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Out & About: Rail trail walks provide solace during pandemic

  • The Northern Rail Trail, pictured on a recent evening in Canaan, begins in Lebanon and ends in Boscawen, N.H. Valley News — Liz Sauchelli

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/8/2020 9:13:36 PM
Modified: 4/8/2020 9:13:25 PM

I am not good at staying in one place. Even on weekends when the weather is at its worst, it’s hard for me to be confined to the apartment my partner and I share.

Since I moved to the Mascoma Valley about a year ago, the Northern Rail Trail has become one of my favorite places to spend time and the perfect outlet for my restlessness.

Depending on the month — or even the week or day — there is always something new to observe, or a new dog to say, “Hi,” to.

Last year, we watched a group of Canada geese raise their young and delighted in watching the goslings learn to fly. The abundance of monarch butterflies last summer provided endless entertainment and chances to flex our cellphone photography muscles.

And now, in the age social distancing, the stretch of rail trail near our apartment has become even more vital to my mental and physical health.

In a short span of time, my partner and I went from sharing a living space, to sharing both a living and working space. The respective rooms we use as our offices share a thin wall that can sometimes make it challenging to get work done. Our apartment, which I have always viewed as a respite from the outside world, sometimes feels too tiny to contain both our working and personal lives.

We recognize our fortune in being employed and being able to work from home. We regularly talk about our gratitude for both. We understand the importance of social distancing and are determined to do our part to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But it’s also worth acknowledging the challenges that come with confinement and process the feelings of loss that come with a sudden change to daily life. It’s one of the reasons I find taking a walk on our favorite stretch of the rail trail so comforting.

It is familiar, yet purposeful exercise. It gives us a chance to interact outside our apartment and the stressors that are concentrated inside it. (It also gives our cats the human-free time I am convinced they are craving.)

On the few miles of the rail trail we continually walk, we’ve seen the robins return and observed a lone mallard duck with shiny green feathers that are bound to help him in his search for a mate. We stop when we hear a bird call to try to identify its source. We hold out hope that we will spot a moose standing in the swamp so that I can fulfill my dream of seeing one in person. We keep an eye out for chipmunks, which never fail to make my partner smile.

These walks along the rail trail bring us back to the roots of our relationship, which in part was formed by a deep love of the outdoors. They have reminded us that, while the pandemic continues, so does nature’s resilience.

As does our own.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at or 603-727-3221.

Valley News

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