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Bay Circuit Trail Sections 6 & 7 - Navigational Nightmare

Posted Jun 21 2011 4:45am
This past Saturday I completed my 5th and longest run to date on the Bay Circuit Trail.  With warmer weather approaching and the expected increase in biting insect activity I was hoping to make it to the halfway point on the BCT.  By doing so I could take a break from the trail in July and August and return in the fall to complete the journey. I first had to finish up the last two miles of Section #5 on the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail before continuing onto Sections 6 and 7. The total distance should have been around 28 miles but with all the detours I took by getting lost I ended the day with 30 miles.  I love bonus miles!

Overview of BCT Sections 6 & 7
Just enough changes to make it interesting.
The first four miles were not the most enjoyable for me. The first two were on the paved rail trail and the next two were on Route 27.  Pavement does a number on my plantar fascia and IT band but I managed to make it though this stretch without issue.  I did have a few distractions along the way to help past the time.  First, I saw a rabbit and a large flock of turkeys on the rail trail and then saw a big group of riders blasting down Route 225 in Westford.  Still, I was very happy when I made it to Nashoba Brook Conservation Area and saw dirt under my shoes.
The trails through Nashoba Brook were overgrown and appeared to be seldom used.  Even thought the weather has been dry lately the low-lying trail was very muddy or wet in spots.  This would not be a good place to run in early spring. I was also somewhat surprised at how technical the trails were in some areas.  Most of the trails I have run on the BCT previously have been fairly tame.  Trail marking in Acton was excellent and I never had to stop to check the map or trail guide.  That would change later in the run.
 Overgrown and narrow single-track trail.
 Crossing Nashoba Brook.
Wet, technical "trail." The mosquitoes were eating me alive in here.
Tranquil brook-side location.
Two interesting sites I came upon in this area were the location of a former pencil factory , complete with a history lesson on the progression of the pencil and a stone chamber dug into the side of a hill.  It appears the stone chamber was used to store ice in the winter and farm products such as root crops at other times.  The chamber was very cool and I would have explored deeper into it had I been carry a headlamp or flashlight. 
 Location of former 19th century pencil factory.
Stone chamber just off the trail that I had to explore.
 "Is anyone home?"
As I was leaving Acton though a grassy meadow I was attacked by horse flies.  I moved quickly but could not avoiding getting bitten a few times before crossing into Concord and into the Annursnac Hill Conservation Area. While there I looked for the World War II bunker in the woods.  I saw two vent pipes coming out of the ground so I assumed I was near it, or on it, but did not see any other evidence that it existed. I continued moving south, then east making my way to the Minuteman National Historical Park .  It amused me to think I've lived in Massachusetts for 56 years and never visited this park.  It took a crazy idea, like running 200 miles on the BCT to get me here!

Stopping at the vistors center gave me an opportunity to top of my Camelbak before checking out the rest of the park.  I didn't want to linger too long but did want to get a good look at the battle site of April 19, 1775.  There were many visitors at the park on this beautiful Saturday morning.  One or two may have looked at me in an unusual manner but it was understandable.  It's not every day you see a sweaty old man wearing a Camelbak and bandana with packets of Gu stuffed in his pockets and running around taking photos of everything that isn't' moving.  OK, time to move on.
A good place to take on fluid when the well is running dry. PS they also have restrooms!
The bridge where the battle was fought.
The Concord River, looking upstream.
Leaving the park I passed though Concord town center and headed south-east along a flat stretch of road before turning into the Hapgood-Wright Town Forest. After running a mile of trails it was back to pavement for a short distance before crossing a very busy Route 2. Lucky for me there was a traffic signal to stop the speeding cars and I was able to cross safely. This marked the end point for Section # 6 and also the halfway point for this long run.  I had made it 15 miles without a hitch but the wheels were about to fall off.

 Concord town center.
The home of Ralph Waldo Emerson.
 More muck in Hapgood-Wright Forest.

After crossing Rt 2 I entered Walden Pond State Reservation .  I circumnavigated the west and south rim of the pond, crossed a road and entered the woods on the other side.  The trail then entered a large field.  It was here where things began to get confusing.  I had a difficult time following the trail guide and lost the trail somewhere in the field. I ending up scaling a stone wall to make my way back to last know reference point.  From there I was able to locate a trail marker at the intersection of Route 126.  
Then my troubles began.
I misread the trail guide and thought I needed to go left and follow the perimeter of a large farm field until I saw an opening into the woods.  In fact, the guide was referring to the farm at the next intersection.  So I spent the next mile running around the farm looking for an opening that didn't exist before I realized my mistake.  The farm hands watching me all this time must have had a good chuckle!
Leaving the trails neat Mt. Misery (how appropriate) I got confused again by looking at the south to north directions instead of the north to south directions.  I now believe it's more important to take an extra minute to fully read the guide before running off and wasting many more minutes by going in the wrong direction or missing key reference points.  Anyway, back to my misadventure.   It took me 20 minutes to cover the next 0.7 miles because I was never sure I was going in the right direction.  It turned out I was.

The next 4.5 miles was a mix of trail and roads that I covered without issue. Then I found myself standing at the edge of the nightmare known as Sedge Meadow .  Two miles of tall grass with several intersecting trails heading in all directions. And no trail markers!  I spent the next 30 minutes taking different trails that seemed to be heading in the direction I wanted but they always curved off in a different direction after a short distance.  I got tired of this trial and error approach and decided to just go in one direction and see where it would lead me.
It led me to the Wayland Country Club.
Waist high grass trail in Sedge Meadow. Got ticks?
Right or left?
I was happy to be out of the meadow and even happier when I spotted the clubhouse.  I had been out of water for a while and really needed a drink.  I settled for a ice cold Coke.  After guzzling half the bottle I made my way to a rendezvous point at the intersection of Routes 20 and 27 where I was meeting my rescue party.  All the mistakes I made along the way had put me behind schedule and I didn't want to miss my ride back home.  I cut my run short by a mile but still manged to bag 30 miles for the day.  Damn, I really wanted that 50K!
The good news is I've completed nearly half of the Bay Circuit Trial with and estimated 97 mile covered so far.  My next run will take me south of the Mass Turpike and one step closer to the shores of Kingston.
Hey, it's summer!

More photos from my Sections 6 & 7 run can be found HERE .
Stats:
BCT Legs 6 & 7: 28 miles + 2 miles of "wandering'
Surface split: Roads 10.6 + 2.3 paved rail trail,  Trails 15.1 + 2 on grassy meadows
Elevation gain: 960 feet
Highest Point: Strawberry Hill, 327 feet
Start Point: Heart Pond, Chelmsford
End Point: Pelham Island Road, Weyland
Other towns: Westford, Carlisle, Acton, Concord, Lincoln,
Green spaces: Nashoba Brook, Spring Hill, Stoneymeade Cons. Land, Annursnac Hill Cons. Area, Hapgood-Wright Town Forest, Walden Pond State Reservation, Mt, Misery, Trout Brook, Castle Hill, Sedge Meadow and Cow Common
Hydration: 100 oz Heed, 50 oz water, 20 oz Coke
Fuel: Gu gel (4) PB&J crackers (12)
Footwear: Brooks Cascadia 5, Injinji socks
Total BCT Legs 1-7: 97 miles
Surface split: 57 trail & dirt road, 33 pavement, 7 paved rail trail.
Elevation gain legs 1-5: 4049 feet
Highest Point 424 feet
BCT remaining: 103 miles


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