Whitney Conservation Area, Upton, MA

The view, starting off for a visit at the Whitney Conservation area in Upton

In our efforts to #avoidcrowds, we opted to stay close to home and head to a town-owned conservation property without an obvious pond or river. We have noted that trails with pond views, or next to waterways have tended to draw extraordinary crowds in these #Covidtimes. While there is no navigable waterway on the Whitney property, there is plenty of water that flows through this area.

Small stream flows under a footbridge that carries visitors to the rest of the trail

The Whitney property was included in my Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, so I had been here before when I did the field work for the book, but had not visited in several years. I was pleased to see all the work that has been done on the trails since my last visit. Upton has an active group of residents who care about their open space and continue to work to make these places a resource for the community.

We were the only car at the parking area on North Street in Upton. Before crossing the street to head down the trail, we paused, admiring the view. This is probably the best place to take in the surroundings. The trail down into the woodland path is somewhat steep, and thankfully the trail was dry. Icy conditions would make this a challenging choice, but for our visit, the footing was solid and manageable.

These “bog bridges” help visitors keep their feet dry when walking the trail

After crossing a footbridge over a small stream we found ourselves in an area marked by several slow-flowing streams. Several sections in this low-lying area had “bog bridges” placed to assist visitors along their way.

We spotted an intriguing ice formation next to the trail, star-shaped, not something we could recall ever coming across before.

The path along the slope is built to minimize erosion

The woodland path we followed is well marked, and clear, with no trees blocking the trail. We encountered only three other couples during our two hour visit, and were able to step off the trail to give them plenty of room to pass.

The path has several ups and downs, with one steep (for me) climb up to a rocky outcrop. No views are available in this wooded area.

Rock outcrop at a high point in the trail

We enjoyed observing the various areas where only hardwoods were growing, then another section where very young white pines had sprouted in the understory.

Princess pine, or lycopodium osbscurum next to the trail

At one point the woodland had the feel of a place that lady slippers would thrive. Wrong time of year to confirm this–we’ll have to return in June to see if we can spot any of these northern orchids.

Very young white pine seedlings grow next to the trail in this section of woodland

While not a spectacular property, the Whitney property offered quiet, and uncrowded trails, a real boon in this continued time of pandemic. We were grateful to find ice-free paths as well. Kudos to the Upton Conservation Commission and all those who have worked over the years to preserve open space in this community. Happy new year, and happy trails!


Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionMore Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionEasy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Reclaiming hope in a world turned upside down.

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