Get Some Fresh Air
by Sherri Freeman

Watatic Summit

During difficult times, it is important to do all we can to maintain our physical and mental/emotional well-being. Eating well, getting adequate sleep and reducing stress are all factors that help us to stay at our best.  We all know that exercise is one of those things that we “should” be doing and it’s also one that we can easily make really good excuses to avoid. Hiking trails offer a way to get out during coronavirus shut down.

As a hiker, the woods and mountains are my happy places. Within minutes of starting a hike, I can feel my blood pressure drop and my tension drain away. OK...maybe it takes 15 or 20 minutes because it seems like every trail in all of New England begins with an uphill...why IS that??  Anyway, once settled into a comfortable heart rate, I begin to feel all the benefits of being out among the trees. And it’s not just me. Scientists are studying the effects of nature on humans and some of the theories and findings are interesting:

How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing?  Apparently, it has a major impact on physical, mental and emotional well-being, healing, stress reduction and more.  This article published by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies discusses the healing power of immersion in nature including how it benefits children. I will link to more articles at the end.

We are fortunate to live in a fairly rural area where it is easy to go for a walk and maintain social distancing. Even on public trails, it is fairly easy to pass people and maintain distance by carefully stepping off the trail onto durable surfaces. If you are concerned that it will be impossible to avoid people, you may choose to avoid a busy trail head.  

Last weekend on our way to a different trail, we passed the trail head at Mt. Watatic which is one of the region’s most popular hikes. I counted more than 100 cars parked on both sides of Rt. 119. I imagined a conga-line snaking up the mountain. In reality though, even on the busiest days, what is “crowded” on the trail isn’t like a crowded mall or Main St..  If you are concerned, you may want to wear a mask, or a buff around your neck that can be pulled up to cover your mouth and nose if you find yourself in too-close-for-comfort proximity.  Avoid touching handrails or other objects. Gloves may be helpful. A standard trekking pole averages around 3’ give or take, and could be used to gauge distance...however, I don’t recommend randomly pointing your sticks at strangers on the trail. That could come off as....weird...and maybe a little threatening.

Before heading out, there are some rules.  I know, I’m not a big fan of rules either, but following some guidelines will help to ensure your hike is more  pleasurable, for you and others on the trail. The primary guidelines fall along the seven principles of Leave No Trace and include tips for planning your outing, “pack in-pack out”, rules of the path (rights of way, yielding to the uphill hiker, etc), respecting wildlife.  

We are fortunate to live in an area with so many options for walking in the woods available to us here in Lunenburg and the surrounding region.

In Lunenburg:

The Lane Property. Located on Holman Street has trails connecting to the Lunenburg Town Forest and the Hickory Hills trails. 

The Cowdrey Nature Center. Located on Rt. 2A 

Clarks Hill on Lancaster Ave

Robbs Hill Rd./Burrage St. trails

Find a map to some of the Lunenburg trails here.


Other Local Trails:

Andre’s Institute of Art in Brookline, NH.  Sculpture park with walking trails.

Nashua Valley Conservation Area in Leominster

Leominster State Forest Lots of great trails including sections of the Midstate Trail

Mass Audubon’s Flat Rock Wildlife Sanctuary/Crocker Conservation Area

Oak Hill Conservation area in Littleton

Mt. Watatic Ashburnham, MA Near the Northern terminus of the Midstate Trail, and the Southern terminus of the Waupac Trail

Wachusett Mountain Princeton, MA,  Multiple trails 

Mid-State Trail  The trail is a 92+ mile trail running between Mt. Watatic in Ashburnham and Douglas State Park on the Rhode Island border.

Western Mass:

Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary

Appalachian Trail Sections

Mount Greylock

Olivia’s Overlook/Burbank Trail


New Hampshire:

Wapack Trail (sections)

Kidder Mountain New Ipswich, NH One of my favorite quick hikes.

Miller State Park Peterborough, NH

Temple Mountain, Peterborough or Temple, NH

North Pack trails, Peterborough, NH  Many trail options, but I recommend starting on Ted’s Trail

Madam Sherri Forest (my personal favorite) Chesterfield, NH

Mt. Monadnock Jaffrey, NH

Gap Mountain Troy, NH (South Parking Lot) or Jaffrey, NH (North Parking Lot)

Rhododendron State Park Fitzwilliam, NH

Skatutakee and Thumb Mountains, Hancock, NH


Worth the Hike!