Saturday, April 29, 2006

Cutler Park - The Dodgy End 

After work yesterday I decided to drive to the Dedham entrance to Cutler Park and explore the side across the tracks. So far I'd always parked at the Needham Entrance and had ventured only as far as the small tunnel under the tracks.

This place gives meaning to "the wrong side of the tracks." First, there are only parking places for a few cars, but it's well-marked. According to the map, I had a choice of going straight in and heading toward the carriage path alongside the railroad, or taking a right and checking out another little island. After walking a bit I realized I had missed the path to the right, so I continued in. This was just after I passed the first fire pit and party remnants. I found another well-tended boardwalk, with the marsh grass trimmed back on each side. Apparently that was so the snakes could get more sun, judging by the one I startled away. The boardwalk paralleled Rt. 128, but although the traffic was in plain sight, the sound was muffled somewhat, sort of like I was in some sort of semi-shielded alternate universe. I was able to hear the helicopter overhead quite well, though. Reminded me of living in LA.

The boardwalk emptied into a wooded area, which was quite-nice, if short-lived. Soon I came to a clearing which revealed a BMX type sandy track area, with jumps, hills and turns made of sand piled over old car tires. More fire pits and empty cans. A few more trees, a few of the blue heron markers that indicate the trail, some of which had been torn in half, and the wooded area ended at the "carriage path" that runs along the bottom of the hill upon which the train runs. As I walked this path, I felt like I was in the Boston area version of New Jersey's Meadowlands, and perhaps I might run into Whitey Bolger meeting some of his associates. I'm walking on this littered, rocky abandoned access road with marsh grass towering on one side, huge power lines and the train tracks on the other, snakes here and there, abandoned shopping carts and even a rusting boat trailer, and not a person anywhere. The Needham side of the park is well-traveled and well-tended, with Friends of Cutler Park who keep the trails clean and well-marked, with walkers, runners, kids, dogs, mountain bikers, everyone enjoying some fresh air. This side had no people, little to no indicators that this was an active part of a park system, graffiti on the rocks and plank bridges (not the boardwalk - that was nice) that were rotting and broken.

When the carriage path dead-ended at the river I could see a few people on the other side in Millenium Park, another lovely scenic vista. Then I turned around and hustled my ass back through the newspapers and shopping carts and back to my car. As I passed the little rock entrance building (long-abandoned, of course), I finally saw the markers indicating the other trail. Well, the markers were there, but the trail apparently hasn't been freed from the vegetation.

Back out at the road I took another look at the park map, and noticed that while it does show the trails that I had taken, it emphasized the Upper Charles River Loop, which basically skirts around the edge of this side of the park, then takes you into the Needham side for further exploration. Now I know why. There was also a little sign stating that this was a newly marked trail, and they welcomed comments. Hmm.

Click on the boat trailer or the map to see the whole set and commentary.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 8:55 AM