Category Archives: Blog posts–Easy Walks

Avoiding crowds in Westport and Dartmouth,MA

Phragmites in the marshland next to Ocean View Farm reservation, Dartmouth

We headed down near the shore to avoid ice on trails, and also because we knew of several places we wanted to check out that we had missed the last time we were in the area. Turns out there are even more open space trails to explore than we realized, which kept us busy exploring for several hours on a weekend morning. Our first stop was at a very small spot that offered views of the Westport River, the Mill Pond Conservation Area part of the Westport Land Conservation Trust and the Trustees of Reservation. The nicely laid out trail brings visitors through a young orchard quite near the street, offering the feel of walking through a local garden.

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Walkup Reservation, Westboro, MA

The “Bossy Crossing” underneath the old trolley line railbed at Walkup Reservation

I first visited the Sudbury Valley Trustees (SVT) Walkup Reservation nearly five years ago when I was doing the field work for More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, a field guide I created to over fifty trails in the Upper Charles, Neponset, Assabet, and Sudbury river watersheds. Al Sanborn, who had lived in Westborough, was my guide for two of the sixteen towns I included in the book–Westborough and Grafton, and served as the caretaker for the Walkup Reservation for a number of years.

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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.

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New Year walk–Forty Caves

Stream flowing through Forty Caves property, on the way to the Assabet River. Note the wall leading down to the river, which is how we eventually made our way cross to get back where we started

We headed to Berlin/Clinton the first of the New Year, to celebrate #MAfirstweekhikes, and after seeing the crowds of cars at the Francis Street entrance of Forty Caves, in Clinton, we headed over to Berlin to the back side of the property, where we found only two other cars parked at the entrance on Allen Road. This is a Sudbury Valley Trustees (SVT) property, and we recently joined SVT for two reasons: 1) to support their work conserving open space in the Concord, Assabet, and Sudbury watersheds between Boston and Worcester; 2) to obtain a copy of their publication 42 Walks West of Boston, 2nd edition. We plan to visit more of these wonderful properties in the future, and having a physical copy of their guide book is a great tool in helping us find our way to sometimes difficult to locate trails. ( My book, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, includes several SVT trails, as well as numerous others in the Upper Charles, Neponset, Sudbury, Concord, and Assabet River watersheds).

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Top 10 Easy Walks for 2020

The view–Knuckup Hill, Wrentham

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.

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Blackstone Greenway in Blackstone-winter walk

View of the Blackstone River from one of the many bridges along the Greenway

We have squeezed in as many walks as we can manage for our Cable TV show, “Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are”. We met in Blackstone at the Blackstone Greenway, an essential section of bike path that will some day link many of the towns in the Blackstone Heritage Corridor. View the episode we taped, including some amazing drone footage of the area along the greenway here.

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Finding Easy Walks in local cemeteries

Vine Lake Cemetery, Medfield, in winter

Making plans to meet a friend in Medfield, I immediately thought of a local cemetery with a beautiful lake, and paved roads wide enough to allow for space between any other walkers we might encounter. While we are officially into winter, the day was mild, and recent rain had washed all our local snow away, leaving roadways and paths ice free for the moment.

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Handy Pond, Lincoln, RI winter walk

Handy Pond, Lincoln, RI

We walked alongside the Blackstone River the day prior to this walk and got views of the river at near flood level, more what we would expect in spring than in late December. But we also encountered more visitors than we wished. Perhaps for this outing a town-owned property with limited parking might offer the solitude we craved? Handy Pond, (actually Rochambeau Pond, according to a reliable source) along Old River Road in Lincoln, RI was our pick, a first visit to what turned out to be an extended trail network through woodland, with views of the pond, as well as several stream crossings.

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Sounds of silence wandering outside the lines in the snow

Wavering footprints through the snow near Silver Lake, Bellingham, MA

We were returning from a short walk in new fallen snow when I spotted our tracks. We had ventured outside right in our neighborhood near Silver Lake in Bellingham, MA, where an old trolley line railbed still stands in the woods near our house. The rail bed is a straight line; the path our footprints followed was not. Despite the clear template of the railbed, our footsteps wandered back and forth through the snow.

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The Cape in late fall

River headed to the sea at Long Pasture, Audubon, in Barnstable

Lucky for our family, we have practiced #avoidingcrowds for years, and yet even we are struggling this year to figure out where to go where lots of others are not. We avoid visiting Cape Cod in warmer months specifically because of how busy the area is. But late fall, early December on the Cape seemed like a good bet for meeting up with fewer people as we continue to strive to stay healthy in the midst of the pandemic.

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