We had thought to go farther from home, but each place we considered was closed to the public in response to overcrowded conditions. Instead, we decided to see if we could locate a small property I heard of in a neighboring town Hop Brook Preserve. We ventured out in the morning sunshine to nearby Blackstone, and after a little wandering about, spotted the trail sign and pulled into the SMALL parking area (room for only three cars at a time.)
Parking at the nearby Daniels Farm is blocked off at the time of this writing, and the roadway is narrow. If the parking area is full, move on and plan to come back another time. Early morning is your best bet to enjoy uncrowded trails. We were the first ones to arrive. The Metacomet Land Trust Hop Brook Preserve is adjacent to Daniels Farm, and was part of the original historic Daniels Farm.
After studying the map at the trail kiosk, we headed up the slight incline onto a dirt track that was clear, well marked, and easy to follow. Well, it was a little too well-marked.
Our guess is that several different volunteer trail crews worked on the trail, and created a new path around
a huge pine tree that blocked part of what seemed to have been an existing cart path through the property.
Stone walls truly litter the landscape in this area, and most walls here are impressively tall. Having been built over 150 years ago, many of these structures in what is now woodland have been knocked down through the years by falling trees, and often removed to reuse the stones for other building purposes.
The landscape is quite rocky, so we suspect the area was used for pasture, rather than cultivation. There are simply too many rocks for this to have been used for cropland.
We encountered only one other couple with their dogs as we walked the trail. They called out to us, giving us time to step off the path and give them room to pass (and to pull back on our face masks). Once they passed by we saw no one else during our visit.
One spot on the trail was quite wet, but we found a way across stepping on tree roots, which kept our boots dry. The trail has numerous rocks and roots, but they are well-spaced. We suspect the trail is pretty new, and as such, in coming years the roots will become more pronounced and a tripping hazard. But for now, I found the trail offered Easy Walking, without requiring that I watch the ground for each step I took.
The path on this property offers a loop trail. The boundary for the loop is the Hop Brook. Spring is the time to visit for the most spectacular views of the brook, when the water is high.
Several cascades of water tumble down the rocks into the brook, offering the enchanting sound of flowing water in a burbling stream. The opposite shore leads to Quisset Hill Wildlife Management Area, more open space in both Blackstone and nearby Mendon.
The woods are almost completely hardwood, with next to no pine trees, and no evidence of poison ivy along these trails.
We are, however, on the alert for tics. Once the leaves have filled in this should be a very shady spot to visit in the heat of summer. Happy trails!
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.