Looking for dry footing–Great Woods Conservation area, Mansfield


Beech trees glowing in fall’s low light

The sky was bright blue, but the footing underneath us was mud. It has rained the night before and we ended up in Mansfield and were looking for a place to get out an stretch our legs. After floundering about some on a very wet trail, we headed back to the trailhead and looked again at the map at Great Woods Conservation area.


Open field, with stone wall, just one of many walls we encountered on this property

The wide open field looked promising, and offered some warmth on this brisk fall day. We found a wide, flat cart path through the woods that appeared to offer drier footing. Even so, on either side of the trail was standing water.


Remnants of skunk cabbage, touched by hard freeze

We spotted some frozen skunk cabbage. If we hadn’t known better, we might have thought the shoots sticking up from the water were signs of spring. But the golden leaves on the trail of the beeches said no, it was fall, and colder weather was on the way.


Map at parking area (for about 10 cars) on Oak Street in Mansfield

I saw noted on the map a boardwalk, so that’s where we headed. I pictured a wide boardwalk with railings.


Milk weed pods at edge of open field

After crossing several open pastures, with milkweed pods standing on the edge of the field, we found the boardwalk.


Yup, it’s a board-walk, but no railings, which made me kind of nervous on a cool day when I was not willing to get wet

Yup, boards, for sure, and just enough width that I probably wasn’t going to tip over. But I’ve been spoiled by other local boardwalks with railings on either side. This was your very basic boards to get you across a very wet area. I traversed the boardwalk carefully, noting the green color of the boards. Any wetter and those boards would have imitated a slip and slide, and I was not interested in taking a dip in the swamp on this chilly fall day.

Shortly past the boardwalk the trail got much wetter again. The path would soon intersect with the back of the Xfinity Center’s property, so we took it as a good time to turn back. Throughout the walk we spotted stone walls, a reminder that this property was once cultivated to some degree. perhaps it was used more for pasture than for crops, at least in the areas that are now wooded. The trails were walkable, but the water table forced many roots to the surface, compelling us to watch our footing.


Fall leaves along the path

Visits here would be more fun when the ground is less saturated. Perhaps even this winter? Or next summer. Regardless, it felt good to be out in the sunshine. Happy Trails!


beech cliffs 2018Marjorie 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.


Filed under Blog posts--Easy Walks

2 responses to “Looking for dry footing–Great Woods Conservation area, Mansfield

  1. Photos are wonderful! Was able to follow up, literally speaking” thru you walk. Thank you for sharing.

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