Each time I put together yet another Easy Walks book, this time for the towns that host the Ten Mile River watershed, Easy Walks and Paddles in the TenMile River Watershed, I try to work with local folks to make sure the trails that will be included in the book are well marked. This usually requires walking the trails, and seeing for myself what the trails are like.
In many instances I have been able to provide helpful feedback to locals who oversee the trails–often conservation commision or open space committee members. I let them know when, if I lacked their guidance, I might have a hard time navigating their trail system. Other times there simply are no trail markings, and the upcoming publication deadline has offered a needed incentive to nudge these local folks to get some markings on the trail. I am quite reluctant to include unmarked or poorly marked trails in these guides. It’s a responsibility I feel strongly about, that if I suggest the reader visit a trail, they will not only have a good and safe time, but that they will not get terribly lost and need to call for help.
I had heard about a trail behind the town hall in Plainville, but had also heard that it was unmarked. After consulting with the Plainville Conservation agent, Christ Yarworth, we agreed that we could get a group of folks together to walk the trail with Chris and mark the trail.
The morning arrived for our walk, an overcast, somewhat cool day. We gathered near the pond that is right behind the town hall building and headed toward the back of the soccer field at Telford Park. There we crossed as small but sturdy bridge, and traveled out to a portion of old railbed.
We carried hammers, nails, and bright orange plastic squares I’d brought, made from plastic file folders purchased cheaply at a local discount store. We created about ten markers per folder, a very inexpensive way of marking the trail. From time spent with Al Sanborn, a seasoned trail maintenance guy, I’d learned that the markers should not be nailed flush to the side of the tree. We left some space between the marker and the tree trunk, allowing the tree to grow without quickly cracking the marker.
Chris was the tallest among us, so he got installation duty for many of the markers, but Carol and Mary were also ready to grab a hammer and get the orange markers installed. My job was supervisory, walking behind, looking for places where there might be confusion about where the main trail went, and pointing out optimal trees on which to place the trail markers.
Some choices of location for markers were easy, but other spots offered poor options (scrubby underbrush, or skinny birch trees). We kept an eye out for poison ivy vines snaking their way up trees we might have chosen, working together to make the best choices we could.
The leaves are falling, and I wonder if some markers will be less visible once the leaves fill out in the spring. But we had very local folks along on this trip, who are invested in making this a more usable trail. They plan to walk the trail again soon, reviewing where the markers are, and adding additional ones in places they think might need them.
While some of us marked the trail, others carried plastic bags to help clean up trash along the trail. These folks followed behind us as they grabbed plastic cups, water bottles, extension cords! and other stuff, placing as much as they could into trash bags. We worried about them being able to figure out where we were, but realized we were leaving bright orange “breadcrumbs” along the trail. Pretty soon, they came along, assuring us they’d had no problem following us.
The trash detail soon found the quantity of trash along the trail was more than they could carry out. I heard talk of a spring cleanup day, and feel sure this walk was a nudge in the direction of getting folks out for some serious cleaning along the trail.
This was a learning experience for all of us, and what I was most pleased about were the friendships I saw being created as we walked, and the smiles, laughter, and good humor amongst the entire group.
Since we were quite near the headwaters of the Ten Mile River, throughout the walk we kept encountering small ponds, and glimpses of the river heading downstream.
To make a loop trail we had a short distance of road walking, but even here, a large pond was right across the street, offering more nice views along the trail.
Marking where the trail continued off the road was tricky, and could benefit from some signs with arrows, but for now, the trail has much more in the way of guidance than it ever did before.
I’m looking forward to visiting this path again.
There are spots where the trail was wet, and it may be pretty challenging in the springtime, but it’s going into the book, for sure!
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.