The extinct village of Dogtown and its surrounding Dogtown Common lies between Gloucester and Rockport, MA. It has for the past several years given me refuge from the packed summer beaches on Cape Ann. My wife’s family has long vacationed on Long Beach, where they enjoy days reading in the sun and listening to the screams of children and gulls. I went for a couple of summers unaware that Dogtown existed, an ignorance common among summer visitors. Then in 2008, I visited a bookstore, and there was the Dogtown Common Trail Map published by the Dogtown Advisory Committee! Three thousand acres of forest packed with trails in the middle of Cape Ann, only minutes from the beaches!
Since then I’ve walked all of Dogtown’s major trails, some several times, commonly in July and August. I’ve learned that the Dogtown Common Trail Map (hereinafter referred to as the “Map”) is a perfectly adequate guide to getting around without getting lost too badly.You will need it to most effectively use this ecological guide to walks. The Map is available at Cape Ann bookstores. A sketch map covering the described walks is attached to this document.
Mark Carlotto’s The Dogtown Guide (Self-published, 2007) supplements the Map well, with text about the trails and comment on the area’s history. Elyssa East’s Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town (Free Press, 2009) presents a detailed history of Dogtown from its settlement in the 1600’s to the present. And Thomas Dresser’s Dogtown: A Village Lost in Time (Self-published, 2008) reviews history with emphasis on early inhabitants; it describes some of the trails.The Wilds of Cape Ann by Eleanor Pope (Massachusetts Audubon Society and Essex County Ecology Center Inc. 1981) describes Dogtown as it was 30 years ago.
My contribution is an ecological supplement to these useful publications. Further, it deals mostly with plants; they are my main ecological interest. All the major animals of the northeastern coast are present in Dogtown Common. But unlike plants, they tend to run around and probably won’t be at fixed observation points on the walks while you are there. Another publication must deal with the Dogtown animals.
I have no intention of increasing traffic in Dogtown Common through the guide’s publication. I’ve met few to no people on walks to date, and I consider it a refuge from the summer hoards. However, I hope the guide will be useful to those hill walkers who do discover the area.