Jean Guarino ~ Walking on Monday Mornings

Covid-19 created many restrictions and limited our ability to socialize in the ways we normally would. Because of this, we created the Monday Morning Walkers, which has helped participants fulfill their minds, bodies, and souls by getting outdoors, getting exercise, seeing, listening, learning, talking, sharing, making new friendships.
The seed for a walking group for seniors was planted when a steward of one of the local parks in Bridgewater presented a program for the Ousamequin Women’s Club. At that meeting, members and guests learned that our town has six parks. After the meeting Emily, the director of the Cole-Yeaton Senior Center in Bridgewater, mentioned she wanted to create a walking group for seniors. Walking is pleasant and social, can be fast or slow, long or short and can be done in almost any weather. At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, a lot of ideas went on the back burner, but this was still on Emily’s mind. She knows firsthand what can happen to people without social contact. In late summer of last year, Emily contacted me about starting up the walking group. We decided on a day of the week and a time and posted the event, thus the name Monday Morning Walkers. Assuming that our walking adventures would be limited to town locations, I tried to think of places including our town parks that would make an enjoyable walking experience and people would want to do each week. I did not want to go to the same place each week. At that time, I had no idea where the Monday Morning Walkers would take us.
Emily posted the first meet up for the parking lot at the senior center. Five women of varying hiking experience showed up. We started as acquaintances and have now become friends. When we think back to that first walk, basically in the parking lot of the senior center, we are amazed at where we have been. There are six regulars who have met for Monday morning walks since the end of last summer. We now have 7 to 8 people depending on schedules. We’ve walked and hiked in all kinds of weather. Our average mileage goal has become four miles, through woods, over streams, up and down hills, in wind, sometimes light rain, maybe a flurry of snow. Looking for a new location each week has been fun and a learning experience. There are so many places to go right here in southeastern Massachusetts.
Our walks have taken us through Bridgewater—Ironworks Park, Carver’s Pond, Titicut Reservation, Great River Preserve, BSU Trails—and onto trails in other towns–Striar Conservancy in Halifax; Pratt Farm in Middleboro; Massasoit State Park and Betty’s Neck in Lakeville; Eel River Preserve and Russell Mill Pond Conservation Area, the Plymouth Rail Trail and back along the beach, Myles Standish State Park, Morton’s Park (Billington Sea and Little Pond), a lovely walk along Town River in Plymouth; F. Gilbert Hills State Forest and the trail behind Bass Pro in Foxboro area; Rockland Rail Trail; Burrage Pond in Hanson; Gertrude Boyden Wildlife Refuge (Three Mile River) in Taunton; Borderland State Park, G. Clifford Grant Trail Loop and Wheaton Farm in Easton; and Ames Nowell State Park in Abington; Indian Head River Loop in Pembroke. All have been interesting and different. We are planning to revisit some throughout the different seasons.
It’s amazing how many places there are to hike in Bridgewater and not far from the Bridgewater borders; and some are more enjoyable than others. Our preferred choices have been rivers or ponds. There is something peaceful and soothing about water. Standing quietly to listen to the movement of a stream is so relaxing, and we’ve seen various shore birds. There have been short and long trails, easy and difficult trails, woody, slushy, mushy, icy and rocky trails. We have trudged through snow, put a raincoat on in drizzle, ended a walk as the snow was starting. Recently we had to ford a small mucky area and stream on a makeshift bridge of logs created by someone before us.
Throughout this pandemic, this social contact has been so important. We have learned what our capabilities are and what places there are to visit in our area. We find ourselves looking for and noting locations to check out for future meetings. I love every minute I am out with these women. It has been a pleasure becoming friends with each of these women.
You can easily create your own walking club. Walking and hiking is good for the soul, body, and mind. There are sights, sounds and smells that relax and lift the spirit. Exercise helps the body. Socialization benefits the soul. It is the best medicine and it does not need to cost much beyond a good pair of hiking shoes, some bug spray and the right clothes relative to weather.