Category Archives: Blog posts–Easy Walks

Harlem Valley Rail Trail foliage and more!

Pedaling inside blazing fall color corridor

At the start of the foliage season we chose to head out from Eastern MA to the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, just over the Massachusetts line into New York state. This was a section of rail trail we had never explored before and we were eager to get out on our adaptive tandem bicycle before colder temperatures set in. The edges of ponds, and the slopes of the Taconic mountains were in various states of transformation from the green of summer to the flaming oranges, reds, and yellows of autumn.

Foliage season is so short–only two or three weeks in any one location, depending on whether rain and wind blows away these fragile bits of color that cling to their branches. New England is renowned for its foliage, but other places have spectacular foliage too. New England has the corner on the marketing of fall foliage, but no exclusive contract.

Small streams add extra interest along the way

The trail itself is paved, in great condition, with mountain views on both our left and our right and some lovely stream crossings. We found the grade crossings of the trail to be easy to get across. Where there was more traffic, pedestrian lights provided a clear signal for cars to stop, allowing us to cross safely. Benches along the way offered places to rest when needed. A few remnants of the rail infrastructure on this corridor stood as silent reminders of the past.

Duck weed-covered snapping turtle

It must have been turtle day when we visited. We counted at least five turtles as we traveled along the trail. Most were snappers of various sizes. We let them be, but hoped they would make it to the other side of the trail. On our return trip we spotted none of these reptiles, so presumably they reached the other side without mishap.

Precast slabs carry travelers safely over extensive wetlands that the trail crosses

We were particularly impressed with the work involved taking the trail over large expanses of wetlands. Precast cement slabs made for a wide, solid trail surface while allowing the free flow of the water just below us. The creativity, care, and expense were evident in these sections. We felt so lucky to be able to enjoy the benefits of this investment in outdoor recreation and transportation.

Near the southern end of the trail we passed the Wassaic commuter rail station. The trip to NYC is a daunting three and a half hour commute to Grand Central Station. While traveling to NYC was not on our agenda, the number of cars parked at the station was a reminder of the challenge of obtaining housing for those who cpommute to New York City.

Across the street from the end of the trail in Amenia, New York, we encountered an impressive brick building. There we learned some history of Borden’s condensed milk. It was difficult to imagine what the historical marker described. The greenery, and quiet nature of the area offered few clues to its industrial milk production past. The historic plaque pointed to several buildings still standing and explained their function. I often try to picture the historic landscape and environment of areas we visit, structures such as stone walls or rock foundations. There we got a glimpse of what had been, but mostly we had to use our imaginations.

There and back again, still smiling

Our tandem bike carried us a total of forty miles round trip, the longest distance we have logged for a single ride on our biking adventures. More developed trail is north of Under Mountain Road, where we started, but forty miles was what we were up to on this visit. We will have to go back! Happy trails.

Marjorie

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, Finding the Sacred in Everyday (and some very strange) Places.

She has written for numerous local, regional, and national publications over the past 20+ years, has helped many families save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.

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Nashua River Rail trail adventures

Along the Nashua River Rail Trail

You never know what will happen when you get outdoors. This trip started at Ayer, MA and took us all the way to Nashua, NH on the Nashua River Rail Trail. We brought along our mascot, Stormy, (aka Smoky.) He’s now Stormy, having donated his previous name to our new kitten. Our tandem bike, Shermy, did great after his international travels to Canada, including two ferry rides. And we almost encountered a black bear on the trail. The bear was quick, crossing the path before we could get a photo, but it was definitely a bear.

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Doane’s Falls Royalston MA

Just one of the three spectacular falls here

Third time is a charm…. Our first attempt to visit Doane’s Falls in Royalston, MA was a complete failure. The February weather had turned to the path to ice alongside the trail to the three waterfalls of this beautiful Trustees of Reservations property. Our second try was in the early days of the pandemic, and the parking area at the corner of Athol Road and Doane Hill Road in Royalston was stuffed full of cars. Visitors seeking the safety of the outdoors had squeezed themselves into the relatively narrow corridor next to the river. Too crowded for us! But a recent trip to Royalston provided all the conditions we were hoping for. A cool but not cold day, lots of shade (until the leaves fall), very few other visitors, and no ice!

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Danny’s Trail, the Gravels and more, Newfoundland

Along Danny’s Trail

Among the many surprises we discovered on our trip to Newfoundland in mid-summer (July into August) was that despite being the height of tourist season, we were often alone on Easy Walks we found right along the coast. This was the case when we ventured onto Danny’s trail in West Port au Port. We parked at a beach area along what is known as The Gravels ( a causeway linking Port au Port East to Port au Port West). This area (which includes Danny’s trail) has multiple additional trails we did not make time to explore.

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Fossils and mushrooms oh, my

We started in the southwest of Newfoundland near the ferry landing in Port aux Basques, and after a week moved about two hours north along the Trans Canada highway to the Port au Port area.

On our way to our next campground we visited the Blanche Brook fossil beds in Stephenville, Newfoundland. The packed dirt path in the sunshine along the brook near a parking area offered solid footing for me. Once we entered the woods the trail continued alongside the water, and for the most part was still an Easy Walk. However, to actually see the fossils, visitors need to get down the banks of the stream and wade into the water.

We had just had some heavy rains, filling the brook and making for very tricky footing. I stayed on shore while my husband rock-hopped out to the small island in the brook where he took his shoes off and waded in for a closer look. He got some great views of the fossils, preserved trees turned to rock. We were the only visitors when we stopped on a July morning. Like many other places while in Newfoundland, we often found these outdoor sites to be surprisingly uncrowded.

