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Social distance files: Wellesley’s Centennial Reservation

By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter

There’s no coronavirus in the Capital Wasteland. There are mutated radscorpions, drug-addicted raiders, and power-armored super soldiers, but there’s no coronavirus. Ditto for the snowcapped mountains of Tamriel, the extremely hostile streets of San Andreas, and the rolling plains of New Austin.

There’s no coronavirus in any of these places because they’re not real. They’re from video games.

The point being that until this week, if I wanted to get away from people and explore somewhere by myself that I’d never been, I would grab a controller, not a pair of sneakers. Except, stuck in the house with nowhere to go and nothing to do, even I got sick of console gaming and opted for some real-life exploration.

Since I’m not from Wellesley and spend most of my time in the town library, senior center and high school, getting to explore the nature trail at Centennial Reservation seemed like a good way to get some (literal) fresh air while seeing a part of town I’ve never encountered before.

The first thing I noticed was the dogs. Unaware of economic downturns and unable to get infected, Wellesley’s dogs must be loving spending so much time on walks in the park with their suddenly-stuck-at-home owners. For every walker on the trail, there were probably three dogs chasing sticks, wandering the woods and engaging other dogs. Humans used to leave their pets stuck at home all day while they left for work. Now, both species fight cabin fever together.

While just getting out and experiencing nature is great, the coolest thing about the Centennial trail is that there are numbered markers you can look up on your phone that will give you some history (lore, if we’re sticking with the video game theme) and explain the ecology of what you’re looking at. So, when I came upon the trail marker numbered “9” and then “10,” I saw what looked like a brook heading into a pond that must have been there for centuries. 

But, with a quick glance at the website, I learned: Bezanson Pond was once filled and turned into a swimming pool for Mass Bay Community College students, only to be converted back into a pond in 1981. Other fun facts included station 2’s Eastern hemlock, a spruce threatened by the invasive woolly adelgid, and station 4’s geological esker, a gravel ridge deposited by water running in channels though glacial ice.

My favorite discovery on the trail, though, was a plastic box placed on a bench overlooking the Blue Hills ski slope, which held a journal in which hikers could leave their thoughts. In video games (and epistolary novels, and found footage movies, to be fair) there’s a common narrative device that sees a character stumble upon the remains of a destroyed society and has to piece together what happened via audio logs, diaries, or confessional videos. Avid gamers mock this technique relentlessly, arguing: “Who would be chronicling their day today lives in the middle of the apocalypse?”

Hopefully the coronavirus goes away soon, but if society breaks down and some laser-rifle-holding, hazmat-suit-wearing explorer ends up trying to put together the pieces via the Centennial trail, this is what they’ll see:

March 4: “Revisiting the beach where I got engaged four year ago.” 

March 8: “Happy women’s day.” “Happy end of daylight saving’s everyone.”

March 14: “Happy Coronacation everyone. Wash your hands. Stay safe. Don’t touch your face after using the pen.”

March 15: “Let’s hope it’s only two weeks.”

Let’s hope.

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