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. 

The most challenging spot to navigate
was where footprints were frozen
around the gate.
Take the left fork and walk for perhaps a third of a mile to reach the water’s edge. The roadway is not plowed in winter and since it is January I can report that the roadway was a bit icy, but previous vehicle tire treads had left a double dirt pathway amidst the gently pocked ice and snow with frozen footprints. I found it easy to walk with ice grippers on my boots and as I did, the road became less and less icy.

Once at the water’s edge, as I had suspected, the road was free of snow and ice. I knew this to be likely due to the exposure to the afternoon sun with so many recent days above freezing. The road continues southward along the shoreline with magnificent views of the big landscape of the Quabbin Reservoir. The water was unfrozen quite a ways out and frozen further out across the reservoir. On a windless day the wide open water was exceptionally calm, and I enjoyed spotting some ducks swimming on it.

Map at the kiosk shows the trail from Gate 35
 and other details near by.

Amazingly, most of this 2 mile shoreline road is level, with mild shifts in grade. You can walk as far as you like and turn back when you choose. I’m told it is a bit gravelly towards the far end. If you are looking for an accessible walk for a few miles, Gate 35 is a great choice!

Pay attention to conditions and recent weather if you choose to go out in winter. Wear good boots and bring ice grippers you are feeling intrepid in colder months. Keep in mind there are no bathrooms or shelter along this route. On a colder windy day the wind off the water could be daunting. Any nice day in spring, summer and fall should be even more spectacular than my experience. The road is also designated for biking use. I saw only one person there, and just three cars at the gate. It’s a big place and you will likely be mostly alone there.

View on the return proceeding northward.
DCR (Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation) advocates for people to stay close to home during the pandemic 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 guidelines for safe 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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