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  • Writer's picturechasmccabe


Updated: Jan 20, 2022

During December, I took a break from work a few afternoons a week and ventured out onto the trails of a nearby state park. I'm lucky to live about a mile from a portion of the 2,300 acre Middlesex Fells Reservation and love being out in its heavily wooded hills and trails. I volunteer as a trail steward for Friends of the Fells, a local nonprofit partner to the state's department of conservation and recreation.

We've been lucky to have more than our annual rainfall in 2021 and trails that were dry are now wetter and eroding more. I also moved to my current home in late February, so I've been exploring new (to me) trails. Moving water off the trail is key to preventing further damage and pipes connecting one side of a trail with another are an "old school" or obsolete way to do it. (Constructing trails along the contours of land and using devices like "rolling dips" are a better way, but we'll cover that another time.)

Mostly, I worked on digging out buried pipes, unblocking uphill entrances to pipes and clearing out drainage areas or diverters of all of the fall leaves and debris that has piled up. I get a bit dirty and muddy and plunging your hands into cold water (in the middle of winter - "mild" or not) is a bit bracing, but its pretty satisfying. I can come back and visit on a following day or week and see how I did and adjust my approach.

The ground is now frozen, so there's a limit to digging now, I have to limit myself to clearing leaves out of culverts or drainages so water can stay flowing (even colder now, wearing heavy duty winter work gloves helps, some.) I've largely switched to walking trails, moving downed limbs and brush (lots of storms passing through, several a week) and focusing more on locating and cutting big invasive vines climbing up trees.

Getting outside in the winter a good break from researching and writing as well as zoom meetings. Plus I've gotten to talk with lots of trail users and pet their dogs, which is fun too.

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