Nippenicket August 31st,
Saturday morning arrived overcast with an on again, off again, light drizzle, but by noontime the drizzle had stopped, and the sun was starting to break through the clouds, so we started our journey to "The Nip".
"The Nip", as it is known by locals, is Lake Nippenicket, a 354 acre body of water that is located on the edge of the Hockomock Swamp on the Bridgewater-Raynham line. The Wampanoag Indians had named the swamp as the place where the "Great Spirits Dwell". The Algonquin translation for the word Hockomock means, "Devil". Made popular by the book "Mysterious America" by Loren Coleman, the lake is also located in what has become known as "The Bridgewater Triangle", a phrase coined by Mr. Coleman in the 1970's. If one were to take a map of southeastern Massachusetts and draw a line from Abbington to Rehoboth to Freetown and back to Abbington, you would have a triangle with much of the 5200-acre Hockomock Swamp in the heart of it. Included in the triangle would be Anawan Rock and the Erwin S. Wilder WMA, the subjects of earlier expeditions by me. The triangle to some is a window to the paranormal, the abnormal and the unexplained. From Bigfoot to UFO's to giant birds that the Indian folklore refer to as "Thunderbirds", they have all been sighted one time or another throughout the years within the Bridgewater Triangle with most of the sightings occurring within the Hockomock swamp itself. There are even reports that an ancient Indian burial ground possibly dating back 8000 years lies deep within the swamp on a grassy knoll and that photographs taken of this sacred site could not be developed.
We arrived at "The Nip" at about 12:30pm and proceeded down Elm street until we came upon Chace rd. We followed Chace rd. until the end where a gated dirt road appears. This dirt road was once the entrance to the Black Mallard Sportsmen's Club, an old hunting/fishing club that burned completely to the ground many years ago. The gate fortunately is open, but a sign warns us that it will be locked at dusk. We continue through the gate, down the dirt road for about a 1/3 of mile until we reach a small circular parking area. The dirt road now just a cart path, continues to the north but is blocked to any further vehicle traffic by another gate, this gate is locked. We leave the car and head out on foot. The real journey is about to begin.
The entire western, northern and northeastern shores of the Nip have become part of the Hockomock Swamp Wildlife Management Area. The Massachusetts Wildlife Viewing Guide states that red and grey squirrels, rabbits, red foxes and white-tail deer are some of the many wildlife that makes this area their habitat. Some Bigfoot enthusiasts claim that the woods and swamps at the back end of the lake are the stomping grounds for this big fellow too as some of the locally reported sightings are right in this general area. Our planned hike is to skirt the entire western shore to the back of the lake and then cut through the woods to the old access road off of Hall Street to the power line right-of-way.
After a short walk from the parking area we arrive at the western shore of the lake. From this shoreline you have an excellent view of the lake's largest of its three islands. After admiring the view we move on by following the cart path through the woods which eventually arrives at the most northern peninsula on the lake. After reaching the peninsula we decide to leave the cart path that heads west and take a footpath that travels north through the woods and then crosses between a shrub swamp and the lake. The trail at this point resembles a natural land bridge, as it is very narrow and surrounded by water on both sides. The ground is very damp and muddy but provides us with plenty of areas for examining the various wildlife tracks. The trail then abruptly comes to an end at the northwestern corner of the lake but the view and serenity at this corner of the lake is just incredible. From this vantage point I observe a Great Blue Heron standing along the waters edge, as I try to approach closer to get a better camera shot, this large bird takes to flight over the lake and then eventually disappears over the tree line.
Looking at these pictures of the heron in flight over the lake, I cannot help but see a similarity between them and an article I came across at the Bridgewater Public Library where they keep a collection of clippings and reports concerning some of the strange sightings that have occurred in the Bridgewater Triangle. This particular clipping was in reference to a Thunderbird sighting that took place in the Hockomock swamp in the 1980's. Do you also see the similarity of the eyewitness drawing and my pictures of the heron in flight? Just coincidence?
