Friday, January 15, 2021

Easy Walks and Hikes in the Connecticut River Valley

The cover of Marjorie's recently
 published book. 
Easy walks and hikes are in ever higher demand as people age and yet there are too few ways to find out about them. Marjorie Turner Hollman provides a handy reference to Easy Walks (a term she has coined) in south central Massachusetts through her publications. Her latest book, "Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are" provides essential information to help you seek out Easy Walks close to home, especially timely for the pandemic.

Marjorie has a few disabling conditions that make her an excellent measure of what is required of a trail to be considered an Easy Walk. In short, an Easy Walk would be on flat to mild terrain, have minimal low rocky conditions to navigate, and could be anywhere from a quarter mile to two and a half miles in length. Any slightly more challenging terrain might last only 20-30 feet. A step or two might be encountered at a bridge. Any wheelchair accessible path would constitute an Easy Walk, but some Easy Walks will extend beyond wheelchair accessibility.

Read on to learn some Easy Walk locations in the Connecticut River Valley, and find out about Easy Hikes too.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Scenic Easy Walk In North Central Massachusetts

Scenic roadway along the Quabbin shoreline.
Despite a gray cloudy day I ventured over to Gate 35 at the Quabbin today. A facebook follower had alerted me a few months ago to this unexpected wheelchair accessible experience and finally I had a chance to follow up. What a lovely find!

Gate 35 is located along the northeastern tip of the massive reservoir, technically in the town of Athol, at the end of N. Old Dana Road off Route 122 in New Salem. There is roadside parking at the gated end of the road and room around the gate to pass through in a wheelchair. A kiosk with map and various rules is within sight at a fork in the dirt road beyond the gate. 

Monday, January 4, 2021

Winter Outings for Wheelchair Users

Thoreau's cabin replica in a light dusting of snow
with sign and sculpture of Thoreau walking.
“We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure....." - Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau, one of our Massachusetts literary icons of the 19th century, spent a famous 2 years, 2 months and 2 days living in a cabin on the shore of Walden Pond. An intrepid spirit, he also wrote: 

“I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least—and it is commonly more than that—sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements. "

Nowadays we all suffer from cabin fever and fresh air is more important than ever. The pandemic is a steady challenge and some people simply may not be able to go out. For those who can, our walks may be quite limited by time constraints along with short days and winter conditions. Winter's cold, snow and ice present tough challenges for many people with disabilities. It is daunting to consider going out. Forty minutes, let alone, 4 hours, may be an ambitious undertaking for many, yet even just sticking your head out the door, can be beneficial for your health and well-being. But the question remains, where can you go for an accessible trail experience in the winter? On top of that we now add "where there aren't too many people?"

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Two Boston Area Accessible Winter Walks

Three people, including one in a wheelchair,
walk alongside ice covered water.
With a chill in the air and a touch of snow on the ground, it is still vital for health and well-being to get fresh air and exercise. I did some exploration in the Boston area of two accessible trails to check accessibility this week.

My first stop was Webb Memorial State Park at 371 River Street in North Weymouth on Boston's south shore. I needed a dose of sea air and views of the water! This park is a peninsula that extends into Hingham Bay and offers views of Boston, the harbor, and islands. Much to my delight I found the bathrooms not only open, but heated, with warm water coming from the sink faucet at Webb Memorial State Park!! Thank you DCR! Be aware that there is about an inch of threshold to navigate to get into the restroom, otherwise the interior is accessible.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Scenic Treasures on the Taunton River

A man sitting along a boardwalk views a battleship.
I was driving in southeastern Massachusetts this week of Veteran's Day and re-discovered a couple of short accessible trails well worth mentioning for their historical significance.

The first is in Fall River, at Fall River Heritage State Park. Though the visitor center remains closed during the pandemic, the urban waterfront park and its three-quarter mile trail are open. Most helpful of all, the accessible bathroom is open and can be accessed from a separate door on the building's exterior.

Park your vehicle in one of two small parking lots off Davol Street near a community sailing facility or at Battleship Cove on 5 Water Street. This historical area is located very close to I-195 along the Taunton River. A paved and boardwalk trail circles the Heritage Park Visitor Center with a short connecting bridge to Battleship Cove. The ships sitting right there in the cove are quite impressive, as is the highway bridge over the river. It all makes for some very dynamic visuals. The USS Massachusetts is resting here, a well decorated battleship from WWII.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Wheelchair Accessible Trails and Outings on Cape Cod

Fall is a fabulous time to visit Cape Cod - the weather is often milder than on the mainland and the crowds tend to thin out. I just spent Columbus Day weekend in the mid-cape area and discovered that there are quite a few wheelchair accessible trail outings available to those seeking quiet time in nature. Freshwater ponds and wetlands, cedar swamps, and salt marshes are just some of the exciting options to explore. You never know what you'll find on the way to such places too. I lucked out and came upon a cranberry harvest along the roadside!

