April 6, 2021

On the beach — Plum Island.


Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.

-John Muir


Phyllis, Christine and I decided that this year, we would walk the Bay Circuit Trail (BCT) around Boston.  Waldo happily went along with the idea.  The trail is not a single trail and it isn’t contiguous.  It’s a serpentine collection of trails, connected (at this time) by streets and highways, running in, more or less, a semicircle around Boston.  In some places, it’s unpaved, narrow, not well-marked and it can be easy to lose your way.  In others, it is paved, broad and easy to navigate at night.  It was first conceived in 1929 as a “outer emerald necklace,” a greenbelt surrounding Boston, and has yet to be finished.  The trail(s) run in a long serpentine arc some 230 miles from Plum Island to Kingston Bay.

We start our new trek at the northern tip of Plum Island, Plum Island Point.  This is about a mile from the official trailhead, but parking is hard to come by and there is a public lot at the Point.  Besides, we’ve all, with the probable exception of Waldo, gotten tired of trudging around in snow and ice and long for warmer temps and the beach.  Today’s forecast is for temps of about 54℉.  That oughta melt some of that ice we’ve been sliding around on!  We head from where we parked our car east to the beach.  At the top of the coastal dunes, we can see the Merrimac River to the north and west and the broad Atlantic to the south and east.  There’s about a ten mile an hour breeze that drops the effective temperature a good 10℉ and I’m glad for the light jacket I decided to wear.

Waldo is ecstatic as we head south in the sand.  I have to keep him away from the water, since he likes to drink the stuff, but, man, he really, really, really wants to go into the light surf.  I think it’s the constant motion of the water that attracts him, but who knows.  He digs in the sand, prances this way and that, and is having a fine old time.  There are very few people out on the beach, something that will change dramatically in the next months as temperatures rise and Covid restrictions ease.  There are plenty of footprints in the sand, though, bearing witness to the recent passage of many others.  Our going is slow in the loose footing and it works muscles I’m not used to using that much, despite walking in snow for the past too many weeks.  But it is so very nice to be on a beach again, watch the surf coming in and smelling the fresh ocean air!  Both Phyllis and Christine say this was just what they needed to alleviate the winter Covid blues.

After a little over a mile, we’re on the streets again.  There are trail markers every so often on telephone poles and trees, but we have to be alert not to miss them.  Eventually, we veer off the streets onto a narrow foot path covered in ice, water, mud and undergrowth.  This path is not at all well-marked and not used enough for it to be obvious where it goes.  We’re still within sight of the street and, due to inattention, we lose our way and get caught up in branches and mired in mud.  We backtrack and Phyllis finds where we got off-trail and we continue on.  Shades of Mirkwood for sure!  Didn’t see no stinkin’ big spiders in there, though.  Waldo is exploring around, getting his leash all wound up in the undergrowth, tail wagging, nose to the ground, truckin’ along as if he knew where he was going.  In fact, now that I think about it, we were following him when we got lost!  About a mile or so from where we left the street, we come to another street and continue on.

There are a handful of such paths on our route, but most of this part of the trail is on car-carrying tarmac.  Using the BCT website, I tried to find a stopping point that was about 10 miles from where we began.  Their numbers must be off, because when we finally get to our second car, 13.5 miles have elapsed, it is full-on dark, and the temperature is dropping to something uncomfortable in the light jackets we wore.  Except, of course, Waldo isn’t cold.  He loves the cold.  We’re tired, sore and hungry when we get back to the car.  But we’re also refreshed and invigorated after spending some six hours outside, exercising.

Our next trek on the BCT looks from the map to be mostly footpaths through forested areas.  The trails seem to offer up a lot of variety which is welcome to all of us, not the least of whom is Waldo, I’m sure.

For now, it’s home, eat, rest and prepare for our next jaunt.


Lost, off-trail, in Mirkwood.

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