Out of Home Range: Nature and Frenchy Food in Worcester County

Purgatory Chasm State Reservation

As alluded to, and directly stated, in this Sunday’s Gratitude post, the Owl and family did some exploring recently in close-by but frequently overlooked (well, always overlooked) Upton and Northbridge, MA. Where? What? How do we come up with such things? It boggles the mind.

Owlets on a boardwalk, Purgatory Chasm

Purgatory Chasm State Reservation for Fall Color and Hiking

I’m also going to include last year’s visit to Purgatory Chasm State Reservation in Sutton, MA because honestly, nothing changes in a year. Oh wait, some things have changed. Last year at this time, the Owlets had to wear masks in the state park (me too, I suppose but no photos of me exist) and the bathrooms were closed at the park. If you have not been to “The Chasm”, it’s time to get in the car. You’re a MA resident! It’s only $5 to park and the rocky jumble is worth four times that (yes, non-MA pays $20 to park). Do you want me to run through the math again?

Yes, that’s an Owlet like a tiny carbuncle on a huge rock. Purgatory Chasm

This small park is fun for all ages, though the Chasm Trail will be too difficult for those with mobility challenges. It takes about 40 minutes to get there from the northside of Weston, and if you combine it with some other fun outline below, you have an amazing fall day with FOOD. The highlight of the place is the Chasm Trail, about a quarter-mile long (it is one way–dogs must be leashed and spry — t’aint an easy trail). There are 70-foot tall jumbles of rocks and stones with plenty of parkour options for your kids. The loop trail took us to 1.3 miles but there are various add-ons if you like the woods. There are nice little picnic areas, but I say, get only a snack because you need to get to Maison de Manger. More info on Purgatory Chasm here:  https://www.mass.gov/…/purgatory-chasm-state-reservation

Maison de Manger – Whitinsville district, Northbridge

When the Owls get hungry, we get busy on Trip Advisor. This one came up as less than 10 minutes away from both Purgatory Chasm and Lookout Rock (below). I give full credit to Mr. Owl for finding this one. When he first said that there was a place with French food nearby, I was like…whaaaaaat? We just hiked, give me some fries. But we were convinced by crepes and baked goods and the idea of a place in a converted mill. Also, let’s be real — we saw a little sign that Purgatory Brewing also had a small location in the mill area. Will travel for microbrews. Maison de Manger – or House of Eats – is BYOB, and not only is Purgatory there, but they share space and an accessible entrance, with a liquor store. What could possibly go wrong?

The Maison has a menu on Saturdays (closed Sundays and Mondays) that goes on and on and on. Three chalkboards full of options–many of them crepes, some French meat pie, the evil poutine (I will never understand it, never) and on Saturdays you can get shakshuka which is a North African eggs on the stove with different sauces dish. Yeah, that was a terrible definition–try here. We had crepes and a meat pie and a shrimp cake and pumpkin soup and we have growing teenagers, okay? Yes, we brought in some Purgatory beer, because Saturday… there’s a nice little shopping experience there and the owner could not be nicer. Definitely worth a brunch stop.

Maison de Manger, 670 Linwood Avenue, Whitinsville (Northbridge). Their website seems to be having issues, so you can find them on their facebook page.

Lookout Rock, Upton

If you’ve eaten too much of a jumble berry crepe, you’ll next be looking for a hike with an autumn-tinged view. You’ll have to overlook the graffitied rocks at the Lookout, but that’s why it’s called a “Look Out”, not a “Look Down.” With an Owlet and Mr. Owl with injuries, we needed an easy up hike, and we found one from the Canal State Park in Upton. You can follow our trail here: https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/massachusetts/rice-pond-to-lookout-rock. There is plentiful free parking, a chin-up bar between two trees, and Katie Puppy, K9 ranger, was allowed to come, albeit on leash.

This metal bar has grown into the two trees. Why was it put there? Dunno.

A short wooded 1.3-mile trail (not extremely well-marked–use the trail map on your phone) leads you to a giant frog. I do not know why there is a frog at the top, as well as other graffiti. A bit of a bummer for this nature lover but if you sit your bum down on the rocks and look out, the view is gorgeous for very little work…a river runs through it and the fall colors are at the ready.

And there you have it–new adventures, food and nature in Worcester County. And frogs. Get exploring!

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