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!

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.

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. 

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

Monday, September 9, 2013

Bushwhacking In Rocky Woods

This past Saturday I took an REI Outdoor School map and compass navigation class held at Rocky Woods Reservation in Medfield, MA. It's a skill I've wanted to learn for a few years but never found the time to pursue it. After getting lost in Nobscot Reservation on a Bay Circuit Trail hike a month ago, I thought it was time I finally got around to doing something about it. This class fit the bill.

During the classroom session we learned how to use a compass, read a map, take a bearing, adjust for delineation and other useful information that we would soon put to the test during the field session of the class. This was the part I was waiting for. Time to get dirty!

Our first "assignment" was to bushwhack from a trail junction to a large rock formation known as Whale Rock, a distance of approximately one-third of a mile. Our instructor informed us that beginners typically bushwhack at a pace of one mile per hour so we should be able to complete ours in about twenty minutes. It took me thirty. Oh, and I missed Whale Rock by about 100 feet.

 If you look closely you can see three of my classmates in the brush.

As the name implies, bushwhacking involves moving off trail, often though thick vegetation, over, under and possibly through downed trees and limps, climbing rocks, avoiding holes and an assortment of other obstacles. For those who have never bushwhacked let me tell you it is exhausting work!  

 One of the more open spaces on the bushwhack.

The map I used showing the three bearings I calculated and followed.

The second assignment was to move from Whale Rock to the summit of Mine Hill. This bushwhack was harder than the first because we had to navigate around a pond that was on the direct bearing plotted to Mine Hill. By maintaining a constant compass bearing, changing directions, counting steps, hard effort and a little bit of luck I was able to reach the summit of Mine Hill dead on......and dead f'ing last, well almost.

For the third and final assignment we learned how to intentionally miss our mark when it makes for an easier and faster bushwhack. Our goal was to travel from trail junction 13 to trail junction 15. After marking our bearing and studying the contour lines on the map, we determined a bearing slightly north of our marked route would take us over flatter terrain and still get us to a trail near the intended junction. This last bushwhack turned into a race, sort of, as we were all tramping though the woods with more speed and confidence than earlier in the day.  Great fun!

I hope to practice and become more proficient in this new-found skill over the coming weeks.  Perhaps an orienteering race or two will be in my future.
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