We headed out to Dudley, MA, planning to park at Nichols College to bike a rural route from there on road. The sun shone bright, we found a spot next to the entrance to the college, and saw next to no one around. Everything was a go, bike all set, extra ice packed, bike tools packed, snacks. And then, the cooling vest didn’t quite work right.
For me, it’s like heading to Mars to go outside in the summer, since I am unable to sweat. We have cooling scarves, cooling vests, and spray misters to mimic sweat on my extremities. And most of the time this works all right. It’s a gamble, and it’s worth it to get me outdoors on the back of our tandem, exploring new places, or revisited familiar spots.
The more we checked, the more convinced we became that all was not well in the cooling department. We had pedaled a little ways and stopped at a local cemetery to see if we could get air out of the tubing in the cooling vest. Nope, still not working right. We headed back, having spent less than an hour, going perhaps a mile or two. We saw enough to know we’d like to return. Dudley offers some impressive hills and some lovely views along with an historic inn and other historic buildings. The area seemed quiet, at least on a Sunday morning. But for this trip, we were on to Plan B.
Rather than head straight home, we wandered (by car) along a number of quiet roads, making our way back toward Douglas, MA. On one road were a number of gated trails, with cars parked near each trailhead. Hmmm, more investigating to do, even though this area tends to have pretty rocky trails, not really Easy Walks.
We stopped at one trailhead and got out to take a look. A short distance from the road we peered over the edge of the path into an impressive chasm. The sign we had just passed said, “Grand Trunk Trail.”
It soon became apparent that what we were walking on was not the historical rail line, but a path that has been constructed next to where the trains used to run. Down below us, in this narrow chasm, was where the trains passed. Next to where we parked, the original bridge over the rail line had been filled in, making it easy to overlook the path the trains had taken in years past.
With my limited tools for cooling, we did not walk far. Even a short stop like this satisfied my “outdoor explore” hunger for now. We grabbed handfuls of huckleberries, and admired the mountain laurel and sassafras bushes along the trail. Plan B indeed.
Since writing my newest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are, I have been more aware of habits we have developed, and tools we use to help us keep safe on the trail, and discover Easy Walks wherever we are. We practice what we preach, even if it is not always a conscious plan.
Sometimes life has a way of altering plans, and you go with it, for better or worse. Coming across a forgotten portion of the SNETT in Douglas, a rock chasm chiseled from the rock over 150 years ago, was very cool. Surely many have passed this way before. For me, it was new, and opened my eyes to a little more of a trail that ultimately runs quite near where we live. On this visit, it helped me put yet one more puzzle piece into place. You just never know. Sometimes Plan B is all you need to have an amazing outdoor experience. You just never know. 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.