Marlene Schroeder Nature Trail
Distance: 3,168 feet (0.6 miles) (0.96 km)
Environmental Conditions along the Trail: Travelling down a wagon path downhill, forest for most of the way, then through wetlands via a bog bridge, then upland forest of pine and deciduous trees, bridge crossing at the Little River and meeting the Gloria Braunhardt Bike Trail up an embankment.
Trail Conditions: A gentle downhill grade, then across a wetland, then onto a forest highland until intersecting on to the bank of the Little River and up a gentle grade to the old Route 95 roadbed.
I suppose the best way to describe the Crow Lane Nature Trail is to actually call it the In-between Trail. It weaves in and out of public and private properties, runs itself along the no longer used Crow Lane Roadway and ends up meeting with so many other trails that any hiker for the first time can easily become confused.
The only way to start on this trail is to park at the end of Crow Lane next to the Landfill. There is ample parking though the surface is not completely graded. The alternative is to park at the entrance to the stump-dump facility or just inside. Someday when the Landfill closing is a distant memory, a nice parking area will be established for access to these conservation lands.
Walking down the wide path of the old Crow Lane, you will actually be crossing the beginnings of the Little River. Sometimes in heavy rain, the stream pours above and not through the conduits. Continuing up a hill, you can view on the left the inner field of the Cooper North Pasture Conservation Area and sometimes be lucky enough to see a grazing deer. Directly to the right is the Woodman Farm Nature Trail.
To protect important Natural Heritage certified vernal pools that lie directly on the discontinued Crow Lane Roadway; the trail takes a sharp left and goes due south. It eventually ends up at a crossroads. Straight ahead and to the left is the Cooper North Common Pasture Nature Trail and to the right is the continuation of the Crow Lane Trail. Taking it, we now come to a stretch of forest that is just breathtaking. The trees are large and majestic and the trail is easy to traverse. Wildlife is thick in the area and it behooves one to be very quiet and see if anyone can be spotted. A vernal pool* lies just off the path in this area.
Vernal pools are temporary bodies of freshwater that provide critical habitat for many vertebrate and invertebrate wildlife species. They constitute a unique and increasingly vulnerable type of wetland that is inhabited by many species of wildlife some of which are totally dependent on vernal pools for their survival. Massachusetts Natural Heritage is attempting to identify and certify vernal pools to ensure their protection.
Eventually, the Crow Lane path ends at the abandoned Route 95 roadbed now turned into the Gloria Braunhardt Bike Trail. A small trek into the field just across the way and you can also link up with the Little River Nature Trail.
The “In-between” trail is a great way to have access to all the different paths in the forest. It’s also a great point of reference to prevent becoming lost. Of all the trails in this area, the Crow Lane Nature Trail has that seasoned feel that gives a hiker confidence that the path won’t ‘disappear’ and it gives a feeling of being close to some of the best of what nature offers.