Thursday, March 31, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 109: Sharon, Massachusetts

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 109:  Sharon, Massachusetts
February 17, 2011

            Located just north of one of my favorite spots, Easton, and even sharing one of the sites I am covering, the town of Sharon is very similar but also very different from its neighbor.  I found it fascinating that the town’s name comes from the Sharon Plain in Israel because of the amount of forest that existed on the land. 
Lake Massapoag
            As with several other towns in this area of Massachusetts there is a great mix of historic and natural beauty.  I tried my best to see as much of both as I could but found myself gravitating toward the natural beauty more.  A spot I enjoyed was Lake Massapoag specifically Memorial Park Beach on the north side.  The name comes from the Algonquin word meaning ‘large water.’
There was only one problem and that was the snowpack which made walking down to the water’s edge pretty tough.  I parked across the street and walked in.  I ended up sinking in up to my knees over and over but eventually made it to the water.  The area used to be a minor summer resort due to its proximity but those old summer cottages are now year-round homes.  I can see why the lake is so popular even in the dead of winter.  The views were spectacular.  I would recommend viewing them when it is warmer, or at least when there is less snow.
Collecting sap at Moose Hill
Another beautiful spot to take in is the Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary.  Here the snow made the scenery even better.  I walked through some of the trails but I will admit that the heavy snow pack made it slow going.  The 347 acre conservation area sports the 466-foot tall Moose Hill, second in size only to Great Blue Hill in Weymouth between Boston and Providence.  The hillsides also house some rare American chestnut trees which used to be plentiful until a bark fungus nearly exterminated them.  I also got to see some buckets collecting sap from maple trees, a classic New England scene with the snow adding to it.  I highly recommend checking out Moose Hill when the warmer weather arrives, I think I am going to do the same.
As great as Lake Massapoag and Moose Hill were as far as scenery went there was one place very familiar to me that topped them both.  Borderland State Park which straddles the line between Sharon and Easton is a beautiful area that I was really happy to get to see again.  The 1,782 acre Borderland State Park has a Frisbee golf course, gigantic open fields, horseback riding, and the picturesque Leaches Pond. 
The Borderland mansion
The last time I visited Borderland it was spring and all of the flowers and trees were in bloom.  This time it was the dead of winter but that didn’t take away from it.  On this day it was quite warm and there was a lot of melting snow which made the dirt paths muddy.  Still, that was no deterrent for me as I had another chance to check out the crown jewel of Borderland.
The land on which the park stands was purchased by Oakes Ames and his wife Blanche in 1906.  The name ‘Borderland’ was given to the three-story stone mansion built on the grounds in 1910.  The last time I was there when I visited Easton I did not spend as much time at the mansion as I should have; the fact that everything was in bloom sort of distracted me.  This time I was more of a detective checking out every inch possible of the hundred year old home.
How my favorite tree looks in spring.
For those of you unfamiliar with my Easton article the Ames family is perhaps the most well known in that town.  Patriarch Oaks Ames served in the House of Representatives from 1863 to 1873 and was also a key person in the completion of the Union Pacific portion of the United States Transcontinental Railroad.  Ames was asked to take over the Union Pacific section by President Lincoln who was busy with the Civil War.
Ames was also marred in controversy due to his involvement in the Credit Mobilier of America Scandal of 1872.  Ames sold shares of stock in the Credit Mobilier loan company for well below market value which meant that the profit margins were much less than anticipated and in the end many investors as well as Union Pacific were nearly bankrupt.  The Ames Memorial Hall in Easton was built by his children in an attempt to ease some of the hard feelings against their father.
All of that aside the mansion and the rest of the park is magnificent.  On this day I ventured behind the mansion and was able to get a better view of it.  The rolling hill leading away from the mansion was really cool, looking like a perfect spot for sledding.  I was a little disappointed that my favorite tree, I believe it's a dogwood, was not in bloom.  During the previous spring it had some amazing pinkish-purple blossoms that made for a lot of great photos.
Sharon ended up being a perfect companion to neighboring Easton including the fact that they share Borderland State Park.  There are several nature preserves and conservation areas to see that will probably be even better when the snow is only a memory like Moose Hill.  Still, visiting Sharon should not be predicated on time of year, it can be enjoyed anytime.  Have fun and happy traveling!

   My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at,, and, in stores everywhere!  Follow me on Twitter!  For more In My Footsteps items follow the In My Footsteps fan page on Facebook, or visit my homepage at   Thanks for reading! 

DirectionsBorderland State Park:  From I-495 heading north take Exit 7A for Rt. 24 north.  Take Exit 16B to merge with Rt. 106, follow 5 miles and turn right at Poquanticut Ave.  Turn left at Massapoag Ave, follow 2 miles, park will be on right.
Moose Hill Wildlife Sanctuary:  From I-495 take Exit 13A for I-95 N.  Take Exit 8 for S. Main St. toward Sharon.  Follow 1.2 mi. turn left at Walpole St., turn right at Moose Hill St.  Follow 1.3 miles to headquarters.

ReferencesBorderland State Park
            Sharon Historical
            Town of Sharon - Official Site

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