August 15, 2010
I recently visited my old haunts in the Concord-Lincoln area. One of the highlights of my visit was a guided tour of the Old Manse, which is near the North Bridge, where the Concord Battle took place. Emerson wrote “Nature” during a brief sojourn in the Old Manse. Hawthorne lived in the Old Manse for three years, and wrote a short-story collection, Mosses From An Old Manse. You can still see the words that Hawthorne and his wife, Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, inscribed on the window-panes with Sophia’s diamond ring.
There are other historic sites in Concord, such as Emerson’s house, The Wayside (where Hawthorne lived later in his life, and where the Alcotts lived for three years), and Orchard House (where the Alcotts lived for twenty years). There are also other places for walking, such as Estabrook Woods (about 1,200 acres), and Great Meadows, a marshy area popular with bird-watchers.
You may want to reach Concord via the train from Boston; if you drive, you’ll find that highway traffic is heavy around rush hour (but not as heavy on Route 495 as on 95).
I call this route “Two Ponds, Two Houses” because it visits
Below is a map for people who have an interest in modern architecture. It shows developments in the Concord-Lexington area that were built by Gropius and other AvantGarde architects. Some of these developments had a socialist/utopian aspiration, and they featured shared pools, tennis courts, trails, etc. If you only have time to visit one, I suggest Six Moon Hill in Lexington.
I call this route “Three Ponds” because it goes along Sandy Pond (also called Flint’s Pond), then Walden Pond, and finally Farrar Pond. It’s 9.3 miles. It starts and ends at the Lincoln Train Station (I’ve marked two other parking possibilities). Most of it is on packed earth, where there are few ticks; much of it is under tall pines. There are some short stretches on roads, but the roads are quiet, or have sidewalks.
Here’s a route that starts at the North Bridge Visitors Center, then loops through Great Meadows, then walks through downtown Concord. It doesn’t go through Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. This route is 8.5 miles.
Late October, North Bridge, from Old Manse Boathouse
Here’s the route of my “Cemetery Circle” (about 1.5 or 2 miles):
You can park near the North Bridge and the Old Manse, and visit both sights. Then walk south on Monument Street (toward Concord Center) for about 250 yards. Turn left onto a trail that heads east, toward Bedford. Walk about 600 yards until you see a big, stone marker on your right, and a path (the marker mentions the Concord Battle). Take the path to the right (south), and in about 10 minutes you’ll be in the rear section of Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, near Authors Ridge, where you’ll find the graves of Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott, Hawthorne, etc. If you walk through the cemetery (toward the south), you’ll come out near the center of Concord, then you can take Monument Street back to the North Bridge.
I began my visit to Concord-Lincoln by parking at Walden Pond, and taking a 4-5 mile walk that I call The Adams Woods Circle. If it’s a hot day, you may want to swim in Walden Pond, which is large, clean, and clear enough for snorkeling (Thoreau would surely have been an avid snorkeler). If you’re interested in Thoreau, the shop at Walden Pond has a great collection of books and memorabilia.
There were several Russians at Walden Pond, and when I was on Nantucket a few weeks ago, there were Russians everywhere. I’m not sure how to explain this influx of Russians, some of whom are teenagers with summer jobs, while others are adults with permanent jobs.
Here’s the route of my Adams Woods Circle:
I started at Walden’s beach (where the changing house is, close to the parking lot), then walked along the left side of the pond (the south side) for about .8 miles. A circle of the pond is about 2 miles, so I walked slightly less than halfway around, to a cove that the map calls Long Cove. Then I took a sharp left turn, and crossed the railroad tracks. If the trail around the pond is blocked, to protect the shoreline from erosion, you can follow Esker Trail, which is a bit further from the shore.
Once you cross the tracks, you’re in Adams Woods. I suggest you keep to the left, and head south. Adams Woods is a maze of trails, and it’s easy to become confused, but it isn’t very big, so you probably won’t be seriously lost. I suggest you stay left at every intersection. Finally you’ll get to a point where a brook is ahead of you, a trail is to the right, and a giant pine is at your right hand.
(When you first enter Adams Woods, you’ll notice a kettle hole on your right. After walking 10-15 minutes, you’ll notice a kettle hole on your left. A kettle hole might be called a round hole, a round valley. When you follow the brook toward the west, you’ll notice that the brook has carved a long, straight valley.)
