Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Savin Hill to Southie to the North End

So on Monday I drove over to Malibu Beach in Savin Hill to start off there. I had dropped my bike off on E. 1st at Lee Playground in South Boston and then had to park on the opposite side from where I started. After a daring crossing of Morrissey Blvd, I headed up the road, stopping for water at the Savin Hill Yacht Club. I kept walking towards a small park that turned out to be a Vietnam Vets Memorial where a few people were cleaning up. And continued towards UMass-Boston where I knew there would be a trail. Turns out the trail is the beginning of what's known as the Harborwalk, a paved pathway that runs along the coast of Boston and which it seems I will be using for my urban portion of the trek. Or at least until I finish Deer Island (yuck). Anyway, I took the path around the campus, past the JFK Library and onto Old Harbor Park, a quaint stretch of coastline where there were tons of stones with information on them about the harbor area and the history of how it came to be how it is now. I continued on past sprawling Columbus Park and onto Carson Beach, a well-maintained and relatively clean spread of beach. Carson turns into the L and M Street Beaches but I avoided most of those as the Harborwalk continued around Pleasure Bay out to Head Island, a gorgeous walk that provides a great view of the city and the water, the latter because you're practically in it! The path from Head Island eventually reaches Castle Island, the home of a revolutionary fort that became a key American seizure towards better fighting the war. I didn't go inside but I remembered having gone there with my father when I was very young. After stopping for ice cream at Sullivan's, a delicious and wicked cheap hamburger joint at the entrance to Castle Island, I strolled down Day Blvd. past a huge shipping yard which I was definitely not allowed into and back to my bike. All in all, a gorgeous day, lots of beach, and a relatively easy walk.

Yesterday's trip though was not as fun. My feet had been a little sore from work and the walk itself was just kind of boring. Starting from Lee Playground in Southie again, I walked through what is known as the Economic Development Industrial Corporation. The Harborwalk actually continues along much of this area, but the numerous piers and docks and wharves got old quickly. After passing the FleetBoston Pavilion and making it around the stinky Fish Pier, I got to the World Trade Center. Some guys were working on a section of the wall there and had a truck full of tools and other construction sundries so I asked them for some duct tape to patch up my feet.
"Yah feet?" the guy asked in a thick accent. "How long ya been walkin'?"
"Not too far, I came from Southie," I replied. I then told him about my Coastal Plan. He chuckled a bit.
"You'll sober up quick." He was shitting on my parade but oddly enough it gave me a second wind to have someone not believe in me.
I continued on around the wharves, swung by the Aquarium and saw the sea lions who apparently swim upside down if you weren't aware. I was barred from an active construction site and even more obviously from the US Coast Guard Station but was pleased to get back to my bike at Langone Park, just adjacent to the Charlestown Bridge. My sort of boring day was improved by my buddy Tom who lives in the North End on Salem St and provided me with some red meat and episodes of Beavis and Butthead. The bike ride back was a strain on my legs as my tires were low on air but the urban riding was definitely a lot of fun. I felt like a messenger with my backpack and disregard for traffic lights.
So that was my two days in Boston. I still have to do Charlestown, Chelsea, and Eastie and then Winthrop/Deer Island but that's not for another two weeks. I'm going to Japan tomorrow (!!!) so posts will resume in June.

See you on the coast!

Monday, May 21, 2007


Before I get started, my girlfriend Carolyn e-mailed me a few pics from our day at Wollaston, so I'd like to share them here before I get on with the report.

Boston skyline view from Wollaston Beach, North Quincy, MA

View of Moon Island/Long Island from Wollaston

Me on a deteriorating pipeline.

