It's no secret that I find typical road cycling a bit boring. Speed, power meters, Strava segments - all this is just not for me. I think the fun starts when you get off the beaten path. In my search for unpaved roads and interesting places to ride, I explored areas a bit further from my home in Arlington, yet still close enough to be reachable within an hour by car, or not more than a 3-hour bike ride.
One of my favorite local spots are forests of Groton, MA. It takes 2.5 hrs to get there by bike from Arlington, but only a quick 30 min. drive from my workplace. Last evening, I drove there to leave my car at Martins Pond Rd and rode this fast 26km (16mi) double loop. The route is short and usually takes only 1.5 hrs to ride but that's what I like about it. I can get there after work and finish it before sunset, even in fall when days are shorter.
Starting at Martins Pond Rd, I entered a small network of trails called Wharton Plantation. I followed Dan Parker Rd, which doesn't look much like a road to be honest. It's a wide trail through forest, full of rocks, roots, sand and occasional mud. It may be challenging in places but overall, it's pretty fast to ride. And if you come here in summer, you would want to be fast. Otherwise you're risking being eaten alive by mosquitoes and deer flies.
The road took me then to a clearing where I merged with a maintenance road under high voltage power lines. It quickly turns into a paved section starting at Kemp St, running through some farm land, then continues along Groton St to Hall St. Next, I reached entrance to the Red Line Path, where I went off-road again. This place is not only pretty, overlooking several ponds along the way, but also super fun to ride. The path is very wavy, featuring multiple little hills and pits. If you ride fast enough, you get a feeling of being on a bicycle roller-coaster.
Once the trail ends, I made my way back to Martins Pond Rd, continued past the place where I parked my car to reach Orchard Ln - a small road cutting through a farm, turning into some broken chip seal and then ending with gravel and sand. At the end of this road I found the beginning of Bruce Clements Trail - a narrow singletrack ending at the historic Williams Barn - nowadays the location of Groton Farmers Market.
The trail continues on the other side of Chicopee Row and is marked as McClain's Woods Trail. I followed green arrow markers to reach Reedy Meadow Rd. From there, it was only a short ride to Dan Parker Rd an back to the car.
As I wrote earlier, the route is short is pretty quick to ride. If I could change anything to make it more interesting, I would love to see a way to continue along the power line maintenance road to ride from Kemp St all the way to Hall St. That would eliminate the paved section along Groton St and would let me stay off-road longer. Unfortunately, when I scouted that possibility I found out that a large area under the power lines is completely flooded and inaccessible. Judging from the size of the pond with multiple dams and lodges, I can tell that beavers had something to do with it.
If you are in the area and want to give this route a try, make sure you bring a bike with wider tires. I can't picture riding there on anything narrower than 32mm. My 36mm wide X'Plor MSO were perfect, especially tubeless. I wouldn't want to get a flat in the middle of a mosquito-infested forest.
Now I'm waiting for fall to arrive. I really want to revisit this place in late September.