With no trail to follow from here, other than back, this is where we start our trek to the back of the lake and into the woods. As we beat our way through the brush we come upon a small glade, within this glade we notice this strange structure of fallen trees, just to the left of this structure in the tall grass we find a large bedding area. There are no visible animal prints in this area as the ground is mostly covered in grass. The reason I mention the above findings is that if you have a particular interest in Bigfoot and have visited the many websites on the subject, some researchers claim that tree structures such as above are actually signs of Bigfoot activity. They claim that these structures are used as shelters or possibly even as markers, either direction or boundary. I on the other hand can just as easily explain it away as peculiar windfall and the large bedding area was where a whitetail deer was recently. I'll let the readers come to their own conclusions as I provided it solely for interest value.
As we finally arrive at the back of the lake and head into the woods, I take one last shot of the Nip and we then head in a northerly direction through the woods towards the old access road. The woods consisting of mostly evergreen and oak also have an abundance of hemlock and beech trees. Some of the beech trees had these strange white spores clinging to just one branch so that it gave the appearance of being snow covered. I couldnt find any references to this phenomenon so I'm assuming it was some type of disease that just effects beech trees. We also came upon at least three deer hunter stands, all but one totally destroyed either by old age or by somebody or something. We eventually came across some ATV trails that lead us right out to the access road. The access road was at one time planned as a public road but for whatever reason was never paved and then abandoned completely. Today it resembles an old abandon railroad grade and has been blocked to most vehicles although ATV's and such have no problem using it as a quick access route to the power lines. The amazing thing about this access way is that it cuts right through the swamp so it provides you with an easy access to the interior of the Hockomock swamp which you, without much difficulty, would probably never get too see. Again referring to the Massachusetts Wildlife Viewing Guide, "The swamp harbors spotted and painted turtles and a variety of amphibians, while dry sections of the right-of-way are prime habitat for red-tailed hawks, American kestrels and hog-nosed snakes."
We follow the access road in a northeasterly direction towards the power lines. On both sides of the access road is nothing much but mostly impassable swamp. Today we did not observe any of the wildlife that you can possibly see out here sometimes. Continuing down the access road, just before you reach the power lines, you'll come across the Hockomock River. This beautiful and still mostly wild river joins downstream with the Town River and together they feed Lake Nippenicket with it's supply of water. Early in the year when the water level is high enough you can canoe the Hockomock River, although there are many portages you'll have to make, you can put in at Rte 106 in West Bridgewater and eventually make your way right into the Nip. After sitting near the river and enjoying the scenery awhile we decide to head back. As it is getting to be late afternoon now we decide to take the trails back, no bushwhacking, although we did one more short excursion near the river.
As we left the river and headed back down the access road, on our left side, there was this beautiful sun drenched field that had what appeared to be a well used game trail leading into it. We followed the game trail into the field for a couple hundred yards or so and it led us to the Hockomock River again. We could go no further, although I do not have a picture of this because at the time I thought it was nothing out of the ordinary, but there in the mud was a solitary human footprint. The reason at the time I thought this wasn't anything special and didn't warrant a picture, was the footprint was a least a few days old because it was deteriorating from the rain we just had so the picture would not have been very distinguishable, it also was an inch smaller than my 10 1/2 foot shoe when I put my foot next to it, and lastly because we were so close to the river I thought somebody from a canoe or kayak could have easily made it. Now as recall this, I do wish I had taken the picture that I talked myself out of taking at the time just for another examination. One last discovery made as we were leaving the field was this animal print I found. This print was about 2 1/2 to 3 inches long from the middle toes to the back of the heel pad, too large for a fox. After reviewing some animal tracks I have come to the conclusion that this was probably a Coyote due to the size and presence of claw marks in the print. Felines, such as bobcat and the infamous eastern mountain lion usually walk with their claws retracted but when they are in a quick pursuit of game, they too can leave claw marks with their prints.
From here we return to the access road and follow it back to the ATV trails, which in turn as I suspected, joins the cart path on the western shore of the Nip and return us to the parking area. All and all, it was an interesting trip that I would recommend for people who love the outdoors and would like the possibility of seeing some wildlife in their natural environment.