While we typically have a destination in mind, especially after recent snow, when we spotted a plowed parking area and trail kiosk, we quickly turned around to go back and investigate. While numbers for contracting Covid have been decreasing, we are still doing what we can to #avoidcrowds, so seeing just a few cars in the lot, we decided this was worth exploring. Gate 22, a fire road providing access to the Wachusett Reservoir in West Boylston, looked like a good place to explore.
The path looked deceptively easy when we first looked at the trail. We set out first on foot, but quickly realized that the snow off the trampled portion of the trail was rather deep.
We were not the first to walk here, and others before us had broken through crusty snow, creating “post holes” in the snow that made walking very difficult for me. Once I got snow shoes on, walking was still hard work, but the broad base of the shoes offered a measure of stability that eased my passage.
The family that arrived about the same time we pulled in headed off quickly, so we had the path to ourselves. The distance to the shoreline was not terribly far, a half mile or less, which likely offers very easy walking once the snow melts. It was not so easy on this already trampled snowy path. We soon spotted deer tracks veering off the main path, then squeezing their way through tight spaces between trees and shrubs. Smaller mammals, mice? squirrels? left their marks in the snow as well, hopping over to a small, snow covered oak tree, then back onto the path.
The view over looking the reservoir is expansive, so much whiteness, and distant trees and shorelines revealing themselves. Occasional glimpses of blue showed through the overcast. While the air was cold, the lack of wind made for comfortable walking. In fact, because of the effort to walk with snow shoes, at one point I shed my hat, gloves, and sweater to keep going without overheating.
It appears that other trails branch off allowing for additional access to the reservoir’s shoreline, but the out and back we accomplished was what I was up to. For now, I am content that we learned of a place to access the beautiful views of the reservoir.
Yes, we have seen views from the road many times as we have traveled through this area on our way to other destinations, including the nearby Mass Central Rail trail, but for this day, simply getting outside and walking to the shoreline was enough. We swung by the parking for the Mass Central Rail trail later, and found the lot nearly filled. Not what we were looking for this day.
Opposite the Quinapoxet River, which the rail trail travels alongside, is an abandoned road that we have walked on in the past. We spotted ice, and other visitors, even near 4PM on a winter afternoon. We moved on.
We searched out yet another parking are for the rail trail in nearby Holden, and found that lot rather full as well. The Trout Brook recreation area a town-owned property, had multiple families, many with children. Yes, getting out in fresh snow is a draw for many of us.
Our unplanned for stop along the reservoir turned out to be the best choice for us in the end.
While we have visited this area in warmer months, the landscape is quite different with a covering of snow. Every season offers magic of its own, with challenges as well. Getting out and being willing to explore, perhaps change one’s mind, or moving on when our plans turn out not to work out, are all part of the fun, the challenge, the learning. We never stop learning, which is a good thing. Happy trails!
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, Easy 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: Finding the Sacred in everyday (and some very strange) Places.
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.