Hiking the blues; Soapstone quarry hike revisits history within Harold Parker State Forest

File photoJane Cairns addresses 15 hikers in front of the foundation of the old Jenkins mill, where the once abundant blue soapstone, a soft, greasy-feeling rock from the nearby quarry, was actually worked into tombstones, building faces and other small items. 

A new seasons of hikes and more has kicked into gear at Harold Parker State Forest in Andover. Here is what’s planned for the remainder of this month:

War and Peace: Soapstone Quarry Hike: Saturday, May 23, 3 to 5 p.m. Harold Parker celebrates Preservation Month with a moderately difficult, 1-mile hike for all ages to the Blue Soapstone Quarry. Run by the Jenkins family in the mid-1800s, the quarry remains one of the few blue soapstone sites in Massachusetts and home to one of the softest quarried stones in existence.

The quarry is adjacent to the former Jenkins mill, where the stone was actually worked using saw blades. Remains of a finishing shed and some finished stones are visible, as well as the face of the quarry and the contact point with the granite bedrock. A glacial erratic left by the Wisconsin Ice Sheet can also be seen along the walk. Participants should meet at the Berry Pond on Middleton Road.

Hikin’ Kids: Thursdays, May 21 and 28, 10 to 11 a.m. The basic introduction to the forest includes a short hike to acclimate children at the pre-kindergarten level to the outdoors.

Vernal Pool Walks: Fridays, May 22 and 29, 10:30 a.m. to noon. All ages are invited to explore Harold Parker’s 56 certified vernal ponds, find out how important they are and get to know the creatures that depend on them.

Animal Tracking: Tuesday, May 26, 2 to 3 p.m. Bring the family and learn about animal tracking. The program will offer a glimpse of the process and a chance to do some animal tracking; all ages are welcome.

We Walk the Woods: Wednesdays, 10 a.m. to noon. Join the park interpreter for a slow-paced walk through the forest while enjoying nature at its finest. The 12-week series explores a different part of the forest each week. The outing is appropriate for children ages 6 and up.

Explore the Pond: Saturday, May 30, 2 to 3:30 p.m. Discover what lives in tranquil New England ponds in a program for all ages; children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.

The free programs are open to the public. Unless otherwise noted, they start from the Nature Center in the campground, located at 133 Jenkins Road, Andover. 

Bring water and, if desired, binoculars and a camera, and use sunscreen and bug spray, dress in layers and wear good footwear. An adult must accompany children. Rain cancels the programs. 

For more information, call 978-475-7972 or visit www.mass.gov/dcr/parks/northeast/harp.htm

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