March 14, 2023

Downtown Hudson


Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.

-Helen Keller


Today, Christine and I decide to walk the entire length of the southern portion of the Assabet River Rail Trail – 10.5 miles round trip.  We’ve done it before, but, with my pinched nerve and Christine’s life responsibilities, it’s been a while.  About a year or so ago, we went on 12 and even 16-mile treks, but now we’re somewhat out of shape.  Christine is very active with her farm responsibilities, caring for and feeding horses, cows, chickens, dogs, cats and even a macaw and a cockatoo, so she’s pretty healthy, but she hasn’t walked any great distance recently.  Spring is coming and we plan on getting back into it and this is the first step of our preparation.  Phyllis is tied up with other things, for the moment, but we do hope that she’ll be able to join us, at least on occasion, as well.  Waldo is willing, nay, eager, needless to say.  He, of course, is in great shape – youth does have its advantages.

The day is a little on the chilly side, with temps in the low to mid-forties, but easy to dress for.  These are the temperatures Waldo really enjoys, what with his sable birthday suit, so we’re all comfortable.  After going ape from meeting Christine again, after such a long time (it’s been a few months), Waldo assumes his rightful position out front and we’re off.  The three of us fall into a comfortable and familiar routine right away – Christine and I talk about whatever comes to mind, as our feet go forth on autopilot, and Waldo’s out doing his Waldo thing.

Christine and I keep in touch by text and phone calls, so there’s not much catching up to do.  Instead, we like to discuss arcane stuff, like what kind of ham antennas we should put up (we’re both amateur radio operators), stuff that I’ve become interested in (like complex system analysis and emergence), current events (like the war in Ukraine), botany (we both like to pay attention to the life that surrounds us), the aches and pains of old age (Christine is in her early sixties) and anything else that pops into our heads. The litany of topics is as boundless as the human experience and we never run out of things to ponder.

Some time ago, I noticed that when I’m out with other people, I don’t get as sore as when it’s just Waldo and me.  The only explanation for that I can come up with is that my posture changes when I’m with others.  If I’m alone, I’m hunched up against the cold, or walking with head down, gazing at the ground without focus, or assuming a slouching gait as I plod along behind Waldo.  I have to consciously adjust my posture – shoulders back, chest out, head up, to correct for that.  When I’m out walking and talking, I’m no longer stumbling and mumbling and I’m engaged with eyes on the horizon, chest inflated to provide the fuel for gab, and chin up to direct the noise toward whomever I’m with.  I don’t have to consciously pay attention to my posture, it just happens.  Add to that the pleasant company and enjoyable interaction company provides and, given the choice, I will not walk alone.  However, because of the distance Waldo and I go, few will take me up on an invitation to join us.  Christine and Phyllis are special, indeed.

After a bit more than an hour, we come to a part of the trail we don’t often see – Hudson and its environs.  We cross over the Assabet River on what was once a railroad bridge, and walk next to an old brick building that has been converted to a restaurant and still has an elevated siding, running next to a no-longer-used loading dock.  At the end of the siding, there are iron rails still affixed to a wooden trestle that runs out toward the river and stops, 30 feet above the bank.  Then, across a busy street, we’re behind downtown Hudson on a meridian strip.  Soon, we parallel the Assabet River where it runs shallow and around an island on one side of Main Street.  A gaggle of geese and two swans are paddling in the water and hanging out on the riverbanks.  On the other side of the road is a cemetery and a small car dealership.  One of the really enjoyable things about these walks is the constant change in scenery as we progress down the path.  I’m sure that Waldo is constantly entertained by the variety of things to smell and types of sticks to herd.

Within another mile, we’re at the end of this part of the trail.  There’s a parking lot to the right and, continuing on in the same direction as we’ve been walking, the roadbed, ensnarled in weeds and bushes, continues on for another hundred yards or so before it runs into a highway.  Beyond that, there is no longer any evidence that a train ever came this way.  I procure a promise from Christine that, soon, we will do the entire trail, 12.5 miles from downtown Marlborough, to the commuter rail station in South Acton, including the 4 mile gap, from where we are now, to the northern portion of the trail.

But, for now, we turn around and head back the way we came.

Christine and I analyzing the meaning of human existence and Waldo stalking his sticks.


Less than 1 mile from downtown Hudson.

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