By Allen Young
On the Trail: Gifford Family Memorial Forest
The idea of going for a hike may intimidate some people because they have limited mobility, are afraid of getting lost or have some other fear, or they just don’t give it a priority due to being “too busy.” There’s a more positive way of thinking about a hike.
If you have even the slightest inclination to enjoy a nice walk in the woods of under an hour, I suggest the one-mile loop trail in the 33-acre Gifford Family Memorial Forest in Orange, which includes the Senator Robert D. Wetmore Memorial Fishing Hole in the Tully River (West Branch). The property is owned and managed by Mount Grace.
This trail is mostly level and without obstacles, perfect for a senior citizen. My days of hiking up Mt. Monadnock are over, but this trail beckons me often – and I like taking friends there. I enjoy the way part of the proverbial “babbling brook” has fast-flowing water while another section is very slow and quiet. The quiet beauty invites you to stop for a photograph, a picnic or meditation. The loud sound of a pileated woodpecker might poke you out of those deep thoughts. The only downside is the presence of some bugs – mosquitoes, deer flies and ticks – but the bugs can be defeated with the right attitude and use of repellents. Bobby Curley of the North Quabbin Trails Association has used a leaf blower to make the trail easy to follow and also to remediate ticks.
Here is what a visitor wrote on the popular website Trip Advisor: “We were just there to enjoy a fall afternoon in the woods listening to the sounds of the brook and checking out the stone wall. Simple pleasures.”
The trail head, marked by a wooden fence, is located on Tully Road just north of Noel’s Nursery, 77 Tully Road, Orange. It’s on the west side of the road and there are places to park off the road on either side of the trail head – but cars shouldn’t block the fence. There is a kiosk with a good map displayed along with Wetmore’s easy-to-read and moving poem about how environmental degradation motivated him to become an elected official after returning home from military service in the Korean War.
Blue blazes mark the loop trail, which takes the hiker to a 200-foot long wall made of huge gray and white stones. This was once a dam, built in the late 1700s, to harness water power for a mill You are likely to see red paint marks on some trees. Those indicate the property line between the conservation area and a privately-owned “tree farm.”
Details about the history of the property can be found on the mail trails page for Gifford Family Memorial Forest.
Mount Grace has asked longtime member Allen Young to coordinate a series of articles about hikes on land which has been protected with the help of the trust. He has written this inaugural article in the series.