Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Connecting the Green Dots

I'm not one of those people that's lucky enough to live next to a huge national or state forest. I can't roll out of my back door and climb foothills or mountains, and just disappear into the wilderness. I live in the 'burbs, just north of Boston, close to major highways, commerce, and other aspects of residing in a relatively dense population.

But, I CAN roll out my back door and hit a couple of miles of trails thanks to some city managed conservation land, then I can connect to several more miles of trails managed by the Essex County Greenbelt Association. From there, I can head to trails co-managed by Essex County Trail Association, Discover Hamilton and the state's Department of Conservation and Recreation. Intermingled with those trails is the Bay Circuit Trail. Thanks to a huge patchwork of local trail organizations, such as those already mention and the New England Mountain Bike Association, there are miles and miles of trails.

How many miles of trails? I'd guesstimate that in my corner of northeastern Massachusetts, there's a solid 100 miles of mountain biking trails. Probably more.

If you wanted to start in Beverly, you could go from Beverly Commons (called Greenwood Ave locally)*, to Sally Milligan*, to Norwood Pond Trails* to Patton Park* to Apple Farms Grass Rides* to Pingree Farms* to Bradley Palmer State Park to Willowdale State Forest to Georgetown-Rowley State Forest to Bald Hill and Boxford Town Forest to Harold Parker State Forest to... well, you get the point.  *using only short distances on the road between many of these

And, with that example, that's just going in one direction. Starting from the same Beverly Commons trails, one could also head over to Gordon College/Chebacco Woods and follow trails that skirt all along route 128 through Manchester and into Gloucester.

Between established networks such as these, and connector trails winding behind schools, homes, business and in the middle of nowhere, there's a web of trails going in almost every direction. Some trails are "known," many are unknown. Many times I've found some by just exploring where I *think* a trail should be. Some have been in great shape, some needed work, and sadly others were too far gone or development had put a condo or business in the way.

In some ways, I envy road riders. They're not painstakingly searching satellite photos of green spaces looking for hints of a trail, nor spending lots of time following dead-end trails that end a homeless encampment or teen drinking spot with the requisite field of broken glass. They also don't spend countless hours pruning, digging, raking, sawing or otherwise working to piece together every stretch of dirt possible. No they just have to deal with drivers... distracted drivers, drunk drivers, demented drivers, or just plain malicious drivers.

With that in mind, I'll stick to the dirt, every piece of dirt I can find.

Check to see what local organizations in your area are doing for the trails. Unfortunately, there's doesn't appear to be one unifying repository for all of this information, and it can take some time to search online at different maps in different areas with different apps (AllTrails, MTB Project, TrailForks, etc). Maybe someday that will be my mission, to create the one-stop source, but until then, my hunt has paid off and between my sweat equity and sleuthing, I don't need a national park in my back yard.

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