As Autumn Arrives, A Discovery in My Own Backyard
I’ve lived most of past twenty-odd years in a sedate suburban town outside of Boston. I always thought it was cool that the Minuteman Bikeway was just across a trickling stream from our house. I could ride northwest to Bedford five miles to my bike shop, Bikeway Source, or in a southerly direction another five miles to Cambridge. But two things have changed: one, the burbling stream has dried up, leaving a mucky swamp, and two, the Bikeway, on the weekends, is busier than Route 128. Riding my bike is a competition with many speeding cyclists, strollers, skateboarders and baby carriages.
Then recently the Town mailed us a questionnaire about its conservation work, asking for comments. Oh, boy, here we go with climate change and wetlands and all that treehugger stuff, I thought, even though I’m pretty much a treehugger myself. But I kept an open mind and learned there are 20 conservation areas in our town, and I was but dimly aware of only two of them from cycling excursions off the Minuteman.
My wife is an avid hiker and trekker, so we both took interest in reviewing the list of conservation areas amd decided to visit all of them, on foot the first time and so I could see which, if any, lent themselves to mountain-biking. Oh boy, were there ever.
One we’d been to many times was Willard’s Woods, where we used to take our dog for, ahem, nature treks. These days, you’re obliged to bring plastic poop pickup bags.
Also familiar to me from cycling were the Upper and Lower Brook trails, that cross town. The conservation commission has gone to some trouble to set posts with arrow buttons identifying trails, and a print and online map to see where they go.
The rest of the 18 were each quite different. Some were former farms, others a woods with multiple trails going hither and yon. A few were quite small in size and one we thought was pointless. But many were prime singletrack trails, and it was those I wanted to put tire tracks on as soon as I had walked them. Here are a few:
I was quite fascinated to learn Paint Mine was named for a natural ochre deposit whose yellow-brown pigment was used for coloring artists’ paint in the mid-1800s.
Discovering these dirt trails, all easily within biking distance to get to them, I feel like a kid who’s found treasure in his backyard. What’s more, a trail we trekked in Wright Farm, another conservation area, leads deep, deep through the woods into 248 acres of protected forest lands in the next town over. I can’t wait for this one, but I’ll need to pack a lunch and an extra bottle of water. Good thing there’s phone service everywhere in case I get lost.