Wednesday, May 13, 2020

River to Range - Wheelchair Accessible Walk in South Hadley

I found my way on a sunny but cool and windy day to a wheelchair accessible loop in South Hadley, Massachusetts, built in 2018. The trail is located on Ferry Street next to the Mt. Holyoke boathouse on the Connecticut River.

The one mile stone dust trail departs the 8 car parking lot at the end of a long open field. At this time of year before the leaves are out, you can see the river and mountains on the other side. A big part of the loop travels around this field on level ground, with a stint through the woods at the far end that involves more varied terrain. You will find no restrooms at this location, but plenty of open space and fresh air.

Along the way there are 5 places to pull off the trail with 1-2 stone benches and wayside information about the landscape and its history. It makes for a nice educational stroll and I did pass a father and 2 young boys reading the signs. A solo walker and a family of four also passed by me during my 45 minutes on the trail on a weekday afternoon at 4pm. 

Click here for a map of the entire Bachelor Stony Brook Conservation Area. There are a couple of other trails good for more moderate explorations off the ADA trail. This post will highlight the wheelchair accessible trail only.

This location has some very noteworthy elements. It is very close to where Bachelor Brook meets the Connecticut River. A short scenic dirt lane to this spot can be taken off the accessible trail. The far end of the accessible trail parallels the floodplain area of the winding brook, with tall maples overhead. It's a delightful and extensive view into a unique environment not typically accessible to walkers in my experience. As you enter the wooded portion of the trail, there is a larger resting area with a viewing area over the floodplain. 

Further along you will come upon the one challenging grade of the trail (shown in above photo), where assistance may be needed for some wheelchair users who might not otherwise need it - an uphill climb for 75 feet at 12-13%. It is well worth navigating for the environmental opportunity if you can manage it. After that the trail pretty much levels out again back to the parking lot.
Other noteworthy elements - 

There is a power line that traverses the field. As power lines go, it's not the high tension buzzy type, thank goodness. All the fun new aspects of the trail kept me from being too bothered by it, including one of the most unique obstacles I've ever come upon on a trail. 

On the river side of the field, there is a hanging swath of  vines, cut off a few feet from the ground, that sways in the wind. The breeze was quite strong when I visited, and the hefty vines passed back and forth across the trail, requiring me to consider carefully when I chose to pass through.

The Bachelor Brook - Stony Brook Conservation Area in South Hadley offers a pleasant opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. I was pleased to find it was less than 25 minutes from Amherst. If you are based in the central or southern stretch of the Pioneer Valley, this may be a great local opportunity for you. The parking lot is at 240 Ferry Street. There is a longer extension off the accessible loop that offers more walking trail along the brook and helps to disperse visitors. 

Seems like a fine place for a stroll and if you go, please practice DCR safe park visiting guidelines during this period of restricted social contact:

  • Minimize outdoor recreational time to limit potential exposure to COVID-19
  • Stay within solitary or small groups, and avoid gatherings of ten or more people
  • Practice social distancing of at least six feet between individuals
  • Administer healthy personal hygiene, such as handwashing for at least 20 seconds
  • Participate in only non-contact recreational activities
  • Leave a park or area should large gatherings begin to build 
  • Stay home if ill, over 70, and/or part of a vulnerable population 

1 comment:

Marjorie Turner Hollman--Author, Easy Walks in MA series said...

Another stunning place to get some great water views. Lovely! I have encountered a similar "hanging vine" issue in Cumberland, RI along the Blackstone River bike trail. Sadly, the hanging vine is poison ivy, so one must take very good care to avoid!