December 12, 2023

Hiking along the dikes.


Walking is the best possible exercise.  Habituate yourself to walk very far.

-Thomas Jefferson


Today, Waldo, Phyllis and I are walking the next leg of the Bay Circuit Trail.  It’s been two weeks since our last walk (Phyllis has been busy) and it’s good to be back at it.  We’re going from where we left off in Easton and heading east(ish) to East Bridgewater, about 13 miles down the road.  The terrain is flat and most of where we need to go is on streets and back roads.  That worries me a little, because of Waldo, but I keep him on a short leash when the traffic is fast or heavy and he tolerates it well.  We’ve been walking together for almost five years and thousands of miles and he knows I’ll let him wander with more freedom when I think it’s safe.  He just plods along next to me, without pulling or lunging, and bides his time.

It’s cold out today and I’m wearing my parka, leather gloves and knit ski cap.  Phyllis is similarly dressed and Waldo, of course, is wearing his sable birthday suit and seems quite comfortable.  I think Waldo prefers these temperatures – he has more of a spring in his step and is more eager to get out and go.  The sky is clear, with only a slight breeze, and the ground is dry.   What’s not to like?

The land here is level and easy-going.  We’re getting close to the coast, so most of the hills are behind us to the west.  The streets have no sidewalks and we walk along on the roads’ shoulders.  Waldo keeps to the outside of the painted solid white line that defines the edge of the road as if he knows he’s supposed to.  I don’t how he learned that, I didn’t put any effort into teaching him, he just seems to know.  Still, he doesn’t pay that much attention to the traffic and is prone to do a “squirrel!” detour, or the equivalent.  I keep him close.

There are houses we pass on our way, but they’re mostly organized randomly, rather than in a burb-like grid.  Here and there, we pass a few businesses, mostly convenience stores, pizza joints and the like.  It’s definitely country, despite the fact we’re only thirty miles or so from Boston.  Urban sprawl is headed this way, though.  It’s close enough to the big city for people to commute and cheap enough for them to afford buying a home (if you happen to one of the 65% of us that can afford to try to own a home).  It isn’t the farmland it once was.  Somewhere, not too far away to the south, are cranberry bogs, but we don’t see any as we wend our way east.  There are a lot of trees, now stick figures of what they were a few months ago, and lots of tawny leaves lay on the ground.  Here and there are some open fields and there are shriveled remnants of weeds everywhere.  The streets, for the most part, don’t follow a straight course and none head exactly where we’re going, so we go from one to another by turning first right and then left and so on.

After a couple of hours, the trail veers off to the right under some high-tension power lines.  A paved road rolls along underneath huge erector-set towers and, if I listen for it, I can hear the sputtering of electricity as it leaks around the insulators.  I know from experience that the sound gets louder and you can even smell ozone, when it’s humid out.  But today, I don’t hear anything unless I pay attention.  Further on, the road turns to dry compressed earth, except where someone has dumped rocks to fill in the low places where it would otherwise get muddy.  The rocks, too big to be called gravel, makes the going a little uncertain, but it’s not too bad if I pay attention to where I’m walking.  The nearby land has been cleared of trees and is rife with the seasonal remains of what was waist-high weeds.

After two miles or so, we’re back on the streets.  Then, another couple of miles, and we turn left onto some dikes that penetrate into swampy lowlands.  We’re surrounded by hibernating trees and our footfalls are cushioned by a carpet of dried leaves.  The going is level and walking is easy.  Off to either side, the land drops off steeply to wetlands and creeks.  Not many critters out and about this time of year.  Waldo is happy that I can let him wander off at the end of the leash and he has no problem following the trail.  Neither do Phyllis and I.  We can walk along without having to pay close attention and not worry about wandering off-trail.  We talk about all kinds of things of such import that I can’t remember the subject of any of it.  What we talk about is not the point anyway.  The value is in the company, not the verbiage.

Soon, we’re back on the streets and after another couple of miles, the official trail just stops.  The map shows a gap in the trail (not the streets) and there are no markers showing which streets to follow.  Why, I don’t know.  There are perfectly good streets that connect both ends of the gap that are just like all the other streets we have to follow to get from one woodland trail to another.  It’s curious.

And then we’re back to the car, about half way between the ends of the gap.  Waldo curls up on the passenger seat, the spot in the car that he owns, and I plop some weary muscles behind the steering wheel.  Feels damn good!  No real pain, like the previous few jaunts, though.  Just a little low-back stiffness and some achy muscles a bit further up.  Phyllis sits in the back and says she too is tired.  We head back to where we left her car.

There are only five or six more legs to do (depending on how far we decide to go on each) and we will have come to the end of the trail.  I’m not sure if we can finish before the weather (snow) makes it undesirable to walk in the woods, but maybe we can finish before spring.   It’s getting close to the time when we need to start thinking of where we’re going next.  Phyllis and I each have a few ideas.

Waldo, he’ll go anywhere.


Marker on bridge confirms we’re on the trail.

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