There are stories of heroic feats and mysterious murders, conniving betrayals and action-packed thrillers. And then there are love stories: the sappy tear-jerkers that demand a box of tissues and tub of ice cream at the ready. 

These are unashamedly my favorite.

My love story, like Hugh Grant and Julie Robert’s heart-wrenching romance in “Notting Hill” or Rose and Jack’s fateful voyage on the “Titanic,” was unexpected and full of ups and downs. 

It began on a cool, winter’s day in the woods of Cape Ann. 

While running, or more honestly, slipping on the icy trails of Dogtown, I became disoriented and hopelessly lost among the boulders, hibernating critters and piles of snow.

At the first sight of civilization, I hopped off the rocky path and onto pavement where I meandered lost and lonely for a time.

When I thought all hope lost, I saw my first love: a new trail.  

The bright green conservation sign stood out among the newly fallen snow and a map indicated that this trail was known as Carter Reservation. 

Wow, what a name!

Although modest and unassuming at a first glance, this trail’s array of rocky debris reminds explorers of a history that dates back 10,000 years when the glaciers began to melt. 

Essex County Greenbelt notes that in the mid-1700s, this area — including Dogtown — was the most lively part of the city. But over time, residents made their way closer to the coastline to partake in the fishing industry and left behind homes that decayed with each passing decade. 

The trail works its way over a babbling brook and up a steep hill, plateauing among the white pine where, if you complete the loop, you may be able to look out to Goose Cove Reservoir. 

Although magical in the wonderland of a white winter, the spring mounts hope as Greenbelt’s website explains that the ground is fertile for lady slippers and Canada mayflower — two of my favorites. 

Staying left on Carter Reservation’s trail, I was able to connect to Dogtown Commons and make it back (two hours later due to a few additional wrong turns) to the parked car in Rockport. 

A winter fling, but one I am sure to go back to. 

* This Valentine’s Day, show the love to your favorite trail by following the seven principles created by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics to help minimize impact and preserve both land and sea. 

Plan ahead and prepare.

Travel and camp on durable surfaces.

Dispose of waste properly.

Leave what you find.

Minimize campfire impacts.

Respect wildlife. 

Be considerate of other visitors.

Want to suggest your favorite trail for review? Let staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford know. While carrier pigeon is her preferred mode of communication, she can be reached at 978-675-2705 or tbradford@gloucestertimes.com.

ABOUT CARTER RESERVATION

Trailhead(s): Taking the third rotary exit onto Route 127 going north, drive 2.2 miles and then turn right onto Goose Cove Lane/Dennison Street. Trailhead will be on the right.

Parking is limited to three cars at the end of Dennison Street.

Activities: Birding, dog-walking, hiking, cross-country skiing, and mountain biking.

Distance: 23 acres

COVID-19 status: Open.

Level of difficulty: Medium.

Field notes: There is a sizable hill at the start of this trail. A walking stick is recommended for those who may need a helping hand.

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