My preference is to take easy walks, walks where I can relax, look around, spot birds, notice cool fungi or other interesting things along the trail. But I also enjoy seeing new places. We never know before we go whether we’re going to have an “Easy Walk” or whether we’ll encounter a place with more challenging footing. You see, I don’t head out to these new places on my own. On weekends my husband and I enjoy finding new places to explore. But these new places often come with uncertainty about the terrain. And that’s where the partnership I enjoy with my husband is so valuable to me. He stays behind the scenes, but in fact, he provides a lot of guidance, support, and assistance to get me over rocky places, or simply offer a stable arm when the trail gets too rough. Little, if any of this shows in the posts I share with others. That’s his choice. But this past weekend I was impressed anew at how much I appreciate his help when exploring new places.
We studied several pamphlets we’d gathered of the past months, and decided to head out for Fitchburg, MA. Besides our chosen destination, Flat Rock conservation area (sounds promising–easy walk–yes? Well, eventually…) he also wanted to see if we could find Rollstone Hill, a place he’d heard of for years but had never found.
We found Rollstone Road easily enough, right in the midst of residential Fitchburg. Eventually, poking around we found a spot that seemed like it might be what we were looking for. We sent him off scouting while I stayed in the car. He found the overlook, got a nice picture of the view, but then affirmed, “it is not an easy walk.” In fact, he said the footing was pretty crumbly, not really safe. One more place I would enjoy through his pictures.
We headed for Flat Rock, the Audubon property, but had difficulty finding it. Turns out the address was supposed to be Ashburnham Hill Road, but the pamphlet sent us to Ashburnham road. I’ll have to mention this to the Mass Audubon folks…
In our wanderings, we stumbled across a small ‘pocket park’ along the Nashua River. We’d been doing a lot of driving, so it felt good to stretch our legs along a paved section of walkway right next to the river.
By this time we were hungry, and found SS Lobster 691 River Street, where we had the tastiest scallops, and a warm lobster roll. Yum!
Back on the road, we finally found Flat Rock, looked over our map and headed out. It quickly became apparent that this was NOT an easy Walk. Rocks and roots were covered in a thick layer of leaves on this relatively steep climb up to the flat rock area. My hiking poles were helpful, but I was unable to anticipate stepping on the edge of rocks and continually slipped and slid along the trail.
We eventually found our way to the top of the incline, where there was, indeed, lots of bare granite. We’d seen trails like this in Acadia–there was a similar feeling to walking those trails, lots of moss, loads of mountain laurel–this will be a gorgeous place to visit next June.
We decided to find a different way out from the area we were in, so we headed out toward a town road. Stone walls lined both sides of the trail, an easy clue that this had been a highway of sorts in days gone by. In fact, there were several “roads” in the area that appeared to be well-traveled in days gone by, now paved in sections, but are otherwise now simple foot paths.
We came out to the road, where I waited while my more energetic husband went to fetch our car.
My right foot was pretty done with hiking, but we had some daylight left, so we poked around some more to see if we could find some easier ways into the property we’d just visited. We came across Crocker Conservation area just as the sun was going down, which abuts the Flat Rock property.
These trails look a lot more promising, at least for my purposes. Whether they will be Easy Walks still waits to be seen. I’ll simply have to get out and walk them to find out for sure. But with my husband, who loves the outdoors as much, probably more, than I do.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, Easy 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.