This has been a strange year, for sure. Travel plans have been curtailed, we have stayed close to home, and have put a different priority on #avoidingcrowds. Inspired by my good friend Sue, of Auntie Beak’s Place, I realized it would be a good thing to look back on the year to reflect on the joys and surprising discoveries we encountered on the trail, mostly very close to home this past year. Hence, a very subjective list of my top ten favorite places we visited this past year, 2020.
#10 Blackstone Gorge, Blackstone: While I have probably visited the gorge more times than most any other trail in this area, I have never grown tired of it, in any season. While I found nothing particularly new or remarkable on our visits here, it just felt wrong to leave it off. And so, it’s on the list.
#9 SNETT Franklin/Bellingham tunnel: We watched with great anticipation from May through late October for this long awaited project to be completed. There is something seductive about a tunnel. And yes, it’s finally done, opening up the trail to allow more progress on the SNETT to become a reality. Hooray!
#8 Knuckup Hill, Wrentham, MA: Like the Blackstone Gorge, I have visited Knuckup Hill in Wrentham, MA countless times, enjoying the reaction of friends and family when we come out to “the view” Because this is all about the view. I just could not leave it off the list…
#7 Duck Pond Trail, Hopkinton, MA: This is a trail I’d like to return to…soon. We visited at the end of the day as the sun was setting. I’d like to have more time to explore the other trails in the area. Very much “off the beaten track” it was quiet, and had new signs of beaver. So it’s on the list.
#6 Powisett Farm, Dover, MA: We hadn’t planned to stop here, but the overwhelming crowds at nearby Noanet Woodlands pushed us to resort to our Plan B, which turned out to be a sweet surprise. Nothing spectacular, just quiet, uncrowded trails, with level footing for those with us who needed Easy Walks. It fit the bill.
#5 Chase Farm, Lincoln, RI: I had known my birder friends enjoyed visiting here, but somehow never got there. Hoping for someplace close by that would offer open space to #avoidcrowds, we ended up here one day and enjoyed it so much we headed back again soon thereafter. A sweet discovery for us, a place we will go back to soon.
#4 Hughes Property, Hopkinton, MA: Another trail in Hopkinton we really enjoyed, especially since the trail committee in town has done so much to improve trails in town. Somewhere in this property is the stream that feeds Echo Lake, the headwaters of the Charles River–pretty cool, huh?
#3 Hop Brook, Blackstone, MA: Do you love waterfalls? This small Metacomet Land Trust Property has a triple cascade, modest in size, but such a sweet spot to visit. Beware, however, since the cascade may dry up in the summer, especially like in the drought we just went through this past summer. I’d like to get back there now to see how the water is flowing again. A real treasure.
#2 Blackall Preserve, Cumberland, RI: For sheer pleasure of walking, this town-owned property was such a surprising find. The trails are very clear, smooth, and easy to navigate. Stone walls and a small pond are on the property, birds were all over the place. A great place to visit. A great spot to #avoid crowds.
#1 Pierpont Meadows, Dudley, MA: We stumbled across this Mass Audubon sanctuary on one of our road biking expeditions this summer as we continued to work to #avoidcrowds. With no visitor center, the property does not attract a huge number of people. In fact, when we stopped, no one was in sight. An Easy Walk down to a lake made this such an enjoyable visit. The ripe grapes in the treetops were an added bonus.
So that’s it. I provided links to each of the writeups for these places, so you can find them yourself when time and weather conditions permit. Other than the Blackstone Gorge and Knuckup Hill, the trails are all relatively flat and easy to access. Take your time, visit when you can, and 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.