The Robert Frost Trail through Lawrence Swamp;
map taken from trail brochure, which is available here.
I've known about Lawrence Swamp since I was small, as the 1,000 acre swamp lies just beyond our back forty at Winterberry Farm. I grew up wandering back to the swamp and to Hop Brook. This is where I first learned about turtles and frogs and all things wetland. The brook and the swamp are critical to recharging the large aquifer underlying the swamp, which now provides more than half the drinking water for the Town of Amherst.
This stretch of the Robert Frost Trail is quite different from the Amethyst Brook section that we've hiked several times recently. The trail through Lawrence Swamp has very little elevation gain as it meanders through low woodlands of pine and oak and red maple, around wetlands and hayfields, and across Baby Carriage Brook (a tributary to Hop Brook), and Hop Brook.
The 47-mile Robert Frost Trail is the fifth longest hiking trail in Massachusetts. As such, it passes through a mixture of state lands, town conservation and watershed lands, private lands, and along portions of state or local roads. Many private landowners have generously allowed the trail to pass through their land, either through a license agreement or just a handshake.
The Lawrence Swamp trail passes through a mixture of ownerships. The first 1.7 miles of the trail starting at Station Road leads through low woodlands, then follows a town gravel road to one of the town's wellheads, then follows a woods road through private land, and finally follows the edge of privately owned hayfields, before reaching the end at Goodell Road in Belchertown. Kodi and I walked nearly to Goodell Road, before turning back, retracing our steps to Station Road. We hiked more than 6 miles in two hours -- a much faster pace than our more rugged climbs in the White Mountains.
Although more cloudy yesterday, it was the fourth day in a row of spectacular fall weather - warm and colorful. As we walked along the trail we saw many interesting plants: sassafras, chestnut saplings, witch hazel flowers.
Sassafras leaves in fall glory
Chestnut leaves; many small saplings grow along the trail
Witch hazel in flower; the only fall bloomer
A quote from a Robert Frost poem in the trail brochure captures my thinking as Kodi and I walked through Lawrence Swamp yesterday:
Out walking in the frozen swamp one gray day,
I paused and said, "I will turn back from here.
No I will go farther - and we shall see." ...
Kodi and I walked through the swamp on a partly sunny day and decidedly not on frozen ground, yet I kept thinking too, we will turn back here, then thinking, no we will go farther.... There is always something more to see around the next bend in the trail. Something that might be missed if one turns back too soon.