Rediscovering Home

Before it became official that Ev and I were going to move to Ohio, I decided I wanted to start a blog about rediscovering my “backyard” – that is, the region that has been my home for 24 years. Essex County AKA the North Shore is made up of 34 cities and towns from the suburbs just north of Boston to the border of New Hampshire. It’s a diverse area with urban cities, quiet countryside, beaches, farms, scenic drives… you name it.

Motif #1, Rockport (photo credit: Jim MacAllister)

I truly felt that although I’ve lived here my whole live, and lived in several of these communities for that matter, I really haven’t seen it or experienced it in a way that has been meaningful to me. The organization that I have been working for over the past 2.5 years is dedicated to marketing this region as a tourist destination, and throughout my time there I finally started to see this place a little clearer and appreciate all it has to offer.

Since it’s pretty much a guarantee that I’ll be homesick for a while, I think I’ll start a little series of essays and anecdotes on the interesting places I’ve been to and local events I’ve experienced throughout the county. I realize now that I have done quite a bit in my 24 years here, now it’s just a matter of racking my brain and hoping to have photo evidence to go along with it. So let’s begin, shall we?

Cape Ann is one of my favorite places. Here’s a little story about when Ev and I decided to explore a place within the city of Gloucester with a strange history, called Dogtown.

(photo credit: Essex Heritage)

Hearing the word “Dogtown” always made me think of those skateboarding hipsters out on the west coast somewhere. It never occurred to me that we had our very own Dogtown on the North Shore, and it had nothing to do with skateboards.

I like to refer to myself as an up-and-coming outdoor enthusiast, so I was eager to get up to Gloucester when I heard that Dogtown indeed existed, and it was a great place to go for a day hike and some quality time with Mother Nature. Plus there are some giant rocks there with words on them… cool, I’m in.
My limited knowledge of Dogtown was that it’s basically in the center of Cape Ann, an overgrown ghost town of its former self. According to its Wiki page, Dogtown was settled in 1693 because of its inland location, offering protection from pirates along the coast. Witchcraft apparently ran rampant in Dogtown, but the appeal of living in the middle of the woods diminished, and the last resident died in 1830, marking the end of an era.
Eager to try out my new Nikon I jumped in the car with Ev and we made our way up to Dogtown Common. With only a quick glimpse at the trail map we decided we would just head in, snap some pictures, and when we were tired enough we’d turn back around.

Keep in mind that neither of us did a whole lot of research before heading up there, so we didn’t exactly have any frame of reference as to which direction we were going, how many trails there were, or how long it would take to reach point x. We just figured a marked trail and our sense of direction would be enough to make this an enjoyable summer afternoon stroll. 
We encountered a couple with their dog who apparently lost track of the trail and tagged along with us for a while… until we finally admitted we didn’t know where we were going either. Suddenly I had images in my head of being lost in the wilderness without cell phone reception or anything to eat. A horrifying thought that I blame on too much TV. And all I had to show for this misadventure is a couple photos of the Babson Boulders, which are pretty neat if I do say so myself. 

Needless to say, Evan and I found our way out. Once we hit the MBTA train tracks by the reservoir (or is it a lake?) and lost all sense of a trail, we just backtracked our way to the car. 

It wasn’t until recently when I became increasingly curious about Dogtown that I sat down and did a little more research. I checked out a map of all the Babson Boulder locations and was disappointed that we didn’t have a plan to see each one. I learned the history of Whale’s Jaw, a giant boulder in the shape of an actual whale jaw which was unfortunately disfigured due to an out of control campfire back in the 80’s. It all played into my interest in history and seeing places with a past, a colorful past nonetheless.
Dogtown is back on my list of places to revisit, although now I have no idea when I will get the chance again. But it’s certainly worth the trip given your preparedness with a map, comfortable shoes, and some time for an out of the ordinary adventure into the heart of Cape Ann.
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