Doing my part…

A private campground was our home base for several days while we explored several areas that offered some great Easy Walks. After leaving the fossil beds we moved on to a private campground in Stephenville, our home base for several days while we explored several areas that offered some great Easy Walks. Power and water hookups at provincial campgrounds are limited. Since we needed some power to recharge our camper batteries, rather than stay at another provincial park, we chose to stay a night or two at a campground that had “hookups.”

Both national and provincial parks are great places to visit in Newfoundland. Besides these government sponsored outdoor spaces, we were surprised to discover stunning outdoor places that local communities oversee. Even more surprising is that a number of them that offer Easy Walks in areas that are otherwise very difficult to access. Once we were settled in the campground we headed back out to explore nearby Sheaves Cove.

Sheaves Cove offers not just one, but two Easy Walks. The creating an maintaining of these trails has been a labor of love, and I really appreciated the care that went into making these trails accessible for many of us. The first trail we explored took us down to the Hidden Waterfall. Quite obvious once you have driven down the dirt road leading to the parking, this waterfall is not visible from the road unless you know where to look.

Stream near the parking area flows from the waterfall through the marsh into the sea

The water from the falls flows out through a marsh and empties into the sea right next to where we parked. The path down to the falls is a maintenance access type road, quite broad, packed gravel, with a gentle incline that takes you to the bottom of the falls.

On the opposite side of the parking lot is a trail that invites visitors to stroll along the cliffs overlooking the ocean. This path is quite wide, packed gravel and offers amazing views of limestone formations right along the shoreline.

Viewing platforms long the way present opportunities to get even better views of the area than you can see by walking along the top of the cliffs. Some limestone formations reminded me of mushrooms, though certainly not very tasty.

Water cascades down the limestone cliff into the sea

Yet another waterfall in this spot tumbles down the cliff, crossing the trail, cascading directly into the sea from the rocks just above the waterline. A bridge allows visitors easy access to the other side of the water. We spent hours taking in the views, resting at the viewing platforms and looking for whales. No luck with whales on this outing, but we spotted them on other visits during our trip.

Humor on the trail

We found more Easy Walks in the Port au Port area that I will leave for our next post. On our next outing, we encountered a provincial park that offers more Easy Walks, and clearly has a great sense of humor. Till then, happy trails!

Marjorie

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, Finding the Sacred in Everyday (and some very strange) Places.

She has written for numerous local, regional, and national publications over the past 20+ years, has helped many families save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress.

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More Easy Walks in rugged Southwest Newfoundland

On the ferry, approaching the landing at Port aux Basques, Newfoundland

The ferry from Sydney in Cape Breton lands in Port aux Basques in southwest Newfoundland. Many travelers quickly head north (to Gros Morne National Park?), never realizing the treasure they are passing by right around the corner from where they started. While we had never visited this portion of Newfoundland, we saw enough in on-line articles and simply by looking at Google Maps and Google Earth to feel this area would be worthwhile exploring.

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Easy Walks goes to Newfoundland-The Harvey Trail

Along the Harvey Trail, Isle au Morts

Besides flying, taking the ferry from Cape Breton is the shortest, least expensive way to get from the North American Mainland to Newfoundland. We brought our camper along and found some delightful Easy Walks along the way in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Our goal, however, was Newfoundland and we were delighted to find a number of Easy Walks very close to where we disembarked in Port aux Basques, NL in the far southwest of the island.

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Easy Walks goes to Newfoundland–Puffins!!

At last…puffins!!!

Many years ago our family headed to Cape Breton for a driving tour. I decided that puffins would be the best part of our travels. A place in Rockland Maine offered a way we could see puffins. A minor (four hour round trip) detour, some of us were more excited about than others. When we arrived in Rockland we learned that the puffins were quite a distance off shore, but we could watch by video what the puffins were up to. (We could have watched from home, I suspected.) Clearly I had not done enough reading before insisting we take this side trip.

We visited Newfoundland in September of 2018 when it would have been too late to see puffins. They are pelagic and thus are visible from land only when they are nesting–April to August. On our most recent, 2022 trip, we first thought we’d missed the puffins, but soon learned we were not too late! Our 2022 trip to Newfoundland began in the southwest corner of the island, after a ferry ride from Sydney, on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, to Port aux Basques, Newfoundland. Puffins nest on the eastern coast. It was a long ride from one point to the other.

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Easy Walks goes to Newfoundland

Sunset at Gros Morne National Park, our little camper giving us a front row seat on the wonders of Newfoundland

This is the beginning of a series of articles offering information that may turn into a book, Easy Walks goes to Newfoundland. We spent a month in our teardrop nuCamp camper (yes, it is very cozy) touring the island and taking in the varied geology, having delightful wild life encounters, picking (and eating!) wild berries and meeting people along the way, both native Newfoundlanders and visitors to the island like ourselves. These articles will not be comprehensive–Newfoundland has so much to offer and we have barely scratched the surface of what the island has to offer. We will have to go back!

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Wilson Park N. Kingstown, RI beach walk

Long Point, North Kingstown, RI

Beaches get so crowded in summer that it is tough to find a quiet spot to take in the water, the horizon, and the sounds and smells of the ocean. We normally avoid going to the beach in warmer weather for these, and other reasons.

We ventured to Wickford, RI on an errand, and on our way back north encountered Wilson Park, on Roosevelt Ave., North Kingstown, RI just off Rt. 1A. The main portion of the park was jammed with summer visitors. Children climbed on playground equipment, while others picnicked, played basketball, baseball, soccer, or simply lay out in the sun. We hurried past the noisy main park and found ourselves at the Long Point boat ramp, part of Wilson Park. As opposed to most places with shoreline access, this area was surprisingly uncrowded.

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