Summer is not my favorite time of year. For one thing, it’s hot! For another thing, it’s hot! Have you noticed that the heat of summer is not my favorite thing? Regardless, summer is also a time when it’s really nice to get outside. So we try to head out early. A few days ago we packed up our tandem bike and headed to Douglas, Massachusetts, which has a number of miles of open trail along the SNETT, still a proposed, mostly undeveloped railtrail. We had walked on a section near the Douglas section that was quite open, easy walking, but I really hadn’t seen much of the section of trail in Douglas. And so we went.
Just down the street from the downtown in Douglas is a large parking area on Depot Street that fronts onto the trail. Large enough for numerous horse trailers to park, this parking area and the miles of adjacent trail makes this a popular destination for local horse riding groups. We parked, headed west and rode all the way to Rt. 96 where there is another large parking area along the SNETT.
The grade, or road crossings on this area of the SNETT are in pretty tough shape–erosion, gates that are tight to fit through with our tandem, and some loose, sandy in spots in the trail. But once you navigate the road crossings the trail itself is in pretty good shape. West of Depot Street the trail was well-shaded. which was much appreciated. We stayed pretty cool along the way. Clearly the trees had leafed back out after the gypsy moth infestation of early summer.
This was surprising, considering the masses of gypsy moth eggs we spotted on the tree trunks as we pedaled by. Some trees were so heavily covered with egg masses it was difficult to see the tree bark! Here’s a job for an industrious Boy or Girl scout troop (or two or three!)
Heading back east, we passed the Depot Street parking and headed farther east toward Uxbridge. Here the trees thinned out, much affected by the gypsy moth predations. But we also found extensive clear-cutting near the edges of the trail. Yes, this will eventually benefit browsing animal populations that need the forest opened up to allow undergrowth to grow back. and it did give us a better view of the rolling landscape on either side of the trail. And still… clear-cutting lends itself to erosion. We’ll see how this landscape fairs in the coming years.
The heat finally caught up with us so we headed back. We didn’t go nearly as far on this unpaved trail as we might have had the trail been well-packed stone dust or pavement. But we enjoyed a 2 hour ride and now have better information about what the condition of this portion of the SNETT is like.
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.