Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Shrinking Walden Pond

When I was little Walden Pond had a nice beach at the main entrance, a smaller beach at the side, and, depending on the year, a small strip of sand that you could walk on around the pond.

Then, about seven or so years ago, the water level rose to the outer brink of the pond and there was only a very small beach near the front entrance, no sand beach around the pond, and even parts of the walking trail were closed due to the high water levels.  The benches along the wall of the main beach were fully submerged and you could jump off the wall into the water.

That brings us to the past two or three years where the water level has continually gone done.  Starting about four or five years ago the water began retreating from the outer limits and is now getting very low.  When I went the other day there was a noticeable difference from even this fall's water levels.

Of course we're in a drought right now and I assume that accounts for a lot of the low water levels, but I decided to see what I could find about the low water levels and if the water levels have been this low in the past.

Walden Pond, which at 100 feet deep is the deepest pond in Massachusetts, is a kettle hole lake which was formed by retreating glaciers about 15,000 years ago.  The main sources of water to Walden Pond are ground water and precipitation on the surface.   Also, small amounts of water flow into the pond from the steep shoreline areas.  (https://pubs.usgs.gov/wri/wri014153/).  

It has been observed, including by Thoreau, that the water level does not correspond too much to precipitation, and this may be because the bottom of the pond is porous and therefore water levels are driven by water table levels, rather than by precipitation.  It has also been rumored that there is a hole in the bottom of Walden Pond that connects to a stream that runs underground from somewhere in the White Mountains.  (https://thecuriouspeople.wordpress.com/2014/10/30/the-hole-in-the-bottom-of-walden-pond-walden-129/).

In May a BU biology professor wrote a story about the low water levels for the Concord Tab and he wrote that the rising and falling water levels are not new to Walden Pond, and he features some Thoreau writings noting the same thing. (http://concord.wickedlocal.com/news/20160514/boston-university-professor-notes-low-water-at-walden-pond).

As a side note, but relating to the water, I once overheard two women talking about how the water at Walden Pond feels "softer" than normal water because of the pine needles that fall into it.  I can't find anything about whether that's true or not but the water is certainly nice.

Whatever the reasoning behind the low water levels, this spring seems like it will be prime time to get a record swim time across the pond!

Years ago you could do a shallow dive off of the rock steps.  The rock steps (there are maybe 15-20 around the pond and most are usually closed off for restoration purposes) were highly coveted since they provided some of the only access to the water.   
The cove part of the pond.  This part used to be great for swimming and looking at fish and there was a pile of rocks to the left of where I am standing where lots of fish always lived.  
During the high point a few years ago the water was up to the top of the bridge that the person is standing on to the right side of the picture.  On the other side of the bridge is a vernal pond where the frogs/tadpoles live but I don't know what they did this year since the pond was completely dry.   
You can see the water level markers in this picture from the current level on the left, to the brown stripe (grass and debris) in the middle, to the water's edge on the right. 
For many years you could only swim to this point. 

Maybe around 2009 or so the water levels were high enough that some kids were climbing out to the top of this tree and diving into the water.  Pretty reckless at that point too but impossible now. 
A few years ago the water was up to the roots you can see at the left of the picture.  Thoreau wrote that "This great rise of the pond after an interval of many years, and the water standing at a great height for a year or more, kills the shrubs and trees about its edge-pitch pines, birches, alders, aspens, etc.-and falling again, leaves an unobstructed shore."  (http://concord.wickedlocal.com/news/20160514/boston-university-professor-notes-low-water-at-walden-pond) 


Another example of the water levels over time.  This part is basically directly across from the bathhouse and it used to be really shallow water with a murky bottom but has just been sand for the past few years. 






One of my favorite things about Walden Pond is that when you swim on a sunny day the light filters through the water perfectly.  (It's better in real life than in the picture.)
And the water is very clear.  You can see clearly for about 15 feet and there is still visibility beyond that. 

The coolest animal I've seen at Walden Pond (from 2014).  We saw this turtle multiple times throughout the summer as it always rested in the same spot.  I also once saw an enormous (3-4 foot) fish swimming slowly along about two feet from the shore but I was running so I don't have a picture.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Soft Running Surfaces in/around Newton

Charles River Trail between Bridge St & Farewell St
I was recently asked if I know of any good soft running trails in Newton and figured others might have the same question.  Therefore, below is a short list of soft and well-groomed running trails in/around Newton.  Most of these are just sections along the Charles River Trail so you have to loop back and forth to get in a whole run, but they can be good for recovery runs or for doing workout repetitions. 

Charles River trail between Bridge Street and Farwell Street.  This is about 1200 meters, almost completely flat minus some slight inclines on both sides. 

Charles River trail in Watertown. I'm not sure exactly how far the dirt part of the trail is here, but it's probably about 1200 and there is also about a 500 meter loop.  The start is Charles River Road, just past where it intersects with Galen Street.  It just opened this summer and is part of the new Braille Trail for the Perkins School (http://watertown.wickedlocal.com/news/20160721/braille-trail-officially-open-at-watertown-riverfront-park). 

