By Cameron Small
Hometown Weekly Correspondent
Westwood Community Trails' (WCT) monthly hikes kicked off for 2023 this past Saturday.
Westwood Community Trails is sponsored by Westwood’s Department of Public Works and its Recreation Department, with input provided by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Committee, and administered by Hale Education. Rain or shine, WCT leads a hike on the first Saturday of the month. “The only time I cancel is if there’s a thunderstorm or a nor’easter coming through,” says Rich de Reyna, the coordinator of the WCT monthly hikes.
On Saturday, January 7, de Reyna and the twenty-two other attendees hiked a 4.2 mile trail known as the Forest and Field Loop. This trail would be good for a complete novice to hiking, as a major percentage of the trail wound along the road of Hartford St, Route 109, and through some neighborhood area across from Westwood High School and the Council on Aging. Be advised if you want to try this particular trail, part of the trail goes through conservation land where dogs and bicycles are prohibited.
de Reyna says one of the aspects of the Forest and Field Loop trail he likes is that it is sociable -- easy for talking with co-hikers, or stopping and talking with people who have their homes along the roads of the route. Through the hike, attendees chatted on a range of topics, from family to the history around the community, to issues in their hometown, to catching up on whatever had happened in life since the last hike.
Some of the hikers who attended are regulars. They seemed highly prepared for the hike, with hiking poles, waterproof hiking boots, pants tucked into their socks, backpacks with extra layers and water bottles. Some had done one or two scrambles in the past, such as a Westwood family who had initially heard of the hikes from a Hale emailing list. Having previously attended one of the walks, they knew to bundle up, and even brought their dog for the parts of the trail that were pet-friendly.
And then there was the Hometown Weekly staff, feeling woefully underprepared wearing unsupported winter snow boots, a baggy sweater and jeans.
For those looking to simulate the feeling of getting lost in the wilderness on a hike, the Forest and Field Loop trail may not be the best path to take. Regular attendees of the hikes suggested the Sen Ki path through Hale Reservation for more woods and conservation land.
The Westwood community can thank Steve Olanoff of the Westwood Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Committee for the guided hikes. “[The hikes] would come and go over time as people retire, move in, move out," Olanoff says. "So I said we need to have something to make this permanent, so that there’s always gonna be hikes year after year.”
Due to Olanoff’s work, the town has budgeted money to pay Hale to administer the hikes, ensuring there is someone to lead them, advertise for them and organize trail clean-ups.
Be sure to join Westwood Community Trails next month on February 4 to hike around Noanet Pond. For more information, visit https://hale1918.org/explore/events/ or email Rich de Reyna at firstname.lastname@example.org.