ANDOVER — It’s a long way to Journey’s End.
But in the end, it’s worth it.
Goldsmith Reservation off Route 28 in the southern part of Andover is 170 acres of rolling woodlands traversed by a network of trails maintained by the Andover Village Improvement Society, or AVIS.
Starting at the parking lot off Route 28, just south of the Gould/County Road intersection, it takes about a half-hour to hike in to Journey’s End, located on a peninsula jutting out into Foster’s Pond.
The trail is wide and well-marked, and mostly easy to hike, as much of it is covered with a carpeting of pine needles.
During one recent, late-summer morning walk, the sound of Route 28 quickly faded in the dense mix of hardwood and pine trees. The only sounds were from a few birds, the occasional chipmunk, and a distant chainsaw. At one point, the piercing cry of a hawk could be heard overhead. Otherwise, it’s a great way to get some peace and quiet.
The woodlands were owned by the Goldsmith family going back into the 1830s, according to the AVIS guidebook.
Even Bessie Goldsmith, daughter of William Gleason Goldsmith, lived on the property, occupying a cabin overlooking the pond. The site is now known as Bessie’s Point and can be easily found by following the AVIS map. A hike to her old site is easy, probably about 15 or 20 minutes each way from the parking lot and offering nice views of a portion of Foster’s Pond.
Story has it that Bessie was very protective of her property. When she saw trespassers, she’d pull out her shotgun. If someone was on the land picking blueberries without her permission, she’d demand they hand over their bucket.
In the end, though, Bessie Goldsmith turned out to be very generous with the property she inherited from her father and oversaw for much of the 20th Century, when she turned the property over to a Boston-based conservation group which in turn handed management of the land over to AVIS.
Joined recently by AVIS members and activists Al French, Fred Snell, John Hess and Mike Timko, we took the main trail from the parking lot and hooked up with another marked ‘Pine Trail,’ passing by ‘Zack’s Way,’ which turns left off the main trail, and is named for a former caretaker of the property. Also in the Woodlands are Zak’s Hop Pit and Zack’s House, which are little more than overgrown depressions now. The Pine Trail is aptly named for the needles that make for soft footing on the trail, which curves around toward Bessy’s Point, or Bessie’s Point, depending on which sign you’re viewing. The red pines that mark this area were planted by the Goldsmiths years ago and are good-sized now.
The trail rises slightly to a small bluff overlooking Foster’s Pond. It was here that Bessie had her cabin, one of many that were once located on the property and rented for years to city dwellers who would come out to the reservation in the summer, taking the train from Boston and then a buggy to their oases in the woods.
According to French, the wives would come with their children and stay all summer while the husbands stayed in the city working, heading to Andover on the weekends. This went on for years during the Goldsmith era, when the property was owned by Bessie’s father, the former principal of the Punchard Free School, first president of the Andover Village Improvement Society and a teacher at Phillips Academy.
The hike to Journey’s End, meanwhile, takes about a half-hour, depending on how fast you go and how many stops you make. For a good workout, use what’s called “New Trail,” which hikers say is much hillier than the main trail.
But even Zak’s Way provides an arduous walk, as it is somewhat hilly. Nearing Journey’s End, it rises up on top of a ridge with thick woods on one side and open marsh on the other.
Dropping down to the end of the trail, a bench and an expansive view of the lake beckons hikers to stop and take it all in. Anyone who makes it that far should be sure to take the boardwalk. This trail was constructed by Boy Scouts and crosses over Foster’s Pond itself, linking a series of islands and marshy areas back to the main trail. Again, the views are great and it’s a good place to look for birds, including egrets, herons and ducks.
If you go:
Where: Goldsmith Woodlands, Andover. Located off Route 28 near its intersection with Route 125.
Parking: Room for a half-dozen or so cars.
Difficulty: Moderate. It gets p hilly in places. Wear sturdy shoes, as the trail is rocky in places.