Monday, April 11, 2011

Bay Circuit Trail Run - The Journey Begins

The Bay Circuit Trail (BCT) is a  permanent public recreational trail and greenway, linking parks and open spaces in fifty-seven Boston area communities, 200 miles from Plum Island in the North to the Duxbury/Kingston shore in the South. I first thought of running the length of the BCT a few years ago but nothing ever came of it.  It was placed on the back burner until the Channel 5 show "Chronicle" aired an episode last year about the trail and it's driving force, Alan French.  My interest was once again piqued but injuries prevented me from doing much running.

I planned to attempt this 200 mile journey in 2012 but after a recent meeting with Mr. French (he prefers to be called Al), I was inspired to give it a go this year. Al is a super nice guy and offered to assist me in making this dream a reality.  I feel very honored to have Al on my side.  He has through-hiked the BCT twice and completed it in sections perhaps another five times by his estimation.  He had a vision and he made it happen. 

 Course Overview

Elevation profile

I began my run from the beach sands of Plum Island on a cool and sunny morning and headed west towards the lift bridge.  Running roads in not my idea of a good time but all journeys must start somewhere and this one started on pavement.  Vehicle traffic was steady and the noise unpleasant, but this stretch over the Joppa Flats was only two miles long and soon I was running in more tranquil surroundings.  I passed the Plum Island airfield and skirted my way around the runway, cutting through tall grass and onto the fields of the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm.

The journey begins on Plum Island.

 Cold, blue water running under the bridge.

I don't think you could get me in this plane for a million dollars! 

Boardwalk to the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm.

I immediately felt like I was transported back 200 years in time to a simpler way of life.  The commotion of the causeway seemed to disappear and there was calm all around me.  I stopped here to visit with some of the farm animals and talk with a women doing her daily chores.  I would have preferred to stay longer but I still had 10 more miles to cover and much more to see. It was time to move on.

 Old farm house.

What a porker!

More farm friends.

It wasn't long before I came upon Tendercrop Farm on Route 1A.  The farm is home to the only buffalo on the BCT.  I could not pass without stopping in on Buffy and her llama friend.  A quick hello and I was off again leaving busy 1A for a detour on some quiet side streets.  As I passed a dome house on my left I looked for a green gate that marked the entrance to the Old Town Hill Reservation and some dirt trails. Yahoo!

 That's a big girl.
Although there were not many trail markers overall, the turns were clearly marked and following the trail was easy.  I was enjoying the single-track running a great deal and didn't want it to end but after a mile or so I came out of the woods to another quiet back road.   I wasn't paying attention to the trail map as I entered the road and turned left when I should have gone right.  This error added a mile to my run but it was all good.

 I wished for more of this.

Boardwalks were bountiful in Old Town Reservation.

 And they were needed in some spots.

I ran across an extensive salt march that surrounds the Parker River and approached Old Town Hill which was the high point of my run at 179 feet. This was the only climbing I did on the day as the remainder of the course was flat.  All the trees atop the hill were destroyed by winter storms and were in the process of being removed.  What a shame.  From the hill I had sweeping views in three directions.  I only wish I had a better camera to take some panoramic shots.

Trail to Old Town Hill.

View of Newburyport.

After descending the hill I ran a long section on Route 1A.  Al warned me about this stretch and he was right. It was unpleasant but at least it had a soft shoulder to run on which spared my plantar fasciitis of any unnecessary abuse. I turned onto a dirt road that reminded me of the VT50 (without the hills) and met my only running companion for the day.  It was a chubby pooch who followed me for about a mile.  The poor dog looked very thirsty so I tried to give it some water from my CamleBak.  That seemed to frighten the dog and he wouldn't take a drink.  I was happy to see the animal head back for home as I was about to turn back onto busy 1A for the final push to the finish.

My new running bud.

The final miles on 1A seemed to go on forever but eventually I turned onto Route 133 and was back to Prospect Hill in Rowley were I had parked my trunk for the drive home.  I had run 13 miles including the extra mile caused by the wrong turn in Newbury.  I felt a liitle fatigued, likely caused by the rising temperature in the later stages of the run and general lack of conditioning.  My IT band didn't give me any trouble except for a few twinges of knee pain around mile 11. 

It felt great to complete this first section of the BCT. There's still 13 more sections of varying lengths to run but I'm happy to get one done so early in the season.  With three ultra races planned for the next four weeks it will be a while before I can hit the BCT again.  With good health and a little luck, I should realize the dream.  Thank you Al.

More photos can be viewed HERE.

BCT Leg 1: 12 miles
Surface split: 8.7 paved/3.3 trails & dirt road
BCT remaining: 188 miles
Start point: Plum Island, Newbury MA
End point: Prospect Hill, Rowley MA
Other Towns: Newburyport
Green Spaces: Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm, Old Town Hill Reservation
Hydration: 80oz H2O
Fuel: Gu gels (2)
Footware: Cacadia 5s and Injinjis


  1. That's awesome Dan! Great pics.
    Curious though - I know you mentioned maps, but is the 'trail' marked specifically for the BCT or are you following a collection of other trails that make up the BCT? Does that even make sense?

  2. Steve, there are BCT specific maps that you can download. The section I ran didn't have an abundance of trail markers so I relied more heavily on the trail description that I downloaded with the section 1 map.

  3. Dan, I work with/know Al through AVIS! I am totally excited about this and want to join you for some of your adventures. yipeeeeee.
    The GAC folks do a long section of the BCT for VT training...and also there used to be an ultra along it in the 90's. (GO GAC!).

  4. Em, I'm happy to have you out there with me. I'll let you know when I'm heading out on the next leg.

  5. At my age I tend to see more of the downside of the internet revolution, but this certainly highlights the communications opportunities. If it makes more people able to get out of their cars and closer to nature on the Bay Circuit Trail, I'm for it. Yes, we had two 50 mile ultras on the BCT a while ago - time for more.Al French

  6. Dan, this is exciting news! What a difference a year makes, eh? Now look at you! Train gently and be good to yourself because I look forward to many more installments of your adventure.

    I ran the Bay Circuit 50 miler in 1997 as a prep run for the VT100. It was mostly beautiful. I've also run stretches of the BCT through Wellesley/Needham/Dedham many times - very nice and diverse.

    Good luck!

  7. Dan awesome! The BCT runs through my back yard!!!!!!! so I want in on that section when you get my way.

  8. Mish, would love to run some miles with you. I'll let you know when I'm out that way.


What's on your mind?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...