Westville Walk…

Westville Dam Flooded

Believe it or not, that tree is in the middle of a field. At times, though, after heavy rains, this field becomes flooded, and it is a marvel to see.

I took this photo from atop a small knoll, having navigated through woods and treacherous footfalls to arrive there. When the Westville Dam is in this ravaged state, traversing the trails are nigh impossible.

But when the waters recede, there is a fine trail to be had, a 2.5 mile oval shaped path that one can walk, run, or bike on. We are quite fond of this place, especially during the late afternoon, when the slant of sun creates long shadows, and the interplay of light and dark is profound.

Sometimes we find ourselves totally alone, having walked the entire length with nary a soul in sight. But on Sundays, that all changes. It is Dog Day. Vast streams of folk gather in the limited parking lot, chatting away while the various dogs mingle, anxious for their owners to polish off the remnants of their tepid cups of joe.

Julie and I tend to avoid these congregations, preferring instead to stay quite a distance from wayward canines. But it never fails; eventually we will come across a gaggle of people, with dogs attached on long leashes, and invariably the pooch will come bounding toward you, tail and tongue wagging, wanting to jump up to paw your garments. The owner usually has the same reply: “Oh, don’t worry, he’s harmless!” Or “He just wants to play.”

But we do not.

We abhor getting accosted in this fashion, and on one memorable jaunt, a dog leapt up and placed its muddy paws all over Julie’s sweatpants. “Oh, I’m sorry”, the owner would say. ” He just wanted to play.” They never offer to pay for cleaning bills. Sometimes, one will encounter a fresh pile of dog poop along the trail, inconsiderately left by the dog’s owner. (At the beginning of each trail there are FREE bags for the sole purpose of disposing of your doggie’s doo-doo. But some people couldn’t be bothered by such trifling concerns.)

On the occasion when we have the place to ourselves, we sometimes manage to espy a magnificent blue heron in flight, its primordial wings gracefully swaying as it glides silently by. Or we’ll come across a lone heron standing in the shallows, a patient soul waiting interminably for a passing meal.

Other times we see turtles sunning on rocks or logs. There is one particular rock that juts out of the water, and we have seen up to six turtles all crowding around, valiantly attempting to get one last suntanning session in before sunset. It always reminds me of Dr. Seuss’s ‘Yertle the Turtle’, a great story, and one I love to read to 1st and 2nd graders. They never fail to laugh heartily and noisily when poor Mack burps, sending Yertle down into the mud.

Since my return to Sturbridge once again (christ, has it really been eight years already?), I had never heard of the Westville Dam area. I guess it was because I grew up in Walker Pond, right next to Wells State Park. There was no need to venture beyond my back door. We had a lake, a field, and many paths throughout the park. What a wonderful environment to grow up in.

But now, having come full circle to Sturbridge, it was a pleasant surprise to find this area of Southbridge/Sturbridge, where a meandering path leads you to the dam, and the many faces of nature abound. I high recommend this small stretch of trail to anyone.

Just watch out on Sundays, though.

Copyright, Paul Grignon, 2012, All Rights Reserved.

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