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New year, new trails in Walpole

By Stephen Press
Hometown Weekly Editor

As has become a fantastic tradition in town, Walpole Trails hosted guided and self-guided walks around some of the community’s prime parcels on January 1. The walks, which this year were scheduled for Adams Farm, Jarvis Farm, Norfolk Aggie and the new Rt 1A ballfields across from Cedar Junction Prison, present a perfect way to start the new year.

With the immediate Monday demands of a week’s worth of in-production papers ahead of me, unfortunately, I was unable to join any of the groups on New Year’s Day, or to spend any meaningful time outdoors until after dark.

It would not stop me, however. 

The 1A Fields trail was a new entry to me, and I needed to head out and have a look for myself. I would do so on two mornings in the next week: once on Tuesday, and once on Saturday, before the snow had melted. Both visits were pleasant and quick, and I lamented that I was not properly able to join Walpole Trails on the 1st itself; the path makes for an excellent “first thing” hike before starting one’s day (or calendar year, as the case may be).

From a convenience perspective, the 1A Fields are easy to reach — they’re right across from the prison and are well marked, so you have virtually no chance of missing the turn-off. The entrance to the trail itself is also well-marked, with a Walpole Trails sign behind the backstop of the softball field farthest from the entrance.

I headed into the woods and took in the scenery.

The first thing one notices on the 1A trail is the profusion of pines. They are seemingly everywhere, though I’m also sure they would be less conspicuous in spring or summer, when deciduous trees are in their full glory. The path and its surroundings are laden with fallen leaves, and they have to have come from somewhere. The trails themselves are relatively easy, with no severe grades of which to speak. I could foresee difficulty for less surefooted individuals on days especially wet or icy days, but not to an extent that I’d suggest they stay home entirely.

The next thing one notices is the conspicuous quiet, which I find to be a luxury in the weeks after the holidays. It’s quite impressive. Making my way through the well-marked trail, I marveled at the fact that it’s such an easy escape; a state route sits just a quarter mile away, and I still felt like I was in the middle of nowhere.

In terms of fauna, while there were no major sightings out of the ordinary on my short walks, I nonetheless saw and heard plenty of evidence. Deer had left their tracks in sections of the trail. Other areas had obviously seen a coyote (or perhaps a couple) come through in the last 24 hours; their telltale tracks and scrapes still lay on the ground. The forest also supplied a constant chatter of birds — mainly calls from chickadees and crows (the latter of which, I suspect, were not pleased with my intrusion in their backyard). I took a video of a particularly picturesque vista to send to a friend, and upon playing it back, I noticed just how many birds were singing in the background. It gave me the sense that if I picked a quiet spot and sat silently for a while, I would likely be rewarded with some local wildlife appearances.

While I did not have the luxury of time to test my theory, that lack of time did end up framing another benefit of the new path: the 1A trail is compact, taking no more than an hour to traverse. It’s a perfect “quick hit” for individuals who might prefer their morning walk to be amidst wooded settings, rather than on a track or roadside.

Walpole Trails states that the 1A trail will hopefully one day link to the Metacomet Greenway, a proposed 17-mile path that will run in the footprint of the former rail corridor from South Attleboro to Walpole. This is a bigger-picture project, and one that will only be completed with years of local efforts in each of the proposed Greenway’s respective communities.

In the here and now, though, the 1A trail is a peaceful, not-too-long path that’s ideal for getting a quick bit of fresh air, taking stock of seasonal changes in the forest, or hearing oneself think. In a town that’s already full of premium walking spots, it’s a fitting and welcome addition.

For more information about the new trail and for a map, visit walpoletrails.org and navigate to the First Day Hike subheading.

For further information about the proposed Metacomet Greenway, visit metacometgreenway.org.

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