Shade Swamp Sanctuary--White Trail

Exploring what's in your town can be fun and great exercise.


Not too long ago I wrote about the Shade Swamp Sanctuary Blue Trail on Route 6, and mentioned that I would visit the White Trail just a short distance down the road.  Well I have indeed explored the White Trail, but before I detail that adventure let me digress.  I visited the White Trail on my mountain bike at the tail end of my “workout route” that brings me past the White Trail.  It was my inaugural ride this spring and although it was a mild winter, it was short on exercise.  I was reintroduced to my lungs on the first incline and I must say that duo’s coughing and wheezing was obnoxious.  Yes, if you do not “use it” you will “lose it.”  Friends of mine are all too eager to brag about their health clubs that keep them aerobically and physically fit all winter.  I cannot begin to count how many times I have been told that I must join one club or another.  I belonged to a health club once, many years ago, and actually rode a “life cycle” which, if used properly, is a fiendish device of pain and misery but not for the people all around me who set their cycles to zero and read magazines as they “worked out.”  Allowing gravity to do most of the work and never breaking a sweat is like cheating at solitaire.  I also found that after about a month of going to the club religiously I began to invent any number of excuses to avoid going (I am very creative) and have since concluded that any money spent on a health club membership would be better characterized as a “donation” to the club.  Let me also observe that stationary bicycles are the human equivalent of a Hamster wheel.  No, I prefer the real deal of putting rubber to the road.  I want to bounce over sewer grates; feel a diesel exhaust laden wind at my back from passing trucks; wince as bugs glance off my face and experience the miasma of the sewer plant in my nasal passages.  You just can’t get that at a health club.

 Ah, but enough of my musings about biking.  As I wheeled into the White Trail, in desperate need of a break, I rode straight to the beautiful pond one can see from the roadway.  I completely missed the marker for the beginning of the trail as my attention was drawn to the geese in the pond and a rather odd container for “Monofilament Line Disposal.”  I am going out on a limb and guess that this is “enviro-speak” for fishing line.  Apparently a regular trash can is not suitable to contain this substance and somehow there is enough of it generated by visitors that a special receptacle needed to be provided.  As I assessed my sad physical state I snapped a few photos of the pond and then hopped back on my bike.  It seemed as though I could see a trail entrance to the right of the pond, but when I got there no such luck.  I then continued past the abandoned D.E.E.P. buildings and thought it was odd that there was no trail marker.  The people who placed the first trail marker will find it odd that I could possibly have missed it.  In any event, at the far end of the old drive I turned left, rode up a grassy incline and sure enough there was a rough path into the woods that was blocked in many places by the fallen trees from the arboreal carnage we suffered in October.  I estimate that I got on and off my bike about fifty times while navigating the trail (don’t bring your bike if you go).

 At one point as I headed north I came to a “fork” in the trail where there was a sign.  The sign read “Trail” with an arrow pointing to the right and in red marker someone scrawled under it “Risky” with an arrow pointing straight ahead ostensibly to warn about the danger of that trail option.  As I stood there contemplating my next move I couldn’t help but recall the Robert Frost poem that ends:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” 

 Well, I tend to exaggerate as the decision was not nearly so momentous, and I digress again.  “Risky?”  I love risky, and I went straight.  The risky trail was wide and other than some tree roots that might trip the unsuspecting pedestrian there was no risk—just the odd picnic table and bench here and there that looked weathered enough to dispense exquisite splinters (perhaps you can experience that on your own visit and report back).  I was somewhat disappointed with the lackluster vistas along the trail although at the furthest reaches of the trail I could see the southerly fields of Hein Farm—something most of us have only seen from Meadow Road.  As the trail looped back to the sign I decided to explore the “tame” portion of the trail and found it to be hilly, narrow and poorly maintained.  I had to walk my bike through parts as it was steep and littered with downed trees (lifting your mountain bike over your head as you climb over tree trunks is a great workout you won’t find in any health club).  So, if you are looking for the easy route, take the “risky” trail.

 At long last I emerged on the main trail and headed back towards the pond and realized that I did not follow the trail from the “official” beginning as the trail markers directed me around the pond on a trail I had not traversed.  I then came upon a vandalized bridge over a small brook that feeds the pond.  There were several boards missing although the boards that remained were quite sturdy and I was able to walk my bike over the bridge while carefully stepping over the gaps.  I briefly considered backing up so that I could pedal like a madman towards the bridge at full speed and then skip across the gaps in the bridge without getting off the bike.  Then, that little voice that keeps me safe asked: “So Phil, how do you explain to the folks at the emergency department how you broke your arm?”  That works every time.  In any event do not bring any small children, uncoordinated friends or elderly relatives on this portion of the trail because if you do someone is going for a swim.  If you do bring any such persons with you, please bring your video camera and share the footage with me.  I love that kind of stuff.  The remainder of the path leading back to the parking area is no cake walk I can assure you.  This stretch of the trail is exceedingly swampy and wet—and I went during the worst spring drought we have experienced in years.  Others have realized that unless you are wearing 12” water proof boots you will need to walk up the hill on a “makeshift” path where you are forced to walk sideways on a steep slope (such a treat while walking a mountain bike).  Ultimately one emerges next to the pond and I wondered how many people who actually start at this point continue over the bridge.

 Now I have to share and laugh at a blurb I found on the internet describing the Blue and White Trails:

 The sanctuary offers two types of havens for its visitors: A blue trail for those looking for a little adventure in their hike, and a white trail for those seeking a nice, easy stroll through the woods.

 I will assume this was penned when the bridge was new and the beginning of the trail was dry in the middle of the summer.  Now get out there and explore your town.

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