East-West Trail, Worcester, MA (Coal Mine Brook)
Yesterday I hiked the easternmost portion of the East-West Trail in Worcester, MA. This is the area that starts at Lake Quinsigamond and follows Coal Mine Brook. I went about 1.5 miles through some terrain that was kind of crazy at times (there is a field where the trail is NOT clear, and the grasses, reeds, and vines are very overgrown), in 90 degree heat.
The hike was more pleasant than I anticipated, with less trash than expected and more lovely woods and nature. I really went into this expecting a more urban-like hike (which I know is what is in the middle of the trail, several miles further than I went).
But wait, you ask. COAL Mine Brook? Why on earth is it called that? This is Massachusetts, not Virginia! Well, in the 1800s, coal was in high demand, and people looked for it everywhere. A man named Amos Binney found out that Native Americans in the area had been using anthracite coal from the area. He, as is typical, took that land and decided to open a shaft to begin commercially mining the coal in the 1820s. This is not a mine like you might imagine today--all this coal was mined by hand, and at most there were about 21 people working there at full capacity. However, the mine didn't produce as much coal as expected, and a couple years after it opened, Amos Binney died. The person who owned the land the coal was on asked for such a high price for the land that no one could pay for it, and the coal mine was abandoned. It collapsed a while later, and unless you know what to look for, you might think its location is just a cool rock formation. There are no signs or markers.
There is a dark area under a rocky cliff that has water dripping heavily down it. If you are heading west on the trail, this will be on your right side. The dark area under the ledge is where the shaft was, but has since collapsed to just look like part of the cliff might have naturally just fallen. But on the trail, you can tell that the trail there has been manipulated by people, because there are large flat stones there, and on the side of one is a drill hole. These are part of the rail bed used to transport coal from the mine to Lake Quinsig. You can learn more (and see way better pictures than I can provide) here: https://worcester.ma/2016/04/worcestory-lesson-digging-citys-past-on-east-side-trail/
While hiking this trail, I saw a doe and fawn. I wasn't able to get a picture of the fawn (but wow, he was cute), but I stood and had a conversation with this doe for a few minutes. Such a beautiful creature, I could really feel the magic of the forest in her presence.
I was scolded by a robin for walking right under her nest.
There was also a really cool hollow tree by the trail. I stuck my phone over it to see what was inside (because I didn't want my face eaten off by a raccoon), but it was pretty empty.
Coal Mine Brook is what is called a cold water fishery, and I'll write more about that very soon. It's a special type of natural resource that is a good indicator of pollution, etc.
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