Monday, February 29, 2016

Bay Circuit Trail Hike Report - Borderland State Park, Easton To Reynolds Landing, West Bridgewater

After months of thinking and talking about doing a hike on the Bay Circuit Trail (BCT) I finally found the motivation I was lacking all winter to actually do it. A sunny 30 degree day and a touch of cabin fever was all that was needed to get me moving again. I hiked 17 miles from Borderland State Park (BSP), on the border of Sharon and Easton, to Reynolds Landing, a canoe launch in West Bridgewater. This puts me within 35 miles of the BCT southern terminus at Bay Farm on the Duxbury/Kingston line. I hope to reach my final destination in the next two weeks.

Inching my way closer to the southern terminus of the BCT.

I was a little concerned that all the rain earlier in the week in addition to the heavy overnight rainfall would impact some of the trails along this low lying section of the BCT, I checked in with the ranger at BSP to get an update on trial conditions. He told me if I encountered any water within the first eight of a mile on the Rockland Trail I should consider turning back because trail condition would worsen the deeper I went. I should have listened.

I was feeling chilled as I started out from the BSP Visitors Center walking towards the Ames mansion and its expansive lawn. After a brief stop I continued down the long dirt road to the Rockland Trail. This is where trail conditions deteriorated considerably and my progress was slowed due to several areas of submerged trail. I was able to negotiate many of them without much effort but was forced to use a rock wall and downed trees to cross the worse flooded section. I thought this may not be the last underwater trail I would see and I was proved correct a short time later.

Ames mansion in Borderland State Park.

Easy walking on a dirt road in BSP.

One of the few dry sections on the Rockland Trail.

This is what most of the trail was like.

Leaving the Rockland Trail I crossed the street into wooded area that would bring me to a trail under high-voltage power lines. I had only walked in a short distance before I was stopped in my tracks by a brook with fast running water. It was too wide to leap across and too deep to wade through. If it was warmer, wading the brook would have been fine but with a wind-chill in the low 20s that wasn’t an option. After much wasted time searching for a way across I decided to return to Rockland Ave for a one mile road walk. From this point I was able to access the power line trail.

There was no way to cross here and still stay dry.

From here the BCT followed Beaver Brook for 2.5 miles through the Fox Mountain Lot and some paved roads to Old Pond in Easton. The wooded section was wet but not as bad as the trail through BSP. The footbridge over Beaver Brook was a bonus since it was far too deep and wide to ford. After a one mile road walk on busy streets I got off road again at Wheaton Farm.

A welcomed sight in Beaver Brook.

Old Pond in Easton.

Old Pond Dam

Loud waterfall and a busy street.

The open meadows in Wheaton Farm offered sweeping views of the property below but the cold, strong wind soon reminded me to keep moving. The meadows lead to a narrow 100 year old cart path. This was the first dry trail I had walked on all day. Although the trail was dry, my progress was slowed by numerous blowdowns of varying sizes. None were very difficult to get around and it was better than trying to keep my feet dry on waterlogged trails. Leaving the Wheaton Farm area I was treated to a beautiful view of Fuller Hammond Pond. Arguably, it was the best view of the day.

Road in Wheaton Farm covered with sea shells.

A view back to the farmhouse.

Too many blowdowns to count but I did anyway. Total count = 12! 

Beautiful Fuller Hammond Pond.

On the 1.5 mile road walk that ensued, I sat down on the steps of an abandoned building to tie my trail runners. When I later reached in my pocket for the trail guide it was missing. I assumed it fell out when I sat down to tie my shoe. Sure enough it was there when I returned but backtracking to retrieve it put me further behind schedule. At least I found it!

The next section through the Hockomock Swamp was mind numbing. The eight – ten foot wide path under power lines went on for miles cutting a straight line through the largest fresh water swamp in Massachusetts. In summer, it may be a more interesting place with birds and other wildlife in abundance. But in late February it is just a boring, brown tunnel.

My view for the next three miles.

I was hoping to see an alien or bigfoot but neither came out to play.

