Don't you think this fall season's weather has been lousy so far? The whole September was very humid and then when the true fall finally came, we didn't really have a chance to enjoy those warm days with cool, crisp air. It got very chilly pretty quickly.
Last Friday was one of those rare, warm, sunny days. I decided to visit some of my favorite places nearby (i.e. within 1hr drive from Rt128). I visited this place before - in May, but it looks quite a bit different now in the fall.
As the last time, I started at a parking lot just south of Townsend State Forest from where I took Dudley Rd to Barker Hill Rd. The unpaved section starts when you take left onto Morse Rd and then continues on Mason Railroad Trail.
The nice thing about Mason Railroad Trail is that whenever I go there I don't see anyone else. It's empty. And it takes you through forest across a couple of bridges.
Once you get to the edge of Pratt Pond, it's time to turn right onto Pratt Pond Rd and then continue east until you turn onto Mitchell Hill Rd. You will notice a sign "no outlet" right at the intersection but that obviously applies only to cars. There's always "an outlet" for someone on a bike - the question is only how difficult it's going to be.
At some point along Mitchell Hill Rd you will notice a simple steel bar gate, which you can safely ignore since this is where all the fun really starts. The first few hundred of feet are a steep downhill on a rocky forest road, so pay attention where you land your front wheel. Then you'll get to a brook crossing, which is usually flooded. Fortunately, it's perfectly possible to ride right through it. No need to wet your feet.
Eventually, the trail ends at a grassy parking lot, just off Mile Slip Rd. Following Mile Slip Rd south can be... interesting. When I visited this place in May I wouldn't even consider this place a road. It looked more like a riverbed - full of large rocks, it would be more appropriate to ride it on a full-suspension bike.
Mile Slip Rd last May
Not this time. I returned a few months later and to my surprise all rocks were gone, the road was graded and rebuilt. In some way it's too bad they fixed it - I kind of liked the challenge. On the other hand, now it's easier and much, much faster to ride. I just hope there is no plan to pave it.
I continued south, crossing some rough sections with very chunky gravel, then a few ATV-like trails.
The unpaved road ended once I reached Mason Rd, but then there's a trail just off Campbell Mill Rd that continues south through the forest. With my luck, it was of course unavoidable to get messy. Because of many rainy days in the past weeks, soil on the trails was very soft in places and my tires picked up a fair amount of mud.
The last part of the ride is a straight road running through Townsend State Forest, between West Hill Rd and Fessenden Hill Rd. It's fun - all downhill on a wide, rocky road makes you fly and finish your ride in no time.
The ride ends at Brookline Rd (Rt13), which is usually busy, with lots of traffic. I actually hoped to stay on the trail for longer and take another path through the forest but it ended up being completely flooded (like a large pond right in the middle of the trail) so I had no choice but to bail our early.
That area is always fun to ride and even though it's not that close to Boston it's worth visiting. Now I wonder if there's a way to ride this route in winter...