Fall is still with us in New England and we have been anxious to get out before the gray of upcoming winter sets in. We headed out to Noon Hill in Medfield on a blue-sky day, since there is a nice view from Noon Hill (thus the name).
It had been some time since I last visited this area, although it is not that far from our homebase. One previous visit was in winter and we found the beaten down trails to be a sheet of ice. We did not get far that day, and had no hope of reaching the view. Another planned visit during the height of the pandemic was scuttled when we arrived to find cars jamming the parking area and parked along the roadside next to the trail head. It was way too crowded for us.
On yet another visit my foot suddenly gave me a lot of pain, so that visit was scuttled before I even had time to take in the multiple stone walls that criscross this pretty area. I have visited here many times before, but never took in the multiple roots and rocks on the trail. It made me wonder if some of this is because of the frequent visitors whose feet create erosion that is part of trail evolution.
Regardless of the causes–my memory? other visitors? Less flexible ankle than in the past? I found this latest visit to be much more challenging than I recall from past visits.
Besides the view from Noon Hill, a lovely pond is on the property, with a trail around it just to the right of the trail head on Noon Hill Road. This path also has a lot of roots and rocks, so rather than stay lower along the pond, we chose to go for it and make the effort to get to the view, since the foliage will soon be gone.
Most of the maple trees in this area have shed their leaves. However, the beech trees at Noon Hill were in full glory the day of our visit. The bright sunshine offers incredible lighting for photos of brightly glowing beech trees that filled the woodland during this brief foliage season.
What remains os stone walls line both sides of the first section of trail leading to the view. When these fences were built they typically stood at least four to six feet in height. Lower walls had wooden barriers laid on top of them to add height and confine livestock, but those wooden poles are now long rotted away. Other stone walls head off into the distance away from us, weaving their way through the thick tree cover. While very difficult to picture, these lines of stone are a testament to the incredible human effort invested to tame the land when this area was cultivated, or used as pasture for grazing animals.
A rocky place, Noon Hill offers many places to stop and rest on larger boulders next to the main trail. Rocks (from the multiple stone walls?) have been put to use as water bars, barriers on sloped sections of trail to prevent rains that rush down hillsides from scouring the trail. This was a new method (to me) of slowing down the flow of water, intended to prevent erosion on the trail. The stones were exactly the right size to have been used to build the multiple stone walls in the area. I wondered if these stone waterbars had first been handled by stone wall builders in years past.
Something I have noticed and read about is the issue of disappearing stone walls. In the last 150 some odd years these structures have been ubiquitous throughout the New England and the upper New York landscape. Their profusion has led to us taking their presence for granted. The stones of the walls themselves have often been appropriated as an easy source of easily accessed material when those nearby needed something to create foundations and for various other purposes. Surveys of stone walls have documented the rapid disappearance of these iconic aspects of the landscape in this area. In driving around on older roads I see evidence of these disappearing walls. The first row of foundation stones are often all that remain of the carefully built structures that were laid to create the fences and boundry markers. Sections of rock are competely gone in places, only to reappear along the road several hundred feet down along the way.
We finally reached the promised view at Noon Hill, and were rewarded with the sight of colorful oaks and contrasting pines on the rolling hills beyond where we stood. Trees are growing up below the precipice reducing the view from the hill. At some point the view will be compromised unless some of these trees are removed from below.
On a weekday the trails presently have few other visitors other than dogs and their people. I brought home evidence of dogs that ended up on my boots, which needed a good cleaning anyway…
So no, I didn’t find Noon Hill to be an Easy Walk that would have allowed me to enjoy the sights all around me. My time was often spent watching the trail surface to try to avoid tripping on the roots and rocks that offer tricky obstacles to those of with compromised function in our feet and ankles, diminshed eyesight or other concerns. Regardless, it was a wonderful day to be out in the woods (with our blaze orange on–’tis hunting season) and the Trustees of Reservations allow hunting on many of their properties. We neither saw nor heard any hunters on our visit, but it is important to be prepared. Heading into colder weather, being prepared is a good thing, regardless of whether it is hunting season or not. 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: Reclaiming hope in a world turned upside down.
2 responses to “Finding not-so Easy Walks, Noon Hill Medfield MA”
Noon hill looks like a great spot! And so interesting about the disappearing stone walls.
I am going to enjoy your newsletter, Jill
Thanks for reading and being interest Jill. Noon hill is a great spot, and is not quite in the category of Easy Walk. But getting a view is always worth the extra work if you can manage. And yes, keeping an eye on stone walls where you are is a worthwhile occupation. Happy trails!