NATURE
by Kezia Bacon, Correspondent

Did you enjoy second helpings of the stuffing and the potatoes and the delicious brussel sprout casserole that your aunt made on Thanksgiving? Did you choose both the fudgy brownie and the gleaming slice of lemon meringue pie? How about all those local craft IPAs you just had to sample? Holiday meals often involve indulgence. And then we lean back in our chairs, loosen our waistbands, and pledge to do better tomorrow, before nodding off. But then the next day there’s the leftovers, and the following weekend the holiday parties begin. By the time the New Year arrives, we might be feeling the effects of all those tasty morsels.

One way to counteract our indulgences, and the regret that sometimes accompanies them, is to get moving. Being active can restore energy levels and help to burn off all that delectable creamed spinach you devoured last night. Not sure where to go? Read on for ten scenic and invigorating walks within the watershed of the North and South Rivers. Visit our website for trail and parking information and other important details.

Thompson Pond Trail, Abington

When Union Point took over the South Weymouth Naval Air Station land, they worked with the Wildlands Trust to develop trails at the southern edge of the property. Now the public can access open space on both sides of what once were runways. In Abington, this is the Thompson Pond Trail system, about 1.9 miles through meadow and forest, on the banks of a large pond and along the west branch of French’s Stream.

Twin Ponds Trail, Rockland

The Rockland side of the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station runways is now the Twin Ponds Trail system. More heavily wooded than Thompson Pond, this area offers another 1.9 miles of walking, with two different loops, plus two ponds and the east branch of French’s Stream.

Melzar Hatch Preserve, Hanover

Half of the loop trail on this property runs along the edge of athletic fields, but the other half extends through beautiful woods and wetlands, with numerous footbridges over Longwater Brook and the Drinkwater River. The trails are wide, and often flat, but sometimes heavily rooted.

Alton J. Smith Reserve, Hanson

This retired cranberry bog on Indian Head Pond is a great place to stretch your legs and observe some wildlife. Trails loop around the bogs and wetlands, with spurs that head off into the woods. Extend your walk by continuing to the J. J. Shepherd Memorial Forest, immediately adjacent.

 J.J. Shepherd Memorial Forest, Pembroke

Continue past the athletic fields of this town-owned property, and into the woods. You’ll be stepping into a network of wide trails around a retired cranberry bog and along the banks of Indian Head Pond. Extend your visit by continuing to the Alton J. Smith Reserve, immediately adjacent.

Lansing Bennett Forest, Duxbury

This large wooded property surrounds Phillips Brook, a tributary to the South River. A network of intersecting trails includes the occasional boardwalk or footbridge. Look for wild brook trout in the deep pools and covered edges of the brook. There is also an old millpond on site.

Cornhill Woodland, Marshfield

Some call this property “the dog parcel” because its shape resembles a Scottie. A newly-installed kiosk in the parking area offers a review of the area’s agricultural history as well as detailed trail information. Check out the three loop trails, plus the occasional boardwalk over wetlands, all totaling about two miles. A spur leads to the salt marsh along the North River.

Driftway Conservation Park, Scituate

It’s not immediately evident, when you enter from the parking area, that this property extends for quite a distance, through wetlands, meadow and woods, and onto the salt marsh. Continue along the banks of Herring River to the A. J. McEachern Trail sign. A color-coded network of paths — some wide, some narrow — offers access to a variety of habitats, and the viewing platform is one of the best around.

Hatch Lots, Norwell

Historically this property was maintained as a woodlot. The forest is primarily beech now, with plenty of pine and oak, as well as some hemlock, holly and birch. There is an out-and-back trail of about 1 mile (each way) across an unnamed stream and through the woods, plus a loop adjacent to Burnt Plain Swamp, with a second loop still being developed.

Wompatuck State Park, Hingham

With 3500 acres, and 70 miles of trails, Wompatuck has a lot to offer. Using the official trail map for guidance, try this 3.8-mile loop. From the Visitor’s Center, proceed to N2, then N11, N16 and N25. Continue to N31, then C8 and C7. From there, proceed to N33 and N32, and then return to the Visitor’s Center via N14. This loop trail is mostly unpaved and wooded, although some sections involve pavement. It’s a great introduction to the park!

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. You will also find 20+ years of Kezia’s Nature columns there.