By the time I exited the swamp I had hiked about 13 miles and was getting fatigued. I still had another 4 miles to go, all on roads. Ugh! The fast moving traffic, and little or no shoulder, made some of the walk pretty sketchy but the upside to road walking is the miles are covered at a much faster pace. In a little over an hour I was back to my car which was parked at Reynolds Landing in West Bridgewater.

It felt great to be back on the BCT. I hope to finish the trail by hiking over the next two weekends. Once the BCT is complete I can focus on completing the North-South Trail in Rhode Island. It’s time to get busy.

More photos of my hike are HERE.

Stats: BCT Maps 11 & 12: 17.1 miles  
Surface split: 9.2m trails and dirt roads, 7.9m paved roads  
Elevation gain: 179 feet  
Highest point: Borderland State Park 249 ft.  
Start point: Borderland State Park, Easton  
End point: Reynolds Landing, West Bridgewater  
Other towns:None  
Green Spaces: Borderland State Park, Fox Hill Lot, Beaver Brook, Hockomock Swamp 
Hydration: 40 oz water  
Fuel: Two Cilff Bars  
Footwear: Scarpa Spark trail runners, Smartwool socks  
Total BCT covered to date: 193 miles  
Surface split: 114 trail and dirt roads, 72 paved roads, 7 paved rail trail  
Total elevation gain: 7872+ feet
Highest point: Nobscot Hill 602 ft  
BCT remaining: 35m estimated

Thursday, February 25, 2016

What I Like About Trail Running


I'm not a very social person. Put me in a room with a bunch of people and I won't have much to say. But, put me on the trail with a group of trail runners and I turn into Chatty Cathy. Trail runners are just easy to get along with. Even people I've never met before feel like old friends after spending a few hours together in the woods. 

Trail running has taken me to some amazing places that I may not otherwise have seen. Running in the mountains and forests, along rivers and lakes and seeing wildlife brings me to a happy place. 

Ahh, the races. I like the challenge of pushing myself beyond what I thought possible. I love preparing for races as much as running them. Reading race reports, reviewing elevation profiles and course descriptions just adds to the pre-race excitement. And there's nothing better than licking your wounds with fellow racers over a post-race beer. 

 These smiles tell the story. Trail runners are a happy lot. Need I say more?

Without running, I'm certain I would have gone mad years ago. Trail running is therapeutic and certainly more fun than spending time in a shrink's office. No offense to the shrinks out there. If you're feeling stressed, sad, lonely, fill in the blank, go for a run in the woods. You'll soon forget about your problem(s) and feel renewed when you're finished.

What do you like about running trails? Leave a comment.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Unfinished Business

I ended 2015 with two unfinished projects and it's been bugging me all winter. 

Bay Circuit Trail, MA
When I make it my goal to run the 230 mile Bay Circuit Trail (BCT) back in 2011 I never thought I would still be working towards its completion five years later. I started out strong running over 100 miles between April and June but an ailing ITB sidelined me for the rest of 2011. I hiked another 77 miles in 2013 and 2014 but that still left me about 53 mile short of my goal. Completing the BCT is a top priority for me this year.

North-South Trail, RI

In 2015, I hiked over half of the 78 mile North-South Trail (NST) but lost interest due to a large percentage of road walking. I've had some time to reflect on this over the winter and I've decided to finish the trail this year. Completing the NST is important to me now because it will be the first leg of a 340 mile journey across four states which I'm calling the "Sea to Summits Tour." I'll be posting more details about this personal project in the coming months.

It's going to be a very busy year.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

2016 Race Schedule

It feels a little strange to be putting together a race schedule given I haven't run a step in two months. I'm hoping that by making a commitment I will be motivated to start training again, and soon, as spring is right around the corner. I'm not calling this a race plan or a goal, merely a guideline for 2016. Making a solid plan with my back issue doesn't make any sense. One day my back is OK, the next not so much. I prefer to take it one day at a time and race if I'm feeling up to it. Flexibility, and not getting down of myself, is key.

I'm trying to mix things up this year so races I haven't done before were given priority. I also want to improve my map and compass skills so I'll be doing several orienteering meets this year. All of the races listed are new to me unless otherwise noted. You'll notice there aren't any ultras on the list. That doesn't mean I wont run an ultra this year. I just need to decide which one(s) to participate in. I'm partial to timed ultras so that will influence my decision.

