Few or Many? Challenges of Group Hikes, Tackling Foxboro State Forest


Jennifer, one of my faithful hiking buddies, at a trail she discovered for us in Millis

Most of my outings are done with one, at most two other people. On these walks we check out a new area, and having few people along makes it easier to work with any surprises we might find along the trail.


Alex, a sweep, Ryan, Ben (the leader) and Ernie, my other sweep, at the end of our hike at Diamond Hill State park

This past week I participated in a couple “group hikes,” led by other groups. Last weekend, the Providence County hiking Club took 15 folks out on the trails at Diamond Hill State Park. An outing of this sort requires having folks who lead (and know where they’re going!) as well as “sweep” roles–a person or people who make sure those at the back don’t get left behind.


Paul points us toward the Bridle Path

The other group hike I participated in is part of an ongoing through December, every Thursday afternoon, 1PM at F. Gilbert Hills (Foxboro State) Forest, 45 Mill Street, Foxboro. This DCR sponsored hike, led by ranger Paul Clifford, stationed at Borderland in Easton, drew over ten people. As in all normal bell curves, there were a few who wanted to walk really fast, many who settled in for an easy stride, and then there was me, at the tail end.


Dale at Foxboro State Forest

Lucky for me, my friend Dale joined the hike, and promised to be “sweep” to make sure I didn’t lose the group. And Paul, the leader, was careful to take numerous rests throughout the 2.75 mile hike, to be sure I was doing all right.


Whimsey along the Bridle Path

The first half of the walk was the most challenging, along the Bridle path, an up and down, somewhat rocky trek. With hiking poles I managed, and probably the hardest aspect of this walk was that it warmed up to about 60 degrees. Before long I was down to my t-shirt, no jacket required.


CCC water hole

About half-way through the hike I noticed that several other folks had slowed down to join Dale and me, so I got acquainted with other people who had joined the walk. We stopped at spots that recalled the work of the CCC at this state forest. While there were no interpretive signs, there were at least signs, indicating that several spots were “water holes” constructed  as small ponds along the track we walked on.


Along Granite Street–not the best spot to park!

We came out onto a paved road that cuts through the forest, Granite Street. Dale noted this is where he often accesses the forest, and that Granite Street itself makes for a very quiet hike, with little traffic. There are only two parking spots at this trail access–an additional spot next to the road looked like a great place to get one’s car or truck stuck.


Catching up with the group, with some cool boulders along the way–this portion of the trail was quite easy walking

Some of my reluctance to participate in group hikes is my concern that I cannot keep up. While I certainly was the last to finish, I also learned that, if group leaders understand some of my limitations, they are (so far!) more than willing to make accommodations to allow me to participate, to learn from others, and enjoy the company of those who enjoy the outdoors.


Surprises along the trail

No, this was not an Easy Walk for me, but it sure was fun!


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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