Saturday, December 28, 2013

Bay Circuit Trail Map 9 - Rocky Narrows Hike

It's been three months since my last hike on the Bay Circuit Trail. I had so much difficulty following the BCT through Sherborn, I wasn't sure if I even wanted to finish the remaining miles on the southern end of the trail. But I've never been one to quit something I start and realized I MUST finish this trail no matter how difficult it may get at times. On Friday, I planned a 13 mile hike on the BCT from Rocky Narrows Reservation in Sherborn to Noon Hill Reservation in Medfield.

Things don't always go as planned.


Planned route on the BCT.

When I arrived at the Rocky Narrows Forest Street trail head the parking lot was empty. I was surprised by the amount of snow and ice on the ground. I thought the warmer weather that prevailed earlier in the week would have done a better job of reducing the snow pack. I was wrong. Of course the two inches of snow that fell the evening before didn't help the situation. The gray sky and cold wind did it's best to damper my enthusiasm, and it succeeded to some degree. I was slow to strap on my backpack and after a brief delay I was off.


 Trail register, kiosk and warning signs at Forest St entrance.

Rocky Narrows trail map.

 Overview of my route.

Trail starts to the left of parking lot.

I headed into the woods and met a woman out for a hike with her dog Guido. As we talked a bit, I learned she lived in the area and was a frequent visitor to Rocky Narrows. We discussed our hiking plans for the day and she was happy to tell me what to expect on the trail ahead. We parted for a short time as she took a side trail and I continued on the BCT. We agreed it was likely we would meet again at the canoe launch on the Charles River where the separate trails we were following converged.

I followed the Red Trail to the canoe launch. Most of the trail from the parking lot to the river was covered with a thick layer of bumpy ice. I was thankful I wore my screw shoes but the walking was still slow and slippery at times. I thought walking alone for 13 miles in these conditions wouldn't be much fun so I decided to only explore Rocky Narrows and leave the miles beyond the reservation for another day. Nearing the river, the woods opened and the ice-covered trail changed to soft pine needles. I scanned the Charles looking for river otters but could see none. As I lingered here, Guido walked up to the river followed closely by his owner. 


 Icy trails made for slow hiking.

 White BCT blazes were infrequent.

 A clearing before reaching the canoe launch beyond the pines.

 Canoe launch area.

 Icy Charles River looking downstream.

View of Charles River canoe launch and route from Google Earth.

We left the river together and hiked up a steep, rocky trail that was cut precariously close to a sheer cliff. Fortunately, the trail was mostly bare with very little ice and snow. A slip here could be disastrous! I kept my eyes on my feet so I don't know if there were any views here. After 0.4 miles of hard climbing the trail turned away from the cliff face but continued upward another quarter mile to King Phillip's Overlook. From the overlook, I could see Cedar Hill and Mine Hill in Rocky Woods approximately five kilometers to the east.
 View of cliff walk route from Google Earth.

 Guido (who is part wolf) takes watch over his domain.

 View of Charles River from King Phillip's Overlook.

CXS Railroad bridge spanning the river.

View of King Phillip's Overlook from Google Earth.

After a steep descent from the overlook the trail briefly runs parallel to an active rail line. There is a trail across the tracks that leads to the Route 27 trail head parking lot. I wanted to take the trail to Rt 27 since it's the trail the BCT follows. My new hiking partner did not, so we decided to go our own ways. Before we separated, she gave me her email address and asked me to message her if I wanted a hiking partner in the future. I thought this was a great idea since I haven't had any luck finding anyone willing to do the BCT with me. I promised to let her know when I would back in the area. When I returned to my car 40 minutes later I could not remember her email address. DOH!


Sign at trail head warns of gap at rail crossing.

I can't tell you if I crossed the tracks or not since it is forbidden by the Trustees of Reservations and CXS Railroad. If I did, I would have to kill you. 

I took a lunch break before hiking the final mile to my car. Although my break was brief, I was chilled from sitting on the cold ground. I began moving quickly along the mostly flat trail that skirted what appeared to be a swampy area, but it was hard to tell with the snow on the ground. The trail surface alternated between ice and soft pine needles. Every time I hit an icy patch I was more convinced I made the right decision to cut the hike short. The last quarter mile to my car was uphill but the incline was gradual. Nothing like the earlier cliff walk. Whew!

When I got back to the parking lot, it was full. I'm glad I beat the crowds.

More photos of my hike can been viewed HERE.

Stats Maps 1-9 (excludes spur trails):
Total miles: 140
Surface split: Trail and off-road 94 miles, roads 46 miles
Elevation gain: 6127 feet
Highest point: 424 feet (missed Nobscot Hill at 602 feet)

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ravenswood Day Hike

Last weekend I went for a short hike in Ravenswood Park with my friend Runnin'Rob. I've been to the park two other times to run The Ravenswood Trail Race but this time I wanted to venture into areas of the park not seen from the race course. Ravenswood is a 600 acre property in Gloucester, MA managed by The Trustees of Reservations. With 10 miles of trails and carriage roads, abandoned quarries and views of the Atlantic from rocky hilltops, there's plenty to explore.