Here's what I'm thinking about so far.


2nd Historic Beaver Brook Orienteering Meet 

9th Merrimack River Trail Race  - Grand Tree Series Race #1 I've run this twice before but it's a GT race and I want to earn enough points to get a Stonehead ranking. (Six races needed for scoring) My 2010 race report is here.

24th Needham Town Forest Orienteering Meet I ran this meet last year for the first time but controls are moved every year at orienteering meets so it's never the same race twice.


1st Breakheart Reservation Orienteering Meet

7th Beaver Brook North Orienteering Meet


5th Goodwin Forest 30K - Grand Tree Race #6

Goodwin Forest Elevation Profile. I'm screwed.

19th Graylock Mountain Trail Race - Grand Tree Race #8 This one is a long 3+ hour drive for me but adding a ride on the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail the day before the race will make the trip worthwhile.


10th Blue Hills Skyline Trail Run - Grand Tree Race #9 I ran this once before in 2009. The Skyline Trail is no joke.


3rd Belmont Wanderings Orienteering on a bike! What could possibly go wrong? 


8th Prospect Hill Orienteering Meet 

16th Groton Town Forest Race - Grand Tree Race #16 I ran this race in 2009 and again in 2015 but it's loaded with twisting single-track so it's hard to pass up.

30th Busa Trail Race - Grand Tree Race # 18 I've run this race honoring Richard Busa two times. Once in 2008 as a shake out one week before the Stone Cat Marathon and in  2011 when I was injured and just there for fun.

This list is longer than it probably should be but it gives me plenty of options. 

Keeping my fingers crossed.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Passing Time With Podcasts

During my running days I would never listen to music or podcasts during training runs or races. I preferred to enjoy the solitude and beauty around me or to converse with my fellow running mates. Now that I spend most of my time alone I find podcasts good company and I listen to them often. The subject matter varies greatly but my favorites tend to focus on an active outdoor lifestyle. Here is a small sampling of my new companions.

The First 40 MilesHosts Heather and Josh discuss various topics geared towards beginner hikers and backpackers, recount backpacking trips with their children, review outdoor gear and reveal a "backpack hack of the week" on each episode. I think that's my favorite segment of all.

The Pedalshift ProjectWith a focus on the "non-spandex" cyclist, this podcast is a good tool for learning more about the bike touring lifestyle. I enjoy hearing about the host and his guest's trips as well as what worked well and not so well on their journeys.

The Pursuit Zone:  Whether it''s running across Mongolia, skiing the continent of Antarctica, paddling across the Pacific Ocean, cycling around the world, or kayaking the Amazon River I never tire of hearing tales of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. This is one of my favorite podcasts. You should definitely check it out. 

The Trail Show: Sometimes I think the four hosts, all triple-crown hikers with over 40,000 combined miles, created this podcast as an excuse to drink beer. Not that's its a bad thing. I barely got passed the first two episodes due the incessant sound effects but the first-time prodcasters steadily improved and now The Trail Show is one of my staples.

Talk Ultra: Ian Corless hosts the premier podcast in the extreme world of ultrarunning. Interviews with all the elites of the sport, race results, training talk and co-host Karl "Speedgoat" Meltzer, who has won more 100 mile races than anyone on earth, make this a must listen to for anyone serious about the sport of ultrarunning.

"Say hello to my little friends"

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What Winter?

You call this winter?

I’m reluctant to mock Old Man Winter lest he unleash a blizzard upon me but only two minor snow storms and mild temperatures all winter have resulted in bare trails here in eastern Massachusetts. That’s the good news. The bad news is I haven’t been able to enjoy them. My back sort of went south after running the Hamster Wheel 6 Hour Ultra in early November. Since then I’ve only run a few times, and not a step in the past seven weeks.

All this down time has me guessing about what direction I want to take in 2016. Should I continue to try for a return to running or finally pull the plug? It’s been my passion for nearly 50 years but running with constant pain or discomfort has taken away much of the enjoyment. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a multi-day coastal ride or a long multi-state hike for a long time.  Perhaps this will be the year.
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