It’s tough to get lost in many of Marblehead’s loveliest conservation areas. Ware Pond, for instance, a wetland and woodland gem of 8.8 acres, has just a couple of trails and borders two roads and the railroad path. But some of the larger areas, especially when the foliage is full, can confuse those of us without a strong inner compass. Fortunately, help is close at hand.
The Marblehead Conservancy, a nonprofit, volunteer organization that helps keep the trails passable and pleasant, provides free trail maps in both paper and digital forms. Where practical, there are map boxes at trail entrances that offer free waterproof maps and display a laminated map that marks your present location. All trail entrances also have a small QR code that, when scanned with your smartphone, will take you directly to an online map of the area you are visiting.
For those who like to plan ahead, all of the online trail maps are easily available on the Conservancy’s website (marbleheadconservancy.org) so you can download them to use on your smartphone or to print them to accompany your walk. These maps show trail entrances, access roads, both the major and minor trails, boardwalks, stone “steps,” and scenic viewpoints.
You can also use the mapping software on your smartphone to navigate Marblehead’s trails. Our map apps show you the blue dot, which is roughly your location. This can give you a good indication of which trail you are on and which direction you are traveling. Though not completely up to date, the free Google maps app probably shows Marblehead’s trails more accurately than most and also offers a terrain view so you can see the hills and valleys. In addition, there are free compass apps to help you find your current direction as well as apps that will record your walk and show your progress on the map. The latter not only help you get oriented, but can also provide an easy way to retrace your steps.
It might also be reassuring to know that the Conservancy has been working with the Marblehead Police Department to ensure that police officers have up-to-date digital trail maps should they be required for an emergency situation.
Before paper maps were easily available and digital maps were yet to be invented, the best method of navigating without a guide was to ask directions as you went along. This method still works very well and, thanks to the popularity of Marblehead’s trails, can usually be relied upon. Trail walkers undoubtedly share your appreciation for exploring open space, and who knows, you might meet your next best friend.
David Krathwohl is a member of the Marblehead Conservancy and manages the Our Open Spaces columns.