Aerial view of Ravenswood hike.

A light snowfall earlier in the week, and the subsequent thawing and refreezing that followed, left several hundred feet of boardwalk over the Great Magnolia Swamp coated in a layer of ice. This made for a treacherous start to the hike but we managed to cross without incident. After the icy beginning, we found ourselves on a rocky and rooty single-track trail skirting the swamp. It was a very cold afternoon but I began to warm up as we gained elevation out of the swamp onto higher ground.

Interesting rock formation on the Magnolia Swamp Trail

About a mile later we turned onto the Fernwood Lake Trail which loops through the north-west section of the park, past Fernwood Lake (DUH!!) and a large watershed area. The trails in Ravenswood are well marked but somehow I manged to lead us off-trail while we were talking like a couple of giddy teenage girls. This resulted in 15 minute detour but we weren't in any hurry so no harm was done. After losing the trail, Rob took up the lead position and got us back on track. Rob, who is visually impaired, came up with the quote of the day exclaiming, "You know it's bad when the blind guy is leading the way!"  I have to say he did a better job than me.

Rocky Fernwood Lake Trail 

Path between Fernwood Lake and small pond

Leaving the lowlands of the Fernwood Lake Trail behind, we began a climb to higher elevation along a ridge on the Ledge Hill Trail. A mountain of jumbled, granite blocks and smooth cliff faces with deep pools on icy water below were evidence the area was once home to a small-scale granite mining operation. When reaching an overlook facing to the east, we decided to take a short break for a snack and some hydration (just water my friends). Although heavily overcast, Eastern Point Lighthouse at the entrance to Gloucester Harbor was visible from our vantage point.

 Rob stands next to a mountain of cut granite.

 View of the Atlantic from Ledge Hill Trail

Eastern Point Lighthouse is visible in this zoomed photo.

It was too cold to linger so we decided to get moving again before the chill crept into my tired old bones. Once back to my car at the trail head I checked my Garmin and saw we covered nearly six miles, which surprised me a bit. It didn't seem like we were out very long. I guess hiking with a friend makes all the difference.

Time really does fly when you are having fun!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Middlesex Fells Hike - Too Much Time To Think

I haven’t been doing any outdoor activities for the past month or so with the exception of a few bike rides. I've been trying to stay off my feet ever since I developed some foot pain (actually both feet) during one of my BCT hikes in August. I could tell by the pain in the balls of my feet and the burning sensation in my toes that it was Morton’s Neuroma but I was in denial for a couple of weeks. With all my other “aliments”, I wasn't willing to add another one to the growing list. After a two week regime of icing and ibuprofen I felt like I was ready to tackle a 10 mile hike in September.

I wasn’t.

Last week I decided to try once again. My feet were still bothering me but I decided the weather was just too nice to remain indoors. I had to get out! This time I would keep the mileage low, under five miles.  My first thought was to head to the Blue Hills, just south-west of Boston, but decided staying closer to home was more practical. Middlesex Fells, just a few miles from home was a better option. I've run or hiked in Middlesex Fells Reservation many times but always in the area west of Route 93. This time, I was interested in exploring the trails contained in the eastern section of the park.

Middlesex Fells Trail Map

After a short drive I arrived at the Crystal Spring trailhead on a crisp and sunny morning. I had no particular plan for the day. I would just wander in the woods and let the trail decide my path. Leaving the parking lot, I followed a rocky fire road uphill until reaching the single-track trail at the base of Wamoset Hills. The climb up and over Wamoset was short and steep as was the next one over Whip Hill which followed shortly after. At 256 feet, Whip Hill is the highest point in the North-East section but it offered no views from the top.

Kiosk at Crystal Spring Trail


I saw many downed trees but the trails were mostly clear


Approaching the top of Wamoset Hill



And descending the other side


Dense woods on my path to Whip Hill

Cool fungi

I continued on my counter-clockwise loop through wetlands and a public park before reaching the summit of Saddleback Hill. On a sunbaked opening in the trees I had a concrete bench to rest upon and a partially obstructed view of Spot Pond. Although I could have spent several minutes here, I chose not to linger. The winding descent from Saddleback brought me to Pond St where I crossed the road into Virginia Wood. That is, after I found my way around a trail detour caused by a major construction project of some kind.


Wetland area

Soft, leaf-covered trail

The trail cut through a playground which I thought was a little strange


A nice spot to take a break on Saddleback Hill

Spot Pond is barely visible through the trees

A better view of the pond on the descent


Green and gold

By now I was sensing this side of the Fells did not get the same use as its western sister. There were very few people on the trails despite the fine weekend weather. I followed the leaf–covered Virginia Wood Trail until it connected with the Rock Circuit Trail. Here the trail complexion changed from smooth duff to rocky granite. From an unnamed rocky peak I enjoyed my best view of the day. When looking to the north-east I could see the red and orange of autumn dotting a sea of summer green. I stood here for a few minutes, enjoying the view and the cooling breeze before I continued south on the Rock Circuit Trail.


