Estabrook Woods, Punkatasset Hill

Below is a 6-mile walk in Estabrook Woods. I parked at the Punkatasset area on Monument Street, but didn’t climb Punkatasset Hill.

On an earlier visit, I climbed Punkatasset Hill, and saw a possible turtle effigy along the trail:

I marked this turtle on the map above.

Click here for the “official” Estabrook map. Estabrook will interest geology buffs: it has glacial erratics, eskers, drumlins, etc. Both Punkatasset Hill and Hubbard Hill are drumlins.

Punkatasset is about 100 acres, Estabrook is about 700 acres. It’s a rather wild area, and animals like such areas; I saw a fisher, a muskrat, and some sort of black snake. Punkatasset is owned by the town of Concord (more info here). Estabrook is owned by Harvard (more info here).

On the map above, I’ve marked two areas with Indian stones, one in the northeast, one in the northwest. About 1.5 miles separate these two areas. I learned about the northeast piles from a ConcordLibrary oral history project; the speaker was Peter Waksman. Peter thinks there’s a turtle effigy and a crow effigy among the northeast piles.

The northeast piles seem to be enclosed on three sides by stone rows, just like the piles at the Nashoba Brook area. Do the stone rows demarcate a sacred area? These stone rows are partially marked on the AllTrails map of the area. The northeast piles are near a sluggish stream, as the NashobaBrook piles are near a stream. You need to cross the stream to get to the northeast piles, and there’s no bridge.

The northwest piles are mentioned on an Estabrook guide, but they’re ascribed to farmers, not Indians. The Estabrook guide speaks of “33 Rock Piles.”

Thoreau was fond of Estabrook, and visited often. He refers to Estabrook Road (now a dirt trail) as “the old Carlisle Road.” He wrote in his Journal on March 21, 1853, “The earth is uninhabited but fair to inhabit, like the old Carlisle road. Is then the road so rough that it should be neglected? Not only narrow but rough is the way that leadeth to life everlasting.”

On the same day, he also wrote, “As I was rising this crowning road, just beyond the old lime-kiln, there leaked into my open ear the faint peep of a hyla from some far pool... as it were the first faint cry of the new-born year.... All nature rejoices with one joy. If the hyla has revived again, may not I? He is heard the first warm hazy evening.”

Click here for a report that discusses (among other things) an Estabrook site called Curly Pate Hill. This hill is east of Bateman’s Pond, and has exposed bedrock. Thoreau was fascinated by bedrock somewhere in this area:

The rocks in the high open pasture are peculiar and interesting to walk over, for, though presenting broad and flat surfaces, the strata are perpendicular, producing a grained and curled appearance — this rocky crown like a hoary head covered with curly hair — or it is like walking over the edges of the leaves of a vast book. I wonder how these rocks were ever worn even thus smooth by the elements. The strata are remarkably serpentine or waving. It appears as if you were upon the axis of elevation, geologically speaking. I do not remember any other pasture in Concord where the rocks are so remarkable for this.(Journal, Oct. 5, 1851)

Thoreau describes the spot as, “the high open land between Bateman’s Pond and the lime kiln.” A geologist might describe curled strata as “folding” caused by the collision of tectonic plates.

Thoreau found “rows of Indian corn hills” on Curly Pate Hill. Were these really “corn hills”? I would think corn hills would vanish within ten years — long before Thoreau saw them. Perhaps Thoreau saw Indian mounds, like the ones I saw at Maudslay Park.

The AllTrails map of Estabrook shows Curly Pate Hill east of Bateman’s Pond, but it’s east of the pond’s northern edge. Thoreau says that his “serpentine” rock is between Bateman’s Pond and the Lime Kiln, i.e., about 1/4 mile south of Curly Pate Hill. On the other hand, Thoreau’s description of the rock seems to match the term “Curly Pate,” so perhaps Thoreau’s serpentine rock is Curly Pate Hill. There seem to be private houses 1/4 mile south of Curly Pate Hill, so the area might be difficult to explore.

I looked for Curly Pate Hill is February 2023, but didn’t find it. The spot labeled “Curly Pate Hill” on AllTrails isn’t a hill. Much of the rock in the area seems to be gneiss.

I also failed to find the Boulder Field. The official map and the “other map” disagree about where the Boulder Field is; I’ve followed both maps, and can’t find it in either place. There are a few small boulders, but nothing worth mentioning.

More on Indian stones
Solstice Stones, Boxborough MA
Great Brook, Carlisle MA
Beebe Woods, Falmouth MA
Maudslay State Park, Newburyport MA
Standing Stones, Smithfield RI
Queen’s Fort, Exeter RI