Bay Circuit Trail: Hiking The 230 Mile Emerald Necklace of Massachusetts (Section 6)
My sixth segment on the Bay Circuit Trail came with a lot of historical significance, more daylight and a bit of trail running. I had been conditioning myself for the Allegheny 100 Hiking Challenge in June. The A100, as it's known, is a 100 mile hiking challenge that takes place in Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania. The challenge is a self-supported trek that has to be completed in 50 hours. There are also 25, 50 and 75 mile challenges for those who prefer to not take on the full 100 miles. I had signed up for the 100. Thus, my next section of the BCT was a good chance to get more mileage in before the following month.
I began in Lowell at the start of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail. A popular pathway for trail runners, cyclist and walkers, which currently spans 11.7 miles in length. As I began to warm up my hiking legs, I decided to warm up a bit more and run most of this portion. The lack of cars made this paved section enjoyable.
Once I left the rail trail and entered the woods, the trail passed through a beautiful and well-maintained section full of roots, rocks, a marsh and some historical highlights.
The warm air and budding trees was a welcome change to the late winter we had in New England. I didn't have too many issues passing through the marshes, as the trail stayed well above them, but I did have a couple of mucky crossings due to the thaw.
As I left the marsh and continued through the woods, I came to a stone chamber (pictured above with myself next to it for scale). I took a quick water break here and couldn't help but look inside.
Crouching down, I entered the chamber and was instantly cooled down. It didn't go to deep, but it was still a nice little highlight to scope out a bit more before continuing down the trail.
Not too much further down from the stone chamber, I came across another highlight near Nashooba Brook. A structure marking where an early pencil factory used to operated. This area is rich with history dating back to the early 1800s and includes the likes of Henry David Thoreau and David Munroe. It is also a unique environment that is rich in wildlife and flora.
As I left the pencil factory site, the trail flowed through the woods with rocky, root filled terrain coated in leaves from the previous autumn months. I was interested in checking out Camp Acton which rests not too far off of the BCT.
I took the Camp Acton Loop Trail and stopped off at one of the campsites for a snack. Camp Acton is currently one of the few spots along the BCT where backpackers can stay for the night if they choose, with reservation and a campsite permit. It looked like a beautiful area to spend the night and I will definitely be back to do so, but this was merely a stop for my hike that day and I had more mileage that I had planned to cover.
Packing up my trash, I retraced my steps on the Loop Trail to connect with the Bay Circuit Trail and continue heading south. After a short leg on the pavement, the trail passed through a beautiful wide open meadow. Looking out, I eagerly wondered what was at the other end as I hiked through.
My wondering had been answered as the trail continued by an old World War II bunker in Annursnac Conservation Area. As I left the bunker, I entered the town of Concord and a fairly pleasant road walk to the center. Multiple areas of historical significance are stationed throughout Concord.
The first was Minuteman National Historical Park. The park was beautiful with views of open land, the Concord River, well-manicured pathways and the Minuteman Statue. The area was fairly busy with a lot of enthusiasts getting out to enjoy the weather, history and nature. I stopped to enjoy it as well, while I had a snack and rehydrated.
Once I left the Minuteman Statue, a short walk brought me to another highlight in the park. The Old Manse.
The Old Manse added to this beautiful property and reminded me of something you'd see straight out of a classic New England postcard. I stopped to read up on a little bit of the history that was shared on posts near the property, before I continued through Concord.
From there the trail passes down through town, along the streets and by Monument Square until it enters the Hapgood Wright Town Forest. This little stretch had a couple of minor elevation changes and some roots and rocks, but nothing too strenuous. I was excited to make it this far for my hike and had to continue a bit further to one more highlight before turning around for the day and hiking back to my car.
Any outdoor enthusiast and nature lover, is sure to be familiar with Henry David Thoreau. It is on this section of the Bay Circuit Trail where you can walk around some of the areas that heavily influenced Thoreau's classic literary work, Walden.
After crossing Route 2 and a section of the BCT Bicycle Route, I entered Walden Pond State Park. After a short distance, I came to where Thoreau's Walden Pond cabin once stood before heading down trail to the pond itself.
The pond and its surroundings were incredible! It's easy to see how it influenced Henry David Thoreau and why he spent so much time here. I sat and enjoyed a bit of solitude on my end of the pond, while swimmers and other park goers recreated on the other end near a boat launch. It wasn't until a couple of years ago that swimming had become allowed in Walden Pond, though people still swam across its waters. I can only imagine how busy it must get in the summer months around here so I was happy to have enjoyed it closer to the way Thoreau once did. After my break here, I walked the rest of the pond loop trail and connected to the BCT once again where I retraced my steps back to the car in Lowell.
Section Distance: 20 miles
Total Distance Hiked (Out-And-Back): 40 miles
Locations: From Bruce Freeman Rail Trail in Lowell, MA to Walden Pond in Concord, MA