×

‘Q and M’ Trail nearing completion, to be ‘unlike anything else’

  • A small waterfall cascades alongside one of the trails on the Poplar Mountain Trail system in Erving, on Saturday, Mar. 17, 2018. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • A section of trail on the Poplar Mountain Trail system in Erving, on Saturday, Mar. 17, 2018. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • A cairn marks a section of trail on the Poplar Mountain Trail system in Erving on Saturday. Recorder Staff/Dan Little

  • The Quabbin Reservoir as seen from the lookout in New Salem center. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz



Recorder Staff
Sunday, March 18, 2018

ORANGE — It was through hiking the Appalachian Trail twice that made Bobby Curley start to think.

The trail’s sprawling vistas and woodland parcels draw hikers from all over the world, but those scenic areas aren’t exclusive to the Appalachian. They exist off the many trails and river basins in New England, too.

If the array of trails in the North Quabbin region, including those along the Millers and Tully rivers, could be connected to the network of trails up near Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire, New England would have a world-class hiking jewel of its own.

Six years later, Curley says that dream is becoming a reality.

The North Quabbin Trail Association, of which Curley is president, in partnering with municipalities, naturalists and nonprofit organizations, is expected to announce the completion of the 240-mile “Q and M” Trail in the next year, Curley said.

The Q and M Trail — the name stands for Quabbin and Monadnock — is set to connect Franklin and Worcester county trails with those of southern and central New Hampshire in one giant loop, and feature 30 to 35 overnight stops along the way.

“Those are all in place,” said Curley, mentioning that many of the stops are owned by members of the trail association and are their contributions to the project. “They are tent sites, shelters, cabins.”

According to Curley, nearly all of the trailblazing has been completed. North Quabbin trails the association already has stewardship over — like the Tully Trail in Royalston or the newly completed Poplar Mountain Cliff Ridge in Erving — will finally become one, and also stretch up to Mount Monadnock, the second most hiked mountain in the world, Curley said.

Curley said 32,000 volunteer hours, partnerships with institutions like Harvard University — Harvard Forest in Petersham will be a stop along the trail — and legal issues have already been settled.

There will be eight interconnected regions: Tully River basin, Millers River basin, Swift River basin, Quabbin basin, Farley Ledge Loop, Mount Grace, Warwick Forest and the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail.

“I’d say about 90 percent of it will be interconnected trails that already exist,” Curley explained. “The pieces are all in place. And four river basins tied together, there’s nothing like that in the world.”

While only a fraction of the Q and M Trail will be managed by the trail association — much of it is a part of the New England Scenic Trail — Curley said members have been involved with the project all along.

“I’ve GPS’d every inch of it,” Curley said.

Curley hopes the trail’s completion will bring economic benefits to the many towns adjacent to it, which includes virtually every town in the North Quabbin region.

According to Curley, the North Quabbin region is often considered underserved, but its beauty can and should be used as a natural resource to bring in money.

“We need to tap into our natural resources and what we have,” Curley said. “This is a place of destination, not a place of problems.”

Hikers who travel the trail will spend thousands of dollars resupplying and staying in hotels along their journeys, Curley said. He has plans to spread the news of the Q and M Trail at the trail association’s monthly gatherings, which will have ways to allow people abroad to attend those meetings virtually.

The reason Curley believes the trail will be so successful is also the reason it hasn’t been deemed complete and publicized yet.

He is working with author and artist Donald Shambroom to create two books about the trail, as well as with graphic designers and virtual reality designers to create an augmented reality smartphone application to accompany the written works about the trail.

The two books, Curley said, will serve different purposes. The first book will contain all the maps, including overnight-stay locations, necessary to hike the trail, as well as information about hiking safety, and what supplies are necessary for different regions.

It will also contain information for disabled hikers. Curley said incorporating areas that are usable by people in wheelchairs has been important throughout the project. Increasingly, he said, there are methods for people with conditions like cerebral palsy to enjoy hiking, including modified wheelchairs and vehicles.

“Eighty-five out of those 240 miles, they will be able to go,” Curley said.

The second book, Curley said, will have stories written by Shambroom that he describes as “Huckleberry Finn and Alice in Wonderland” as more of a colorful accompaniment to the journey.

The books will be available digitally, he said, and there is already a publisher willing to publish several thousand copies for sale at $39.99.

The augmented reality component, Curley said, will allow people to see their own tracks or “blazing” as they walk along the trail. The team has already finished its third prototype of the application.

“We are in the last 10 miles of this 240-mile journey,” Curley said.

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.