April 02, 2024

They’re putting some money into this trail.


Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all.

-Helen Keller


There is this piece of the Mass Central Rail Trail that begins just across the street from the parking lot where the northern end of southern portion of the Assebet River Rail Trail ends.  Well, at this point, it’s really more of a rail trail gonna-be than the real deal.  Anyway, from there, it runs more or less east by southeast to somewhere in the Sudbury/Wayland area.  I’m not yet sure just exactly where it ends.

The remnants of the railroad bed were overgrown and barely passable until about a year ago.  There were some lawsuits involving a local utility, Eversource, and NIMBYs who were trying to block its development.  Phyllis, Waldo and I actually walked the southern most part of it, in that natural condition, a couple of years ago.  The lawsuits were settled and, around a year ago, Eversource started burying power cables in the railroad bed and, in the process, clearing all the weeds.  The cable is now buried and the plan is to pave it over and, when that’s done, open it up to the public.  The paving has not yet begun.

I’ve been watching the beginning of the trail in Hudson.  For the longest time, there was a fence that blocked it off, bearing signs that said, “No Trespassing due to construction,” in big red letters.  These signs also said that big brother is watching 24/7 via video cameras (although there was no evidence anywhere that any such cameras existed).  Not wanting to wait for the time that all was paved over, I visited this fence every couple of months or so, hoping for a change that would allow me a chance to explore.  Last spring and summer came and went, then fall and winter, without any change.  Then, a few weeks ago, the fence and signs were gone, replaced by a yellow plastic ribbon strung between traffic cones. The cable is now buried, but the paving has not yet begun.

I was pretty sure that the path, even though not paved, would be solid and easy to walk on because Eversource had to have trucks and heavy equipment in there to bury the cable.  But I didn’t know what the ground would be like and I waited until there was a prolonged dry spell.  I really don’t like treading in muddy areas, with a border collie, if I can avoid it.  Today, the temperature is 60℉, cloudless and there is only a light breeze of 5 mph.  This is the day!

The entire thing is billed as being 7.5 miles long.  Round trip, that’s 15 miles – something my back is not up for right now.  So, the plan is to walk 3.75 miles or so, about halfway, explore what’s out there, and return.  Waldo is eager to go as we leave the car, cross the street and start on our way.

As I thought it would be, the path is broad, solid and flat.  Large treads have dug into the dirt, evidencing the prior passing of heavy equipment, but the ground is very firm and they don’t dig in very deep.  There is no equipment, trucks or cars anywhere to be seen and no one else is around.  There are lots of white pine on both sides of the trail as we enter into a forest.  Pine needles and cones litter the path, but there are no oak leaves.  Just off to the side, down a slight embankment, there is a carpet of oak leaves, so I’m guessing that the construction happened sometime after the oaks lost their leaves.  Pines continuously lose their cones and needles, so that explains why that’s all I would see on the trail now.

Waldo and I are about a mile and a half into our walk when we come across a fence partially blocking our way.  On it hangs those same signs of, “No Trespassing.”  I consider our options and decide to ignore them.  Stirred with confidence, I compose:

I in my shirtsleeves and Waldo sans balk

Carry on anyway with our new walk.

Hubris, maybe, but I also can’t help but wonder what would happen if we were caught.  A fine, probably.  But what if I were jailed?  What would happen to Waldo?  Would they put him in a pound?  Neither one of us would like that!  What if they made us walk by way of the streets to get back to the car?  That would add significant distance to our trek.  My back would certainly not like that!  But Waldo and I are intrepid fellows and we continue on.  Within a half-mile, we come across a young woman, her young son and a golden retriever, also ignoring the signs.  As we go on, we pass three more people with two other dogs and even a guy on a bicycle.  Some danger adds spice to adventure and what risk we are under here doesn’t seem that threatening anymore.  After all, we’re just an old man and his dog out using the path for what it was intended.  Damn the signs, full speed ahead!

On the way back, Waldo keeps trying to venture off the railroad bed and into the woods.  He must have gotten bored with the easy going.  It is pretty straight.  Not this time, Waldo.  Not this time.  The sun is low, about an hour before sunset, as we get back to the car and the air is getting just a bit chilly.  My back is a little sore as I settle into the car seat, but I’m really glad that we explored this part of the rail trail.

And we still have the other half to do.


There’s still some work to do…

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