September 29, 2020

Back on the SNETT.


Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.

-Pema Chodron


Today, we head out for Millville, about 7.5 miles further down our path to P’town.  Originally inhabited by the Nipmuck people, Millville was first settled by Europeans in 1662, just 42 years after Plymouth Colony was established.  It wasn’t officially incorporated until 1916 and now has a population of 3,265.  The town lies in the Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor and has a well-preserved lock which was used on the Blackstone Canal in the early 19th century.  It also has a historic Friends Meetinghouse.  As its name suggests, it grew around a succession of mills, but in the 1800’s.  The canal, and later, the Providence and Worcester Railroad, provided a means for the transportation of manufactured goods that contributed to the area’s growth.  It was hit pretty hard with the recession of 2008 and is still struggling today.

To get to Millville, we’ll continue on down the SNETT (Southern New England Trunkline Trail) from Douglas.  This part of the trial gets a little funky.  In places, it’s a broad, level and graveled path. In other places, it narrows to a rocky footpath.  In one place, as we come to Route 146, a four-lane divided highway, it dwindles into nothing, choked by rocks, undergrowth, and a steep embankment.  When we lose the trail, we have to backtrack and clamber down an incline to a seldom used path that runs right next to Route 146.  A short distance later, we come to a bridge passing over a street and we have to scramble in the weeds beside a hurricane fence to get to the street.  Once there, we follow the pavement, turn onto other streets, until we come across the trail again.  The trail there is cared-for gravel that soon becomes paved.  The blacktop then continues all the way to our destination in Millville.  Such is the nature of this trail.  It varies depending on the effort supplied by the communities through which it runs.  It’s definitely a work in progress.

The country we plod through is forestland.  There are no large bore old trees, at least, very few, but many trees that are fifty years old and younger.  The shade is contiguous and the temperature in the high sixties and low seventies.  People pass us, and the number and makeup of those who do vary with the nature of the trail.  There are a lot of people out and about on the paved parts – families with strollers and young children, joggers, bicyclists, and dogwalkers.  The numbers dwindle on the graveled parts where we see mostly dogwalkers and a few mountain bikers.  We are entirely on our own when we have to bushwhack it.  What’s the matter?  No one with a sense of adventure?

There does seem to be quite a few people out on the trails where we go.  Maybe it’s the influence of Covid, I don’t know.  I did notice an increase in the numbers when everyone was sequestered at home in March, but the numbers seem to be higher than this time last year, even though restrictions have loosened somewhat.  Maybe, just maybe, once people got a taste of walking down these byways, they started to appreciate their worth.  I am pleasantly surprised by the demeanor of everyone we pass.  They all seem happy, friendly and quietly, thoughtfully enjoying themselves.  There is more than one community where someone started a rock garden with a sign that reads something like, “Take one.  Leave one.  Share one.”  Some are just bare stones that can easily fit in the palm of your hand, some are painted bright colors with terse messages meant to brighten the day, like, “Live.  Breathe.  Love.”  Even in these dark days of divisive politics, people on the trails seem to be reaching out, offering and receiving a welcoming message of shared humanity.  The world could use more trail-greetings and fewer street-confrontations.

I think Waldo shares in this spirit.  No longer is he a puppy who pulls at the leash so hard he rubs himself raw.  Now, he never barks or growls at other dogs we pass.  He doesn’t make himself a nuisance for other people, or pull at the leash with all his might, trying to get at something that’s grabbed his attention.  He just plugs along, checking out that part of spacetime we’re passing through, taking it all in, never making a fuss.  And he is always eager to make a new friend.

Our next stop is Franklin, the end of SNETT and another 10.3 miles closer to our goal.


Some places on the SNETT are smoother than others.

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