GET FIT Hike #1: Plum Island
Half Day Hike DATE: 04/08/2023 - 04/08/2023
Trip/Event Location: Newburyport, MA
Max # People: 15
Trip Guiding / Event Fee: No, I will not be asking participants for money
Difficulty Level: Easy
Our first of four GetFit Hikes to get fit for summer hiking! Let's get together and explore the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge (Plum Island), Sandy Point State Park and the Hellcat Trail!...
To reach this coastal sanctuary, drive east from US 1 in the center of Newburyport on Walter Street [farther along it is grandly called the Plum Island Turnpike]. In 3.3 miles you will cross the bridge over Plum Island River to Plum Island. In another 0.3 mile, follow the sign for the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and turn right along the road that skirts cottages on the left and salt marshes on the right.
In 0.5 mile you will reach the guard shack entrance. There is an entrance fee of $5 but if someone in your car has a US Park Service Senior Pass everyone gets in for free. To increase your enjoyment of this hike, make sure you obtain a Hellcat Swamp Nature Trail Guide, available at the entrance station [it may also be available from a box at the start of the trail if the supply has been replenished].
Once through the entrance, drive south on the refuge road for 3.8 miles to Lot 4, the parking area for Hellcat Swamp Nature Trail. There are also rest rooms here. We'll be driving a blue Toyota Tacoma.
Diamond sparkling surf, blue sky, and crisp salty air! The ocean wildlife refuge welcomed us!
We like to visit the ocean in the spring because it's quiet, less crowds and more relaxing! This time we headed down to the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island in Newburyport, MA for some fresh air and sunshine. It was sunny, temperature was in the high 40’s and breezy.
After paying the 5-dollar admission fee per car we drove 3.5 miles down the park road to the Hellcat trail area. During the drive we observed Parker River to the right before emptying into the ocean at the tip of the island. Marshes and pools made for plenty of snow-white egrets, ducks, and a few regal swans. They don't call this a national wildlife refuge for nothing!
Once we reached the Hellcat trail parking area, we waited for other members to arrive. We first followed the path out to the observation tower that gave us a view of the river, the pools and the Hellcat trail area.
The Hellcat trail is a loop first exploring the marsh and then the dunes. The entire trail is actually elevated boardwalks and stairs that wind their way through vernal pools, woodlands, swamps and sand dunes which we had a great time on. Much different than our White Mountain hiking trails! We took the Marsh Spur where we found ourselves surrounded by twenty-foot-tall golden reeds flanking the boardwalk that made us feel like we were in a marsh jungle! Here we took a group picture. Later on, we reached the high point atop the Hellcat Dunes for a deep blue ocean view.
When we were done there was more time for fun so we headed to Lot 6, and hiked on the Stage Island Trail through a drumlin with panoramic views of ocean and estuary, to the Sound overlooking Ipswich Bay. Before us spread a freshwater marsh. The grassy trail led us to Ipswich Bluff. Across the inlet in Ipswich, rise the hills of Great Neck, Little Neck, and Castle Neck, all composed of ground moraine-glacial sediments deposited by an ice sheet. The Bluff provides a great view of the tidal inlet.
We then made this a loop by walking along the low dunes of Sandy Point, wrapped around Sandy Point itself with a fine view of Crane’s Beach across the water and then reaching the boulders below the 40-foot-high cliff known as Bar Head. We reached a fence alerting us not to trespass onto the Piping Plovers home, an endangered species now gradually pulling back from the brink of extinction. We then followed the road back to our vehicles on Lot 6 taking in one last time the views of the freshwater marsh.
Afterwards almost everyone went back to Bob's Lobster Shack to for a late lunch outside on their picnic tables. They are known for their lobster rolls. This is one the best spots on the seacoast for seafood. Their fisherman’s platter is huge so Jon and I split one. Others ordered lobster rolls and fried clam dinners.
Sunny fun, close to home with a great group of GOers! Three miles of walking and only 100 feet or so of elevation gain. This area was stunning and trails different than most hiking trails. It's a perfect paradise if you're into birding. There are people running all over with spotting scopes and $20,000 camera/lens combos. The beach was amazing and it only costs $5 to enjoy it. It's open sunrise to sunset. No mountains but with the little hiking trails and beach it was a great place to spend a day with our GO friends to kick off the beginning of spring hiking season! If you have time, explore brick fronted Newburyport with restaurants, cafes, exquisite gift shops and known for its harbor walk.
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