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HITTING THE CIRCUIT: HOW TO HIKE THE HARDCORE MIDDLESEX FELLS ROCK TRAIL

PHOTOS BY MARC HURWITZ

 

It’s no secret that the Better Boston space has every kind of mountain climbing choices from straightforward walks that sofa potatoes can do to tough climbs that can check even probably the most seasoned hikers. And people who take their mountain climbing severely typically search for “coaching” hikes within the area that can be utilized to organize them for the real-deal stuff a couple of hours to the north, resembling within the White Mountains of New Hampshire or Vermont’s Inexperienced Mountains.

 

I explored a kind of coaching hikes final 12 months—the very difficult Skyline Path within the Blue Hills simply south of the town. Now, it’s time to take a look at one other one simply north of Boston within the Middlesex Fells.

 

Whereas the Fells has its personal Skyline Path within the huge western a part of the reservation, I’m extra within the shorter Rock Circuit Path within the smaller japanese a part of the Fells. The Skyline Path within the Fells actually isn’t that robust, however the Rock Circuit positive is, a lot in order that in case you’re a newbie hiker, the perfect plan is to coach for the Rock Circuit, which is able to in flip enable you prepare for the actual mountains up north.

 

The Rock Circuit’s a loop (therefore the “circuit” a part of its title) that runs a scant 4 miles in size versus the seven miles that the Skyline runs. Not like the Skyline, nevertheless, you gained’t discover many lengthy stretches of comparatively stage floor right here, and as you may additionally collect from its title, the trail is extraordinarily rocky, testing knees and ankles alike.

 

There are two in style beginning factors for the Rock Circuit, with one ranging from the Flynn Rink in Medford by the western a part of the path (and the car parking zone right here is certainly open to hikers), however for the good thing about individuals with out wheels, we’ll concentrate on ranging from the east, which is surprisingly near the Oak Grove T cease on the Orange Line in Malden and which additionally has loads of free avenue parking on weekends. Leaving the station on the Washington Avenue aspect, strolling two blocks north, and turning left on Glen Rock Avenue for an additional two blocks to a proper on Elliot Avenue will get you to the trailhead, which is simply after the final home on the left.

 

 

The path that begins from Elliot Avenue may be very brief however fairly brutal, getting your coronary heart beating proper off the bat because it climbs steeply into the Fells. This isn’t really the Rock Circuit path, however by taking a proper on the finish, then quickly taking a left on the blue-blazed Cross Fells Path, you’ll end up assembly up with the white-blazed Rock Circuit path perhaps 15 minutes after first coming into the reservation. It doesn’t matter in case you take a left or a proper on the Rock Circuit (bear in mind, it’s a loop), however for the sake of attending to among the finest components immediately, take a proper and also you’ll nearly instantly begin climbing and dropping steeply alongside Black Rock, which has a number of viewpoints to the correct, together with an enormous open ledge on the northern fringe of the hill that has jaw-dropping views of Boston, Malden, Melrose, Stoneham, and past, together with Boston Harbor and a few hills off to the north. The Rock Circuit descends steeply as you allow Black Rock, quickly coming to the top of a stunning cascade that has a slim path that heads down simply earlier than it.

 

That is a particularly steep path and will be harmful when moist, however it’s value taking place it to see the waterfall entrance and middle—and in addition to look again up on the cone of Black Rock, which from this vantage level actually does seem like a mountain that’s above treeline.

 

Returning to the Rock Circuit (in case you went all the way down to see the cascade, that’s), proceed to observe the white blazes and a few extra relentless ups and downs till reaching Melrose Rock, which has an analogous table-like ledge to that of Black Rock and which additionally has spectacular (and barely completely different) views of civilization far beneath. As with Black Rock, care have to be taken right here as a result of the rock face mainly ends at some steep cliffs, so it’s finest to maintain a little bit of a distance from the sting.

 

Melrose Rock marks the final of the views for awhile, with the Rock Circuit persevering with to climb up and down rocky sections and eventually dropping all the way down to the busy Fellsway East, which you’ll cross after which begin a modest climb up and over some unnamed hills and ledges. This a part of the path kind of parallels the Excessive Fells Reservoir, a bucolic tree-ringed physique of water to the left that may be accessed close to the place the Rock Circuit Path finally meets up with the Wyoming Path and the Reservation Path.

 

This can be a extremely beneficial breaking level if you wish to get off the Rock Circuit for a bit and discover, as a collection of fascinating trails and hearth roads loop across the reservoir, and when you have a map and sense of route, there’s a peninsula that goes out into the water and is a superb place to have a picnic or snack break on any variety of rock faces overlooking the reservoir.

 

 

One of many “best” (and sure, take this time period loosely) components of the Rock Circuit Path is the pretty brief stretch from the reservoir to the Woodland Path intersection the place you’ll be able to take a proper and be on the Flynn Rink in 5 minutes, simply in case you want concessions or a toilet break. If not, properly, the simple stuff is completed and now you have to prepare for what they name a “leg blaster” of a hike, doing almost fixed ups and downs for mile or so, and with some restricted views right here and there.

 

Issues get fairly fascinating towards the latter a part of this stretch, as yet another regular climb will convey you to an historic website that’s mainly the inspiration of the long-gone MIT Observatory. This website, which dates again to the 1800s, consists of little greater than a stone basis and a bulletin board giving every kind of details about the observatory, and regardless that there are not any actual views right here, the sheer remoteness of the location and the truth that it’s so tough to seek out makes it a fairly particular spot that’s place for a break.

 

When you resolve to not take a breather right here, a break will certainly be warranted a couple of minutes later upon reaching Boojum Rock, a rugged outcropping with some super views of the Boston skyline. As soon as once more, views of Boston Harbor and the communities beneath will be had, and on a transparent day the Blue Hills to the south will be seen as properly.

 

The Rock Circuit Path will be very robust to observe from Boojum Rock, so it’s significantly essential to at all times be awaiting the white blazes on the timber and rocks from this level on. The path drops all the way down to the left by means of a slim notch from Boojum, then zigs and zags with some extra nice views straight forward and off to the correct. It quickly involves a significant intersection at which level it’s possible you’ll search for and say “No method,” as a seemingly unattainable climb awaits straight forward.

 

 

This steep scramble takes you to the highest of an unnamed hill with extra views far beneath, then the path begins a reasonably lengthy and regular drop till it reaches one other part of the Fellsway East highway which you’ll have to cross as soon as once more. From right here, the Rock Circuit banks to the correct and shortly reaches a steep and fairly menacing-looking rise referred to as Pinnacle Rock.

 

Even when your legs are rubbery at this level, it’s value getting yet another burst of power to climb as much as the highest, as its steep and slim cone affords what some contemplate the best views in the complete Fells, together with an open view of the Boston skyline that must be seen to be believed. From right here, it’s a fast however grueling scamper up and down extra rocks and boulders to the Cross Fells Path intersection the place you’re taking a proper and head again to Elliott Highway.

 

The Middlesex Fells has numerous trails and a few really nice locations to take a look at each on the east and west sides, however for a sheer “bang for the buck” expertise, the brief however oh-so-intense Rock Circuit Path is hard to beat. And very similar to the Skyline Path within the Blue Hills, it’s one that can get you in form shortly for the extra critical hikes far-off from Boston whereas on the identical time being solely being a couple of miles away from the town.

 

Maps for the Rock Circuit Path and the Middlesex Fells will be discovered at friendsofthefells.org.

MARC HURWITZ

MARC HURWITZ

MARC HURWITZ

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