Travel

Jenn's Journey North: A Tour of Boston with the Freewalkers

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Boston Marathon finish line; and the end of the Tour of Boston! Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Map of 2nd Annual Walking Tour of Boston with the Freewalkers
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Mark, from South Africa, showed us how to operate a drone Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Jamaica Pond
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Jamaica Pond
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Wonder Spice Cafe in Jamaica Plain
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Introductions and overview of the walk Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Introductions and overview of the walk Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Sand Sculpting Festival at Revere Beach Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Sand Sculpting Festival at Revere Beach Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Sand Sculpting Festival at Revere Beach; the U.S.S. Constitution Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Sand Sculpting Festival at Revere Beach; this one caught my eye because CDMSmith was where Michael worked. His company has an office in Cambridge. Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Sand Sculpting Festival at Revere Beach Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Belle Isle Salt Marsh Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Leo and Paul at Belle Isle Salt Marsh Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Noodle Pier Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Downeast Cider in East Boston Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Freewalkers at Downeast Cider
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Freewalkers selfie at Downeast Cider - left to right, Jenn Popper, Risa Olinsky, Paul Kiczek, Fran Price Credits: Jennifer Popper
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KO Catering and Piees Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Paul Kiczek can really hula hoop! Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Credits: Jennifer Popper
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On the East Coast Greenway! Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Sculptures at Boston Women's Memorial Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Sculptures at Boston Women's Memorial Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Jenn Popper and Rachel Hanks - Go, Orange! Credits: Jennifer Popper
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Paul Kiczek and Risa Olinsky
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Paul Kiczek and Jacqui Hunter
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Left to right: Tom, Paul Kiczek, and Cory Storch
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This past weekend I made a quick trip to Boston to participate in a walk around the city with some of the folks from the Freewalkers walking group.  You may recall that the non-profit organization is one of the recipients of donations made towards my 2018 walk.

On Friday morning, four of us piled into a minivan in New Jersey, and headed up to Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, where we would stay with Fran, the leader of the tour we would take the next day.  

An early evening arrival left us time to unpack our packed vehicle, chat over a ‘welcome’ glass of wine, and take a spin around the nearby pond.  It was just what we needed to stretch our legs after a long road trip.  The 1.5 mile walk around Jamaica Pond, which is one of the six Emerald Necklace parks, green space that "connects people and nature, just as landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted intended when he designed it more than 100 years ago," worked out the kinks.

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Along the way, we met Mark, who is from South Africa.  He demonstrated how to fly his drone, which hung gracefully above the water relaying beautiful shots of the sailboats dotting the pond.  A drone owner for just a few weeks, he's quickly learned where not to fly!

Walk complete, we freshened up for dinner.  The group had a delicious meal at Wonder Spice Cafe, indulging and enjoying spicy Thai and Cambodian dishes.

We got an early morning start on Saturday, our leader directing us to the subway, or ‘the T,’ so we could arrive before other walkers at Revere Beach.  The day's 12-plus mile walk route would have us meander near ocean, marsh and beach, and end near Copley Square. 

Once everyone had arrived, board members gave an overview of what the Freewalkers group is all about, and the Jenn’s Journey North walk got a shout out; at different points during the day, walkers asked me where, when, and how I will make my trek next year.

Introductions complete, Fran, our fearless leader, talked to the group about what to expect to see on our day-long adventure, including the Sand Sculpting Festival, the birds at Belle Isle salt water marsh, Piers Park, and a walk along the Charles River Basin through Paul Revere, North Point and Esplanade parks.  Somewhere in there we would enter the East Coast Greenway, the route I will follow from Cranford, New Jersey’s Nomahegan Park to Gouldsboro, Maine in 2018.

Some memorable moments of the day, on top of meeting new friends, included:

  • A chance encounter with Leo and Paul at the salt marsh.  Despite some trouble speaking due to having suffered a stroke, Leo is a walking encyclopedia of nature facts and is eager to talk!
  • Generous samples at Downeast Cider in East Boston, followed by a snack at KO Catering and Pies.
  • Garlic to buy and try at Eastie Farm.
  • The #ROLLFORROB fundraiser for Rob Pontes at the Lynch Family Skate Park; Pontes, a skateboard industry icon, is battling ALS.
  • The Charlestown Bells, an interactive musical sculpture by Paul Matisse, the grandson of French painter Henri Matisse.

The Freewalkers' second annual walking tour of the city ended at the Boston Marathon finish line near Copley Square.  It had been a long, hot and humid day, with finishers raising a glass at Sólás Irish Pub.

As she lives in the Boston vicinity, I was fortunate enough to convince friend and sorority sister, Rachel, from Syracuse University to meet us at Sólás.  It’s been twenty-seven years since we’ve met face to face, but thanks to social media, we have been able to keep up with each other’s lives despite the miles between us.  The reunion was fun, and included hugs all around!

Our group’s adventure ended on Sunday morning after an informative sightseeing tour of Jamaica Plain that included churches, architecture, murals, and a walk through a Latin festival that was just getting started.

I’m already planning my next visit along New England's East Coast Greenway - stay tuned!

Interested in recreating the walk?  Check out the full itinerary HEREpdf.

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