Done by Wompatuck

It would be great to say “I did Wompatuck yesterday,” but that would not be completely accurate.

I rode at Wompatuck, one of the state’s largest parks, in Hingham, but I’m not swaggering. I did not conquer Wompatuck. After nearly 2.5 hours on its trails and in its streams, I can only say I’ve tasted it — and it’s gooooood!

There’s a lot to like about mountain biking at this 3,500-acre park, from a variety of trails to its overall size. Even at the height of summer, I can’t imagine this place being too crowded to be hospitable to bikers. Yesterday, when it was cloudy and cool, I felt almost like I had the place to myself, spinning for long stretches without seeing another person.

As I am not an expert on this place, I will not try to describe it in detail, but will say the areas I visited offered a wide variety of rideable surfaces. There are old paved roads, fire roads, and singletrack. Part of the place was a WW2 military facility, and it’s not hard to find graffitti-covered shells of buildings here and there. Of course I’m not the first to ride here, as NEMBA apparently offers Monday night races part of the year.

former munitions factories dot the landscape

Key to my enjoyment of Wompatuck is the trail markings and maps. The map kiosk at the parking lot actually had paper copies to take, and trails were — mostly — well-marked, allowing me to figure out where I was going… mostly (but as I always say, what’s the fun of mountain biking if you can’t get lost in the far reaches of an unfamiliar place at dusk?). Of course I started by running straight into the “Closed area” on the map — a blank corner where the munitions factories were. Then, unknowingly, I left that area and entered the adjacent Trustees of Reservations’ Whitney Woods. Of course I didn’t have a map for that — nor was I aware that I’d left Wompatuck until I found a small parking area and a map kiosk describing the area.

The diversion did allow me a lovely ride on the Mabel Minnott Milliken trail, which follows Brass Kettle Brook where Wompatuck meets Whitney Woods. It’s a rare patch of rhododendrons and unusual rock formations sprinkled with bridges and benches that invite visitors to set a spell.

Thayer Woods' Milliken Trail is a good place for a picnic

But when I returned to Wompatuck, my quest to see a significant amount of the park before 5pm was stymied by a disconnect between the handy map and my brain. First, I successfully found a trail that was completely underwater. Without aids to navigation (those red and green buoys that guide boaters) I was able to follow the trail to a bubbling brook crossing, then successfully forded it by carrying my bike as I slipped across a submerged mossy stone wall. After that, I got stuck in a series of winding, difficult to discern trails along the Aaron River Reservoir. There was supposedly one connecting trail that would allow me to access the rest of the park, but of course I couldn’t find it. So, I had to exit the area by re-crossing the brook and carrying my bike back up a steep ridge.

At that point, I was forced to cross the park expeditiously rather than spend the waning daylight hours exploring more trails. It was frustrating, but only because I knew there was so much more to see. I had a great ride.

I’m not sure when I’ll get back to Wompatuck, but I will. Maybe I’ll hire a guide next time.

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