They’re both well-blazed, which is good because they’re quite narrow and a little overgrown. It was fun for my daughter to watch for the halfway point of the loop when the blazes turned from blue (to indicate we were heading away from the main trail) to yellow (to indicate we were heading back towards it).

The big reward of this hike is the pond.

There is a pair of Ospreys nesting there during the summer. The first time out, we saw one circling overhead and calling (probably angry at us for being there).

Osprey flying.

The second, we just heard them, and the third, we saw the pair perched on the edges of the nest (calling as before).

We saw a beaver lodge.

Beaver lodge

We saw evidence of predation (bird feathers on the trail, always a thrill for my daughter). We heard a bullfrog and saw a heron and took photos of a Viceroy butterfly. We saw ants moving eggs or maybe larvae across the trail (we guessed that perhaps they were moving their nest). Our homeschooling friends saw turkey chicks crossing the road. We saw a slug.

You can tell it's a Viceroy rather than a Monarch because it has the black line on the lower half of its wings.

We loved going three times in a week. Except for the time we met our homeschooling friends, we didn’t see anyone else at the sanctuary. It was quiet and very easy to hear the wildlife all around. And while I found a tick climbing on my husband’s pants leg, we were able to flick the little guy off of there before he could act on his parasitic nature.

This was a great hike for our family, and I would definitely go back. The website suggests it’s a good spot for snowshoeing. Maybe if we get snowshoes, we can try them out there once it gets cold and check out the winter pond scene.

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