The first time I visited Ashland State Park, I approached it from the far side of the reservoir. My friend Sandra lives across the street from the reservoir and that day we slid down a steep slope to the dam, and stumbled through poorly kept poorly-marked trails that were steep and rooty and rocky. As we finished our walk, Sandra asked if it felt like we’d taken an Easy Walk.
“NO!” I answered. Although the reservoir is quite lovely, I drew the line at Ashland State Park and did not include it in More Easy Walks in Massachusetts.
But recently I read a post about the state installing some handicapped railings at the swimming area of Ashland State park. It caused me to rethink my initial impression of the park. Perhaps there was more here than I had first thought. I stopped by on a day when I’d run errands in the area. With no walking buddy to travel with me, I still saw enough to make me curious, and made plans to return.
When I picked Sandra up to head over to the Park entrance, she admitted she had never walked to the far side of the reservoir. She’d always stayed on the paths nearest her home. The map showed several paths, but I hoped to find a trail with water views, so we headed to the beach area, and spotted a small bridge leading off into the woods.
If it was too rough, it was too rough, but we wouldn’t know till we tried it.
The first section was pretty rooty and rocky, but remarkably level. Once we got out onto a small peninsula, the walking was quite easy and the views–oh, my.
Sandra was tickled to see the reservoir from such a different perspective.
The farther we walked, the more we realized we could simply keep going for several miles, more than either of us were up to that day. As we retraced our steps, we stumbled across a tree severely chewed by beavers.
We’d seen loads of beaver signs all along the trail. But on this December day when almost all the leaves were gone, this particular oak was doing it’s best to overcome the effects of beaver depredations. And we’d almost missed it.
Sometime first impressions are quite accurate. But there have been times when I’ve discovered that my first impression did not provide a complete picture of who a person was, what a town was like, or what a natural area had in store.
I’ve been grateful to be given second chances more than once in my own life. I was sorry I’d written off Ashland State Park so quickly, and when the next update comes out, More Easy Walks will surely have a section on this sweet trail along the reservoir in Ashland, MA.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress. She is a co-author of the recent community history, Bellingham Now and Then.