You can cross the brook on a small wooden bridge, but I suggest you turn right instead, and follow the brook as it flows west to Fairhaven Bay (the brook will be on your left as you walk). Walk for 10-15 minutes, then look for a left turn (south). Before you turn left, climb up the bank a few steps for a view of Fairhaven Bay. The next mile or two of the trail will bring you to the opposite side of Fairhaven Bay (if you take the “Great Circle”).
Now turn left (south) on a trail that’s called “the trail to Mt. Misery.” (You can find trail maps at Lincoln Land Conservation, or you can consult A Guide To Conservation Land in Lincoln, which you can obtain from Drumlin Farm in Lincoln.)
The trail to Mt. Misery crosses three small streams, and crosses two small roads/driveways, and goes through some stands of giant white pines; after about 20 minutes, you break out into an open field and a charming farm. You have to turn right (west), but after a short distance (100 yards?), turn left (east) and walk through the middle of the farm to Old Concord Road, then turn left to Concord Road. At Concord Road, you can turn left (north), and walk back to Walden Pond (a bike path along Concord Road makes the walk a bit pleasanter). You’ll pass another farm or two as you walk along Concord Road. This is what I call The Adams Woods Circle.
If you’re more ambitious, you can try what I call The Great Circle. Follow the directions for The Adams Woods Circle until you come to “an open field and a charming farm. You have to turn right (west), but after a short distance (100 yards?), turn left (east).” For The Great Circle, don’t make this last left turn, just keep going west, you’ll see signs for Mt. Misery, which will be on your left. Your goal is the canoe landing and parking area, which is on Route 117 (South Great Road), close to the Sudbury River. To reach this goal, you can stay to the right (west), or you can go left (south) and climb Mt. Misery (just a small hill), then turn to the west. Once you reach the parking lot and the Sudbury River, cross Route 117 to Farrar Meadow (follow the trail markers, or use a map), then follow the trail as it winds around the south side of Farrar Pond. Halfway along the pond is a pleasant overlook with a bench.
At the end of Farrar Pond, I usually turn left (north), and follow a board-walk over the marsh (you may notice a beaver dam, which raises the water-level here above the level of the pond). The trail will bring you to Concord Road (Route 126). Turn left (north) on Concord Road, and you’ll get back to Walden Pond. Since it’s a long walk, and not very interesting, you may want to leave a bike, or a second car, somewhere near Concord Road. Or you can return to Walden Pond via Adams Woods. If The Adams Woods Circle is 4-5 miles, The Great Circle is 8-9 miles. If you want to see Mt. Misery and Farrar Pond without taking a long walk, you can park at St. Anne’s Church, or on Old Concord Road, thus skipping the first half of The Great Circle (skipping the Adams Woods portion).
Here’s a 5-mile walk that starts at Lincoln train station, then goes around Mt. Misery, then to a charming picnic spot on the Sudbury River. This route is a blend of forest, field, pond, and river.
The route below follows the unpaved Battle Road Trail (part of Minuteman National Park) from Concord to Lexington, then follows Massachusetts Avenue to Lexington Center, then returns to Concord via the Minuteman Bikeway (paved), and the Reformatory Branch Trail (unpaved). Since about half of this 16-mile route is unpaved, beware of mud, biking on a muddy trail with thin tires is difficult. The highlight of this route is the Battle Road Trail (about 5 miles), which is well-maintained, scenic, and full of history.
Below is a section of the Bay Circuit Trail that goes from Acton to Concord; it’s a 10-mile route (20 miles round-trip).
The route below continues the Bay Circuit Trail from downtown Concord. After circling halfway around Walden Pond, it leaves the Bay Circuit Trail, crosses the railroad tracks, and enters Adams Woods. Later, however, it overlaps with sections of the Bay Circuit Trail. The Bay Circuit Trail isn’t one trail, it has various branches and options, especially around Concord.
Hop Brook is a refuge in Sudbury that’s owned by the town. A charming trail circles a pond. From the refuge, you can go south on Dutton Road to The Wayside, a historic restaurant. Or you can follow trails to the northwest, and reach Hudson Road, and the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge. Below is a 2-mile walk in Hop Brook.
AllTrails has a shorter walk in Hop Brook. This AllTrails map also shows trails leading to the northwest, to the Assabet National Wildlife Refuge.
Below is a different Sudbury walk, also near Hop Brook (some people say that every Sudbury resident lives near Hop Brook).
This walk is 2 miles round-trip; it was organized by the Sudbury Valley Trustees (SVT), and is designed to highlight glacial features, such as kettles, eskers, and erratics. Click here for the self-guided GlacialFeatures walk. I placed hiking icons in two areas where the walk could be extended.