Happy Trails to the Restless

            Tired of climbing the walls and waiting for an all-clear to the movies, restaurants and stores? No better time than the present to engage in a higher quality of life through what nature has right under our socially distanced noses.

            Take a walk.

            There are literally dozens of trails within a 20-minute drive in almost any direction away from or even along the shore.

            The Wanderer’s own Shawn Sweet, manager of the newspaper’s Facebook page and author of “Tri-Town Trek,” is an avid hiker and reports regularly on what’s going on in our natural habitat.

            Sweet, who sits on the Sippican Lands Trust Board and hikes anywhere from 10-15 miles with her husband primarily on weekends, advises proper clothing to avoid mosquito and tick bites, especially if hiking/walking vulnerable areas during vulnerable times of day.

            “I will say, although this time of year lends to mud and bugs, it’s also a great opportunity to explore,” she said. “The Spring Peepers are out and they are singing loud this year. Skunk cabbage is beginning to sprout. The ospreys are returning. 

            “I even caught a glimpse of a river otter swimming along the river at the Church’s Field property in Rochester… wish I had been quick enough with the camera.”

            In addition to East Over Reservation in Marion, Nasketucket Bay State Reservation in Mattapoisett and New Bedford Waterworks in Rochester, the three parks featured below, Sweet lists the following areas among her favorites: Aucoot Woods (White Eagle Parcel in Marion); Haskell Swamp Wildlife Area in Rochester; The Bogs in Mattapoisett; Brandt Island District in Mattapoisett; Osprey Marsh in Marion (a trail accessible to those with limited mobility and physical disabilities); and Great Hill on the Stone Estate in Marion. 

            From her many experiences, we picked three areas accordingly to accessibility inside each of the Tri-Town, Marion, Mattapoisett, and Rochester. The three selections are only the tip of a glorious iceberg and hopefully a portal through which the restless can find new pathways – no pun intended – to healthy living during precarious times.

East Over Reservation: Hales Brook and Sippican River Tracts

            Located at 285 County Road in Marion, the East Over Reservation is a 322-acre network that is owned by the Town of Marion and managed by The Trustees. The land crosses the town line into Rochester, where there is also an entry point. 

            The Marion entry point, accessible via a parking area off of County Road, leads to the Hales Brook and Sippican River Tracts. These well-marked tracts that wind their way through forests and along the Sippican River include 2 1/2 miles of trails and boardwalks.

            There are no facilities, but maps are posted on the trails. Not all East Over property has signage.

            A journey embarks on a boardwalk over a wetlands area and eventually to a choice between two right turns and a left.

            A right turn leads into a network of trails that go through the forest and reconnect; these trails include a rock slab bridge and rocky remnants of glaciers.

            A left turn leads to water views, first Hales Brook and then Sippican River. According to the Buzzards Bay Coalition website (savebuzzardsbay.org), The Trustees plan to extend this trail beyond the cranberry bogs into Rochester.

            East Over Reservation is home to wildlife on the ground and in the air, as hikers have seen deer, fox, mink, muskrat, and waterfowl.

            Visitors may bring their dogs and are asked to comply with local signage.

Nasketucket Bay State Reservation in Mattapoisett

            Nasketucket Bay State Reservation in Mattapoisett is owned and managed by Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and accessible off of 94 Brandt Island Road. Five miles and 200 acres of coastal forests draw eager walkers along its trails through woods, meadows and salt marshes and ultimately to the rocky shores of Nasketucket Bay.

            According to alltrails.com, Nasketucket is an out-and-back trail appropriate for all skill levels and offering not only scenic views but beautiful wildflowers.

            It takes approximately 90 minutes to trace the Bridle, Salt Marsh and Holly trails. The Bridle Trail starts at the parking area, its grass circling through much of Nasketucket an inviting to bicycles and foot. Almost a mile long, the Shaw Farm Trail is accessible to the right and heads north to the Phoenix Bike Trail. Shaw Farm Trail is narrower than Bridle and takes the traveler out to Nasketucket Bay, its rocky shoreline and beach. A large rock marks the entry point to Holly Trail and a ticket back to Bridle Trail and the beginning point.

            Walkers can take their dogs and join with hikers or, depending on the season, horseback riders or cross-country skiers to spectacular views of Buzzards Bay and, to the west, West Island in Fairhaven.

            Many will access by car, but one can bike to the park off of the Mattapoisett Rail Trail. The Buzzards Bay Coalition’s new Shaw Farm Trail connects Nasketucket to the Phoenix Bike Trail in Fairhaven.

            Dogs must be kept on a leash.

New Bedford Waterworks in Rochester

            New Bedford Waterworks, covering 842 acres, is owned and managed by the City of New Bedford but is located and accessible from inside the Town of Rochester. Part of the protected Assawompset Pond Complex, New Bedford Waterworks protects an important public drinking-water supply for nearly 250,000 people in the region. Swimming and paddling are prohibited to protect the clean waters.

            On land, visitors ride bicycles and horses, or walk, ski or snowshoe, depending on the season, along the roads and wooded pathways. At the end of the trail, hikers enjoy a small beach and also fish.

            Trails are accessible from a parking North Rochester Congregational Church, located at 247 North Avenue. Roadside parking is allowed at any fire road entrance gate (R1-18) that is not marked “no admittance.” Please avoid block gates or fire lanes.

            To access the R10 gate to enter the Waterworks, walk the trail from the back of the church parking lot alongside North Avenue. At the gate begins Tinkogkukquas Trail, a sandy path that weaves its way for .7 miles into the woods to Great Quittacas Pond via Atuk Trail to the right and Namas Way to the left.

            Trails are marked at the entry point but not along the trails so a map is advised. Lakeville Town Clerk’s Office offers a map of the Assawompset Pond Complex for only $2.

            Dogs must be kept on a leash and on the paths.

            As with all public parks, remember no motored vehicles, please carry out what you carry in, and a final reminder to respect all signage indicating private property.

            For more information on the many trails in the region, link to “Tri-Town Trek” at wanderer.com and on our Facebook page.

By Mick Colageo

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