Wednesday, July 8, 2020

A Sense of Peace and History on the Tinker Trail

I visited the John Tinker Trail in Groton this week - what a gem of a wheelchair accessible trail!

Located on Nod Road in J. Harry Rich State Forest, the John Tinker Trail is a delightful and flat quarter-mile stroll through the woods and alongside a river to a picnic table. The trail is 10 feet wide and hard-packed stone dust. As it comes close to the river, pine needles cover the trail and the smell of pine provides a pleasant atmosphere, as does the scenic views of river through the tall trees. I really liked the sense of both spaciousness and protection in this location.

There are three stone benches along the river portion of the trail. Footpaths follow the river contour, separate from the accessible trail, and make for an inviting explore for kids or nimble adults. I saw a swan out on the curving river. Despite the bright green algae growth covering most of the river water, the sunny views were lovely from the shade. The view from the picnic table overlooking the river's sharp curve offered a peaceful sense of beauty. Pond lilies and pickerel weed were blooming. I heard several common bird calls for this time of year - red-winged blackbirds and mourning doves among them. The ground is fairly open so it was easy to avoid touching vegetation that might harbor ticks. Traffic sounds are far off and the bugs were only mildly noticeable in the parking lot.

There is a 5 car parking lot to start and one of the 5 spaces is designated van accessible. A father with 2 young kids was departing when I arrived, so I had the place to myself for quite awhile. As I was wrapping up my picnic lunch, an older couple came down the trail, one person using a rolling walker. It was easy to keep our distance from each other. Later at the parking lot we conversed and I learned that they live nearby and walk the trail regularly. So nice to know that this quiet trail is being well-used by those who need it for its accessible design! They also verified that the trail is usually quiet, with similar visitation as I experienced.

The peace and quiet of this location belies the fact that Groton was first settled here by John Tinker, who followed Native American trails from the bay area to the mouth of Nod Brook on the Nashua River, according to the Town of Groton's website. Tinker built a trading post in the early 17th century in the vicinity of the picnic table. From this point Groton and surrounding towns were settled. I cannot help but give a heartfelt "nod" to the native people who lost their homeland here, in part to balance the history told about this place.

I also visited the nearby Nashua River Rail Trail which offers an 11 mile bike path north of Route 2 west of 495. Bike paths are noteworthy accessible trails and on a beautiful summer afternoon this one had light traffic. I saw a few cyclists wearing masks but most were not. Although I didn't visit every access point, the best place I saw for wheelchair access to the Nashua River Rail Trail was in the center of Groton at the Station Road entrance. Plenty of parking parallel to the trail, though not all of it is paved. The trail is mostly shady along much of its length. If you are interested in biking in the Groton area, check out a recent post by Marjorie Turner Hollman who writes regularly of her Easy Walk and tandem biking adventures in central Massachusetts. She highly recommends getting out early to avoid crowds.

DCR advocates for people to stay close to home and visit parks within walking distance or a short drive. If you plan to venture further afield, as well as on any outing, please protect yourself and others. In addition to following safe practices outlined by the CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health, please be sure to follow these additional DCR guidelines for safe park visiting:

  • 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; and,
  • Stay home if ill, over 70, and/or part of a vulnerable population. 

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