Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bay Circuit Trail: The Sudbury Arc, Carlisle to Concord.

The section of the Bay Circuit that lies to the west of Boston has the Sudbury watershed as a primary core thread intertwined to the south with the upper Charles River watershed.

It makes a great day hike for car-less residents of urban core Boston  and Cambridge thanks to the proximity of commuter rail stations in North Billerica and Concord

My preference is to take the Lowell run out of North Station to start and it follows the traces of an earlier freightway, the Old Middlesex Canal. The North Billerica station is very close to the old turning pond where the canal met the Concord River and is described by Mr. Thoreau in his "A Week on the Concord and Merrimac."

The first leg from North Billerica Station to Great Brook Farm is a little over 5 miles. It is an interesting walk as you are essentially in one of the more motor choked versions of suburbia where pedestrians are generally seen as pariahs. 

The Commuter Rail system allows you to bring a bike on off peak hours and week ends and that may be preferable.

 The Rangeway Rd route is the most direct at 5.1 mi or a 1 hour and 42 minute walk.

Walking directions to N Rd begin at Letchworth Ave and you head south on Letchworth Ave toward Station St for 381 ft,turn right onto Faulkner St for 0.2 mi, then turn left onto Wilson St for 0.4 mi before you turn left onto Talbot Ave for a mere 82 ft.

You then turn right onto Twombley Ave for 0.2 mi hang a right onto Sprague St  for 0.2 mi and you have escaped the central Billerica maze and it's now a straight shot.

Continue onto Rangeway Rd for 2.7 mi before heading onto Rutland St for 0.3 mi at which point you turn right onto N Rd for 1.1 mi and you are well into Great Brook Farm State Park.

There are a few minor state forest properties along the way before Rangeway crosses Route 3 but they seem to have been eliminated from any listings. I recall them as forlorn things.

The tract is a fine mix of Oak/Maple forest with uplands, wetlands and a well made trail system. It has the added advantage of being a working Dairy Farm.

The existing Bay Circuit trails weren't able to align to this 1000 acre centerpiece of the area. A Billerica rail trail segment to Bedford is incomplete and runs too far east and the other segment lies to the west through Acton although it does include the Carlisle Pines.

With that in mind, the second hike leg from Great Brook to Punkatasset and Great Meadows is another work around walk but it is less freakish in quieter Carlisle than the run from North Billerica. It includes an old road that the Carlisle Militia
 used to slip down to the Concord Battlefield on that day of legend.

Walking directions to MA-225 E/Bedford Rd 3.4 mi, 1 hour 6 mins. 

Head southwest on N Rd toward Lowell St for 0.5 mi and turn left onto Lowell St for 1.8 mi with a slight left to stay on Lowell St for 112 ft. At the traffic circle, take the 1st exit onto MA-225 W/Bedford Rd  for 1.1 mi to meet old Two Rod road through Estabrook just before Brook St. meets 225 on the left.

"Approximately. 112 acres, purchased 1974-79, ties to the Two Rod Road Trail which goes into Harvard University's Estabrook Woods. Two Rod Road dates from 1744, and is named for its width - there are two rods, or 33 feet, between the stone walls that border much of the trail. Estabrook Woods is a 675-acre forest located partly in Carlisle and partly in Concord. Two Rod Road leads in about two miles to the Punkatasset Hill conservation area in Concord. Davis Corridor and Malcolm Lands can be viewed at the Carlisle Trails web page and at conservation web page for nearby Concord ."
Courtesy of the Carlisle.org.

"Punkatasset is Native American for Broad Topped Hill. It is one of the highest points in Concord; from here, minutemen watched and gathered their troop strength before approaching the British at the North Bridge in 1775. A spur trail to the top ascends a sledding hill that was once used as a ski slope."

From Punkatasset Hill, Great Meadows is a short walk stretching along the river bed.

Courtesy of the Great Meadows Blog.

I've been there in all seasons and had my one encounter with a Cuckoo in the tree canopy that lines the river bed. 

Although Great Meadows is mildly vast, this particular string of preserved land gems make an easy full day hike with plenty of time to linger and explore. 

The southern end of Great Meadows is in view of historic Concord Center, the commuter rail station beyond and a bust of Thoreau in every home.

Note For the Urban Carless. This particular hike is crafted for the commuter rail system for two routes, Lowell and Fitchburg.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary,Topsfield MA.

The Ipswich River rises from diminished streams in the overbuilt and clobbered suburbs of Burlington and Wilmington with gathered tribute from Reading and Lynnfield as it passes along the southern edge of North Reading flowing east before a few step-wise meanders through Middleton to Topsfield where the Massachusetts Audubon Society maintains a crown jewel sanctuary known to me since I was a toddler.

From there it heads northeast to meet the sea at Ipswich

The Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary was acquired by Mass Audubon in 1951 from Thomas Procter. It was first converted to property in the 1640s on behalf of Simon Bradstreet after being a popular spot for eons with the Agawam people who left clam midden traces along the river and a path to the hilltop. 

This drumlin is the epicenter of the place where cars are parked, fees covered and the farmhouse and outbuildings rest.

The drumlin slopes are draped with Mr. Procter's work with a carriage trail as the first concentric ring. He was inspired by the English garden approach with adaptations shaped by Frederick Law Olmsted.

The Drumlin trail covers the introductions and experiments of the day. Osange Oranges are among the surprises in the arboretum. 

The Rockery is the most prominent feature and took more than five years to build. It overlooks a pond and the top is one of the best observation spots in the sanctuary.

The outer ring runs to increasingly lighter human touches until the wetland river edge are as they have been since before the heavy euro hand fell on it all. The North and South Esker trails overlook a substantial riparian panorama.  

Post Procter innovations owe more to Aldo Leopold and Art Flick. A substantial density of wood duck boxes dot the ponds. Astonishing skill and insight have been applied over the decades to maximize the potential habitat capacity and an intricate tapestry of ecotones bedeck the acreage. 

This effort makes it one of the best places ever to find nearly every bird likely to roost or pass through the region across the annual run of months. There is never a bad time to be there from the bare tree minimal mists of November to the neotropical mass convergence in May.
Hand feeding Chickadees is favorite past time in the wintry season. Stand near a spot where field meets thicket with reasonably serene stillness, a hand outstretched and a small pile of sunflower seeds, preferably hulled, and you'll soon have a regular Paridae chow line going on.

The mammal contingent includes fox and eastern coyote, beaver, fairly tame deer, otter, and all the others generally found in the area. 

Deer at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary from Carl Thien on Vimeo.

And through it all, the river.