By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Southborough – The Trailblazers is not your parents’ recreational organization. It’s a group of active seniors who developed a year-round program offering day trips with healthful activities. Destinations of the Trailblazers trips range from close proximity to their home base at the Southborough Senior Center to excursions statewide and beyond. Credited for spearheading the group’s formation is Mary Ann Anderson.
After retiring as an elementary school physical education teacher in West Boylston, Anderson began frequenting the Southborough Senior Center. She shared her idea with its director Pam LeFrancois to schedule walks in town. A few walks took place on nearby trails. Anderson soon recognized potential for more than local walks.
“I noticed a group of people who were more active,” she said. “Pam sent a letter to everyone who came to these walks and asked if they’d be interested in developing a more active group of seniors. In July 2015, we held an informational meeting and discussed all kinds of activities. About 10 people attended that meeting.”
In September 2015, the Trailblazers took their first trip to the Quabbin Reservoir in Belchertown. There, they heard a ranger speak and then hiked. Anderson cites their inaugural outing as the most memorable.
“It was a beautiful, sunny day,” she recalled. “We hiked up this trail, went up the tower at the top and saw the gorgeous scenery. Then we gathered for a picnic lunch and hiked back down. Everybody was so excited that we came together as a group of very energetic seniors and went on our first trek.”
That first hike is deemed by Anderson as being more strenuous than others they’ve done. She noted that members are mindful of their varied athletic ability levels. Occasional breaks are taken while some members share their expertise of topics such as birdwatching and foliage.
Subsequent trips have included biking at East Bay Bike Path in Providence; boating at Hopkinton State Park; cross-country skiing at Weston Ski Track; curling at Broomstones Curling Club in Wayland; hiking at Callahan State Park in Framingham, Upton State Park,
Wachusett Mountain State Reservation in Princeton and Walkup Reservation in Westborough; horseback riding at Ridge Valley Stables in Grafton; and walking at Bay Circuit Trail and Deerfoot Farm in Southborough, Ghiloni Park in Marlborough and Hopkinton State Park.
The Trailblazers also visited attractions such as Author’s Lunch with the Concord River Cruise, a Spectacle Island tour with Boston Harbor Cruises, and Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in Newburyport. Thrill-seekers in the group particularly enjoyed visiting the Adventure Park at Heritage Museums & Gardens in Sandwich, Anderson noted.
“The park has different types of activities – zip lines, climbing up ladders, walking along aerial planks,” she explained. “That was one of the most challenging trips for people.”
Last winter’s unseasonably mild weather prevented the Trailblazers from snowshoeing as planned. If there’s no precipitation when snowshoeing is scheduled, members instead take a winter hike. The 2017 snowshoeing or hike trips scheduled include Gates Pond Reservoir in Berlin, Hopkinton State Park, Sawink Farm in Westborough, and Warren Woods in Ashland.
Other scheduled 2017 trips are biking and walking at Nashua River Rail Trail in Ayer, boating at Hopkinton State Park, hiking at Harvard Forest in Petersham and Walden Pond State Reservation in Concord, viewing the Tall Ships at Boston Harbor, and a trolley tour of Lowell National Historical Park and Canal.
The Trailblazers meetings are held the first Wednesday afternoon of each month. It’s not necessary to attend meetings to go on trips. Nor do members need to live in Southborough; current members are also from Framingham, Marlborough and Westborough. On the day of trips, members typically meet at the Southborough Senior Center and carpool to the destination. Anderson is pleased with the Trailblazers progress in a relatively short period of time.
“This has really blossomed from when we started with about 10 people,” she said. “Now, I have over 35 people on my email list. We’re meeting the needs of active seniors on a grassroots level.”
For information about upcoming Trailblazers trips, visit southboroughseniors.com, click “About Us,” then “Events” and “Trailblazers – dates & times info.” Also, follow the Trailblazers on Facebook at facebook.com/SouthboroughTrailblazers.