Our travels started — delayed a week by icy conditions on the route — at the end of December on a trail alongside an abandoned train depot.
I wondered what stories it could tell.
As our Wednesday walks on the trail continued, signs of its previous life revealed themselves — bits and pieces of track, another former depot transformed into a shop, albeit one closed until March.
Most of the trail we had seen — closed in one direction because construction was ongoing — was bordered by woods and water, with wires overhead, but we eventually wound up in town, with a business development on one side and a garden center across the street.
And then, at an intersection, it ended.
Which was strange, because the trail was supposed to be more than 100 miles from one end of Massachusetts to the other.
Suzi and I peered across the road, to see if it ran along the street before peeling away to continue, but there was nothing.
I saw a strip of dirt that curled into what possibly looked like a path, but it just stopped.
We walked across to the garden center parking lot, where I figured I could at least look at the water.
Then Suzi called out to me.
She had found the train tracks.
Of the 104 miles the former train route ran from Boston to Northampton, 51 are open today, with approximately 85 miles under some kind of protected status and another 19 having unclear ownership status.
I don’t know which of the latter two categories we had found — other than I learned later it’s “unofficial path” — but it was unlike anything we had seen to that point.
Most of our walks are through towns, or along river and rail trails or nature areas. (These days, my personal Instagram page is basically a photo gallery of the places we’ve been.)
They’re all enjoyable, but there’s an organization to them. Either they’re streets and sidewalks in a municipality somewhere, or they’re something someone decided — wisely, I’d add — to turn into a place for people to gather and explore.
However, this was unkempt, off the beaten path, even as a path beaten alongside the train tracks made it obvious that people were aware of its presence. Yet other than a small sign that we only saw as we were leaving, you had to know it was there or stumble upon it like Suzi did.
But there was something else …
The road was on the right-hand side, but it eventually separated from the tracks and your peripheral vision, so it was just the water on the left and the tracks in front as far as the eye could see.
We didn’t go very far, but even though the trail does apparently go back into town, in that spot, it felt like a mystery, a possibility beyond the horizon, the start of a journey to somewhere, but you had no idea where.