A few weekends ago, on a hot day without a whiff of wind, Becham, my 7-year-old terrier-mix pup, and I left my parents’ home for a walk in the Southern Woodlands.
We are spoiled on the Island to always have nearby a walk on a beach with the ocean to the side, a gorgeous trail through the woods, or a quiet road winding through some neighborhood.
The Southern Woodlands on this day was a perfect example.
I knew Becham in his fur coat would heat up quickly. The shade of the Southern Woodland trees would give some relief. And the Woodlands, with its friendly network of trails, happened to be only a mile or so away.
We drove along County Road. I saw the entrance and turned across the bike path onto the narrow driveway, and we pulled into the small parking area.
(You have to know the location of the entrance. The Land Bank sign on the other side of the bike path is not readily visible. And the turn is camouflaged by the border of trees between the bike path and the road.)
We set out from the trailhead. My thought was to find Webb’s Campground and to have a look around the once popular and now defunct family camping area. Then, I would see how Becham was doing. We would turn back or go on depending on him.
The Woodlands trail is an easy hike. Wide and flat, the trail dips and rises through the trees. A carpet of pine needles covers much of the trail. One feels the presence of the woods. I let Becham set the pace.
As we drifted along, I thought of the weekend before. The wonderful thing about walking as an activity beyond the therapeutics is that a good walk almost always can be found. It does not matter where you are: on-Island, in a city, or in some mainland town or rural countryside. There is always a walk nearby.
I was in Western Massachusetts for my son’s track meet, and then in Vermont to visit him in college and deliver his bike. Needing to stretch my legs, I looked for a walk wherever I was.
The morning of his meet, with a few hours to spare, I walked nearly the entire college campus on the many sidewalks and paths, venturing all the way to the playing fields on the outskirts.
Later in the afternoon, after his meet and a few hours’ drive, I arrived tired to my lodging for the night. I noticed a river behind the lodge. I took a look around and saw a bridge over the river. This could only mean the existence of a trail.
The trail did not disappoint. The following morning, with an hour before I needed to set out, I found the trail. A short hike took me along the river and then away from the river to loop around a little lake.
I heard a splash as I walked around the lake. I looked, thinking some fish had jumped, though the sound seemed too big for a fish. I saw the little head of a beaver pushing through the water. The splash had been the flap of his tail. Then I noticed the den of sticks and branches.
What a little treasure the hike turned out to be.
On the Vineyard, hikes like that are everywhere.
The Southern Woodlands always make for a terrific hike. Becham and I passed a woman with her King Charles. The two dogs had a short sniff, and the people exchanged pleasantries. Soon we arrived at the beginning trail of the Barnes Road loop. We continued.
I looked for trail signs. Webb’s Campground was around here somewhere.
Not too far along the Barnes Road loop, we came to a short Land Bank fence with a trail around either side. The trail which I had not noticed before looked clearly marked. I decided the trail was fair game.
Becham was panting. Even in the relative cool of the shade, he was heating up. It was best to head for home. My bet was this trail would shorten the usual loop. We turned onto the trail.
The trail did pretty much as I expected.
We went straight for a way. I could hear Becham, and was glad we were heading for home. With a series of turns we traveled through a section of forest. We passed piles of brush and other debris.
We came out past a Land Bank building near Barnes Road. We walked up a meadow and found the trail back in the woods. Not too long later, we came to a juncture I knew well. We stayed left.
Soon we had completed the Barnes Road loop.
We turned right onto the Woodlands trail back to the parking lot. The trail made nice, gentle turns. The pine needles muffled the crunch of my footfall. We passed an older man out for a walk.
The last section of trail passes near the Preserve at the Woodlands — a fancy new development. Through the trees, I saw the back of a large home. I knew we were close.
Finally, the trailhead loomed up ahead.
Back in the truck, I poured a grateful Becham a bowlful of water. We pulled back out of the driveway and carefully turned onto County Road. Already, I am looking forward to returning and finding Webb’s on another day.
Watching the joy of a dog on trail walk is an opportunity to reset one’s mood and attitude. Dogs are simply delighted to be walking, smelling, observing, discovering, and sharing the experience with their companion(s). It doesn’t matter where they’re going, or if they ever arrive at the destination – it’s the moment that matters.
Honestly, there are only some trails and places for dogs on this island and there are good reasons for that, the ecology is one of them where it has been determined fragile, but also for the enjoyment of all — same with bikes — some trails are for hiking on your lonesome. More than anything, even if you think the rules don’t apply to you and your dog and you walk where they are not permitted, do the minimum and LEASH. Leashing has gotten a lot better on the island, so that’sa good thing for dog owners, dogs, and for everyone else who likes walks.
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