It was another short day, with things to do before we headed outdoors. Where to go nearby before the sun went down? A Hopkinton (MA) trails club member had told me about a trail that was an Easy Walk. I had the sense few others would be there, since no sign is posted at the road indicating the presence of a trail. Turns out, my guess was right.
Hopkinton State Park in Hopkinton, MA is a very busy place any time of the year, but especially in the summer with kayak and paddle board rentals, and a swimming beach. The headquarters building in nearby, directly on Rt. 85, (71 Cedar Street) has no sign inviting visitors, but no signs warning visitors away either. We pulled into the headquarters driveway, found parking, and spotted a gate at the back of the clearing that sure looked like a trail.
On closer inspection, we spotted a sign “Duck pond trail”. Yup, we were in the right place. This fire road offered Easy Walking on a mostly level path, that meandered through an area with a lot of wetlands and wooded uplands.
On the trail we found a few rocks, a few rooty areas, but for the most part, I was able to stride along with ease, rather than watching each step. What a joy to be able to look around as we traveled along the trail, not always down, watching my feet!
We encountered a bridge over a stream that is perhaps ten feet wide. The bridge looked as if it had been there for many years. The path leading up to the bridge was raised, as we have seen railroad beds constructed through wetlands. But no trolley or rail engine was going to navigate this path as it climbed steeply up the nearby hillside on the opposite side of the stream. I heard from Hopkinton Trails Coordination and Management committee chair Peter LaGoy, who explained, “the stream you show is part of a water system constructed in the late 1800s/early 1900s to connect Lake Whitehall to the Hopkinton Reservoir to the Sudbury Reservoir to provide water for Boston. The area to the right was part of a glebe or land given to a church for its support, that was ultimately sold to the state.”
We wandered beyond the bridge, came upon some cool boulders,
and an intriguing tree that may have grown around a rock, which is no longer there.
After looking at our on-line map, and realizing the duck pond was still a mile beyond where we were, we reconsidered our plan. The sun was getting lower, and although we had headlamps with us, we turned around rather than risk being out on the trail after dark. We will have to come back another time.
On our way back, we spotted a trail right alongside the stream we had previously crossed. On closer inspection, this stream appears to have been channeled at previous time. Later, when we drove farther along Rt. 85, we found where this channeled stream came out of the woods, headed directly to the pond at the main portion of Hopkinton State park.
We walked along the Glebe trail next to this slow moving stream and found old signs of beaver. A few more steps revealed very new signs of beaver. The wood chips around the felled tree were quite fresh.
The teeth marks on the felled tree displayed patterns that were almost artistic in nature.
A little farther along and we found the beaver lodge up against the bank, plastered with very fresh mud. Winter is coming.
Not being familiar with the area, we turned back, rather than continuing on what is a loop trail that brings travelers near where we entered the area. Multiple, wide trails have been constructed through this area that offer many possibilities for exploring.
We saw a total of five others while walking, and sadly, 100% of these visitors had no masks with them. Yes, the trails are wide, yes we are outdoors, and I will say nothing, just work to avoid these visitors while we are in the midst of a pandemic. But please do not politely ask me, “How are you?” I will be polite as well, but I will tell you, “Better when visitors have masks with them, and use when you pass me.” Sigh… And still, I will wish you 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.