August 15, 2023

Aqueduct bridge, covered by foliage.


Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.

-Dalai Lama


My sixteen-year old granddaughter, Emily, needs a ride to her driver’s lesson, so Waldo, in the passenger seat beside me, and I happily oblige (Emily is in the backseat).  In a little over two months, she will be taking the driving test for her license and this is in preparation for that.  The instructors provide the cars, but for some reason I don’t understand, we have to meet the instructor at seemingly random designated spots.   This afternoon, we are to meet him in the parking lot of a church, about five miles away.  The GPS sends us down a section of street I’ve never been on.  That’s something I look forward to, because, well, who knows what we’ll find?  The street is a narrow back road, running through amazing greenery that swaddles us in an emerald tunnel.

Emmy and I are talking back and forth about nothing specific and, right in front of and above us, a beautiful, old stone bridge appears.  It has semicircular cutouts, between broad pillars, and the street passes through one.  On the top of the bridge are a number of bushes – it’s obviously overgrown.  This heightens my attention because that means it’s not currently being used for its intended purpose, whatever that may have been.  An old railroad bridge, perhaps?  Or a road no longer used?  Is it now a rail-trail?  Whatever the case may be, it’s prime territory for a good walk.  I’m immediately committed to finding out more.

Waldo and I drop off Emmy and now have an hour to kill before we have to pick her up, so it’s a perfect time to go explore.  We go back to the bridge and make a turn so we’re moving parallel to it, looking for some way to get on top of the thing.  It isn’t long and we come to a cross street and, right there, is a gravel parking lot and a trail that disappears into the woods.  But it’s a footpath, not the trail we’re looking for.  We park, dismount, and nearby I see a broad, mowed, grassy swath winding back the way we came, toward the bridge.  This is what I expect will lead to the bridge.  On the other side of the road is more green path, heading the other way and clearly an extension of whatever crosses the bridge.

Waldo seems to know what I’m up to because he ignores the footpath and heads, out front, at the end of his twenty-six-foot leash, toward the path to the bridge.  We step around the guardrail that separates the trail from the street and find ourselves walking over grass no more than three inches high.  Somebody has been taking care of this piece of whatever it was that it used to be.

We follow it along for about a quarter mile and come to a fence that blocks our way.  It has a pedestrian gate padlocked with a heavy chain and a sign that reads, “No Trespassing.”  On the other side is the bridge. There is no evidence of railroad rails nor tarmac.  Here and there, I can see what looks like a stone top to the bridge.  Everywhere, the bridge seems solid, just overgrown.  Curious.

Waldo and I return to the street where we started and I look at the other part of the path.  It is invitingly tempting.  A man and a woman are walking up the street from that direction and I ask them about it.  The man says he has ridden his bike up there and it goes on for several miles.  It’s the Wachusett Aqueduct.

Wachusett reservoir was built in 1905, filled in 1908, to supply water to the ever-growing population of Boston.  The aqueduct took water from the reservoir to a water treatment plant and thence on to Boston.  Today, the aqueduct is dry, replaced by the Cosgrove Tunnel, and its foundation serves as a good place to wander.  Looking up to the north, I’m sorely tempted to go thataway.  But, alas, Waldo and I have less than an hour before we have to pick up Emily and we’re told it goes on for several miles.  Instead, we take a slight left turn and, within a distance you could throw a rock, disappear on a footpath that leads into the Edmund Hill Woods.  The aqueduct we’ll save for another day.

Waldo is more than happy treading over the dirt and roots beneath our feet and we’re soon engulfed with all that forest has to offer.  I don’t know exactly why, but Waldo seems to be enjoying himself more than usual, sniffing around and charging here and there along the path.  He’s just glad to be outside in nature.

And so am I.


Aqueduct winds off into the brush to the north.

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