May 15, 2011

Biking, Birding Before the Rain

Late morning I hopped on my bike and headed towards Boxford. The weather was cool, overcast and rain free—at least at the start. I was not out for a "hammer fest" but a chance to move my legs, enjoy the outdoors, and  try out some new cycling gear. Happily, I managed to average 15.6 mph without trying.

Initially, I was in search of a cider donut from Smolak Farms Bakery but I realized that was just the initial bait I told myself for motivation before I switched to another goal. As soon as I was warmed up by Old North Andover Center I decided to find the road that touts one beautiful field, farm and  barn after another. I found it and a whole lot more...
 Looking toward Hovey's Pond along Main Street in West Boxford

I stopped to take this photo and was on my way. Until I saw an arrow and what appeared to be a trail head. Insatiably curious, I circled back, dismounted and walked down the pebbled path. A bunch of birders were clustered by the water's edge while one tall man in a navy wide-brimmed rain hat pointed towards the cat tails. The others raised and lowered binoculars before passing them with slight hesitation like a tray of delectable appetizers at a garden party.

The Millbrook Area by Hovey's Pond was alive with wild chirping bird activity—songs, courting rituals, and sky acrobatics.  I spotted several chatty Red-Winged Blackbirds, a sparrow, a bright yellow fellow (Oriole? Warbler?), and a Killdeer that was in some sort of a twirling tizzy. So much excitement in just a few moments time.
The birding group was about to disband when I arrived but a few die-hard birders perched around to try and spot the Bittern who was camouflaged (as usual) amidst the tall grass. Of course, we could hear the unusual call but not see this master of disguise. 

A really nice man, a member of the Merrimack Valley Bird Club, offered me some of his home-baked "flax seed, oats and etc., squares." It was the best thing like it that I'd ever tasted. I want that recipe! He also offered me a rain poncho because the sky decided it was time for the deluge.  I had my cycling jacket but many thanks, sir. I'm sorry I didn't get your name.

I learned that earlier one of the men, climbed a tree to band some baby owls, called "owlets." I wonder if these were the infamous Great Horned Owls of Brooks School? Was it Jack Holt? 

Curiouser and curiouser...

I need to get into the woods more.
I heart owlets.
(owlet image source:

May 14, 2011

Bay Circuit Trail: Favorite Local Single-Track

 An open field with blooming trees
(Ward Reservation, Andover, Mass.)

After teaching this morning, I laced up, filled up my Nathan hydration pack and headed out along the Bay Circuit Trail to meet up with Dan and Bill who'd started (Leg #3) in Boxford earlier. 

I am fortunate to live within walking/running distance of the inviting white rectangular blazes so all I had to do was gear up and go.  As I headed out, I confirmed Dan and Bill's approximate location to estimate where I might intercept them running in my direction. I hoped to meet them at or after the Mary French Reservation so I could run the beautiful boardwalk twice. Success! I intercepted the duo in the Hammond Reservation and we headed back over the Mary French boardwalk. The memorial bench looked as though it had been recently restored. We admired it and were off like cat and mouse through the cat tails. Dan put away the map because their local guide was leading the way!
The field by my favorite home in Andover (Ward Reservation) 
The stretch of Conservation Commission trail that connects Grey and Tucker Roads has some new board walk over the muddier areas. Then into Ward.  I feel so great when I run in Ward Reservation. This Trustees of the Reservation land is my main "stomping" ground. I don't actually "stomp;" my gait is more of a scooting and skipping combination.

Stomping in Hokas must be next to impossible;
they are light and poofy like cumulus clouds.
Gator-Bait Gaiters hug Hoka Bondi Bs 

After Ward, our trio trekked through the Phillips Academy playing fields and down Phillips Street before ducking into the Purdon Reservation.  Bill parked at the Lupine Trail head, which is less than a mile from Purdon. In a jiffy we were off to chit chat with Al French and Burt Batchelder at Moor & Mountain! What great local resources—these men  and the outdoor gear!

Dan and Bill logged about 17.5 miles, estimating re-routed trail (due to avoid beaver-flooding) added the extra 3-4 miles difference from the BCT written route map. With my out (to meet them) and back (to Bill's car at Lupine) I logged 9.5 miles, feeling fine.  

Great Company!!! I am eager accompany Dan, et al., along the next leg. Section #4 shares trails through a handful of my  favorite A.V.I.S. Reservations: Indian Ridge and West Parish.

A talented photographer, Jordan Yaruss, captured how much I love running long boardwalks, especially the newly patched one through ATC's  Mary French Reservation.  
Summer, 2009