Author Archives: marjorie561

Exploring in Groton, MA

Mountain views from the General Field in Groton

We are continuing our quest to #avoidcrowds in our outings, with mixed results. We found a trail access to the Nashua River Rail trail as it travels through Groton, MA but the grade crossing had no parking. So we set off to find a safe place to park and set up our adaptive tandem.

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After dinner ride, Upper Charles Trail, Holliston

Early evening on the Upper Charles Trail, Holliston

With the start of summer comes the longest days, the most sunlight (and the summer heat, of course). We had an early light dinner and headed out with our adaptive tandem bicycle to one of the closest local trails, the handicapped accessible, stone dust covered, Upper Charles Trail in Holliston, MA. A helpful strategy we have used for avoiding crowded trails is to get out early in the morning, or at supper time, when others are headed home.

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Progress on the SNETT Franklin

Looking down at the SNETT where the culvert/tunnel will be built, from Prospect Street

The SNETT as a proposed rail trail travels from Franklin, MA all the way to Douglas, and some progress has been made. An entire section in Blackstone, through Millville and on to Uxbridge, is complete. A portion in Bellingham is finished. But barriers remain. We stopped by Prospect Street in Franklin to see what is happening to build the tunnel (really a large culvert) underneath Prospect Street that will facilitate travel along the SNETT from Franklin to Bellingham.

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Dudley Quinebaug Rail Trail Where the crowds are not

Quinebaug River, Dudley

While it was difficult to tell from the maps we studied and the trail reports we read, it looked as though the Quinebaug Rail Trail in Dudley, MA might offer a bikeable path for us to explore. If we found this not to be true, we had Plan B at the ready, to travel just a short ways north to join up the Grand Trunk Rail Trail in Southbridge.

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Riverwalk, Webster, MA

French River on a sunny summer’s day, Webster, MA

Some Easy Walks are simple strolls through woodland. Others feature something of interest like water views. The Riverwalk in Webster, MA is small (1.66 acres) but provides handicapped access to river views of the French river in downtown Webster, across the street from the Town Hall, at 350 Main Street. While the Riverwalk area presently is small, it is part of a much bigger plan to open up further access to the river.

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Blackstone Gorge mountain laurels

Delicate blossoms of mountain laurel return to the Blackstone Gorge each summer

Mountain laurels bloom every June in New England, but unless you are paying attention, you might miss the display. It doesn’t last very long. We saw loads of mountain laurel buds recently on a visit to New Hampshire, so I figured the Blackstone Gorge in Blackstone, MA might have some blooms to enjoy. I also checked in with a friend from the Blackstone Heritage Corridor, who confirmed that a trip to the Gorge to see blooming mountain laurel would be worthwhile (as though I needed an excuse!)

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Just over the line-Railtrail in Mason, NH

Mason Railtrail, Mason, NH has impressive rock cuts along the way

We headed north to investigate a potential rail trail we had heard about in Mason, NH, to see if it was bikeable. Called the Mason Rail Trail, we found very little up to date information on the internet, a little info on the Mason town website, but later discovered a quite recent account of a visit there only last week.

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Getting Out Early–Blackstone River Greenway

Early morning light along the Blackstone River

We arrived with our adaptive tandem bicycle at the Uxbridge trail head of the Blackstone Greenway, just off Rt 146A, before 7A.M, and found only one other car already there. Great. We wore masks, and pedaled along the trail, encountering mostly one, or sometimes two people on the trail, almost all walkers.

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Coventry RI, searching for quiet

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Moosup River, Coventry, RI

When we last visited this area, the state of RI was working on two bridges over the Moosup River in Coventry, RI. The bridge will eventually help connect this area to the popular Trestle Trail, although that day may be far in the future. We headed down Lewis Farm Road and found a place to park across the street from the closed section of the trail, where the bridge work is nearing completion. Continue reading

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Oakham to Rutland on Mass Central Rail trail

Ware River, Oakham, MA off Rt 122, next to the Mass Central Rail Trail

We headed out on a weekday, hoping to avoid the crowds we have observed on railtrails on sunny weekend days. The beautiful day brought people out regardless, but we wore face masks, and did our best to avoid interacting with fellow visitors to the Mass Central Railtrail, starting in Oakham, MA next to the Ware River.

Face mask in place, along the trail, taking in the rock cut that made way for the railroad so many years ago

North of Rutland State Park, following Rt. 122, Worcester Road, we spotted numerous access points to the Mass Central Rail trail, but chose to stop next to a foot bridge over the Ware River, just west of Coldbrook Road, a little west of the hydropower plant on the Ware River. Few cars were here, and we had no problem maintaining distance between fellow travelers.

Nearly all the trail was this well maintained, hard-packed, with just a light dusting of finely crushed stone. Often we saw no one, but as we got near any access point numerous folks were on the trail

Since the last time we visited this area in 2017, the rail trail has been greatly improved. On our last visit the sharp downhill towards the Ware river was rutted, rocky, slippery, and very difficult to manage on our tandem bike. But since then the trail has now been improved with switchbacks, and the trail surface all the way up the hill is hard-packed, and has a light crushed stone topping.

While this surface will work for those looking for wheelchair access, the transition points, grade crossings between the rail trail, that is, roads the trail crosses, are choppy. Some have pretty substantial gaps, so getting across these with our tandem bike was tricky, for those in wheel chairs, nearly impossible without assistance. One portion of the trail travels on a road for about 100 yards until the trail picks back up and continues on. Signs directing travelers where the to pick up the trail would be a great help for first time visitors. When traveling west, turn right onto this quiet road and look for the continuation of the trail on your left.

One of the many beaver dams we saw as we traveled the rail trail in this area

Beaver activity was evident throughout our eight miles out on the trail (for a total of over sixteen miles of leisurely riding, including a lunch stop, for time on the trail of about three hours.) Lots and lots of water is in this area: swampy ponds, streams flowing beside the trail, and multiple beaver dams. We visited mid day, and thus did not see any beaver, but their work was all around us, as well as the impact of their dams on the landscape. Everywhere we looked, small streams flowed around the beaver dams, working to circumvent the dams and allow water to continue flowing downstream.

Area flooded by beavers, which drowned all these trees. A great spot for a heron rookery, but alas, the herons have not figured this out yet!

We found a lunch spot next to a flooded area that looked perfect for a heron rookery or a spot for ospreys to nest. The dead trees in the flooded area reminded us of other areas we have enjoyed visiting where Great Blue Herons happily nest, but we saw no evidence of this in the area we stopped at.

While most trail users were extremely courteous and worked to help us avoid getting too close to them, some users insisted on traveling side by side, allowing next to no space for oncoming travelers. Others on the trail traveling in pairs insisted on splitting up, forcing us into the middle, between them. Sigh… Overcast days, and setting out earlier would have helped reduce the number of people we saw on the trail. As we travel, we continue to learn.

Just one of the many water views awaiting visitors to this rail trail

Spending time outdoors is a good thing for each of us, and rail trails offer solid footing, so they naturally will be the locations many choose if they are unfamiliar with other options. Here’s hoping folks will continue to get outdoors, and will do their best to be considerate of others on the trail. Be safe out there, and happy trails!

Marjorie

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. 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.

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