Meandering in Medfield

The upper portion of the Charles River is so different from the river that flows into the heart of Boston. Begin at the Broadmoor Sanctuary (mostly in Dover) and drive toward Sherborn. Along the way you will find a quiet stretch of river with several wetland areas.

A few years ago one of my more athletic friends and I climbed over 4.5 miles of wooded trails in the Shattuck Reservation in Medfield before reaching the rocky peak of Noon Hill (370′) where we looked out at an expansive view of hills and the towns of Norfolk and Walpole. From this vantage, the hill slopes down to the Charles River.

A month later we took another moderate hiking trail to King Philip’s Outlook and had an expansive view of the marshes of Medfield traversed by the Charles River and a view of the Medfield State Forest. During the two-year King Philip’s War described in my book Exploring the Charles River (in the chapter “Natick Historic Site”), the small settlement of Medfield was frequently attacked by Native Americans who were seeking to remove the English “intruders” from their land.

Then on a clear day last fall, another friend and I had an hour to hike around the Medfield State Forest with its gold-leafed foliage. For easy access to the the trail, we drove along Hospital Road, arriving at the site of the former Medfield State Hospital where many of the red brick buildings are still standing, and we parked on a small rise of land that afforded a view of the Charles River reflecting a deep blue October sky. Having only an hour to walk, we began an easy one-hour walk encountering many others on the trail with their dogs. The Charles River could be seen through the trees at different points, and a small wooden bridge took us over a wetland area.

One of the signs at the beginning of the trail indicated that we were on a section of the Bay Circuit Trail, a 180-mile green corridor that mostly includes conservation land, encircling the greater Boston area through 32 communities from Plum Island on the North to Kingston Bay on the Duxbury-Kingston line. An eleven-mile stretch of this trail passes through the Shattuck Reservation along the Charles River and then reconnects to paths in the Noon Hill Reservation. The Bay Circuit Trail similar in concept to Boston’s Emerald Necklace was created in the late 1800s by Boston landscape architects Frederick L. Olmstead who had created the Necklace, his protégé Charles Eliot, and conservationist Benton MacKaye who later established the Appalachian Trail.

In 2011 in Medfield, a local group of volunteers worked with members of the Trustees of Reservation and the Bay Circuit Alliance, clearing logging trails that had previously “dead-ended,” with one portion going through wetlands that became almost impassable during spring flooding. The group constructed boardwalks along these sections of the trail.

In the months ahead as the weather improves, we will hike around Rocky Woods and the Fork Factory Brook, then through the 150-acre Sherborn town forest to reach the Rocky Narrows Outlook where we can view a narrow passage of the Charles River. This site is also impressive from inside a canoe or kayak or walking along the one-mile long path from the canoe launch. The Broadmoor Sanctuary offers group canoeing trips through this dramatic corridor.

*“Trail Remix.” Boston Globe. June 19, 2011. Pp. 1-6.

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