By Will Broaddus
---- — DANVERS — Commuters may feel they know Route 128 better than the neighborhoods where they live.
That was the case for Laura Cilley, a member of the Danvers Bi-Peds, a group that is dedicated to making Danvers accessible to pedestrians and bikers.
“I was always commuting to Boston,” Cilley said.
The cure for feeling trapped in her car was to take a long walk, which the Bi-Peds host once a month and will lead again tomorrow afternoon.
“It was a way to get to know the community,” she said, “and to get to know the people around me.”
The Bi-Peds don’t slow down for winter, and sometimes draw even bigger groups now than in summer, when people are on vacation and the heat can be oppressive, Cilley said.
For the past four years, they have also sweetened the pot by making January’s event a chocolate walk, ending with treats.
“We tailgate,” Cilley said. “There’s hot chocolate. I found the easiest way is a thermos of hot water and some individual packets.
“More often than not, people have brought homemade chocolate goodies like brownies, chocolate chip cookies. Someone once brought some homemade fudge.”
This year’s Chocolate Walk is the fourth and was first suggested by Bi-Peds member Charles Lincicum, who knew of a similar event in New Hampshire.
The walk is held on the Danvers Rail Trail, which celebrated its grand opening last June.
“We start at Wenham Street and hike north to Route 97, so there’s no cross streets,” Cilley said. “Round-trip, it is 31/2 miles. It’s a nice straight shot, and that was before it was surfaced.”
The entire 4.3-mile long trail is covered with three-quarter-inch gravel, except in four spots totaling 500 feet, where stone dust makes the surface smooth for bicycles.
No one bikes, and many people don’t even walk on the Chocolate Walk, preferring to travel by snowshoes or cross-country skis, although these methods didn’t work last winter.
“Last year was more of a mud walk,” Cilley said. “But the previous year, there was beautiful, fresh snow.”
The Chocolate Walk passes through undeveloped landscapes, “wooded, swampy areas that are very picturesque during any season,” Cilley said. “You do see a different perspective with all the leaves gone.
“If we have time, we will be walking out on the elevated boardwalk called the SwampWalk, which is only accessible by the rail trail.”
Cilley said that newcomers to the rail trail are often surprised to find out how quickly they can move through town without using a car.
And she appreciates meeting people who may be new to the Bi-Peds, but have lived in Danvers all their lives “and know a lot and share their knowledge.”
These encounters are enhanced by the camaraderie that develops from making this journey in the middle of winter.
“The most fun is meeting folks, because normally, you don’t have a chance that often to get together with people in winter,” Cilley said.
If you go
What: Fourth annual Chocolate Walk with Danvers Bi-Peds
When: Tomorrow, 1:30 p.m.
Where: Meet at Putnamville School House, 224 Locust St.
More information: www.danversbipeds.org or 978-777-4661