June 06, 2023

Wide open spaces next to backyards.


It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.

-Yogi Berra


I found a 4.7-mile-long rail-trail that runs through Leominster and Fitchburg, MA.   Leominster is about 20 miles or so northwest from Marlborough and the trail is just long enough for a good roundtrip walk.  The high temperature is forecast to be 70℉, so I feel comfortable starting at about noon.  Waldo and I meet Christine at the railhead in Leominster, where we leave our cars, and we head out.  I check my weather app as we start, and it’s 72℉.  I figure that as long as it stays below about 76℉, we’ll be okay.   If Waldo gets hot, we’ll just have to stop and wait for him to cool off in the shade here and there.

Leominster is a city of around 45,000 people, in the 2020 census, that was founded in 1653, incorporated in 1740.  During the civil war, it was a major contributor to the underground railroad. Originally a farming community, it became a manufacturing center after the arrival of the railroad. By the 1850s, paper mills, piano makers and comb manufacturers were doing business there.  The comb manufacturing industry was a big part of its industry with some 146 employees working in 24 different factories.  By the early 1930s, Foster Grant (yes, the sunglasses guy) brought plastic injection mold manufacturing to Leominster and the city soon became known as “Pioneer Plastics City.”  It’s also the home of Tupperware, founded in 1938 by Earl Tupper.

Leominster is  renown as the birthplace of Johnny Appleseed, whose real name was John  Chapman.  Born in 1774, he may be America’s first conservationist.  He was also a vegetarian.  When he was 18, he and his brother wandered west, creating a number of fenced orchards.  Pear or apple orchards were required by law to uphold land claims in many places and Johnny’s orchards became popular places for people to settle as the population moved westward.  At the time of his death, he owned some 1,200 acres of land.

Settled in 1730, Fitchburg is situated on the Nashua River.  It was a 19th century industrial center and used the river to power large mills making machines, tools, clothing, paper and firearms.  The 2020 census lists a population of around 42,000.  One of its claims to fame is that it was the home of Hiram Maxim, the inventor of the first self-powered machine gun.

The rail-trail starts in an small town urban area surrounded by streets and small businesses.  There are few trees, little shade and the sun is out, so it becomes quite warm as we walk along.  Oh, there are oaks and maples and the same bushes as along our rail-trail, just not as many and placed further back from the path.  As we walk along, we pass by backyards of one and two story buildings and even a ballpark, where little leaguers are playing baseball, watched by their families.  Before too long, we come across the Fitchburg Airport, someplace I’ve landed in my flying days, when the weather became too dense to make it back to the home airport.  After that, we parallel the North Nashua River and walk next to the Fitchburg Commuter Rail next to it.  Fitchburg is the last station on that line.  The train carries passengers to and from Boston several times a day and three pass us as we walk along.  We end up on narrow streets and alleyways in a rundown part of town, where we turn around and head back.

By this time, it has gotten quite hot.  I check my weather app and it reports a temperature of 76℉.  A lot hotter than the 70℉ first forecast!  I pull out Waldo’s water bottles and give him as much as he wants to drink and we carry on.  We don’t go more than a half mile before Waldo searches out shade next to a retaining wall and lays down.  Christine and I give him a few minutes to cool off and then verbally encourage him to carry on.  He’ll have none of it, though, and just looks up at us as if to say, “Uh-uh, I think I’ll just stay here a bit.”  I check the app – it says the temp is now 78℉.  Christine and I talk about it and we decide that Waldo and I will stay where we are and Cristine will walk back to the cars, about 4 miles, then come pick us up.  We could have waited a bit longer and Waldo would have continued on, but it’s hot, the sun is out, there’s little breeze and Waldo would probably need to rest up again before not too long.  Christine disappears around the next bend in the trail and Waldo and I wait.

Waldo lies on his side and seems to fall asleep.  Then, after about five minutes of that, he’s up and sniffing around.  He’s fine, just hot.  He and I find a nice big tree to rest under, with lots of shade, and after a little more than an hour, Christine comes and we’re on our way home.

The trail was not my favorite, it being so urban and all.  I much prefer tall trees with lots of shade and a forest milieu.  But I’m glad we walked it.

That’s one more part of Massachusetts the three of us can put on our been-there, done-that list.


This is what a spent Waldo in the shade looks like…

Leave a Reply