(Solo) Wells State Park – Sturbridge

With my wife and daughter out of town, I had to make a decision on how to spend my Sunday afternoon: watching the Patriots beat up on the Bills, or hiking on a beautiful sunny October day?

Fortunately, I have the technology available to solve this problem — a DVR!  Safe in the knowledge that I could watch the Pats any time on this Sunday, I was free to explore other options.

So it was that after a morning spent with friends at Hamilton, I parked the car at the main lot for Wells State Park, where my wife and I had recently hiked, for another visit.

I decided on this trip that I wanted to uncover the two trails we had skipped on our recent visit — the South Trail and the Mountain Road Trail.  To start, I warmed up on the Mill Pond Loop (the accessible trail), an easy mile with incredibly bright foliage surrounding the small ponds.

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From here, I climbed up the steep trail which leads to Carpenters Rocks.  I took a wrong turn somewhere (it’s hard without my navigator!) but quickly got back on the trail and made my way to the rocky cliff with its views of the slowly changing foliage.  I passed several other hiking groups, families, couples, and groups of friends.  At the Rocks I found the cold remnants of a campfire.  It seems like a dangerous spot to have a fire, to me, but what do I know?

After resting a moment, I continued up the path to the South Trail, which was a totally different beast than the North Trail I had hiked before.  Wider and easier, it was a slow descent to make up for the steep ascent to the Rocks.

I made a spur-of-the-moment decision to fork off from the trail and head along a blue-blazed trail which leads out to New Boston Road.


There, I met up with a father/son group who were just entering the woods.  I paused and drank some water while I let them get ahead of me; I didn’t want to be hot on their heels.  This section of trail has some beautiful spots but bogs down a bit in a marshy area.


After giving the family some room to breathe, I followed back up the blue blazes to the South Trail.  There, they turned left and I turned right, and I sped up a bit to make up some lost time.  The trail ended on the paved park road, and I followed that for a bit while walking past campsites along it.

Eventually, I turned back into the woods at the orange blaze trailhead for the Mountain Road Trail.


This trail was again, completely different.  A slow climb took me through several different types of forests as I got closer to Route 90. I passed several families out for hikes along this trail, due to its proximity to the park’s campsites.

As the trail reached Route 90 and took a sharp turn, it got incredibly steep.  Making my way carefully down the path I wasn’t sure whether I’d rather be hiking down this grade or up it.  Soon, though, it was back on level ground and moving away from the highway.  Before long, to my right the views of Walker Pond began to open up.  My legs were getting tired at this point, but the incredible views rejuvenated my body and spirit.

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Eventually, the trail connected back up with the park road, which I followed back to my car.

I had a close call with a football spoiler as I walked past a campsite playing the game; I heard something about multiple officials and a possible turnover, but I picked up my pace and managed to get out of earshot before anyone announced the score.

When I got back to my car, I learned I had hiked 6.5 miles over some really interesting terrain.  It was an incredibly satisfying hike and I was fortunate to have the time to myself to enjoy it fully.

Hiking alone is very different than hiking with a partner (or a whole family).  Your mind wanders — work, home, deep thoughts, superficial thoughts, and then … nothing, just one foot in front of the other.  Peace.

It’s why I go out there.  It takes a few miles of physical activity before the brain has exhausted itself of its conscious concerns and the unconscious can take over….

I drove home, watched the Pats win their game, and then sneaked back out for a late dinner at BT’s Smokehouse.  Not a bad way to spend a Sunday….

Moore State Park – Paxton

Two trips in one weekend?  Definitely!

With the weather improving greatly, we decided to take another day hike, this one with our daughter.  Jess suggested Moore State Park in Paxton, which she had stumbled on in the past when researching hiking locations in the area.  We’d driven past it several times when driving North on Route 31, but never stopped.

Our daughter enjoys hiking but prefers geocaching to a vanilla hike.  Knowing we’re headed to a destination and that once we get there we’ll find a box full of goodies gives her incentive to keep moving.  There are several caches hidden at this park, and with that carrot dangling ahead of her, we packed her up and headed North.

(Here’s a trail map, if you want to follow along.)

We parked at the closest parking area to the main entrance, and started by exploring the “Healthy Heart Trail” where a few geocaches were hidden.  The highlight of this trail is definitely the Old Sawmill at the end.  We took many pictures and explored the general area for a while, including playing in the leaves near the dam.

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After burning off some energy by the mill, we took the Old Brigham Road trail, an easy wide trail, up to where it meets with Brigham Road.


There, we turned down towards the Stairway Loop Trail (which had some moments which were as steep as stairways) and then explored Judy’s Secret Garden Loop with some beautiful views of the pond.

We paused for a few moments at Enchanta, a covered bridge/pavilion with seating and a nice view of the water.  Then, rejuvenated, we headed back towards the Davis Rd. Trail, which we explored briefly (just long enough to find a geocache) before our little one ran out of gas and sent us back to the parking lot.

With about 3.3 miles covered, it was a respectable hike for our daughter who has limitless energy but tends to get bored without a concrete objective.  We were impressed by the general cleanliness and upkeep of the park and will return someday to explore the trails we didn’t get to.


Wells State Park – Sturbridge

Our lovely daughter has a gymnastics class that takes up a few hours mid-day on Saturday.  Even after pausing for lunch, we still have some time to get in a hike (or run some errands, or clean the house, but you know, hiking makes for more interesting blog posts), which is what we did on this day.

We’ve explored Wells State Park a few times since we moved out here, but we hadn’t been in a few years.  You can check out the trail map on the state web page here.

We parked at the visitor lot, and started with a brief loop around the heart-healthy Mill Pond Trail.  This is an easy mile, designed to be accessible to everyone.  It warmed us up for the remainder of the hike.

We then switched gears and took the North Trail, a 2.3 mile trek over some rougher terrain and moderate hills that gave our legs quite the workout.  We paused a few times, including a moment looking out where the power lines crossed overhead and filled the air with an audible and disconcerting hum.


Not far from here we saw a decorated pine someone had decided needed some Christmas ornamentation.  We snapped a couple shots and continued.


We stepped off the North Trail and took a detour over to Carpenters Rocks, with its views out over Sturbridge.  We paused and drained the rest of our water before making the return hike to the car.


Overall we were on the trail for about 3.5 miles, over some pretty rugged terrain.  A great hike and there are more trails to explore on the property.  We’ll definitely be back.