There are stories everywhere you look — or walk.
Now that the brutal winter has finally relented to T-shirt (or at least windbreaker) temperatures, there are a bevy of options to explore the region’s rich legacy, from self-led walks to guided nature and historical jaunts.
“Any reason to get outside and walk is a good one,” said Kathy Abbott, executive director of Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston.
And the great thing about walking is its versatility — you can discover nature, educate yourself about local highlights, take in history, or simply meander.
“It is an inexpensive way to exercise — all you need are either sneakers or hiking boots,” said Mike Tuohey, a Whitman resident and Appalachian Mountain Club hiking guide. “Plus, being out in nature with like-minded people helps to recharge the batteries after a week at work. It’s a healthy way to socialize.”
For a traditional walk, there are literally miles and miles of local options: Consider Walden Pond State Reservation, Minute Man National Historical Park, Ashland State Park, Hopkinton State Park, the Southern New England Trunkline Trail, Sudbury Valley Trustees properties (3,000 acres in more than a dozen communities), and many other slices of nature traced with walking and hiking paths.
If you are more of a city stroller, the advocacy organization Walk Boston’s offerings include maps of trails in Arlington, Belmont, Brookline, Franklin, Lexington, Newton, Northborough, and Watertown that explore former railway beds, river paths, parks and playgrounds, hilly destinations, unique topography, “walkable” downtowns, architecture, and historical sites.
As executive director Wendy Landman explained, Walk Boston has been helping many communities — of which Franklin is a prime example — to become even more “walkable” through walk audits, workshops, and the Safe Routes to School program, which helps communities provide a nurturing environment for kids to walk to school. The nonprofit also recently released a rural walking tool kit to help smaller towns become more pedestrian-friendly.
Landman noted the various benefits to walking, from societal to economic to environmental. Not to mention its physical, mental, and cognitive health benefits.
“There’s new stuff coming out all the time about the benefits of walking,” she said. “It’s basically good for you in every way you can imagine.”
Plus, it can very often serve as a learning experience.
In Ayer, for instance, on Saturday one can watch and catalog birds in the Pine Meadow and Autumn Ridge conservation areas, and on July 19 scramble over rocks and study geology along the Habitat Hill trail; both events are organized by the town’s Greenway Committee. The panel also hosts explorations of vernal pools, including one last month in the Pine Meadow Pond Conservation Area led by Takashi Tada, a wetlands scientist who serves on the town’s Conservation Commission.
Tower Hill, for its part, hosts garden tours every Saturday and Sunday, and will offer a walk led by a world-renowned wild plant authority and foraging specialist, Tama Matsuoka Wong, on June 14, as well as native tree walks on June 19 and 28. Tower Hill also recently launched a Tails ‘N Trails membership, which is $25 for one dog, and $10 for each additional pet (up to a maximum of three) for members of the botanic garden.
Walking is allowed on weekends from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., and Tuesdays from 3 to 5 p.m. on a dedicated trail that follows a 1-mile loop through woods on the 132-acre property, complete with watering stations, and waste pick-up bags and receptacles.
Dogs have to have proof of vaccination, must be on a leash at all times, and are not allowed within the formal gardens, buildings, or wildlife ponds.
“What better way to experience the outdoors than with a walk with your pet?” said Abbott. “Our trails are very walkable, it’s a very safe space in beautiful woodlands with views and glimpses into our garden and wildlife pond.”
If history is more your forte, on June 7 Historic New England will hold free open houses at many of its sites. Explore the grounds of properties ranging from simple Colonial residences to grandiose, finely manicured estates, and modern and innovative examples of architecture, including the 1698 Browne House in Watertown, the 1740 Codman Estate in Lincoln, the 1793 Lyman Estate in Waltham, and the Gropius House in Lincoln, built by the Bauhaus school’s founder for his family in 1938.
And don’t forget about the legendary sites in Concord and Lexington: the North Bridge, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Monument Square, the 5-mile Battle Road Trail, the homes of authors Louisa May Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson, among many others. Explore them on your own or go through companies such as Concord Guides Walking Tours.