Monday, August 18, 2014

Trip to Truro

I grew up on the coast, and I'm accustomed to many US beaches, particularly in the south. Recently I found the most dramatic beaches may be those of the outer cape along Wellfleet and Truro.

The outer cape is an easy place to get to from Boston with the ferry (Boston Harbor Cruises & Baystate Cruise Company), especially since it is easy to carry bikes on board, even cargo bikes fit easily. The corners getting on the ferry and through the ferry cabin are tight and require some rear wheel lifting, and the gangway in P'Town is on the narrow side. I've heard that a loaded Longtail will fit, but I'm not sure about a Workcycles Bakfiets. All in all very doable and easier than getting a cargo bike on & off the Downeaster.

Of course once in P'Town there are many activities and places to stay. We visited many times before but can be a bit crazy, and we were looking for something more relaxing. So, we headed south to the sleepy town of Truro. The ride along Shore Road is nice with views of Massachusetts Bay with numerous vacation cottages along beach line. It is flat and a little windy.

But once Shore Road leaves the shore it becomes very hilly and remains so through Truro and into Wellfleet. When riding an overloaded cargo bike (or with a kid and a full basket) the ride becomes more work and less fun. There are no mountains on the Cape, but don't let the hills on the outer Cape fool you, they are steep and relentless when it comes to casual touring. I haven't found a flatter route, which is frustrating since there once was a railroad to P'Town, much of which is now a rail trail. But that flat route across Truro was dissected by homes.

Worse than the hills was US 6, a four-lane highway that provides the only link through Truro. This is a one mile section along US 6 from Shore Road to Castle Road, with no parallel route. Despite the generous shoulder, this one mile of cycling with uncomfortably fast traffic sucks all of the enjoyment out of the bicycle ride. We won't cycle to Truro again until we find an alternate route, but many families are less daunted by fast traffic.

An ocean side alternate might exist using the Old Kings Highway, which may be less hilly but mostly unpaved. An exploratory trip is in order. Some good friends tried a similar route with mixed results.

And then we arrived at the Truro hostel and all was good in the world again. The hostel is an old life saving station, precursor to the Coast Guard where men were stationed to rescue shipwrecked crew and passengers. It is at the end of North Pamet Road, within sight of the beach. And a nice beach it is.

It was June and the water was very cold, but we enjoyed building sand castles, flying kites, watching the seals swim in the surf, walking along the beach and the nearby trails. Not to mention the book reading, and relaxing. Well, as much relaxation as can be had with a toddler running about.

The hostel, like most, is no frills and comfortable with a large sitting room and spacious dinning room/kitchen, with plenty of fridge space and cooking implements. We brought all of our food, but next time we would buy all of the heavy stuff, if not everything, at the upscale market at the corner of South Pamet and Truro Center Road (the premium is more than offset by not carrying as much).

The hostel is maybe 100 yards from the beach, and they have all of the beach stuff you could want, chairs, towels, blankets, umbrellas, buckets, shovels, etc. We would leave all that home next time too. The beach is a wonderful place to walk (in fact I walked my son out their both nights to lull him to sleep in the unfamiliar place). Along the beach I could easily imagine walking all the way back to P'Town. In addition to the beach, there are numerous inland trails, just on the other side of the dunes. These are mostly woodland, but often wind up to the top of grassy dunes (read small hills) with great views of the ocean, and sometimes back to the bay. I hear these trails parallel the beach much of the length of the cape.

All in all this was a great destination and trip. It will be perfect when I find an alternate to US6, so next time we'll stay in P'Town. It may not be soon, but we will go to Truro again. If you would like to hear a different perspective of a Cape Cod bike trip check out our friend's trip a couple years ago.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

ToddlerLand Found

I found ToddlerLand in greater Boston! It has everything a toddler needs to have a fun filled morning.

Of course we begin with a train ride.

Then we find a big field to run and romp, and the many dogs are fun too.

A brook to look at little fish and water bugs. However, toddlers probably shouldn't play in the brook since many dogs already do.

But do not fear when it is a hot day, there's a great splash pad at the top of the hill. And the playground has a sand box too.

Wooded paths, where we can play with sticks.

Trails with waterfalls.

And a pond with ducks, geese and frog statues to top it off.

Where might this be, but Beaver Brook in Belmont. It's just a hop, skip and a jump from Waverly. Which you can get to by train from North Station or by bus from Harvard Square.

