We headed north to investigate a potential rail trail we had heard about in Mason, NH, to see if it was bikeable. Called the Mason Rail Trail, we found very little up to date information on the internet, a little info on the Mason town website, but later discovered a quite recent account of a visit there only last week.
My husband stumbled upon the trail when he was studying a map of the nearby area. He found mostly out of date information that offered little about trail conditions. And so we had Plan B in our back pocket, which was to ride on the area’s quiet back roads, if the rail trail proved to be unrideable.
Morse Road was our destination, where we thought we could access the trail. We found no parking right where we found the trail, but did spot a small natural waterfall just beyond the trail. We headed back to Massachusetts and crossed back into Townsend at the state line, where we found a parking area on Rt 123 that offered space to set up our bike. The ride back to the trail entrance on Morse Road, right off Rt. 123 was quite easy; hard-packed dirt Morse Road was in good repair. We later found parking adjacent to the trail on Depot Road, not surprisingly, across the street from the site of the old train depot.
We spoke to someone on the trail who explained that a section of the trail near Mason Road had been improved in 2018. Both area snow mobilers and equestrians have been instrumental in developing this trail, getting solid bridges built and assuring the trail is dry and smooth.
Riding on this trail was a real treat. Along the way we spotted a few lady slippers, whose season is nearly over. We also saw lots of mountain laurel buds, getting ready to bloom. But the real star of this trail is the rock cuts and adjacent quarry.
Most rail trails we have visited have rocks cuts, akin to the rock cuts most of us are familiar with along today’s modern highway system. They offer a glimpse of the geology of an area. Usually these stone cuts are jagged looking, but along the trail we spotted smooth stone faces, which offer a clue to why the nearby area had a productive quarry. This type of rock is highly desirable for quarrying.
The Mason Rail Trail travels right next to an historic granite quarry, now conservation land. A wide trail (with roots that make it less rideable, but quite easy to walk on) took us to the quarry, where we discovered not only great views of the quarry itself, but stumbled upon the mother lode of lady slippers next to the shoreline of the quarry. At least thirty or forty of these woodland orchids were blooming within a ten foot stretch alongside the waterline.
We brought along our lunch, and enjoyed it next to a bridge, where we enjoyed water views, and lots of swallows hunting for their own lunch. The impending storm clouds appeared more threatening, so we turned around there, but promised ourselves we will return to enjoy the rest of the trail that heads north all the way to Rt. 31 in Greenville, NH. Northern access to the trail parking is only available near Adams Hill Road.
All in all, the trail is not only quite clear and walkable, it is, for the most part, quite rideable as well. We encountered one spot on the trail that had been washed out, but even there, it was not an obstruction, merely a section where we needed to take care to get around the washout safely. Most of the trail was quite smooth and really enjoyable to ride on.
As we travel, I continue to realize how much we have learned over the years, which is being compiled into my upcoming book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You are. A challenge to articulate, and yet, the act of writing down these lessons has made me more keenly aware of how much we use these principles all the time. This trip emphasized several key lessons we have learned: 1. Be willing to explore. 2. Be willing to be disappointed. 3. Have a Plan B if the trail you planned to visit is not suitable. 4. Overcast days are a great option to help avoid crowds on trails. Here’s hoping you are finding safe ways to get outdoors. 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.