A very peaceful trail

Bridge over a dried up wash

Canopy of pine

Soft trail

And more soft trail

But all good things come to an end

View from rocky top at merge of Virginia Wood/Rock Circuit Trail

A well marked trail

Then, out of nowhere, the thought hit me. Hiking alone is boring.

I’m not sure why I feel bored when hiking alone. When I was running trails, I could spend hours alone in the woods and never feel that way. Some days when out for a long run I could not believe how quickly timed passed. Maybe it was because I could turn off my mind when I was on a run and be carefree for those few hours alone. It was just me, the earth beneath my feet, the sky above.…and nothing else. I can’t get that same feeling when I’m on a hike.

I’m afraid I never will. 

More photo of the eastern fells are HERE

Friday, September 20, 2013

Bay Circuit Trail Map 9 - Ashland To Sherborn Section Hike

I can summarize this hike in two words,"Sherborn Sucked."

The unmarked trails and inadequate trail guide for this section really got me down. I spent so much time backtracking and looking for the trail in vain that I lost all my enthusiasm for completing the trail. In the final two miles of the 12 mile hike, I decided to abandon my plan to hike the remaining 80+ miles of the trail to Kingston. Now that I've had time to reflect on the hike, I've reconsider my decision, well sort of. I'm in no hurry to go back to the BCT and it's unlikely I will finish the trail before the end of the year.

I should have known I was in for a long hike when I hit a detour in the first quarter mile. Following the detour south on Route 126 in Ashland I turned onto Tri Street. There I encountered another problem. The bridge on Tri Street was was washed out!  Even the detour had a detour so it was back to Route 126 for more road walking. Finally, after more than two miles of pavement I got some dirt under my feet walking under a power line that would take me to Barber Reservation. 


Off-road section in Ashland could not be taken making for a long road walk.


But the detour described in the trail guide was blocked!


video
I got a sense that I was in for a long day of misfortune.

There wasn't much to Barber Reservation.  A few meadows and some wide dirt paths were all I saw. In fact, the walk along the power line and though the reservation was only a mile long. I took a short break at Barber to have a snack and some water and then took to the road again. What should have been a short half mile road walk turned into a futile search for the trail head on Dexter Drive in Sherborn. I walked up and down the street three times but could not locate the trail that passes through private property and onto farmland that would take me to Brush Hill Reservation.  After a good 30 minutes I decided to continue on the road and find the reservation on my own.

Not a trail but better than the road.

video


Trail in Barber Reservation

Trail though a grassy meadow in Barber Reservation.

I made a new friend on my road walk from Barber Reservation to Brush Hill Reservation so it wasn't all bad.

After another 1.5 miles of unplanned road walking I located the trail head at Brush Hill Reservation. Unfortunately, the blaze at the trail head was the only one I ever saw. Since the BCT was unmarked here, and there were many intersecting trails, I decided to follow the one that appeared to be the most traveled. It was the logical choice but ended up being an incorrect one. More backtracking, more cursing and inevitably more road walking followed, but I was able to find I my way to Sherborn Town Forest. 


View of the farm I was supposed to hike though but couldn't locate the trail on the opposite side.

Trail in Brush Hill Reservation the led to nowhere.

About two miles of the BCT pass through Sherborn Town Forest. The trail is a mix of wide paths and single-track with some moderate changes in elevation. I was so happy to find the trail was well blazed and easy to follow. That is until I came to a four way intersection one mile into the reservation. I could go left, right or straight ahead but the BCT was not marked here. I looked in all three directions but could not locate a blaze. I looked behind me. Nothing!

 An opening in the trail revealed this building and tower.


I knew the BCT crossed Route 27 to the east so I took the trail on the right and walked east. This time I made the right decision. I continued on this trail for another mile before reaching the roadway.  By now I was pretty frustrated and decided to abandon the rest of the hike and skip the final three miles through Sherborn, missing the best part of the trail through Rocky Narrows Reservation. Instead, I walked 2.5 miles south on Route 27 back to my car that was waiting for me in the Rocky Narrows parking lot. This wasn't the hike I hoped it would be but sometimes stuff happens.

I'll be back......some day. 

Stats:
BCT Maps 9: 12 miles
Surface split: 7m roads, 5m trails
Elevation gain: 672 feet
Highest point: Gibbs Hill.
Start point: Pond Street,Ashland
End point: Rocky Narrows, Sherborn
Other towns: None
Green Spaces: Barber Reservation, Brush Hill Reservation, Sherborn Town Forest 
Hydration: 80 oz water
Fuel: One Cilff Bar
Footwear: Brooks Cascadia 5, Fits socks
Total BCT covered to date: 140 miles
Surface split: 83 trail and dirt road, 50 pavement, 7 paved rail trail
Total elevation gain: 5683+
Highest point: 602 ft
BCT remaining: 62 estimated
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