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Photos from a Year of Trail Adopter Walks

Updated: Jan 22, 2023

By Charlie McCabe

I've been volunteering with Friends of the Fells for a few years as a trail adopter, mostly walking the trails, looking for safety issues, picking up trash, cleaning out culverts, and removing invasive species, especially bittersweet and porcelain berry vines around bigger trees. Given my work schedule, its easier for me to get out to the Fells during the colder, winter months. While it's not so great that the sun is currently setting around 4:25 pm, I do get to enjoy the sunsets on my walk home from the Fells on the afternoons I'm out there. I feel lucky to live so close to what is a 2500-acre state park, a mostly wild forested space of wetlands, rock outcroppings, and densely treed spaces surrounded by residential neighborhoods (though sadly, split into two by a major highway).

There's always a little natural beauty to be found, no matter what the season:

And occasionally, some ad hoc art:

I generally walk to sections of the Fells located in Melrose and Stoneham, which adds significantly to my daily step count (It's about a mile or more each way). I wanted to share some of the photos I've taken recently so you can see what I'm seeing when I'm out there two or three days a week.

This is the Casade, a waterfall located a short hike from Washington Street in Melrose. Love the ice forming on this December day when it was in the mid-30s.

2022 was a drought year, with a deficit of 12 inches of rain (the year before, we were 12 inches over). With rains returning and continuing, the ground has begun to recharge and I'm seeing ephemeral ponds coming back. We've yet to return to some of the serious flows through creeks (and under historic bridges, like this scene from last April, below.

With rains returning, a big task for trail adopters is checking and clearing out entry and exit points for culverts (before above, after below.)

At times, no matter what I do, I can't get some culverts cleared, as they are too packed with sediment, especially after a drought year. Here's a big culvert near Gate 1 in Lawrence Woods in Medford that I've not been able to get unclogged so far. Back in early February, I had to pry a big rock out of the (very) icy water to open it up, the photo below shows water flowing in.

Even with the culvert open, there was a sizable stream running down the trail to the culvert last February:

And then there are invasive species to deal with. I mostly focus on cutting back bittersweet and porcelain berry vines off of the bigger trees. Bittersweet, a native of China, can get huge and can eventually topple trees through the sheer weight of massive vines (I've regularly seen them to be 6 inches thick) on older trees. I figure we need all of the mature trees to survive as long as possible, hence my focus. Below are photos of a tree from December 2021 and December 2022, after I cut back new sprouts and some older tough vine stocks a bit more.

I can't express how dense the bittersweet can get in and around the bigger trees, here's an example of a big mass of it that I slowly cut back at the base (ground level) and as high as I could reach to free the tree from what must have been hundreds and hundreds of pounds of vines. Everything you see in the photo below is bittersweet and maybe a bit of multiflora rose vine as well, wrapped around a single tree.

Still, despite the challenges, I'm happy to be able to walk to the Fells, help out as a Trail Adopter and enjoy the seasons as they change. Hoping for some heavy snow soon, but right now its 50 degrees. Happy New Year all!

© Copyright 2023, Charlie McCabe Consulting LLC

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