Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Assabet River Trail

Looks like the humid days are over. Finally, I can open all the windows at home and enjoy some fresh air. The weather seems to be nearly picture-perfect and I decided to try a new route this week. I left my office in Burlington and rode my bike west, through Concord, towards Maynard, MA. The first kilometers were a pure pleasure. The bike was rolling nicely thanks to the smooth roads and the new Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires. After a while, I reached Maynard center - well known for its huge, historic textile mill - the Assabet Woolen Mill, now converted into a business center.
The Assabet Woolen Mill, now called The Clock Tower Place.

From the center, it's only a short ride to the Assabet River Wildlife Refuge. I must say that my initial impression with this place was very positive. It is a beautiful forest with many small ponds, streams and abundant wildlife. Unlike many other conservation land areas in Massachusetts, the trails in the Assabet Refuge are very well marked so finding the right turn is simple and effortless.
This would be a really nice place to ride a bike... in winter. Or a late fall. The problem with this place are swarms of flies and mosquitos. A large part of the refuge is a wetland and insects rule this place. I quickly learned 3 basic rules of survival in the Assabet River Refuge:
  1. Don't stop. Keep riding if you don't want to be swarmed by insects. This rule is impossible to obey if we want to take any pictures.
  2. Don't ride slower than ~16km/h (10 mph), otherwise they will get you.
  3. Use off-road tires, at least 35mm wide. Unfortunately, my Marathon Supreme tires were only 32mm wide and had road tread (or nearly no tread at all). This didn't help in deep, loose sand on some trails and made keeping up with rule #2 difficult.

All this means that I had to move through the forest quickly if I wanted not to be eaten alive. This probably also explains why I saw no one in the deep forest. Locals know well what's lurking inside and are not that stupid to go all the way in. Nevertheless, the refuge is a beautiful place and if you don't mind company of millions of flies and mosquitos, I strongly recommend visiting it. You can be surprised finding WWII bunkers like this one:
This was just the first one I saw at the Otter's Alley Trail. Then I noticed at least 4 more at the Towhee Trail but I didn't bother taking pictures (see rule #1). At first, I wasn't sure what these bunkers could be used for. I suspected that they may be some Cold War era relics but according to Wikipedia, these were munition storage places from WWII and there are about 50 of them in the refuge! Apparently, the location in Maynard was chosen due to its proximity to the railway line to Boston and at the same time, its distance from the coast to protect the bunkers from German battleship's cannons. 

On the way back, I took the road through Lincoln and tried riding the Mt Misery Trails at Rt117. These were definitely less exciting and I didn't bother taking pictures, partly because it was getting dark and maybe also because I still remembered rule #1 very well.

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