Category Archives: Blog posts–Easy Walks

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 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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Ducks in the woods–wood ducklings at Silver Lake

Mama wood duck

Mama wood duck perched in a tree after inspecting a nearby possible nesting site

A few weeks ago a pair of ducks came soaring through the woods into our yard. Hmm, not where we usually see ducks, even though we live overlooking Silver Lake, in Bellingham. It took very little investigation to figure out these were wood ducks, and they were looking for a nest. The male stayed out of sight till they flew off, but mama duck poked around a tree, checking it out for a possible nest site. They soon flew off. Nope, no sale. Continue reading

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A quiet path in Blackstone, Hop Brook Preserve

Hop Brook cascades down a series of small rock shelves

We had thought to go farther from home, but each place we considered was closed to the public in response to overcrowded conditions. Instead, we decided to see if we could locate a small property I heard of in a neighboring town Hop Brook Preserve. We ventured out in the morning sunshine to nearby Blackstone, and after a little wandering about, spotted the trail sign and pulled into the SMALL parking area (room for only three cars at a time.)

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Stumbling into a different world, off the Upper Charles Trail, Holliston

Guest Post:

Tommy Zazulak of Holliston reached out to me to share some photos he took near the Upper Charles Trail in Holliston. We exchanged a few emails, and he ended up sharing a delightful, slightly wacky story of stumbling across some intriguing stone culverts underneath the trail, in the area of Wenakeening Woods. The following are his photos and story. Enjoy! MTH

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Stone culvert underneath the upper Charles Trail in Holliston (photo courtesy Tommy Zazulak)

The best part of the Upper Charles Land Trust area and the trails contained therein isn’t what you see as you hike the Holliston Upper Charles Trail or the Wenakeening Woods path. Rather it’s what you don’t see from the main route that is so breathtaking. At least it was for me when I stepped off the marked trails and paths and discovered a variety of tiny aqueducts, brooks and stone bridges unnoticeable from the marked and heavily traveled Holliston Rail Trail. Continue reading

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In search of quiet–Buck Hill, Burrillville, RI

Lonely pond at Buck Hill

We often study maps prior to heading outside, and this trip was no exception. But it turns out that best laid plans still go awry. As we traveled on some unfamiliar roads we completely missed our original goal, of Black Hut Wildlife management area, in Burrillville. Instead, we overshot and ended up at Buck Hill Wildlife Management area, also in Burrillville, RI.

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Hitting the road during a pandemic

Ready to head out on an undeveloped section of the SNETT, in Uxbridge

Where to go on our bike and be able to maintain a safe distance from others when we are out? We usually avoid riding on roads because of the danger of cars not giving enough space as we ride. But traffic has been almost non-existent as we stay home during the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, and suddenly our rural roads are more attractive places to wander on to explore the countryside.

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Biking during a pandemic, Myles Standish State Forest

trail Myles Standish

Woodland trail at Myles Standish State Forest

Each spring we eagerly look forward to getting out our adaptive tandem bike, which allows me to enjoy time on the trails far beyond how far my feet can carry me. Last spring we were in process of building our new bike, and were delayed in getting out. And this spring, well, there’s a pandemic about, if you had not heard. So beyond concerns about the days getting too warm for me, we have the added concern about whether we might expose, or be exposed to, anyone else who could make us deathly ill.

We decided, rather than visit one of the several local rail trails nearby, which we felt sure would be more crowded than we felt comfortable with, to head out to Carver, to the Myles Standish State Forest. Continue reading


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Discovering the Heron Rookery behind Stall Brook School


Long distance view of the heron rookery, Stall Brook

Four years ago I saw a drone video posted on our local Bellingham, MA Conservation Commisison Facebook page offering a glimpse of a great blue heron rookery near power and gas lines north of Rt. 126, somewhere near Stall Brook elementary school in Bellingham. I have since wondered if it was possible to get a view of the herons without climbing in a plane to do so. Continue reading


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Hughes Property, Hopkinton, MA


A wide path invites visitors to come and enjoy the trail thorugh the woods

When I started resarching trails for my Easy Walks in Massachsuetts book series, I wondered if there would be enough open space for me to write about. Seven years later, I wonder if I can keep up with new trails being developed in nearby towns. I visited the Hughes Property in Hopkinton, MA several years ago with John Ritz, chair of the Hopkinton Hiking club, who described the area to me as having been recently donated to the town. Continue reading

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Skull Rock Lock, along the Blackstone River, Uxbridge, MA


Upstream from Skull Rock Lock, along the Blackstone River

We looked for a smaller place to walk that might have fewer visitors to avoid in this time of physical distancing. While intending to head to one destination, we passed the small parking area on Rt. 122 in Uxbridge, Skull Rock Lock, south of the town center, that offered access to the Blackstone River. No one else was there. Just what we were looking for. Continue reading

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