Get outside and hike local trails this summer

  • Bearsden Conservation Area in Athol consists of 10 miles of trails, 1,000 acres of forest and beautiful views of surrounding mountains. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/CARSON McGRATH

Staff Writer
Published: 6/25/2018 2:37:06 PM
Modified: 6/25/2018 10:51:59 PM

When heading out on trails, Joann Deacon, an avid hiker from Athol, tends to over-pack, she said. From being a Girl Scout leader for 25 years and hiking Mount Monadnock every month for the past 14 years, she’s learned to bring on her hikes everything from sunscreen and maps to a whistle, and even a plastic poncho.

Those warm, sunny summer days are perfect for hitting local trails to enjoy activities from hiking to biking, but when it comes to the wilderness, safety is just as important as knowing what are the best spots to hike — being prepared is key, said Deacon.

President of the North Quabbin Trails Association Bobby Curley said the tick crisis is the No. 1 summer safety issue on the trails right now.

That is why for the past three years the association has implemented a tick eradication process by removing duff — piles consisting of twigs, leaves and needles on the ground — to reduce the number of ticks on the trails. Ticks live in moist and dark places, and the duff is the perfect place for them to reside. Since implementing the initiative, Curley said he’s seen a big difference from last year on the trails.

“We’ve had remarkable success,” he said. “While before hundreds were being reported on the trails that had this process, now we are getting no reports.”

Trails at Red Apple Farm are one of the local places the association has focused on for its tick eradication. Curley said the trail system in Phillipston is perfect for nature viewing, from prey to reptiles. When heading out onto a trail, Curley said bringing the right repellents is a must. Along with bug spray, picaridin spray is essential to protecting oneself from ticks.

“If you have an issue with using repellents and sprays, look up holistic alternatives,” he said.

While on the trails, Deacon said to check constantly for ticks, and after heading home from a hike, immediately take a shower and clean one’s clothes as a safety precaution.

“I haven’t gotten one tick on me this year,” she said.

Another tip, said Curley, is to always bring extra water and snacks, as hydration is important when spending time outside in the sun. He suggests putting water or other fluids in the freezer overnight before a hike to ensure one has a cold beverage while out on the trail. He said hikers should also bring fruit.

Maps are important tools on trails and should always be brought for safety, said Deacon. North Quabbin Trails Association has maps of local trails available for purchase. Deacon suggests bringing a cellphone and telling a friend when and where you are going when you leave for a hike. She said the Quabbin Reservoir is a beautiful place to hike, but for those with dogs, the trails at Bearsden Conservation Area in Athol allows those furry friends along for the adventure. Wendell State Forest is a fun spot offering something for everybody on its 7,566 acres — from fishing to biking — said Deacon.

The Birch Hill Dam and Lake Dennison Trails in Royalston have about 17 miles of open and wooded footpaths, said Curley. Also in Royalston, spanning into Orange and Warwick, the Tully Trail is a spot for tick-resistant hiking. The Sen. Robert D. Wetmore Sr. Memorial Fishing Hole, located on the 33-acre Gifford Memorial Forest, is another dog-friendly spot that spans about one mile in Orange.

“I recommend everybody, when they have a spare moment, to come down to the spot,” said Curley.

In 2016, Mount Grace Land Conservation Trust, in collaboration with the Wetmore and Gifford families, established the fishing hole in honor of Wetmore, a former Massachusetts senator and land conservationist who died in January 2016.

The association hosts weekly local hikes as part of the Tuesday Trekkers group, which meets each Tuesday at the YMCA in Athol at 9 a.m. Everyone can enjoy the trails, said Curley, from avid, experienced hikers to others who may be mobility-impaired.

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