Bridge along the Mass. Central Rail Trail

The Quinapoxet River from the Mass. Central Rail Trail

Lately I’ve been exploring trails in the towns just north and west Worcester, many of them maintained by an organization known as the Wachusett Greenways. The main trail is the Mass. Central Rail Trail, an ambitious project that hopes to extend the length of the state. For now, it’s still a series of loosely connected links, but they go through some truly beautiful scenery.

In particular, there is a two or three-mile stretch that runs along the Quinapoxet River, mostly in Holden, which runs through a steep ravine between heavily wooded hills. In addition to the rail trail, there are several side trails for the more curious hiker.

Walking through the woods, I spent some time wondering what it was that felt a little different. The woods are mostly a mix of hemlock, pine, maple, oak, ash, birch – very typical for this area. Maybe a little more hemlock than I would normally expect this far south.

Then it dawned on me. This was a fairly mature forest. Not old growth, by any stretch, but mature – most of the major trees are well over 75 years old. This differs from many conservation areas which are old farmland, and the forests there are considerably younger.

The trails are well-maintained, and there are plenty of stone benches for those who want to stop and enjoy the scenery.