Key information for visitors with disabilities to Cape Cod include two foundational opportunities. The 22 mile Cape Cod Rail Trail offers a paved linear bike trail through the towns of Dennis, Harwich, Brewster, Orleans  Eastham and Wellfleet, passing through Nickerson State Park about mid-way in Brewster. Both of these state parks offer accessible opportunities managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Find Fall Delights at the D.A.R. State Forest

Fall is a great time to visit the Daughters of the American Revolution (D. A. R.) State Forest in Goshen, Massachusetts, part of the Berkshire region. Color is already well underway around beautiful Highland Lake. Yesterday I observed a few people on the beach and trails and kayaking on the water. Often busy in the summer, the park remains active but attendance is low in fall - perfect for a pandemic getaway day. 

Though 25 years old, the lakeside wheelchair accessible trail is in fantastic condition, thanks to park staff maintenance and a recent re-surfacing. This quarter mile stone dust trail runs from the first boat launch - known as the "kayak beach" to the campground road. It is entirely forested and along the way you'll find accessible fishing spots, a gazebo, and numerous benches. The trail is often flat, with some gentle grades that shouldn't pose a significant challenge.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Fall Explorations at Mt. Tom State Reservation

A popular spot in the Pioneer Valley, Mt. Tom State Reservation is located in Holyoke, not far off I-91, making for an easy destination in the more populated lower portion of the valley. A wheelchair accessible loop trail along Lake Bray has been in existence for 25 years. In recent years an extension off the loop has been established to offer visitors with disabilities an opportunity to access a wetland view tucked at the base of the mountain. I investigated this season to see how well the trail has been holding up and found it in good condition. As summer winds down, the trails are less busy, so September and October are a great time to visit while the weather is warm and fall colors emerge.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Seekonk Town Hall Trails in SE Massachusetts

Trail head behind town hall.
The town of Seekonk in southeastern Massachusetts - not far from Providence, RI - has a nice accessible trail starting right at the town hall. This trails project, partially funded through DCR's Recreation Trails Grant program, offers visitors an opportunity to hike through the woods to a wetland view.

The town hall can be found at 100 Peck Street. Once there you'll find a brand new accessible playground right at the town hall, along with a picnic area and new parking lot. When I visited in August these new features were still under construction but close to being finished.

Shady deck ends the accessible trail portion.
A short partially paved access route will bring you to the start of the red trail just beyond the picnic tables. What I like about this short trail - just 1/6 of a mile - is how easy it is to slip into nature in an urban environment. The stone dust path soon reaches a trail junction. From here, the accessible yellow trail will take you through the woods to the YMCA. The red trail continues to a tiny observation deck before it changes to boardwalk that leads to a larger deck. Along this route you can observe various plants and potentially wildlife in a damp forest. Reaching the deck view completes the wheelchair accessible portion of the trail - a worthy and enjoyable journey. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Take a Tree Walk at Beaver Brook Reservation

In Belmont, there is a paved path known as the South Loop at Beaver Brook Reservation, that offers a self-guided urban tree walk and remembers massive oaks once located here. The trail has some steep grades, but is otherwise wheelchair accessible. With assistance of a physically fit companion, many wheelchair users can access this delightful path near Boston. There are several benches along the loop to stop and rest too.

I recommend parking in a 40 car lot on Waverly Oaks Road across from #520 to begin your excursion at Beaver Brook Reservation. You'll have to contend with a downgrade to get into the park (as shown in the first photo), but the paved path is 12 feet wide, which allows other people to pass by. The downgrade is 6-13% for 160 feet, followed by another at 10-18% for 60 feet - definitely significant, but doable with support if needed. A power wheelchair is unlikely to have an issue. You could also start out taking the roadside sidewalk and do a gradual descent into the park, then return the same way after exploring the park to avoid the steepest section. Just remember either way you will have to return uphill.

The park was well visited on a Thursday afternoon and likely is on any day of the week. No bathrooms here, so be forewarned.