Northeast Fells adventures!

This was a first test of a route in the Middlesex Fells, with the idea of perhaps leading for a Friends of the Fells group outing sometime.  It was inspired by a shorter hike scheduled for the Virginia Wood area by the Friends, which was wait-listed by the time I thought to sign up.  So I figured that I'd just incorporate going through that, as part of researching up some longer and more vigorous routes for any Friends and associates who might want a more challenging hike sometime.  The Virginia Wood area has a lot of rich history, but is only a small piece of the overall park.

I started at the parking lot by the playground across from the Stone Zoo, which seems to have plenty of space most of the time.  As I do with all my hikes, I recorded the GPS track and even made some annotations about missing intersection numbers and points of interest.

Northeast Fells adventure route, test 1
GPS route of "northeast adventure loop"

I deliberately picked several good hill-climbs as part of it, including Whip Hill, the Pipeline, and parts of Rock Circuit including a look down the Cascade and the great eastern view from Melrose Rock.  Wamoset Hill could be an optional piece at the end depending on how people felt by then -- it's *steep* up the east side!  Then it's a straight shot from there back to the playground.  A little over 5 miles, maybe less by skipping that part out onto the spit of land sticking into the reservoir, which I'm not sure is quite legit to be on although that *is* a lovely spot.  The route also delivers over 900 feet of elevation gain/loss!  It could be made considerably longer by looping south of the reservoir and picking up more of Cross Fells, Rock Circuit, or whatever.

The terrain, including that underfoot, is highly variable, and there is various fun stuff to look at in passing including some of the historical structures in Virginia Wood.  The road crossings at Pond St can be a bit of a Frogger death-trap, but a hike leader can get everyone to bunch up and then cross together on a good break in traffic; I would probably bring my blaze-orange hunting-season vest to look semi-official and encourage oncoming traffic to stop and wait for us to clear. The intent is not to be one of the "easy family-friendly" type of outings, I imagine, so people would have to know what effort level they'd be getting into.  That's the "adventure" aspect!

      --   UPDATED since this was originally written   --

I sent the gist of this including the track image to the Friends on 1-Aug 2023, and it was well-received.  Subsequently, I've designed and pre-walked more routes in different areas of the park, and the Friends folks seemed thrilled that someone was doing this and aiming for the longer and more challenging type.  The Friends are always looking for more volunteer leaders; I can certainly help out in that area as time permits.  I already participate in weekly Friends of Harold Parker outings, leading them about half the time, which is less of a workout and more like a social gathering.

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