Hope during COVID-19

  • The Quabbin Reservoir STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Paul Franz

Published: 5/25/2020 5:04:49 PM

Good morning, neighbor.

I spoke with some high school seniors last week about how they’re dealing with COVID-19 and what it took away from their senior year.

Three Greenfield High School seniors told me they’ve been sad, cried at times, but have persevered, finished their schoolwork and are ready to graduate on the fairgrounds as they sit in their cars and wait for their names to be called so they can collect their diplomas.

All three are headed to college in the fall — they hope. I do, too. These three young women (Kasia Kinsmith, Mackenzie Southwick and Hailey Younger) are truly impressive. And they will tell you they’ve had to grow up quickly.

Mackenzie, who will attend the University of New Hampshire and major in genetics with a minor in psychology, told me that she understands she and her friends are “… still growing up; our frontal lobes aren’t even fully developed yet.” She told me she’d love to be living the carefree life she had expected of her last year of high school.

But what all three told me is that they’ve learned something most of us don’t learn until later in life: we are not invincible, and we should never take anyone or anything for granted, because none of us are promised tomorrow. It’s a lesson they had to learn much too early, though it might take them further than they ever imagined and a lot earlier than some of us.

Congratulations of all of our graduates. You give us hope, and we wish you the best.

This disease has impacted every one of us in so many ways. Even if you don’t know someone, or don’t know that you know someone, who has been affected by COVID-19 in the most personal way, you’ve probably either had to work from home, be home-schooled or, worse yet, had to work on the front lines and put yourself in harm’s way, leaving you to worry about yourself and your family.

I appreciate every one of you, and I’m sure I can speak for our neighbors when I say we all appreciate every one of you.

So, this COVID-19 thing started when winter was still with us, and here we are in mid-spring, celebrating Memorial Day. Our communities are slowly re-opening according to guidelines from the governor, so some of us will still be working from home a little longer, while others will be heading into the office, and we’ll all be wearing masks and “social distancing,” a phrase, I’ve been told by many, they never want to hear again when this is over. Some of these practices may become more permanent. We’ll see.

What we do know is that we can get out, enjoy the weather, reconnect with nature and boost our endorphins.

Most of you know that my favorite place is the Quabbin Reservoir. There are so many different gates you can enter. If you like history, head to Gate 40 in Petersham. On the west side of Route 32A, also known as Hardwick Road, it’ll take you to Dana Common, and if you continue beyond there, you’ll come to the waters of the reservoir.

It’s considered by some to be the best historical hike in the Quabbin Reservoir. It’s a 1.5-mile walk to the center, and if I remember correctly, another mile or so to the water. You’ll pass open fields, woodlands, stone walls, cellar holes and brooks on the way to the common, a beautiful center with a schoolhouse cellar hole and homestead cellar holes all around. If you have a good imagination, you can conjure up the lost town in your mind.

Then, there’s gates 29 and 30, which intersect. Gate 29 is a long walk to the water, while Gate 30 is much shorter. I like to start at Gate 30 and then turn onto Gate 29, because that allows me to cross the stone-arched Keystone Bridge, which was built in 1866 to span the middle branch of the Swift River. Gate 30 – all gates are clearly marked – is a short ride on Route 32 from Route 202.

Gate 29 in New Salem (off Route 202) is about 2.5 miles long one way, so make sure you’ve got good walking shoes. There are woodlands, open fields, cellar holes along it, and I’ve seen many creatures there over the years, though I have not seen a moose, yet, but I know a couple people who have.

There are several loops along Gate 29, including one that takes you to Rattlesnake Hill, giving you a wonderful view of the reservoir.

I think my favorite is Gate 35, because I think it is the most beautiful. Then again, I haven’t traveled all of the trails, yet, so I’m sure there are many formidable contenders.

A three-mile hike in and out leads from Old North Dana Road in New Salem. You’ll find the gate, once again, off Route 32. The trail is mostly flat, and I’ve never run into more than a few people, except on holiday weekends.

It’s a short walk through woodlands, where several years ago I found a nest of ravens — I haven’t been there since, so I’m not sure if they have returned each year.

It’s not long before you reach the water where you’ve got a clear view of the reservoir all the way down on your right. It’s one of the best trails, in my opinion, if you want magnificent views.

Many times, I’ve seen loons, eagles, cormorants and families of mergansers. You get a good “overall” view of the reservoir, with its rolling hills, islands and majesty.

We’ve learned that there is no playbook for the COVID-19 crisis. We’re in it together, but in many ways alone. So much is still unknown, uncertain. What I can say with almost certainty is that the Quabbin Reservoir will raise your spirits. Depending on your situation, you can find longer or shorter hikes, easy or more difficult hikes.

Just take in all the beauty, have fun and stay safe.

For more information about Quabbin Reservoir, visit: bit.ly/2Tu6FFs. You can also get information at Friends of the Quabbin at: www.foquabbin.org. Also find more information about individual gates and hikes at: myhikes.org. Just type in the gate number you’re interested in.

Senior Reporter Anita Fritz grew up in Franklin County after moving from Spokane, Wash., when she was just a few weeks old. She covers Greenfield and does regional and COVID-19 reporting for the Greenfield Recorder.

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