Long Distance Hiking in Plymouth? You bet...

By Director of Land Protection, Scott MacFaden

Over the past two Sundays, we had the privilege of embarking upon a series of hikes we have come to call the ‘Big Ramble”.  Led by the “Trail Guy” and ace navigator Malcolm MacGregor, we (a group of eleven on June 4, and a group of ten on June 11) covered just about 20 miles in all, traversing through a wide range of landscapes that reinforced how much our region has to offer to the ambitious hiker.   

Malcolm and his band of stalwart hikers, including some folks affiliated with the Friends of Myles Standish, have been exploring the wilds of our local state forest and many other places in and around Plymouth for years.  More recently, they have graciously chosen to share their specialized landscape knowledge with Wildlands Trust. 

For most of our history, Wildlands has sponsored what might be more accurately termed walks than hikes—leisurely paced outings that typically cover no more than four miles.  While these walks appeal to many of our members and will always remain an integral part of our programming offerings, a land acquisition we closed on last December inspired us to consider sponsoring more ambitious outings.

The land acquisition in question was the 275-acre Luigi and Teotista Cortelli Preserve on Great South Pond in Plymouth.  Donated by Gerald and Maureen Sheehan, this outstanding property includes multiple rare species habitats, extensive frontage on Great South Pond, and an intriguing landscape connection:  it directly abuts the Plymouth Town Forest to the north and Myles Standish State Forest to the south. 

Poring over maps with Malcolm, it became apparent to us that our new preserve was the missing link in the most expansive corridor of contiguous open space in southeastern Massachusetts: an almost 19,000-acre greenbelt, ranging from the Plymouth Town Forest through Myles Standish and southerly to the Mass. Division of Fish and Game’s recently established Maple Springs Wildlife Management Area in Wareham. 

With this exciting realization in mind, we thought it an opportune time to formally sponsor lengthier, more ambitious and demanding hikes like the Big Ramble. 

As the accompanying photos attest, we encountered many interesting features along the Ramble route, including the sweeping vistas afforded by Pinnacle Hill (the highest location in all of Plymouth outside of the geographic Pine Hills), and the famed “Frogfoot” Reservoir. 

Traversing through the interior of Myles Standish State Forest was a particular pleasure.  The Forest holds many attractions that elude the typical visitor, including the striking landscape of Cherry Pond Valley (the namesake pond is the headwaters of the Wankinco River).   The valley is a steep-sided landscape with comparatively few trees that likely owes its appearance to a forest fire at some point in the relatively recent past.  Most of the state forest’s terrain is comprised of so-called Pine Barrens, a woodland type dominated by Pitch Pine and Scrub Oak and adapted to frequent fires. 

For those who want to undertake their own version of the Big Ramble:  unless you are adept at off-trail navigation and route finding, you’ll have to be patient.  Much of the Big Ramble’s route took us over terrain that doesn’t presently include marked and/or easily followed trails.   Our longer-term vision is to collaborate with the landowners along the Big Ramble route, most particularly DCR, DFG, and the Town of Plymouth, to formalize the routes that Malcolm and his merry band of hikers know so well.  While we don’t yet have a specific timetable for implementing this vision, we are enthused about the possibilities for expanding the range of hiking opportunities in our extended backyard.   

In the interim, we are planning more ambitious guided hikes—so stay tuned! 

 Malcolm introduces us to Pinnacle Hill (Part I)

Malcolm introduces us to Pinnacle Hill (Part I)

 Outlook toward Great South Pond (Part I)

Outlook toward Great South Pond (Part I)

 Cherry Pond - the headwaters of the Wankinco River (Part I)

Cherry Pond - the headwaters of the Wankinco River (Part I)

 Cherry Pond Valley (Part I)

Cherry Pond Valley (Part I)

 A leisurely lunch in the shadows of the cathedral pines (Part I)

A leisurely lunch in the shadows of the cathedral pines (Part I)

 Traversing through open woodland (Part II)

Traversing through open woodland (Part II)

 The Part II Crew (minus Scott) at Frogfoot Reservoir

The Part II Crew (minus Scott) at Frogfoot Reservoir

 "The Rhododendron Not Taken" (apologie to Mr. Frost)

"The Rhododendron Not Taken" (apologie to Mr. Frost)

 A respite at the picnic grounds on Maple Springs Reservoir (Part II)

A respite at the picnic grounds on Maple Springs Reservoir (Part II)