Friday, September 21, 2012

Wild Wild Weston (July 2012)

A really trashy part of Weston.  No really.  You're looking at a pile of trash.

Eight lanes of asphalt highway are all that separate the towns of Waltham and Weston, Massachusetts.  These hundred or so feet divide people making around $50,000 a year from those making closer to $200,000.  Perhaps this is the unspoken math that has prevented Weston from embracing a rail trail to connect the two communities.  While they might shop together at the Auburndale Star Market, the folks in Weston are a little reluctant to invite the masses into their manicured back yards.
Regardless of the reason, the reluctance to develop a paved trail along the old railbed connecting Waltham with the rest of Western Massachusetts is a gift to fat tire bikers.  

Even the Weston swamps are classy.
Instead of a paved superhighway of rollerbladers, road bikers and strollers, in Weston you will find the thin dirty line of singletrack cutting into the grass and brush atop the railbed.  Aside from an occasional runner or cyclcross biker, you won’t find much in the way of traffic.  However, you will find a path into the wilds of Weston. 

I had read about the mountain biking trails in Weston for some time, and had even downloaded some maps, however despite working within spitting distance I had never ventured to the west of 128 to check out what Weston had to offer.

After downloading Open Maps, and exploring some Lexington singletracks I finally made the trip over to Cat Rock Park to explore the wilds of Weston.  I followed the trails from the parking area and headed south, down a wide path which eventually dumped out on a suburban cul-du-sac.  Strangely, nobody yelled at me to go back to Waltham.  So, after a short (but busy) on-street section, I passed by the Weston dump station and crossed a wide grassy field covering an old landfill.  At the far side I jumped onto the rail bed where I found a hard packed, pebble strewn singletrack waiting to usher me westward.

There were a number of spectacular views high atop the rail line’s raised berm as I cruised along the abandoned trail in the late afternoon sun. A towering powerline also ran above the trail, if only to remind me that I was still near civilization.  Except for the occasional road crossing and glimpse of houses hidden in the trees it was very easy to feel like I was far from suburbia.

Ahh…. singletrack.
After rolling along the railbed for a number of miles I reached Fiske Town Forest, which combined with Jericho Forest and French Field to create a large singletrack playground.   Immediately I was greeted with towering pines, under which lay a soft carpet of rust colored needles and vibrant green ferns.  Various trails wound and intersected throughout this forest.  These were peppered with the occasional rock and root to remind me that I was biking in New England. I only tested a few of the trails in these forests, but saw many options to dive left and right for larger loops.  This is definitely an area I look forward to exploring in the future.

After climbing upward on some rocky doubletack and crossing a road I got somewhat lost in Ogilvie Town Forest.  A number of the trails petered out, and didn’t connect with the road as indicated on OpenMaps.  I found myself in someone’s horse field, then in someone’s back yard, before I eventually emerged next to the Weston Observatory.

I continued my venture northward, trying to link the trails to the singletrack around Walden Pond near Concord, however after taking a lengthy road section along Sudbury Road, I discovered that one large promising looking section on the Umbrello Land was actually restricted to hikers.  Beyond my turnaround time, I resolved to reverse course and make my way back to Cat Rock Park.

Another shady part of Weston.
Weston’s trails, while already offering an excellent place for fat tire riding, promise so much more.  The undeveloped railroad corridor which runs through the middle of Waltham and stops at an abandoned bridge over 128, connects not only to the Charles Riverway, but also runs right by the Western Greenway.  With only minimal improvements to Waltham’s rail corridor and bridge, the conservation lands of Weston could become accessible for most of Metrowest Boston.  As it stands, only a few on-street sections are required to join Waltham and Weston.

So if you’re from Waltham and run into a Westonite the next time you’re at the Auburndale Star Market, make sure to give them a big hug and tell them there’s no reason to be afraid.

Then grab them "I know it was you Fredo"-style and tell them you're already mountain biking in their backyard anyway.

The areas I explored.


  1. Does this mean a Pugsley is in your future?

  2. I am a fat tire biker, not an obese tire biker. Besides, there's no more room in the bike shed.