Thursday, August 15, 2013

A longer way home - Concord/Lincoln dirt trails

Yesterday, I decided that it was time to explore some more paths in my neighborhood. I left my office in Burlington and took a long way home - through some dirt trails in Concord and Lincoln. The first one was the Katahdin Woods - a forested area located between the I-95 and the Hanscom AFB. The entrance to the trail is located just left of the Hartwell Ave (travelling west) once you cross the little bridge over Kiln Brook. The path is hidden in the forest but it quickly leads into a large opening with power lines above. Unfortunately, here is where it ends. The map is misleading. It shows the trail following the power lines and eventually ending at Wood St. And I believe that this is how the trail looks in winter when abundant flora is asleep. In August however, the trail looks like this:
Can you see the trail here?

The path is simply so heavily overgrown that there is no way to ride a bike there. I tried and eventually gave up, founding a way through someone's back yard to Patterson Rd, abandoning the trail. Some grass plants and bushes were taller than my bike and I picked up so much of that green crap with cranks, spokes and derailleurs that in the end my bike looked like wearing a Ghillie suit.

The first trail didn't work so I took the familiar Battle Road Trail west, towards Concord, then Walden St and crossed Concord Turnpike. Here is where I found the entrance to the network of trails surrounding Walden Pond.
 Trail markers at Walden Pond.

The trail is well-marked as "Emerson-Thoreau Amble" and it is easy to follow around the pond. Paths are wide and very passable, even on slimmer 700x35c tires. They are fun to ride once we get to the western tip of the pond. Here is where we have to cross this obstacle:

The tracks are in use and there is no official crossing at all so you are passing these on your own risk. Watch for trains! Once I did that and turned around I noticed a sign on a tree.

Well, thank you. How about a warning on the other side of the tracks? Frankly, the sign is there probably only because someone could ride his/her bike directly under the coming train. It says "no bikes" and not "no trespassing", after all.

I continued south and merged with Old Concord Rd eventually. From there, I crossed Concord Rd and found the entrance to the next trail - the Codman Forest. The entrance is a bit hidden. The easiest way to find it is to look for the yellow, triangular road sign - "warning: pedestrians" with a small sign "church".
The beginning of Codman Forest Trail.

The trail is nice and easy to ride but once it crosses the little bridge over railway tracks it quickly becomes a network of narrower paths deep in the forest. Here is where I lost my sense of direction and by dead reckoning, I ended up at MackIntosh Lane instead of going further north. I continued on Lincoln Rd and Bedford Rd north to find the beginning of the next trail.
The Codman Forest Trail is even marked as a bike path - in places.

This one was really hidden. When you ride north on Bedford Rd and once you pass Silver Birch Ln on your right, keep looking for a small sign "Conservatory Land Lincoln", a mailbox next to someone's driveway and a very narrow and somewhat overgrown path just to the left of it. This is where the next trail begins.
The red signs says "no hunting". There is also a tiny orange sign with a crossed bike on it but I decided to ignore it.

The trail was a bit tricky to navigate between fallen trees but it quickly entered an open farm field (Ricci Field). I looked around and noticed several dark silhouettes next to the forest line - pigs. Dark brown pigs running in the wild. I guess someone is trying to make jamon iberico in Massachusetts.
Dark brown pigs in the wild. I was a bit too far to take a better picture.

The pigs seemed very friendly as once they noticed me, they all started running in my direction. Perhaps they thought I had food with me. I decided to quickly ride away since I didn't want to risk a close encounter with a hundreds-of-kilograms-heavy pig. Plus, it was time to ride back home. The moon showed up in the sky.

I followed the path to Mill St and then took the narrow trail just opposite Oakdale Ln. This took me across a baseball field to Minuteman High School. My plan was to find the beginning of the trail leading through Cranberry Hill and Hobbs Brook Reservation but this didn't work out as expected. The trail was gated and so overgrown that I couldn't locate the path at all. I decided to take Marrett St around and head towards Hayden Woods in Lexington, just north of Rt2. I found the beginning of the trail at the end of Munroe Rd but it was way too dark already to ride there in the deep forest.

Instead, I went north, took Grassland St and Brookside Ave to get on the trails along Beaver Brook. These turned out to be passable in general, although some sections were heavily overgrown and I had some problems navigating there in darkness. I had my lights on but the path was so narrow in places that lights didn't illuminate the path well, just grass around it. I finally made it through and found my way to Minuteman Bikeway.

To sum up:
Katahdin Woods Trails - avoid like hell, impassable, unless you have a pedal-powered machete in front of your bike,
Battle Road Trail - pleasure to ride on, wide and safe,
Walden Pond Trails - can be hilly and challenging in places but passable, wide, partially marked on trees,
Codman Forest Trails - passable, wide with some narrow sections, few markers, multiple narrower trails in deep forest,
Ricci Field Trail - passable, pretty easy to navigate,
Hayden Woods - unknown, need to explore in daylight,
Beaver Brook Trails - difficult to pass due to some overgrown sections. The part of the trail that runs along Bacon St is most accessible.

Map of all trails.


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  2. Just rode this route and loved it. Did you have any trouble finding the connecting trail that takes you to "Ricci Field" off of Mill St. in Lex? I found the gravel road opposite Oakdale (it has a "Private Drive" sign on it, which freaked me out a little) but then it took me quite awhile to find the trail off that road.

    Also, have you ever ridden past the "No Trespassing" signs up to Cranberry Hill off Mill St.?" I took a risk and did it - the trail is great and dumps you right out at Minuteman/2A.

    Anyway, thanks so much for blazing these routes!

  3. @Josh
    It may be very hard to find. I remember I tried to ride it in this direction - from Mill St to Ricci Field and had hard time finding the trail. I think it's much easier to ride it in the opposite direction - from Ricci Field to Mill St.

    I didn't explore the southern part of Mill St. Will have to give it a try. Thanks for the tip!