Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Rockland’s Rail Trail

Setting off from the western terminus of the Rockland Rail Trail.

 Do you know about the Hanover Branch Railroad? It extended 7.8 miles from Hanover Four Corners, through South and West Hanover, across Rockland, to North Abington, where it connected with the Old Colony Railroad to Plymouth. Incorporated in 1846, and constructed over the better part of the next 20 years, it officially opened for service in 1868. 

E. Y. Perry, who operated a large tack factory in South Hanover, was largely responsible for the creation of the railway. He also owned a general store (now Myette’s) and constructed the building in South Hanover that for many years housed a series of a shoe factories – Goodrich, Cochran, and Shanley -- and later the Clapp Rubber Company. The railway facilitated the transport of materials and finished products to and from these and other businesses, but also offered passenger serive. Amusingly, in its latter years, when the businesses along its route had shut down, it continued to carried passengers, . . . but only by self-propelled cars!

The Old Colony Railroad absorbed the Hanover Branch in 1887. In 1893, the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad took over the lease. These days, many of Massachusetts’ former railroad beds are overseen by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.

From Luddams Ford Park in Hanover, along the Indian Head River to the Hanson line, much of the former Hanover Branch railroad bed has been converted into a very pleasant 1-mile walking trail. Another section, which begins on the Hanover-Rockland line and extends through Rockland to the current MBTA Commuter Rail at North Abington, more recently was transformed into a mostly-paved, mostly-flat, 10-foot wide, 3-mile long walking and biking trail.

This is exciting news for the South Shore! Thanks to a grant from the Massachusetts DCR, the recent paving of the Rockland portion makes the trail significantly more accessible to the general public. Now, not only hikers and mountain bikers can use it, but also people who rely on walkers, wheelchairs, and baby strollers.

There are numerous access points to the Rockland Rail Trail. From the eastern side, you can park in the cul de sac at the very end of Circuit Street in West Hanover, near the Colby-Phillips Conservation Area, and follow a short path through the woods to the railroad bed. It’s important to know, however, that this is by far the most rustic portion of the trail. The ties and rails are still intact! So for anyone traveling with wheels, this isn’t a good option.

At the portion of the Rockland Rail trail that extends into Hanover, railroad ties and rails are still in place from many decades ago. Fascinating to see, but not so great when exploring the trail via bicycle. The trail turns to gravel a little farther down the line, so don't let this stop you!  
Eventually the vestiges of the former railroad give way to a gravel path, which continues through the woods to the Rockland Police Station. This is where you’ll encounter first of several road crossings, each marked with a yellow metal gate that permits individuals to pass, but not cars. It is also where the paved trail begins.

The trail is very easy to follow. Each time it crosses a road, a crosswalk and signage give trail users the right of way. Still, it’s important to proceed with caution through all intersections. Some of them are relatively quiet, but others involve major roadways such as Routes 139 and 123. 

Heading west, the trail continues through residential areas and eventually passes by Rockland’s Senior Center, golf course, and high school. On the day I visited, I just happened to arrive at the Abington line, the trail’s western terminus, as a MBTA Commuter train was passing by. How fun to hear a train whistle on a historic rail trail!

Some other features worth noting are the “A” and “W” markers along the trail east of Union Street. In the days of the old railroad, the “A” indicated “approach,” which meant that the conductor should be prepared to stop. The “W” was for “whistle stop,” a reminder to sound the whistle while nearing a road crossing.

It took about an hour for my 12-year-old son and I to ride our mountain bikes along the full extent of the trail – from Hanover to Abington and back. This included numerous pauses -- for photos, water breaks, road crossings, and to read the information in the historic kiosk at Union and East Water Streets. Plus we mostly walked our bikes over the “rustic” section, when it proved to be far too bumpy to ride.

If you go, keep the well-posted Trail Rules in mind. The trails are open from dawn to dusk. Cyclists must yield to pedestrians. Dogs must be kept on a short leash at all times. Clean up after your pets. Horses and motorized vehicles are prohibited, as are fires, alcohol and smoking.

by Kezia Bacon
June 2018

Kezia Bacon's articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to protecting our waters. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. To browse 22+ years of nature columns, visit http://keziabaconbernstein.blogspot.com

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Try Yoga at the River’s Edge This Summer

A Yoga at the River's Edge class in the Rexhame Dunes. Photo by Sandy Bacon.

