I want one, too!

Customers into the store offer almost as much good information as they seek. As often as someone comes in to get details on rainwear or hiking boots, I glean from them places to hike, bike and paddle.

A few weeks ago a guy told me about mountain biking near Wachusett Reservoir. I wish I had written down his directions to the (unmarked) parking area near the trail head, because his vague directions didn’t match the info I found on maps. Singletracks and NEMBA didn’t have any info on riding in the area, either.

the Old Stone Church on Wachusett Reservoir

I finally found Wachusett Greenways, part of the Mass Central Rail Trail that might, someday, stretch from Boston to Northampton. Why this doesn’t come up on Google maps and other sources is a mystery to me. It’s a beautiful wide, even, stone dust trail under a thick canopy of leaves. Although it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, it was a great find.

Wachusett Greenways rail trail: goes down smoothly

The path is well-used by walkers, joggers, babystrollers, and all sorts of bikers (the path is smooth enough for everything from wheelchairs to road bikes too). It’s  a perfect place to recreate away from traffic and the built environment. Starting on the West Boylston/Oakham line, my daughter and I rode toward Holden not knowing how far we’d be able to go. It followed a wide brook and crossed under I-190. There were engraved markers explaining the former sites of woolen mills. Altogether very cool.

even hwy 190 is quiet when it's this far above you

All along, I was thinking my town should have a trail like this. In fact, we’ve got the infrastructure: an intact, unused rail bed that stretches several miles and could be useful for accessing a commuter rail station a few miles away in Needham. It’s (optimistically) called the Bay Colony Rail Trail but it’s still in its embryonic phase, with rails still intact and a small core group lobbying for each babystep in its progress. I just started volunteering for the organization, hoping to move the needle a bit.

One thing about these corridors of recreation and alternative transportation: they can be addictive. Turn a railbed into a multi-use trail and the next thing you know people will want to attach parcels of conservation land to it and grow the thing into a whole parkland and preserve. Imagine that.

Funny thing, there’s always at least a little opposition to these projects when they’re in the works. I’m thinking that getting the naysayers on a bus and bringing them to the Wachusett Greenways trail would go a long way to converting any doubters. Noise? Trash? Non-existent. In fact, noise and trash and graffiti and all of that negative stuff that abutters raise concerns about has been nonexistent on just about every rail trail I’ve ever visited, from the Air Line Trail in Connecticut to the urban Minuteman Bikeway in Arlington.

Along with feeling refreshed and energetic about this vision of what the BCRT could be, my riding companion and I also managed to find a couple side-trails for singletrack riding. Spinning through the ferns on the banks of a wide, bubbling brook was sublime, and offered a wider variety of vistas than the trail itself.

slightly off the beaten path, a mossy riverbank

For the first time in a long time (I usually ride alone), I had someone along for a reality check. I kept asking, “Is this beautiful, or what??” But of course the teenager could only grunt in response. Enthusiasm for something Mom likes to do would run counter to the Teenager Code of Ethics, subcategory 1: Unresponsiveness. The singletrack trails were mostly smooth and not technical except for a few drop-offs; perfect for a newbie developing her skills.

my riding companion tolerated my enthusiasm

While every abandoned rail bed doesn’t have the same sort of potential for beautiful vistas as Wachusett Greenways (I was thinking it rivalled a trip to Vermont in lots of places), who’s to say what sort of potential such trails hold? What difference might such a trail make in the life of a sedentary individual who figures out he can now bike to the train station once or twice a week? Or in the life of a kid who finds a route to freedom and independence that doesn’t involve bugging mom or dad for a ride to the next town? Or the potential to bring residents together over a project that’s meaningful and worthy of their time and effort?

it's not easy to find trails as smooth and rideable as these right on the edge of a brook

Visiting Wachusett Greenways is motivation enough for me to stay involved and hopefully see BCRT through to fruition.

one of many picturesque bridges on the greenway

another brookside trail


the goat path we didn't like

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One Response to “I want one, too!”

  1. jerky Says:

    its about time, i thought you retired…i need bike time badly!

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