So I missed yesterday's post on account of getting a late start. The rain was on and off for the morning, so I only got out around 3 once the sun was peeking out from behind the clouds. I got off 93 at Exit 13 in Dorchester to lock up my bike. The exit is called Freeport St. but is actually Victory Rd. Looking at Victory Rd. on Google Earth is impossible as the site is completely blurred out. A security guard was very quick to inform me that the entire road was off-limits (as I figured it would be). A Keyspan power plant with a large gas tank resides on that portion of the Neponset River so I locked my bike up down the other way then drove back to Moswetuset Hummock Park for the last time to leave my car there. I walked down Victory Rd. in Squantum, through some backyards of a development, and then onto the boardwalk at Marina Bay. Small and quiet with a few businesses, the boardwalk parking lot housed what looked to be like a big outdoor night club that never happened. Palm trees with their roots wrapped in plastic lay ten abreast across the entrance.

I walked the shore around Squantum Point, a few steps installed there with a faded circle of granite composing a map of the bay. I continued around and ended up walking behind an abandoned Boston Scientific building, apparently a hotspot for fishing at high tide (I have run in to quite a few fishermen since I started). I came out on Shea Blvd and continued down the road until I found an unposted trail leading to beneath the train tracks. I couldn't use that bridge as the Red Line and Commuter Rail were both actively running. I found a still unposted fence leading to a condominium complex construction site which I decided to cut across to get to the legal bridge. I was stopped by a plainclothes cop in a truck who took my information and I made sure to inform him that there were no posted signs where I came in. He let me go and I continued over the river.

On the other side, I found a bike path originating in Pope John Paul II Park and took that before quickly moving to the unpaved shore. As I walked the dirty shore, I began see little curls of metal all over the ground. I then realized that someone had dumped piles and piles of little coils of metal shavings all over. It was kind of shitty to see but I continued on. Running into a patch of wetlands, I diverted over some barbed wire and through an abandoned lot. The only contents of a backpack laying against a Jersey barrier were a sweet pair of Thinsulate gloves (ground score!), mildly damp. Fearing I might be trapped in, I thankfully found a piece of the fence that had been cut out and escaped through there. I walked through a Sea Ray yacht dealership checking out some of the boats and found another strip of fence with a part cut out. This time the purpose was more apparent as I walked by large three-foot-tall graffiti letters. I teetered behind buildings in the little notch before looping around to Tenean Beach Playground, a small patch of dirty sand with a jungle gym by the highway. I continued toward Victory Rd. along the rocky shore and found the rocks either extremely slippery or extremely steep. So I walked up the hill and walked behind the median on 93. I came down the Freeport St. off-ramp and right as I was salvaging ground score number two--a shitty porno DVD--a Jeep came hauling by with a stinky flat tire. I was about to help but then I saw another call pull up. I took a brief stroll around a park which I figured was a park from looking on GE, but isn't marked as one on GM. Check it:

Missing from Google Maps.

On Google Earth.

It's name is Victory Park and it was a nice end to my day even though my boots had been bothering me. I'm going to find out if there is some way I can submit corrections to Google Maps. Anyway, I rode my bike back treacherously on busy and narrow Morrissey Blvd, walked back over the bridge, and then returned home. After no more than three minutes of driving the rain came beating down on my car in heavy loads. I had just missed it.

I went to bed early and woke up at 4:15 for my first day of work which was pretty nifty. I had a walk today also but I guess I'll have to save that story for tomorrow as I need to pack my lunch and plot tomorrow's course.

See you on the coast!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Plan/First Day Out

Last summer, I had a goal of climbing the highpoints in all 50 states. This is still a goal for me as I just did my 8th last week, but after downloading Google Earth recently, a new goal came to my mind: walk the entire continuous U.S. coast of the Atlantic Ocean, Maine to Florida (or Texas if I decide to do the Gulf of Mexico as well). This is to be a huge undertaking that may take me a good portion of my life but being the young, stupid, and adventurous 20 year old that I am, I am thoroughly committed to it at this moment. While attending school in Ohio will certainly be a hindrance of sorts, vacations and the summer will be the best time. It is May 17th today, so I have a long summer ahead of me to do some part of this.

