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Bay Circuit Trail Sections 4 & 5 - Cushy Trails, City Streets And A Rail Trail Too!

Posted Jun 06 2011 12:00am
Saturday morning was a perfect day for a long run.  The air was cool and the cloudless sky a deep blue.  Bill H. and I were off before 9 am to run the 4th and 5th sections of the Bay Circuit Trail .  Although I was looking forward to running the many trails in the AVIS network I was dreading the run through the streets of Lowell.  This section of the BCT from the Merrimack River to the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail is not finalized so we would have to negotiate the Lowell stretch on our own.  Al French had offered to help me obtain access to the Concord River Trail (currently not open to the public) so I could avoid some of the city streets.  Unfortunately, I decided to run section 5 at the last moment and Al would not have had enough notice to work out the details with the Park Service.

Sections 4 & 5 from Andover to Chelmsford.

The town of Andover has done an outstanding job preserving green spaces throughout the town.  They also keep the trails well marked and maintained.  This was the first time I have not lost the trail during my many mile on the BCT.  Well, almost anyway.  We did make a minor error in Doyle Link but it only added a short distance to the run.  This is what happens when I take the lead. Bill is a good navigator and he has saved my butt a few times during our past two runs.  I decided to follow him the rest of the way.

Running along an esker in Indian Ridge.
West Parish Meadow
Towering trees in Doyle Link.
Water crossing in Harold Rafton Reservation.
We actually saw a deer in Deer Jump though it did not jump.
The trails in AVIS are not technical and many or them are covered in soft duff making for easy and enjoyable running.  It was nice not having to look at my feet for a change!  We hop-scotched from one AVIS reservation to the next by running short sections of pavement before making it to the banks of the Merrimack River.  Here we were able to run an uninterrupted trail until reaching the town of Tewsburry.  In the winter you can continue along the river through a golf course but it's off limits during the other three seasons.  This meant we had to take a 2 mile detour around the golf course via the roads. Yuck! This was just a small preview of the torture to come.

Follow Bill along the Merrimack River.
Much of the trail is close to the river's edge.
If you know "The Rivah" you know exactly where I am!
After skirting around the golf course on the Tewsburry- Lowell line we were back on the river for another mile before hitting 4.5 miles of hell (aka pavement) in Lowell.  I mapped out a zigzag route thought the city trying to avoid the traffic of major roads.  We got a few strange looks from some people on these side streets.  Something told me they didn't see many runners in this part of town.   My feet were really getting sore from the beating they were taking on the road.  I was able to take my mind on the pain at least temporarily, when Bill noting our scenic surroundings quipped, "This the the only trail run where you can get your muffler changed if you wanted too."

Cool trolley car in Lowell.

Did you know Lowell is the mecca for long-distance runners?  All the cool cats hang out at the Ultra Lounge.
After what seemed like an eternity we arrived at the start of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.  The trail is nearly seven miles long but it is all paved. Thankfully, we had parked 2 miles shy of the end at Heart Pond. Still, there was no way my plantar fascia was going to survive another 4-5 miles of pavement.  I was able to avoid most of the pavement by running along the sides on a mix of dirt, stone and tall weeds. 

The beginning of the end.
The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
Shady rail trail.
I was beginning to feel tired after twenty miles and wasn't sure how many more we had to run.  All along I thought the rail trail was flat until Bill told me we were running uphill.  Sure enough the trail had a slight incline in this direction and it was unrelenting.  I finally told Bill I needed to take a walking break.  After walk for a minute or two I was thinking to myself, " How am I going to get my legs moving again?"  I was beat.  Then, before we started running again, Bill pointed to the right.  When I looked up I saw the parking lot and Bill's car.  I was overjoyed!  What a pleasant surprise and 22 miles on the nose to boot.  Bill suggested I run the remaining miles of the rail trail and offered to wait for me to return.  I thanked him for the offer but declined.  I will save that for another day.


Uphill finish
Our final destination, Heart Pond
After a quick cool down in Heart Pond it was time to pack up and get a move on. Bill drove me back to Andover to pick up my truck and we departed for home.  Bill had the Red Sox game in mind.  I had my mind on a shower and nap.  Yeah, it's tough getting old, but it's better than the alternative.

Until next time...


Stats:
BCT Legs 4 & 5: 22 miles
Surface split: 8.2 trails, 9.4 roads, 4.4 paved rail trail (some of paved rail trail can be avoided by running on soft shoulder).
Elevation gain: 935 feet
Highest Point 220 feet
Start Point: Lupine Road, Andover
End Point: Heart Pond, Chelmsford
Other towns: Tewsburry & Lowell
Green spaces: Doyle Link and Merrimack River Trails.  Indian Ridge, West Parish Meadow, Harold Rafton and Dear Jump Reservations.
Hydration: 100 oz Heed, 32 oz Gatorade
Fuel: Gu gel (2) PB&J crackers (12)
Footwear: Brooks Cascadia 5, Injinji socks
Total BCT Legs 1-5: 68.7 miles
Surface split: 41.4 trail & dirt road, 21.9 pavement, 4.4 paved rail trail.
Elevation gain legs 1-5: 3089 feet
Highest Point 424 feet
BCT remaining: 131.3 miles
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