Finishing up another great weekend hike through the Blackstone River Valley. Tomorrow I leave Worcester County and walk into Norfolk County in Southeastern Massachusetts. I carried Walden with me for inspiration.
July 29-30, 2017
Notes and photographs to follow.
Fairy Tales, Cows, Uber, and Mud —
Charlton to Douglas, Mass., July 22-23, 2017
- During my hike last weekend I followed two sections of the Midstate Trail, sections 10 and 11, from Charlton to Oxford and Oxford to Douglas State Forest, where I’m about five miles north of the Rhode Island state border. This weekend I plan to pick up where I left off in Douglas and hike to the Purgatory Chasm State Reservation in Sutton, before concluding in Mendon, the last town in Worcester County on my journey to the Southeastern part of the state.
- I was a little challenged when I actually started hiking in forests along the Midstate Trail. Up to this point in my cross state MassWalk, I’ve primarily hiked flat, open, asphalt roads across the Berkshires and the Pioneer Valley. Stepping foot in the woods was new to me because I didn’t grow up attending camp, or going backpacking. After checking over my shoulder a couple of times to make sure no bears were pursuing me, I pushed aside my fears and kept strolling like a baddd ass Philly dude. “Yo, what’s up toad,” “high ya’ doin little chipmonk.” Eventually my fears settled down and I stepped off the trail where my foot became lodged in about six inches of mud. I cringed at losing my shoe, as I looked at cake of mud on it. No city person would have an easy time with this.I had to pull really, really hard to get my shoe out of the mud. That’s when I realized I was going to have to find peace with dirt and getting dirty. The next day when I approached a muddy wet path I just plowed through the water not caring about getting wet or muddy – I was just going to have wet feet.
- Two to three hours passed on Saturday without seeing a single person as I walked through quite, lush woodlands, following utility right of ways that traversed the Worcester County Midstate Trail landscape sometimes traveling in an east-westerly direction before turning north-south.
- The hike from Charlton to Oxford, Mass. was about 6-7 miles. The trip began in Oxford where I parked my car at the end of the trail. From there I hailed an Uber to drive me to the trailhead in Charlton which came to $14. Since arriving in the central part of the state I’ve become dependent on Uber to help me reach the trailhead which is usually 12 to 15 miles away. In the Berkshires, and throughout much of Western Mass., there was no Uber or limited taxis service to shuttle me between certain locations. I remember one taxi company in the Berkshires wanted to charge me $50.00 for a twenty mile ride. Saying no thank you I began to hitchhike a few times to get here and there. While its not my preferred methods for getting around, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
- Whenever I arrive in a town that I am ending my journey, I usually park my car next to one of the most trusted institutions in every community — the local public library. If the library is open I can use their bathroom, get directions, access the internet to send and receive messages, look at local books on hiking, and print out a last minute map if needed. Most libraries also have free public parking.
- Highlights of Saturday’s trip included getting lost and reorienting myself to find a cow pass somewhere under Route 20 (see picture), passing through Historic Charlton, discovering a really cool old Road Sign (see pictures gallery), and being able to say I’ve walked over and under the MassPike in Charlton.
- On Sunday, my friend Michael Richardson, whose visiting from Boise, Idaho, joined me on the trail as we hiked from Oxford to Douglas, about 14 miles. We met up in Douglas and left his car there and drove back to Oxford in my car. It was our first time seeing each other in more than 10 years. Michael was in excellent shape and had no problems going the distance. We had a lot to talk about as our lives have changed. As he approaches 50 years old, he was very reflective on life, being a parent, marriage, separation, family, desired happiness, and business.
- Some of the highlights of the day included taking in majestic sweeping views standing atop a mountain in Sutton, Mass. overlooking corn fields, Wachusetts Mountain to the North and Douglas to the south. And of course Black and White Holstein cows taking a break.
