Trail Tails: Sherborn's Rocky Narrows has plenty to explore
I envy the canoeists who float down the Charles River in Sherborn and discover a jewel known as Rocky Narrows. Its towering hemlocks and rocky overlooks must be a sight to see from water level.
Not having a canoe, my dog Leo and I must explore this 227-acre reservation's seven miles of trails by entering in a slightly more plebeian way - on foot. Leo doesn't object, although I find myself occasionally kvetching about the lack of parking. With only 12 spaces in two separate lots (at different ends of the property), it is first come-first served.
Of course, the benefit is that if you're lucky enough to get the last parking spot, it can still feel like you're the only one here. And your reward is that there is a lot to explore at Rocky Narrows.
Split by the railroad into two sections, the larger section (owned by The Trustees of Reservations and the Town of Sherborn) is accessible off of Forest Street: just take Goulding Street East straight from Rte. 27 to the intersection with Lake and Forest streets. The parking lot here only supports five cars with nothing available along the streets.
Because most of the trail intersections are numerically marked, it is really tough to get lost here as long as you have a trail map. They are usually available at the information kiosk (and online). You can walk down the hill across open fields before entering the woods or you can head right into woodlands at the kiosk as I do.
Red Trail is the main loop trail which takes you through Sherborn Town Forest (there are more interconnected trails inside the loop) and, after about a half hour, you will reach the railroad. A small portion of the trail closely parallels the railroad tracks so leash your dog here.
Unfortunately, the smaller section of the reservation is on the other side of the tracks. Both Conrail and The Trustees warn against violating a policy about crossing the railroad tracks, but because there is a seven-car parking lot here, which is a short walk off South Main Street (Rte. 27) just south of Snow Street, crossing is a common practice. It doesn't help much that, from this point, this section and Red Trail are on part of the more than 150-mile Bay Circuit Trail (look for small white, rectangular trail blazes on trees). So if you're on a 150-mile hike, cross at your own risk or turn around.
You'll want to veer away from the tracks anyway because the best is yet to come. Red Trail (and now also the Bay Circuit Trail) soon leads to King Philip's Overlook. Named after the Wampanoag chief who warred against Massachusetts Bay Colony's early settlers, this granite bluff offers up a nice view of the Charles River, farmland and Medfield State Forest.
Further down Red Trail, Rocky Narrows Overlook provides you with a challenging hike. Its narrow and rocky (hence the reservation's name) and the Charles River flowing past large hemlocks and moss-covered boulders imparts a primeval feel to the landscape. Keep your dog on a short leash here and your kids under close supervision.
From this point it is an easier walk, if sometimes swampy and muddy because the river and streams are at higher levels now. Also, the canoe landing - normally a great place for your dog to get a drink - is now under water.
Red Trail then loops back, eventually, to the picturesque rock wall-lined open field before the parking lot. You may even spot the bluebird building, its nest in a birdhouse at the base of the hill.
On second thought, maybe I don't envy the canoeists as much. On foot is definitely the only way to go.
Trail Tails, a feature on great places to walk with your four-legged friends, runs the first Thursday of the month.
The Trustees of Reservations: http://www.thetrustees.org/pages/360_rocky_narrows.cfm.
The Bay Circuit Trail: http://www.baycircuit.org/