Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wayland-Weston Rail Trail

I have been exploring areas north and west of my home in Arlington recently, but today, I decided to go a bit more south and visit an abandoned railway tracks connecting Wayland through Weston towards Waltham.

It is not an official bike path so I wasn't expecting it to be mobbed with Sunday bikers, dog walkers and stroller moms. In fact, the abandoned railway tracks were, indeed... very abandoned. But let me start from the beginning.
I left my workplace in Burlington and rode southwest towards Hanscom AFB. There is no direct route through the base, unless you happen to have a security clearance. Since I wasn't planning on being shot by riding straight through the security checkpoint, I had to take Wood St around the base. This put me conveniently at the Battle Road Trail towards Concord. Interestingly, this was the first time I rode this trail in this direction (west). It surely looks quite different from this perspective. First of all, something I didn't think about before, if you ride it west, it's mostly downhill. The slope is subtle but you do go much faster and as a result - it is more fun to ride.

After reaching Concord I turned south to take Concord St/Rt126 to Wayland. Once I passed a red brick library building on my left, the forest opened leaving space for high voltage power lines. These lines run along the entire Rail Trail and this is where I left the beaten path and entered the unknown.
You can easily tell that no trail ran on these tracks in a long time.

Since the entire Rail Trail runs along (and sometimes over) abandoned rail tracks, it is leveled and flat. But it doesn't mean it's easy to ride. First of all, it's very narrow, second, it's quite overgrown and there are sections where you can easily lose the path. But the biggest problem is that it's so bumpy. My 32mm wide tires were clearly a wrong choice there. In fact, my whole bike was not a good choice for this trail. You may find it quite pleasantly rideable on a lightweight mountain bike with a suspension fork, but a 700c wheels and skinny tires are not your best friend there. Let's just say that after completing the trail I felt well-shaken. Not stirred.
Abandoned railway station at Church St in Weston.

The section between the Church St in Weston and Rt117 in Waltham was the easiest and smoothest to ride. It is also the most interesting one. Instead of just staring at ruined tracks and power lines, there are some swampy areas on both sides of the trail and an abandoned railway bridge at the end.
After completing the trail, I started moving north again. I decided to take another trail through the Prospect Hill Park in Waltham. Well, this happened to be a mistake. The trail is nice and rideable, but I think I just have to stop using the Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires for this kind of riding. For getting to the trail on paved roads, these tires are fantastic. But once on the trail, they just don't work. With my luck, I killed the second Marathon tire within the last few weeks. This time, the front one. Prospect Hill trails are very rocky in places and one of those rocks cut the sidewall of the tire opened. I managed to fix it by replacing the tube and patching the sidewall with a small sheet of sandpaper I had in my patch kit. It worked! I decided that I was adventurous enough on this ride and with limping front tire I head back home. No more forest trails today. Changing tires with swarms of mosquitoes around me is not my favorite thing.

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