- Michael, also talked about a new book idea he’s working on that he read in a essay titled On Fairy Stories” an essay in “The Monsters and the Critics.” The verse Michael shared, was from Tolkien. He said “On Fairy Stories,” he’s really talking about fiction in general — not just “fairy tales”….
We need in any case to clean our windows; so that the things seen
clearly may be freed from the drab blur of triteness or familiarity — from
possessiveness… This triteness is really the penalty of “appropriation”:
the things that are trite, or (in a bad sense) familiar, are the things that
we have appropriated, legally or mentally. We say we know them. They
have become like the things which once attracted us by their glitter,
or their color, or their shape, and we laid hands on them, and then locked
them in our hoard, acquired them, and acquiring ceased to look at them.
Walking on even surfaces or rough terrain? According to new research uneven, rough, terrain is better for your feet.
Once upon a time, we walked on a diverse terrain – over pebbles and paths, rocks, forests, in high grass, on boulders, we might have had to climb over an obstacle or two. Diverse terrain also means different loads to the very mobile architecture of the foot with its 33 joints and more than a 100 muscles, tendons and ligaments. This also meant varying loads on the ankle, knee and hip joints – thus tissues were stimulated at different rates, intensities and frequencies.
What’s the opposite of this? Shopping at the mall? Walking around the paved path around a lake in your community? Where does your shoe-protected, stiff, sensory deprived foot get to encounter the symphony of inputs that nature provides? No wonder most of my clients suffer on long walks through the supermarket – once a tissue is overloaded it doesn’t take much of repeating the same stimulus over and over again to aggravate it. Galina Denzel
In practice, walking on uneven surfaces has been difficult for me since I started MassWalk 2017, because most of the mountain chains across Massachusetts run along a North-South axis. Choosing to walk in a west to east direction you’ll only find hard asphalt roads, like Route 9 which spans the state. To counter this I walk on the far shoulders of the road as much as possible. One for safety, and secondly to spare my feet from the hard pounding they would take on the concrete surfaces. Most rail trails across Massachusetts are typically made of some sort of mixed asphalt which can also be hard on your feet. Regardless, they are still wonderful to experience and they serve as a great introduction to hiking and other activities.
While the shoulder of most roadways are not the more beneficial rough terrain as described in the accompanying article, it’s still fairly diverse, and it gives my feet a lot of feedback from the unevenness.
So, What’s Your Walking Surface IQ?
To learn more about new walking science research check out this article entitled: What’s your walking surface IQ? by Galina Denzel, a Nutritious Movement certified restorative exercise specialist.
Massachusetts Rail-Trail Stats
- 67 total rail-trails
- 310 miles of rail-trails
- 66 current projects
- 323 miles of potential rail-trail
Apply for Funding in Your State
Understand the ins and outs of the federal Transportation Alternatives (TA) program, and learn how to apply for funding.
Looking ahead to this weekend’s MassWalk, as I’m now officially calling it, I’ve decided to slow down so I can actually experience hiking one of the most well-known trails in Central Massachusetts. Also, I’m excited to have my friend Michael Richardson, who’s visiting from Boise, join me on Sunday for a portion of the hike to Douglas State Forest.
The Midstate Trail is a scenic footpath which runs 92 miles (148 km) through Worcester County, Massachusetts, from the Rhode Island border to the New Hampshire border, approximately 45 miles (72 km) west of Boston, according to WikiPedia. The trail is considered highly accessible, scenic, and remarkably rural despite its proximity to urban Boston. The trail includes the summits of Mount Wachusett and Mount Watatic, as well as many interesting geologic, historic, and natural features.
I’m planning to hike two parts of the Midstate Trail this weekend beginning in Charlton to Cascade Brook (about 6.1 mi, 9.81 km), and then Cascade Brook to Douglas State Forest (17 mi, 27.35km).
Trail of the Month: July 2017 The trail is part of the culture here. Nestled in an iconic vacation destination about 75 miles down the coast from…