To Loop, or Not to Loop?

View from North Street, Upton, MA

View from North Street, Upton, MA

The Whitney property, on North Street in Upton, was our destination today. My walking partners, Bill and Marcella, are friends who are dedicated volunteers, who help care for their local conservation properties, and work to visualize where to place trails for better access. Marcella is passionate about lots of things, and wonderfully funny. On another walk we shared Marcella brought along a “just about to hatch” chick, safely tucked inside her shirt, and about half-way through the walk the chick entered the world, much to Marcellla’s delight.

Marcella and her "just hatched" chick

Marcella and her “just hatched” chick

I bring my “Easy Walks” sensibilities along on our walks, judging how a trail “works” for me, and talking about ways the trail markings might be tweaked to make them easier to follow. But much of our time is spent simply enjoying the stone walls that litter the landscape in New England.

Trailhead for Whitney property

Trailhead for Whitney property

Walking this trail gave me a chance to see if it would be a destination I’d include in a future update of Easy Walks, which will include trails in Upton as well as several other towns. Marcella and Bill wondered if the trail was too steep to qualify as an Easy Walk, but as we ambled along, I found it was manageable, and the footing was pretty solid.

New trail markers--note they are loosely nailed, not tight to the trunk

New trail markers–note they are loosely nailed, not tight to the trunk

Once we got away from the road into a piney wood at the base of a drumlin, we came to a fork in the trail. The trail markings recently installed helped make it clear that there were two directions we could choose to go. But as we walked on the left fork, we came to a spot where we needed to turn around. The trail had become much steeper and the footing was uncertain as it continued up the hill. Not what I would suggest for Easy Walkers.

As we paused, ready to head back, we studied the woodland, and talked of the benefits of creating a smaller loop trail.

Yes, there is a large loop trail if one continues up the drumlin and back around, but an easier loop would be nice. Marcella and I mused about the virtues of loop trails vs. trails that go straight out, requiring one to return on the same path.

There is something quite satisfying about walking a loop, returning to where you started–the comfort of a completed circle. But Marcella and I both agreed that we often gain a completely different perspective when returning to the trailhead along the same path we’ve already traveled on.

“I always notice such different things when I head back on the same path,” Marcella mused. Exactly. How could I have missed those mushrooms the first time I walked by? The light looks so different on those rocks now.

Ferns along a stone wall in the woods

Ferns along a stone wall in the woods

Such an interesting fern growing on the edge of that stone wall. Could this be the same path? It looks so different.

And how many of us have ever tried following a trail backwards,

View of farm field, along the trail in the very early morning light

View of farm field, along the trail in the very early morning light

only to wonder which fork to take when we reach a junction? Seen from another direction, one’s perspective is quite different. Almost like putting ourselves in another’s shoes…

Marjorie Turner Hollman

Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionMore Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionEasy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Reclaiming hope in a world turned upside down.

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