“Hey, mommy! We’re bringing you to the swamp today!”
Some mothers might hear those words Mother’s Day morning and wonder if the kids were exacting revenge for having been subjected to that celery-parsnip soup last week: “You want green sludge! We’ll show you green sludge!” At the very least they might wonder if they are allowing one too many screenings of The Princess Bride.
But no, my kids know they have a nature geek mommy and that I’d be genuinely pleased and excited to hear those words as part of their Mother’s Day plans for me.
We’d been wanting to check out the Danvers-Wenham SwampWalk for a while, so we met up there with some friends, who had originally recommended it: Daryl, Emmaline and Gideon. Sadly their mom Meghan had to miss it due to her obligations as an emergency services pediatrician. I figured she could rescue the kids who were already sick, while we’d work on her kids’ base immunity by smearing them around in some dirt.
The swampwalk is a loop off the Danvers Rail Trail, and a great place to see some of our local wetland plants and animals. If you do decide to tour it as part of your bike trip, you’ve got to park the bike at the entrance to the boardwalk section, but they’ve got bike racks set up there. It’s also accessible by foot, just a short ways in from a parking area. It’s dog-friendly (on leash, of course), so we brought Moxie and our friends’ dog Scout.
At about a mile and a quarter, it is a relatively short doable walk for kids, and our 2-year-olds walked the whole thing without struggle. That said, much of it is an elevated boardwalk, so gauge whether you think your little one will be careful when it comes to staying on it when you are deciding between babywearing and toddling. Because the water is shallow and we’re not in alligator country, risks are probably more unintended mucky mudbath related than immediate danger related, but you might want to read up on some safety practices first anyway.
Okay, okay, so they did get rests and shoulder rides near the end…
There are several beaver lodges along the walk, and the 4-year-olds thought they spotted one bobbing along but it was too far away to get a definitive sighting.
We saw probably about a dozen common brown water snakes, both on land and swimming, so if you’ve got ophidiophobia, you might want to sit this one out. I love snakes, but would not want to go on a goose-ridden hike, so I understand. They greatly interested the kids, and thankfully did not interest the dogs one bit. They get quite large and thick; we saw ones at least three feet, and they can get to nearly twice that. They are non-venemous and avoid you when crossing paths, but are quick to bite when handled, so be cautious that way.
It was a gorgeous sunny day, so we were a bit surprised we didn’t see any turtles out basking. The pre-schoolers are both little chatterboxes, which is sometimes not conducive to spotting wildlife, but is thankfully very conducive to engaging them deeply and educationally on wildlife when we do see it, so it evens out. But apparently turtles don’t have great hearing, especially when it comes to high pitched noises like 4-year-old voices, so it was probably just co-incidence. We also didn’t see (or feel) excessive bugs, surprisingly, but we put on our repellant and sunscreen ahead of time just to be safe.
We DID see a wide variety of birds, and you bird watchers among us will lament that we are not great at identifying them. I’ll have to be sure to bring along my trusty Audubon Guide to New England next time.
We were excited to get another great local outdoor destination off our bucket lists. Any requests for a future write-up?