Overland Expo to TBEX: Adams National Historical Park

Even though our entrance to Wompatuck State Park was not easy, we were ready to use our camp as home base to explore the Boston area for a few days. At dinner the previous night, we decided on one day in Quincy, a day in Boston, and one around Wompatuck. In spite of being very displeased with the campground at Wompatuck, the park did have a lot of interesting programs to offer as well as some promising geocaching so we wanted to make sure we worked in a day to enjoy the park itself in addition to the surrounding areas.

Fred, George, and John.

Adams National Historical Park…

For our first full day of exploring in Massachusetts, we headed to Quincy and the Adams Historical National Park visitor center. The weather was still drippy and damp and we were moving slowly so it was approaching mid-day before we arrived.

Yes, it was raining on us again. Still? I’m not sure if I can say it ever truly stopped. Just lulls that seemed so much better than torrents.

We began by browsing the visitor center and taking the time to watch the movie provided by the park service. George is not a history buff but these are the kinds of situations where Fred gets really connects with history. He was completely absorbed in the movie, Enduring Legacy: Four Generations of the Adams Family, and was thoroughly inspired to head out to see the historic sites, especially the Stone Library.

The proper way to do this is to join the NPS tour of the sites which involves a trolley ride beginning at the visitor center. The tour stops at the Old House, the Birthplaces, and returns to the visitor center and takes about 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The glitch for us was that it would take us through lunchtime and the rules of the tour didn’t allow us to bring backpacks or food. Clearly that wasn’t going to work so we hacked our own tour.

I decided we’d drive ourselves to each tour stop so I could feed us en route and stave off the “hangries” but still get on the next tour. There were plenty of other things to see in do in Quincy to pass the time until the next tour but they all involved walking. In the pouring rain (yes, it had started again…), none of it was appealing.

But on the way back to the car we got side-tracked…

United First Parish Church…

So walking back towards the parking deck where we’d stowed Blubaru, we passed the United First Parish Church. In my quick research of what to see in Quincy, I’d missed this stop but the sign out front announcing it as holding the Adams’ family tombs caught my eye so we dragged our soggy selves in the front door. The kind hostess was offering tours. Far be it from me to turn down an unexpected adventure.

Sitting in JQA’s spot. They boys were pretty impressed to know they sat in the very spot a president had.

It was well worth the stop. The church itself is richly steeped in history and the tour was fascinating. A lot happened in this place and it was impossible not to imagine what it must have been like to be present in that time. Knowing the powerful and dynamic historical figures that walked, sat, and spoke in that same space is humbling.

The tombs are displayed with the U.S. flags representing the time of each Adams’ presidency so the tour even managed to catch George’s attention and bring out his inner-geography nerd. Being able to handily answer the tour guide’s questions about the flags stars and stripes was a big boost to his involvement in the tour. And to be in the presence of two intriguing presidents and their impressive wives is both sobering and empowering.

The church was an excellent accidental find on our part but I highly recommend it, especially if you’re looking for a way to fill time while waiting for the trolley tour. The tour guides were friendly and knowledgable and the tour took only about a half an hour.

Of course, stopping here meant we missed the tour of the Birthplace. It wasn’t a huge deal since what Fred really wanted to see was Peace field and the Stone Library. After a walk in the rain to get back to the car, I quickly pulled some food out of the cooler for us to eat on the way. I make that sound easy and care-free but it was really more like grabbing what food was easiest to get to and chucking it unceremoniously over the back seat at the boys.

Fred very much took the Adams’ stories to heart. It’s that kind of impact that makes all of the travel difficulties worthwhile.
JQA and Louisa’s tombs. Both remarkable people in their own rights.
Fred and George at the United First Parish Church. Yes, they’re smiling in spite of the rain. They really did enjoy the tour.
The Adams’ were not the only ones to leave their mark in Quincy. The Hancock cemetery tells the tale of so many others.

Peace field…

Once at Peace field, we had a little time to explore the gardens and carriage house before the tour caught up with us. The grounds are a feast of textures, colors, and plants. Under different circumstances, I could have spent hours photographing the nuances of this place. But in the pouring rain, I didn’t bother to pull out the big camera. I knew I wouldn’t be allowed to take pictures inside the buildings anyway so I stuck with my iPhone to grab a few shots of the grounds.

Fred and George waiting on the porch of the Old House for the tour to start. Yes, they look drenched. They were.

Having had some training in interpretation, I always appreciate a well-done, ranger-led tour and our guide for Peace field was stellar. I thoroughly enjoyed what she shared with us in terms of balancing the larger events and smaller details of life at Peace field. I so wish I could share some of the stunning portraits, period furniture, and details of the home itself but in order to protect the collection, the park service no longer allows photography.

The historic artifacts stored here really are incredible and well-worth the effort to visit. It’s an amazing peak into not only life at the time, but also the lives of our early leaders.

Some Camp Granola tips for touring the Adams National Historical Park:

  • As “indy” as I am when it comes to travel, in this case, the trolley tour is really the way to go. It will save you the hassle of navigating the streets of Quincy and finding parking. Just plan ahead unlike I did…
  • Be sure to check out the movie at the visitor center. It’s a well-spent 27 minutes.
  • Allow time to visit the United First Parish Church next door to the Visitor Center and Hancock Cemetery across the street to get larger view of the history of Quincy.
George exploring the mock continental congress room in the carriage house at Peace field.
The gardens and Old House at Peace field. Worth exploring, even in the rain. In fact, it was possibly more beautiful for the peacefulness and quiet we had for lack of other visitors.
The Stone Library at Peace field. Beautiful building and a stunning collection of books. The details are exquisite.


It wouldn’t be the Overland Expo to TBEX trip if our plans didn’t go sideways, would it?

After our time at Peace field we headed back towards camp. We were soggy from yet another day in the rain and we wanted to have our dinner and curl up in the dry tent. Alas, we hit rush hour so getting back to Wompatuck State Park took a very long time.

When we finally arrived, the boys crawled into the tent to get dry and warm while I considered our dinner options under the circumstances. It was about this time that reports of severe storms for the area were coming in. We’ve been through some hefty storms in tents before but I didn’t yet have confidence in our newest shelter and our camp site was far from ideal to handle the runoff. So it’s safe to say the weather was concerning me a bit. Ok, a lot.

We did manage one geocache at an abandoned military bunker in our unexpectedly short visit at Wompatuck State Park.

Then a friend from high school who lives in the area and knew where we were, began messaging with offers of staying at her place. Very tempting… the problem is that she was a good bit further south, down in Falmouth. I faced another difficult decision point. I looked at the drowned rats that were formerly my sons and decided to get out of Wompatuck. We’d just go to Wendy’s and see what happened from there.

The boys have never been so motivated to get camp packed. In no time we had our gear back in the car in “wet” mode… which is a completely different packing method than in fairer weather. And so, we unexpectedly made our way south to Falmouth.

Somewhere along the way we stopped for dinner. I wanted something hot, comforting, and New England-y so we popped into a seafood joint. It was very yummy but took forever so by the time we finally got to Falmouth, the kids were ready to pass out. Which they did.

And now for your moment of green…

Beauty in the rain at Peace field.