While I was off in Wisconsin, my partner was having an adventure of his own in Massachusetts. It is with pleasure that I post a guest blog by the Cycling Yogi.
The most direct route from where I'm staying in Arlington, MA out to Walden Pond is to follow Route 2A, about 11 miles each way. Google Maps recommended following the Minuteman Commuter Bikeway all the way up to Bedford, then turning south along the Reformatory Branch trail for a total of 13.6 miles. I was feeling that the mid-Saturday outing, including a swim across the pond, might get too long, so I was inclined toward the shorter route. But once on the Minuteman, I was able to appreciate the venerable wisdom in Google's well-considered judgment. 7 miles without traffic noise, without hills, overhung by shade trees, mostly through suburban backyards, but with patches of woods and one pretty painless stretch skirting Lexington Center. My only regret was that the mountain bike I had rented on arriving in Cambridge was geared too low to take full advantage of the long, smooth straightaways. (I could have rented a road bike for $65 a day.)
It was Saturday and there were families. Occasional children with training wheels weaved across the path, a mother glided by on rollerblades with son in a jogging stroller, and I passed two older women pulling shopping carts. Traffic thinned as I progressed toward the outer suburbs, which still retain a good deal of farmland and forest, despite the development that greater Boston has undergone since I lived here three decades ago.
In Bedford, the Minuteman ended and I had to ask directions to the Reformatory Branch. It turned out to be a dirt path, quite passable after a long, dry summer, but a bit bumpy and much slower than the asphalt. Ah, but the wide-tired mountain bike seemed such a practical choice! The path skirted a farm, then ended near Concord Center, from which I was directed (duh) to Walden St for the last mile and a half.
I hadn't been to Walden in several years, and the path from the intersection at Route 2 had sprouted a sign, “Not a Legal Park Entrance”. Ignoring it, I continued toward the stones that marked Thoreau's cabin, and the little cove I remembered just below, where half a dozen blue kayaks now were anchored. The best surprise of the day came when I got out to the middle of the lake. Traffic! I'm used to being the only one who ventures more than 100 yards from shore, but Walden has become a destination resort for long-distance swimmers. Swimmers lapping length from the guarded beach at the East end as well as people like myself who took off across the width from various spots along the perimeter. There were smooth, strong strokes and lazy breaststrokes, multicolored bathing caps, men in wet suits and a teen trailing a tethered kickboard (just in case, I supposed). The Chamber of Commerce is raising money to install traffic lights.
Bicycling is ever so much more popular than when I made my living as Boston's only cycling piano teacher in the 1970s, but lake swimming has yet to take off. I was thrilled to see so many devotees in one body of water.
For the way back, I was tempted by sheer perversity to ride on the shoulder of busy, 60 mph Route 2 for just one mile, after which it comes out to the 5-mile, meandering trail through the Minuteman National Historical Park. More mountain bike country, with signs describing historic buildings and sites along the Midnight Ride. I followed other cyclists and navigated by the sun for the trip back to Lexington. There I rejoined the Minuteman Trail and enjoyed the last few miles of smooth, shaded bike path before mounting the ridge and descending through suburban landscape back to the home where I'm staying, overlooking a golf course and the Mystic Lakes.
I'm reminded how much I miss the landscape littered with lakes that surrounds Boston. I see why Miles Standish opted to settle here, and wonder why I ever moved to Philadelphia.