Monday, December 25, 2006

The Bay Circuit Trail.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts embarked on a wonderful green space preservation experiment at the behest of "Charlie Eliot" .

Now, in the decades that have rolled by this trail system involving cooperation from 50 plus bickering cities and towns is more or less done. 

One of the marvels of it is simply the surprising diversity of landscape and habitat in the comparatively small land mass from the Merrimac River to the cedar swamp lands north of Cape Cod.

The Wisconsin Glacier sculpted what is now Massachusetts in a number of fascinating ways.

North of Boston its slower movement left a strew of large boulder erratics, some nearly the size of a house, long sinuous eskers that are actually raised stream beds, odd pound cake shaped hills called drumlins and beautiful kettle hole ponds, of which Walden is the most famous.

South of Boston the glacier moved faster and created sand barrens with larger particle size and faster drainage to make a plant community more suited to dryer conditions, such as scrub oaks and pitch pine. The region was also renewed by fire so many plant species selected for fire based seed release.

There are a number of vast Atlantic White Cedar Swamps such as the Hockomock, south of Stoughton, that have become de facto wilderness areas housing bobcat and deer.

There are subtle differences in coasts. The North arc that includes Newbury and Ipswich is a transition zone to rock coasts and cobble beaches of Maine. 

The South arc shares sandy similarities with the great beaches that follow the Atlantic Coast to the mangrove swamp regions along the Florida/Georgia boundary.

Neil Jorgenson's Sierra Club Guide to Southern New England is extremely useful for enhanced appreciation of this diversity in such a compact area as greater Boston and Al French has created a very useful website for anyone in the area seeking to explore this trail system.

There are significant web resources among the town jurisdictions, fed entities responsible for the National Wildlife Refuges and private non profits , most notably the Trustees of Reservations and the Massachusetts Audubon Society.