The southern historic section is the most easily accessible from Waverly, and where you will find most of the fun toddler activities. Once out of the train or bus stop, walk northwest along Trapello Road. About 200yds you'll reach the playground on your right, a little further on your left up Mill Street is Duck Pond and nice wooded trails.

If you are looking for more trail walking go to further north to the Rock Meadow section that extends into Waltham. If you need still more trails to walk along, just keep walking along the Western Greenway, walk to Belmont Center, downtown Waltham, or all the way around back to Waverly. But I digress, this degree of walking is mosty for older kids.

First just take your toddler out on the wooded trails and paths. Find sticks to bang against rocks, fish & bugs to watch, and dogs to pet. That is fun enough.


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Camp Boston

Summer is almost here and thus camping season has begun. I grew up thinking of camping as either hiking on trails or car camping. But since moving to Boston I've learned that there is also bike camping, ferry camping and train camping. Though I haven't made the time to go on all of the camping trips I've wanted, I have found the time to compile a list of camping destinations near Boston.

Boston Harbor Islands (DCR & NPS)

The closest and most iconic Boston camping destination, and possibly even the easiest. There are three different islands you could camp on, ranging from old forts to secluded wilderness. Peddocks Island will soon be offering tent and yurt camping too. The islands are beautiful, with unique views of Boston, and often a lot of rabbits. For being so close to the city, they are also very remote, no water or electricity, and you can only get there by ferry, water taxi or private boat.

To go, pack light or pack in a rolling device and take the T to the Aquarium stop. The ferry dock is adjacent to the Christopher Columbus Park (not next to the aquarium). The ferry goes to George's Island (no camping) where you catch a second ferry to your particular island. You will need to be able to carry all your stuff in one trip to get on and off the ferries. Of particular note due to its remote nature, campers have to bring your own water, and carry of all of their trash.

Wompatuck (DCR)

Wompatuck State Park is on the South Shore and I don't know much about it, however it is large and I understand it has many good bike trails & roads. There is also the adjacent Weir River Farm and Whitney Thayer Woods, not to mention the nearby Worlds End Reservation; all are places I've been wanting to visit and haven't. It might be a great bike camp destination by taking the ferry from the Acquarium dock to Hingham and cycling the six miles to the campground, or take the train from South Station to Nantasket Junction for a four mile ride.

Ponkapoag Camp (AMC)

The AMC is well known for their White Mountain lodges and camps, but they are based in Boston and have a camp in our own backyard Blue Hills. It is very much geared to families. Reservations are focused towards week long stays, though I believe you can reserve a weekend. They have both tent areas and cabins. And for the parent that can't take the full week off, it is close enough to the city where you could still commute. It probably isn't best to cycle there, but a combination of the red line and Bus #240, and three mile walk on trails through the Blue Hills.

Camp Acton (Town of Acton)

Off of Acton's Pope Rd across from a few farms is a dirt road that ascends to a trail leading to a dozen distantly separated campsite in a small forest of large pine trees. This is a secluded place to legally camp that few know about. It is a great destination for bike camping, it is only 20 miles from the city, much of which is on the Minuteman Bikeway and the Reformatory Branch Trail. The trail is also wide enough to easily bring your loaded bike into the campsite. It is also right on the Bay Circuit Trail and one could easily walk with a pack the four miles from the Concord train station

Harold Parker State Forest (DCR)

On the border of Andover and North Reading is this large state forest with a campground. It has mostly wooded with many lakes and walking trails. It is also 20 miles from the city, however the route is on busier streets. It is also on the Bay Circuit Trail and can be reached by foot from either the Ballardvale or Andover train stations with a 6 mile walk.

Winter Island (City of Salem)

A city beach and campground on the northeast tip of Salem. I know next to nothing about this destination, though Salem is a fun city to visit, with many museums, a nice downtown and a set of bike paths that go to the nearby quaint village and New Englang sailing mecca, Marblehead. Winter Island is also 20 miles from the city, though the roads in this direction are particularly unfriendly to cyclists (at least while the Northern Strand is not yet complete). Taking the Salem Ferry LINK or the train to the Salem station would be a good alternative with or without a bike.

Of course, there are plenty more campgrounds nearby, and further a field on the Cape, in Maine, and further, including Salisbury Beach, shown above. The following map collects many, and hopefully more as I learn them.

View Bike Camping Nearby in a larger map