Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bike (and hike) Blog - Stony Brook Reservation

Stony Brook Reservation, a natural urban wonderland (with an edge) straddling West Roxbury and Hyde Park doesn’t get much attention…unless a dead body shows up there. Unfortunately that’s what happened earlier this year with a tragic incident that started in Southie and ended in these Boston woodlands.

Hopefully that won’t stop people from enjoying this landscape which offers biking, hiking, fishing and quality time with nature. Each time I visit this park I’m surprised how few people I see, usually it’s just locals out walking their dogs. It’s obviously not the White Mountains, but for anyone who wants to get away from it all without leaving Boston’s city limits, these 475 acres of hilly terrain are a sweet little oasis.  My favorite feature is a paved track that loops through the park for about 2.5 miles and is suitable for just about any skill level of biking.

Bike Stats:  Distance: 2.5 miles | Total time: 13:22 minutes 
Max speed: 22.9 mph | Ave speed: 11.4 mph

Hooooo boy, I whipped around that track like Bigfoot was on my trail. Shit was like a rollycoaster ride! On my second time around I explored some of the single track trails and old carriage lanes at a slower pace. There are actually some challenging little paths with steep rocky inclines that will test the average mountain biker. It won’t be a struggle for someone who bombs down ski slopes in Vermont on two wheels, but for someone like me who has a modest little Specialized with old-school padded brakes and zero suspension – it’s a good time. Stony Brook has similar features to Blue Hills, but it’s not as challenging and is less vertical and sprawling. A group of bikers with varying degrees of experience could have a really fun time at Stony Brook.

If it’s just a casual ride through Mother Nature’s wonders that one seeks, the grass covered carriage trails and meandering paths make for a blissful escape from the rat race.    

Stony Brook Park was imagined by landscape architecht Charles Eliot, a disciple of Frederick Law Omstead. This open space is related to other parks in the Metropolitan Park System of Greater Boston which include Beaver Brook, Blue Hills, Hemlock Gorge and the Middlesex Fells. Only traces of the actual brook remain, although in its glory days it was the water source for most of Boston’s beer with as many as 19 breweries following its banks to Jamaica Plain. By 1910 the majority of the brook outside of the park was buried underground and turned into a nasty sewer.

The first time I visited the park this year I blew out a tire about a quarter mile into the woods. The terrain can get extremely rocky, especially where there’s been lots of erosion. I threw my bike into the back of my Honda and decided to hike a section of the park that I had yet to explore. My style of hiking falls into the category of trailblazing – I’m cannot resist going off trail for a little bush whacking. It’s where all the crazy crap is – from abandoned structures and vehicles to actual antiquities: standing stones, perched boulders and stones circles.  

It's easy to get fooled into thinking that you are hiking through paradise, but this park lies within a major metropolis. And that means you need to stay aware, as there are a couple of little hobo campsites strewn about the park - be safe, and bring a camera...

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