July 14, 2020

Trees, so many trees!


The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.



The Norwottuck Rail-Trail takes a turn to the southeast at Amherst on its run toward Belchertown, population 15,134.  The area was first settled in 1731 and was eventually incorporated as Belchertown, named after a Royal Governor of Massachusetts.  It seems that a lot of towns out here were named for governors.  To Belchertown’s east lies the southwestern tip of the Quabbin Reservoir, built between 1930 and 1939, which serves, along with the Wachusett Reservoir, completed in 1905, as the water supply for Boston.  I found out The Belchertown State School used to be located in the town from 1922 until 1994 when it was closed due to poor conditions and the inhumane treatment of its residents.  What’s left of it lies some distance from where we’re walking, but it might be worth visiting someday.  I’d wager there are some interesting stories lurking there – and spooky.  Our goal is to walk to the end of the rail-trail then turn east to Route 9, a total distance of 8.7 miles.

We’re not afoot for long and we’re engulfed in thick woods.  The trees look old, but they can’t be that old.  New England settlers cut down some 80% of the forests that predated their arrival.  The land was cleared for agriculture for over 200 years some 350 years ago.  In the past 100 years, after farming moved west because richer land was found there, forests returned and now cover 75% of New England.  The trees that grow here now include white pine, red maple, northern red oak, red spruce, red pine, sugar maple, yellow birch, American beech, eastern hemlock, balsam fir, and white spruce, to name just a few.  Christine points out a hemlock tree and tells us that we must be passing a wet area because that’s where you find hemlock.  Sure enough, just a few yards off the trail are lowlands that, though dry right now, look like they are often boggy.

The Daniel Shays Highway runs down the western shore of Quabbin Reservoir into Belchertown.   Daniel Shays was an American Revolutionary soldier who led the Shay’s rebellion in 1786-87.  The rebellion was in response to post-war high taxes and ended at the time of the Constitutional Convention.  The havoc the rebellion wreaked influenced the framing of the Constitution and was a factor in the evolution of the US government under the Articles of Confederation into what followed under the Constitution of the United States.  Daniel Shays was a resident of Pelham, just to the north of Belchertown.

Christine and Karen are remarkable walking companions.  Karen is a musician and plays the organ.  She loves to read and has adventured around the world.  Like me, she is a bleeding-heart liberal.  We have a lot in common and never run out of things to talk about.  Christine is very intelligent, extremely well read and stimulating to talk to.  She is always curious and explores our surroundings and interesting vehicles we pass.  I am blessed with companions that make the miles go quickly and ease our plodding progress.  We talk about politics, often with playful banter, the flora we pass, the antique vehicles we encounter, the history of the areas we go through and just about everything else that comes up on our trek.

Waldo, while still my puppy, is no longer the frenetic ball of fur he once was.  He herds Christine back into line when she wanders (or at least tries to).  I can, when the traffic isn’t too bad, comfortably let him guide us at the front end of the leash at its full extension, about 26 feet.  If he strays, I say, “This way!” and he turns back to look at me to see how I want him to change course.  When I shorten leash, he walks next to me without too much fuss.  “Wait!” brings him to a halt until I say, “Okay.”  When we stop for a breather, he plops on the ground next to us.  It is no longer a big job to take him for a walk.  I don’t think this is due as much to training as it is to his maturing into a young dog.  That and repetition, lots and lots of repetition.  And maybe the CBD oil.  Most importantly, he enjoys our walks as I enjoy walking with him.

We’re making slow, but steady progress.

P’town, we’re coming!


Lots of welcome shade!

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