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Chase Woodlands allows for social distancing

After a horse lost its shoe, I found it and hung it on a tree.

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

Most trails are too crowded to achieve a real sense of solitude. The whole idea that you can venture into the woods of the Boston suburbs and be alone with your thoughts gets shattered pretty quickly when you hear voices coming down the path, dogs barking, or the sounds of bicycle tires scraping against dirt. On Friday afternoon, I went to check out the newly-opened Chase Woodlands, and found that there, at least, you actually could be alone.

The main reason is the parking lot. With only room for four cars, a sign tells hikers that if they can’t get one of these spots, they should come back later, rather than try and wedge themselves onto the grass or invent their own parking spot between a couple trees. Even though I was the fourth car, on the entire trail, I didn’t see another person or sign that somebody else was walking ahead of me.

The main reason the trail can be so secluded is because of the incredibly limited parking that’s available.

On the trail, the first thing you hit is a small shed-like structure adjacent to a stream. One of the annoying things about hiking is how often you come across something like this and have no way of knowing what it used to be, or why it was there. It's also shocking how often the internet fails you in this regard.

This building had a beautiful location near the stream, but it was unclear what it could have once been.

While there was no evidence of footbound hikers, there were tons of clues that people on horseback had recently frequented the trail. At many points, the trails look like freshly plowed fields, where horses had kicked up dirt in the rain-softened ground. This is a bit of a mixed blessing. On less well-maintained portions of the trail, the horses have matted down the plant life, making it easier to walk through. On wetter portions, the horses have stirred the mud and created deep divots, making it harder to get through while staying dry.

One of the easiest ways to know horses had been on the trail was to look at the tracks in the dirt just to the side of the boardwalk (which horses can’t go on).

There’s also the horse droppings. Every once in a while, you have to dodge the circular stones of equine waste, which isn’t that difficult, or all that bad. What’s bad is that when you walk past it, you kick up the flies who've been feasting on it, who then (for whatever reason) want to attack your face.

When you think of things that are somehow socially acceptable versus things that aren’t, it’s odd that not picking up after your Yorkie is considered a capital offense, but we’re okay with a Clydesdale relieving himself, only for the rider to cruise straight past it like nothing happened.

Walking through the muck of a wet portion of the trail, I saw a silver horseshoe stuck in the mud. I picked it up, brushed it off, and put it on a tree branch to photograph. Somewhere, there’s a horse walking around minus one shoe after losing it in the mud.

Hopefully it doesn’t get lost and stumble down the wrong trail. People rightfully call the Dover PD when you do that.

I thought about keeping the horseshoe, but decided against it when I couldn’t think of anything to do with it. Whether people realize it or not, the game of horseshoes is dead. Cornhole killed it the way Netflix killed Blockbuster. That may sound like a Hometown Weekly hot take, but if you really think about it, it’s tough to argue against.

Cornhole is easily transported; you can pick up the pieces and take them to a field or the beach without much of a hassle, it’s easier to keep score, and competitions are now being shown on ESPN. Horseshoes are heavy to carry, you hurt your back from the constant measuring, and they require you to dig a pit. My dad tried to get me to dig a horseshoe pit in our backyard last year. “Dig a pit?” I thought to myself “Are we fighting the Ottoman Empire?” I refused and bought cornhole instead. It's better, and ironically, it's not even close.

The big advantage of the Chase Woods is how few people are there becuase of the limited parking. But in some ways, it feels like you’re walking on a horse track more than a hiking trail. Maybe next time I will come back on a horse, see how the experience differs, and completely ignore its bathroom breaks.

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