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Leland Mill Pond supplies sufficient solitude

While the foliage was pretty, much of the water had a green film on top of it.

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

In my opinion, “Jaws” is the scariest movie of all time, and to be blunt, it’s not even close. My rationale is pretty simple: I can shower and not think about “Psycho,” I can answer a phone and not think of “Scream,” and I can play with my niece’s dolls and not think about “Child’s Play,” but no matter how old I get or how dated the effects become, I can’t get in the ocean without thinking of the classic Spielberg shark movie.

I felt pretty confident I could walk around the woods at dusk and not think of “The Blair Witch Project,” too, but after spending some time completely alone in the trails around Leland Mill Pond on late Friday afternoon, the grandfather of found-footage horror may have to move up on my “scariest movies” list. While I expected solitude, I don’t think I was prepared for a complete lack of other people to be on the trails at a time when everyone was heading into the weekend.

While there is ample parking, the road to the parking lot is thin and unpaved, so if you’re not familiar with the area, it’s easy to think this is a hiking trail rather than a parking lot. I don’t know if that has turned people away in the past (thinking they’d need to park far away and walk all the way to this trail opening) but it threw me off for a couple of drives-by.  

When you approach the trail map, you see an article explaining the history of the area. At one point, it says: “This property offers two very different walking experiences: an easy walk around the large meadow area across the street from the parking lot, and a more challenging - and interesting! - walk to visit the lovely upper Mill Pond.”

This felt a lot like when an amusement park gives you two options, but clearly downplays one in favor of the other. You know, something like ”for the younger crowd, we have this gentle ride, but for those of you that came all this way looking for a real thrill, we have…” The wording of such things makes it so that to avoid social shaming, you don’t actually have a choice. In large part because of this, I opted for the longer hike.

One of the first things you notice about the hike is how different the plant life is. At various points, you feel like you’re in the Pacific Northwest, surrounded by wet, green ferns. But not long after, and not far away, you’re surrounded by red bushes and pine trees and very much feel like you’re in a New England forest in the fall. The pine trees are almost all perfectly Christmas-tree-sized, also, in case someone wanted to decorate them as a fun way to get more people to hike the area.

Scores of wet ferns make you feel like you’re somewhere other than a Massachusetts forest.

The northernmost part of the trail doesn’t have much. There’s a crazy amount of stone walls, with the surest sign you’re on the trail being when you encounter a split in the wall to walk through. There is also a dried-out riverbed of some kind, which is very muddy, but looked like it had some tracks on it, if you’d like to try out your tracking skills (the trail map also has a convenient image of tracks you may see on the trail). Kids might get disappointed, though, because some of the animals on the trail map (like black bears) aren’t typically found in the woods you’re hiking.

When you’re away from the ferns, you find yourself surrounded by these red bushes.

The closer you get to the water, the more scenic the hike is. While some parts of the water are covered in a green film, most of it is pretty clear. It is also dry enough that you don’t need to use the boards or bridges the hike provides, which is good because some of the smaller bridges are so rickety and worn that they look more like movie props than actual bridges. Just be aware that a lot of the hike is in heavy shade, so you’ll want to go there a bit earlier than I did, knowing how quickly the sun goes down now that winter is approaching. Especially if your mind tends to wander about why nobody else is in the woods, and what the locals seemingly avoiding the area might know that you don't.

This bridge was so worn it almost seemed fake.

While history fans might like to see the remnants of the mill, the best thing the area offers is a chance to be alone with your thoughts. Hopefully your thoughts are more profound and personally reflective than thinking about a low-budget horror movie from 1999 about an evil witch that lives in the woods of Maryland.

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