I like to think I have a healthy appreciation of trails.
In 2006, I was a caretaker for Vermont’s Green Mountain Club, which means I spent the summer on the state’s highest peak, Mt. Mansfield, talking to hikers, sleeping in rustic shelters, and doing trail work. At the end of the season, I set out to hike the entire length of the 272-mile Long Trail, with the goal of finishing within a month. About 100 miles in, I found out I was pregnant. End of my Long Trail hike! (I’ve been back a few times since the kiddo arrived and have knocked out another 60-ish miles).
So when I tell you the brand-spankin’-new Ralph C. Ewell Trail is top-notch, well, I mean it.
My entire family headed up there last Friday, which was a brisk and sunny afternoon. We started at the Beech Hill trailhead and entered the woods, gradually descending via carefully-cut switchbacks.
Rockland resident Derek Ewell headed up the trail cutting effort this past summer and got significant help from Justin Ewell, the Water Department, which allowed access to the land, and numerous other volunteers. According to discussions on RocklandNews.com, the trail took two months to build, which is jaw-dropping to consider. (The Rockland News link also has a detailed accounting of the volunteers).
The bridges are beautiful and made from oak blow-downs fastened with cedar planks. I have seen plenty of bridges on trails, but Ewell has gone above and beyond to combine sustainable construction methods–using materials already in the forest–while adding to the rustic character and beauty of the trail through amazing craftmanship.
Although the trail begins in a suburban neighborhood, it doesn’t take long until you feel far, far away from civilization. The character of the forest morphs as you decline in elevation, passing old stone walls and woodland scenes that are best described as “majestic.”
The trail is a multi-use for people and non-motorized bikes. Ewell and his team have built numerous mountain bike obstacles like the Log Ride at the start of the trail. If you’re walking, make sure to wear sturdy shoes so you feel confident on the inclines and uneven terrain. And I cannot wait to try out the trail with my snowshoes.
Ewell and the Beech Hill Conservation and Trail Club have major plans for the area. They hope to extend the trail system to connect Hanover, Rockland, Whitman, and Abington.
This place is a gem. Thank you to all who have contributed to this project and who are continuing the hard work of trail building and maintenance!
What: Ewell Trail
Where: The top of Beech Hill on Beech St., Rockland. There’s a picnic area and sign marking the Ralph C. Ewell Memorial Greenway. Park on the side of the road in front of the small white and blue building.
Distance: 2.6 miles round trip
Trail description (courtesy of Brian White at Rockland News): The trail is 1.37 miles from the top of the hill to the edge of the old abandoned Camp Susan. This comes out on Rte. 58 in Whitman where there is an old entrance to the camp. Turn right and go about 3/4 mile to Claytons Store. On the return trip stay straight on the Camp Susan trail past the new trail and come out across from 642 Beech St. Turn left and go up the hill .5 miles to the starting point.