Bellingham writer Marjorie Turner Hollman’s first two books, “Easy Walks in Massachusetts” and “More Easy Walks in Massachusetts,” were essentially guidebooks, providing readers with information on where to find walking routes.
But her most recent book, “Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are,” which she self-published this summer, takes a more holistic view. Instead of listing locations of walks Hollman has taken and liked, it instructs readers on how to discover favorite walking routes of their own.
Hollman initially became an expert on local walks through her column in the Bellingham Bulletin and later her website, www.MarjorieTurner.com, encouraging residents who live within the Blackstone Valley region to discover the many options for outdoor exploration.
Hollman’s particular area of interest is what she designates “easy walks.” Thirty years ago, she suffered partial paralysis as a result of surgery for a brain tumor, and walking has been a critical part of the healing process — “physically and mentally,” she said — in the decades since. But her mobility remains somewhat limited, and as she honed her skills at finding walks appropriate for her abilities, she realized they would appeal to others as well.
“Older people like my suggestions, as do families with young children, or families that include people with special needs,” she said. “Easy walks are for anyone who for whatever reason can’t just hit the Appalachian Mountain Club trails. And even people who don’t have limitations appreciate the concept of easy walks, because it might give them a starting place and then they can go off on their own extended route.”
An easy walk doesn’t have to be boring, Hollman emphasized. “For me, easy walks are mostly level, with not too much slope, not too many roots or rocks to trip on, with something interesting to see along the way. That might be anything from a water view to something historically significant to some really cool rock formations. I’m from Florida; I had never seen boulders until I came to New England for college.”
Hollman’s husband persuaded her to try using hiking poles for better balance and surer footing; now a convert, she keeps a pair in her car at the ready and urges other unsteady walkers to use them as well.
As Hollman talked to audiences about her first two books, she found a recurring theme to their questions: “How do you find these places?” That was the genesis of the most recent book, which devotes chapters to more general concepts behind what to look for in an ideal easy walk and how to find it.
“Tell everyone you know you’re looking for easy walks. Do Internet searches for websites of nature centers, land trusts, and conservation groups — those are all institutions likely to have people who love the outdoors and want to be helpful.” Hollman sometimes simply calls the Town Hall at her intended destination to ask for advice on conservation areas or other potential walking routes.
Maps, both print and digital, can yield hidden gems as well. “Just look for a green spot on the map. It might turn out to be a public space,” she said. Hollman described once spotting a green blotch on a map of Foxborough. “It was within hearing range of Gillette Stadium,” she said. “The entrance was so overgrown I could barely pull in, and there were no signs around it, but soon I found a walkable path that led to the headwaters of the Neponset River.”
She eventually learned that this was the Lane Homestead, and the attention she drew to it paid off. “I wrote about it in my column, and within two years’ time the town cleaned it up, paved a little parking lot, and made it more accessible to everyone.”
Hollman also encourages readers not to overlook the obvious. A walk needn’t be a hike up a mountain or through a state park, she points out. “Cemeteries, arboretums, town commons; all are places where you can often find flat walking paths with interesting things to see along the way.”
Recently, with rail trails and other well-known recreation paths becoming crowded due to so many people staying close to home because of the pandemic, Hollman and her husband have been walking on country roads.
Sections of her most recent book address trail etiquette, dogs on trails, and ways that walkers can help with trail maintenance. As she was finalizing the manuscript this past spring, the pandemic took hold, and with it, more people than ever were discovering a newfound passion for the outdoors.
Given the current overcrowding of many popular recreational areas, Hollman advises readers to “have your plan B in place, in case you get somewhere and it’s too crowded or even closed. Be ready with an alternative so you don’t have to give up on your plan to take a walk or wish you hadn’t bothered to go out.”
Five favorite easy walks:
▪ Acton Arboretum
▪ Franklin Town Common
▪ Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge
▪ Halibut Point in Rockport
▪ World’s End in Hingham
“Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are” is available on Amazon or at www.marjorieturner.com.
Nancy Shohet West can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.