After decades of living in the city, I thought I had visited most of the hidden prizes in some of our city's neighborhoods. Come to find out, I was wrong. And it took the lure of catching a glimpse of some owls to introduce me to the wonder that is the Hawk Valley Farm at 526 Varnum Avenue, nestled between Varnum Avenue and Pawtucket Boulevard over in the Pawtucketville neighborhood (in the woods behind the soccer fields.)
Thanks to Jane Calvin and Katie Durkin from the Lowell Parks and Conversation Trust, I joined about 40 other interested bird-watchers Friday night to go exploring the snow-covered trails of the farm, the entrance of which lies off Varnum Terrace, from the Varnum Avenue side. The second oldest home in the city stands at the entrance to the trails.
Chris and Brianne Lemay were there, with all four of their daughters in tow. Some of them, though, figured out the easiest way to traverse the trails would be riding on Andrew's shoulders.
Some history: Hawk Valley Farm has been owned by the Varnum family since 1664, when English immigrant Samuel Varnum bought 1,000 acres of Pawtucketville real estate. He and his sons grew crops and kept livestock on the land, while living on the Highlands side of the river in a small garrison to protect them from conflicts with Native Americans. (Two of Varnum's sons would end up being killed in those conflicts.)
355 years later, five acres of the land still remain untouched and undeveloped, and will continue to be so, thanks to the Parks and Conversation Trust. Hawk Valley Farm became the conservation trust's first Conservation Restriction, which ensures perpetual protection so that future generations can explore the history of the area.
For more than a decade, the Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust has worked with the Pawtucketville Citizens Council to protect the farm. The Farm contains prime agricultural soil, unique nut trees, and wildlife habits.
On this particular night, the intrepid group of explorers went looking for some of our winged friends.
Daredevil's nemesis the Owl wasn't there
but the trust brought an ornithology expert along, who brought her own friend.
Couldn't catch it with a pic, but on the site remains a cabin foundation wall and old farm from the original homestead, centuries ago.
Sadly, while this night provided some haunting and moody skies complete with rapidly shifting clouds and breezes, the owls were apparently in hiding.
We did, however, come across a bevy of coyote tracks, which led off into some of the other trails.
For more information about future Owl Prowls, pay a visit to the trust's website at www.lowelllandtrust.org or give them a call at 978-934-0030.
Me, I'm going to keep looking for new surprises in the Mill City. And of course, I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for this guy:
ALTHOUGH, as anyone who knows me is aware, I'm big Twin Peaks fan. And therefore, can never forget this:
Oh, and one last thing - going back to our opening picture, I went in search of an official answer out there as to how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.
Hint: it ain't a-three.
According to Purdue University, it's 252.
The University of Michigan said it's 411.
I guess it's true.
The world may never know.