It is morning on the river. The sun has risen enough to bring its warmth to the day. Trees sway gently in the breeze. Fluffy clouds dot the blue sky. An occasional bird flies by. Listening closely, we can hear water lapping at the shore. This is the setting for Yoga at the River’s Edge, a Saturday morning outdoor program that resumes June 9thfor its 22ndseason. 

In 1997, as a newly-certified yoga teacher and board member of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, I wanted to create an event that would unite two of my favorite things: yoga and our local rivers. That summer, I led a series of six Gentle Yoga classes at various scenic spots in Marshfield, Norwell, Scituate, and Pembroke. I chose places that first and foremost offered a beautiful view of the North or South River (or a tributary), but that could also accommodate a large group of people and their yoga mats. 

Yoga as a common form of exercise was just emerging in the 1990s. Unlike today, most gyms didn’t offer it. Dedicated yoga studios were few and far between. Yoga was the kind of thing you might just as easily find in a rented church hall or community center. It hadn’t attained its present popularity. It certainly wasn’t considered an outdoor activity.

But it was summer . . . and the North and South Rivers are so peacefully inviting in summer! Especially when the marshes have turned green, and the trees along the riverbanks are in full leaf-out. What a great way to begin the day – rolling out a yoga mat in a scenic spot, spending an hour relaxing, and stretching, and breathing deeply. Would people actually attend these classes? Would they mind putting their yoga mats on the grass or the forest floor? Would they be scared off by the threat of bugs? What did we have to lose? We decided to give it a try.

We met at the Indian Head River Reservoir, on the Hanover-Pembroke line, where a large expanse of lawn, bordered on one side by woods, overlooks the Indian Head River and its fish ladder. We met at Couch Beach in North Marshfield, in a cathedral of tall pines, on an upland that offers a panoramic view of the North River and its marshes. We met at the Norris Reservation in Norwell, at a little clearing in the woods, a stone’s throw from Second Herring Brook. 

We met on the lawn of the Marshfield branch of the YWCA, a secluded spot that overlooks Little’s Creek and the mouth of the North River. We met at the Driftway Conservation Park in Scituate, both on a grassy rise, and on a wooden dock beside the Herring River. And we met in the Rexhame Dunes in Marshfield, in the sand at the edge of the South River. Luck was on our side. Not one of these classes was rained out.

Something about Yoga at the River’s Edge appealed to people. Right from the beginning, we attracted a respectable number of students – not too many, not too few. Attendees commented on how gorgeous the locations were, how they might not have ever visited them if not for this series. They also remarked on how good it felt to do yoga outdoors, in a natural setting. The bugs, for the most part, held off. And so, year after year, we continued to offer these classes. 

In the two decades since Yoga at the River’s Edge began, I’ve welcomed seven additional men and women – all certified yoga instructors -- to the River’s Edge team. We each have our favorite places to teach, and we take turns doing so throughout the season, which now extends throughout the entire summer – mid-June to mid-September. We all feel fortunate to be able to lead these classes, gathering with fellow yoga practitioners at some beautiful spots along our local waterways. Plus, it feels good to give back – to support the North and South Rivers Watershed Association with the proceeds the donation-based program generates.

On behalf of the Yoga at the River’s Edge team, I hope you will consider joining us this summer. The season begins June 9that one of my favorite places on the North River – Couch Beach in North Marshfield (access via Couch Cemetery, 629 Union Street). 
• Join our mailing list by emailing yogariversedge@verizon.net
• Or like “Yoga at the River’s Edge” on Facebook.

by Kezia Bacon
May 2018

Kezia Bacon's articles appear courtesy of the North and South Rivers Watershed Association, a local non-profit organization devoted to protecting our waters. For membership information and a copy of their latest newsletter, contact NSRWA at (781) 659-8168 or visit www.nsrwa.org. To browse 22+ years of nature columns, visit http://keziabaconbernstein.blogspot.com