So in taking this on, I have established a few rules and guidelines to guide my journey and hopefully make things more interesting:

-If there is wetland, avoid it. Low tide doesn’t matter, ecology has taught me the value of preserving it and walking it on it would be a disturbance. Further more, high tide makes it unnavigable anyway so I will consider all wetlands the ocean.

-If there is a bridge, cross it. It’s built over x river for a reason: to get to the other side.

-If it’s not posted, it’s not trespassing. Unless someone asks me directly to not walk on their property, if it’s on the coast and there are no signs, I’m walking there.

-In the event that someone does ask me to not walk on their property, there are posted signs or fencing has gotten the best of me and I end up on the road, my rule of thumb is to simply keep the water in sight.

I may think of more as I continue my journey, but these should suffice for now.

Now, I am from Needham, Massachusetts, a small suburb of Boston that is infested with new families and quaint charm. It is a place I would much rather not be. Due west of here as the crow flies is North Quincy’s Wollaston Beach, a long stretch of sand along Quincy Shore Dr. riddled with broken shells that has seen some great improvements with cleanups in the last few years. Many considered it one of the nastier beaches in Boston for a long time. I walked a section of it with my girlfriend in March but I still need to do the rest. Because Needham is unfortunately my hometown and Wollaston is the closest ocean spot, I will consider this my homebase. But my father lives in Wareham, MA right on the ocean at Pinehurst Beach. So I kind of have two bases. Because of these parental bookends, my goal for this summer is to walk the South Shore and Cape Cod.

For my first real day though, I decided yesterday to take a northbound leisure walk around Squantum, an isolated knob of land in Dorchester Bay that is technically part of Quincy. Starting from Moswetuset Hummock, a small park that was once the home of the tribe where Massachusetts got its name, I walked around a large wetland into Squantum. The peninsula is entirely residential, so I did a lot of backyard-hopping. After getting around a large plot of wetland, I came upon a stretch of houses, each with docks or stone steps down to the water. Truly gorgeous Cape house architecture marked these homes, many of them empty. High eaves and big windows dominated.

After coming around the east side of Squantum, I began walking on to Moon Island, once a huge shellfishing community for Native Americans, now a training facility for the Boston Police and Fire Department. informed me that Moon Island and it’s brother Long Island were restricted from pedestrian traffic, but the entire coastline from Squantum was unmarked. When the shore ended and I got up to the road, there were posted No Trespassing signs but only in one small area by a 19th-century granite waste water treatment facility, so I ignored them and waited for a cop to tell me to leave. Walking slowly by a firing range where cops were actively training and having numerous vehicles pass by me, no one stopped me so I headed toward the Long Island Bridge. Unfortunately when I got there, there was a posted No Hiking sign. So I continued down into the Fire Department training area to finish my loop of the island. There was a windowless cement building that looked the victim of numerous fires and firemen in uniform and not were milling about. I walked along a stone wall behind some cars so I guess no one saw me but I imagine I was not supposed to be there. I continued along the rocky path beneath Moon Island Rd. back towards Squantum. I came upon Squaw Rock on the northern tip, a haven for fishermen in the area to get some good ocean catches. No one had caught anything when I asked, but the scenery was nice and a rope to pull myself up and around the fence was much needed. I walked a trail back towards town which brought me to Nickerson Beach, a small town beach which didn’t seem to get much use. I walked back to Moswetuset Hummock to get lunch and would’ve continued but a huge thunderhead threatening the sky kept me in my car (I had to get my oil changed anyway).

Squantum was a good first day out, especially considering the nice loop it provided, but I finally solved my problem of getting from point to point: my bicycle. I now plan to lock my bicycle at my intended endpoint and then ride it back to my startpoint. This should make things a hell of a lot easier. Oh, and I also hope to get a camera soon so I can post pictures of the places I go, the things I see, and maybe even the people I meet.

For next time: finish up Squantum and hopefully make it to Savin Hill (or as my friends and I know it, Stab ‘n’ Kill).

See you on the coast.