Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Big Dirty South : A Dirty Fifty South of Boston (July 2017)

Like Endor without the adorable little chipmunk people.

I bought a gravel grinder/touring bike recently.  And so naturally I had to start riding insanely long mixed pavement and gravel rides.  The first of these rides took me to the southwestern suburbs of Boston where I strung together a fifty mile loop through the quiet trails and suburban streets of Wellesley, Needham and Dover.  I called this one the "Big Dirty South Ride".

Starting in Newton, I headed out on pavement over the always busy Route 128/I-90 interchange, and aburptly entered a sylvan refuge known as Doublet Hill park.  It was a hot, humid, July day with temperatures hovering in the 80's.  On hot days I hate to wear my hydration pack, so instead I was carrying a couple water bottles in my back jersey pockets, and had another electorlyte laced drink in the bike's bottle cage.  Surely this would be enough.  Right? Right...

I was happy to get off the searing hot pavement and enter the leafy canopy of Doublet which is home to acres of wooded singletrack, rocky steeps, and walkers with their dogs.

After exiting the park and crossing over I-90  I slowly wound my way along the highway until jumping onto an acqueduct corridor. The acqueduct passageway was short lived and before long it was back to some quiet suburban roads and past the looming mansions of Wellesley.

More fern-lined singletrack.
A short, but rowdy ascent and descent got the blood pumping in the Boulder Brook reservation before I passed under Route 9 and through quiet back streets onto Wellesley's Crosstown Trail.  Cutting south along Morse's Reservoir, it was a quick jump over to Route 135 and along one of my favorite winding descents that cuts along the ridge high above Lake Waban.

Back on pavement for a good bit, the route skirted south of Natick and onto one of the numerous acqueduct trails, which I followed all the way to Morseville. The going was fast and easy through this section, as the acqueduct track is smooth and flowy.   I eventually hopped back on road, until reaching the Baystate Trail.

Don't forget to tighten that front tire.  
The next couple of miles of trail, descending through Pine Hill and Mount Misery had some of my favorite singletrack descents of the day.  Crossing pavement the route linked with more trail in South Sherborn hugging the Charles River until I emerged onto a very long stretch of wide paved road all the way to Medfield.  Although the road was busy, there was pleny of room.  The fresh, hot pavement reflected the heat of the sun, and I was starting to quickly run out of fluids less than halfway through the ride.  Skirting town through the cemetary just outside of town, the route joined back up with the Baystate Trail as it rambles through the Shattuck Reservation.

The exotic rainforests of .... Walpole?
Twisting and turning, this gorgeous fern lined section of trail eventually climbed up and crossed pavement into the Noon Hill Reservation.  There was a quick singletrack descent followed by a long doubletrack climb. This spot is essentially the half-way point of the route, and made an excellent spot for a breather.  At this point I was out of water and needed to find a store sooner rather than later.

Riding the powerline.
Back on road, the route climbed through some residential neighborhoods before a long paved descent.  An unassuming driveway-looking entryway lead to a doubletrack path over a railroad line, through some athletic fields and by the Wheelock School.  I searched the athletic fields for a fountain and came up empty handed, but managed to fill my bottles from the hoses used to water the school's vegetable garden .

Refreshed and relieved, I followed the narrow paved road, which eventually crossed a powerline corridor.  This corridor yielded access to the trails around Adam's Farm.  Opting for the smooth singletrack through the fields, I continued onto the powerline corridor once again, eventually hitting one more long paved section through the heart of Dover.

Starting to get awfully meadowy around here.

The reward for this long paved section was the sometimes technical, sometimes flowy- but never boring- singletrack of the Hale Reservation.  Climbing up from the road that splits the reservation, I passed by the numerous busses in the parking lot, and down a doubletrack to the park office. As I rolled by I spotted a soda machine and gulped down an iced cold coke as I watched the kids frolicking on a beach around the large pond.  With renewed strength I pushed into the woods once again onto the next section. From Hale, the I wound through  Noanet Woods, and past the Strawberry Hill Farm.  Descending back down to the Charles River, I crossed over toward Needham and onto the Bay Colony Rail Trail.

Flying along this section, I eventually jumped into the woods at Needham Town Forest.  Sticking to the doubletrack, I was quickly on the far side, and riding pavement past Volante Farm, and eventually onto some familiar Wellesley Singletrack.  The trail through the town lands rides high on a ridge, looking down onto the wetlands below, before eventually descending to cross the road and skirt along Longfellow Pond.  The singletrack around the pond is destination worthy, and I took my time reaching the far end, climbing up and over Route 9.   Almost completely destroyed at this point, I sought out the closest refuge- a gas station, where I bought another Coke and candybar, and sat for a moment collecting myself for the final last few miles.

I descended down into Wellesley in the heat of the late afternoon and past the Leo J. Martin golf course, where I finally crossed the Charles once again, and back to my start.

The Route

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