Charles River trail in Auburndale.  Again, not too sure of actual length, but I think the dirt part is again roughly 1200. This is an older dirt trail than the other two, so not in as great of shape, but still better than Cold Spring's surface and might be closer to your house.  You can start either from Lyons Field/ the trailhead off of Islington Road or from the Cove Park. 
Battle Road Trail

BC Reservoir.  1.5 miles around, completely flat. 

Brookline Reservoir.  1500 meters around, completely flat.  You can also run to Jamaica Pond from here if you're doing a longer run.  Good for workouts. 

Battle Road Trail, starting in either Lexington or Concord.  This trail is part of the Minuteman National Historical Park and if you stick to just the one trail section you can get in about a 10 mile out and back run and if you go past the end of the trail you can add one more mileage by connecting to other parts of the park or other trail networks through Concord. The trail is well groomed, a bit hilly at times, and full of historical houses to look at while running. There are even bathrooms and (in the warmer months) water fountains!

Upper Falls Greenway, near Needham Street.  This trail is a little over a mile of crushed gravel.  You can also connect to other parts of the Charles River Trail too and it is not too far from Cutler Park.  (http://www.upperfallsgreenway.org)

Cutler Park in Needham.  This trail goes around a pond and also past the Charles River.  It's a bit less than 2 miles around and is mostly a good smooth surface.  If you're feeling adventurous and want to run on some single track trail, there are miles and miles of extensions that you can add on. 

Cold Spring Park and connecting trails.  Cold Spring Park in Newton has a main trail that is 1.5 miles around and there are also connecting aqueduct trails that eventually go out to Needham.  The surface at Cold Spring is not nearly as nice as the above trails so be careful of roots, rocks, and holes. 

Wellesley Crosstown Trail.  You can park at the Wellesley Recreation Department building, which is located on Washington Street, shortly after the Newton/Wellesley line.  From there, you can get onto the crosstown trail, which will bring you through the town, past Marathon Sports and Quebrada Bread, then around the 2 mile mark past the high school, then will bring you to a road around 3.75 miles at which you can either run to the pond/trails at Wellesley College, the trail network at Elm Brook Park, or you can be really adventurous and follow the trail through Wellesley Center, across Washington Street, and onto the next part of the trail.  From here you will end up at Rt. 9 at approximately 6 miles.  From there you can turn left and then left onto one of the first side streets and you will eventually end up on another trail network.  I've done a fair share of long runs here,mainly in high school, so I know the trails and connecting trails well, but I would advise looking at a map before heading out if you plan to do over 12 miles and haven't run here before. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

A road race and another Fall trip to North Conway

Since my last update I ran in the Tufts 10k and went back up to North Conway for another Fall adventure.  I only "ran in" -- and not "raced in" -- the Tufts 10k since I had gotten sick and didn't really run for about a week, so the race was the first time that I was feeling back to normal.  I ended up averaging 6:16 pace, and progressed my mile splits throughout the race since I found that although I had felt terrible running in the days leading up to the race, I felt better than I had expected once I started and since then have been building back into good training.  This was my first race ever in downtown Boston and it was really cool to run on the closed roads! 




Warming up before the race.  It was a warm, sunny, and windy day. 


On the way down Iron Mountain

Heading down Hurricane Mountain

At the start of the hike up Iron Mountain there is a farm and big clearing and the views were spectacular.



I got a leaf peeping guide at the New Hampshire welcome center, which provided lots of helpful information. 

The leaves progressively began to change as we drove up north. 

At the top of Hurricane Mountain there was an old fire tower that we could go in.  Back in the day people would like up here and watch for fires down below. 

There were windows around the whole fire tower and it provided a warm nice spot to take in the scenery. 

All throughout the hikes there were many brightly colored leaves on the ground and on the trees. 


Lucas found a giant boulder near the trail on Hurricane Mountain that had somehow split in half. 

At one of the outlooks on Iron Mountain.

At the summit of Iron Mountain.  The wood in the background is from an old fire tower.  The summit of the hike was just the beginning since we hiked over the top and down to the old mining site where there was an old mining tunnel that we went into. 

Just one of many leaves. 

Near the mining tunnel there was a pile of rocks. 

Walking out of the tunnel. 

The tunnel.  It was a bit hard to find since it's a bit off the trail and Iron Mountain doesn't seem to be too popular of a hike, but it was fun to explore. 






We found a really nice outlook on Iron Mountain to eat lunch at. 

Survey marker at the top of Iron Mountain. 

About halfway down Iron Mountain there were a lot of nice birch trees, including this one.  

The fall foliage from the start of the Iron Mountain hike. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

A fall trip to North Conway

Last weekend we visited my brother in North Conway and got to hike a mountain, slide down a mountain, go apple picking and generally enjoy New Hampshire in the fall.

Riding the lift to the Attitash slide.

Sliding down the mountain was a lot of fun.


Crossing the train tracks before beginning the hike up Mount Willard.

The view from the top of Mount Willard





There were some games near the bottom as part of the Appalachian Trail Club

We went apple picking at Hatch Orchards.  This was a small orchard owned and operated by an elderly couple.  It was mentioned in an old blog post that I found online and otherwise not advertised but then it was the feature story the next week in the local newspaper!