WHO: Globe deputy managing editor/features Doug Most and family
WHAT: Exploring the outdoors
WHERE: Cutler Park, Needham and Dedham
When we left our city condo for a suburban house, we also left behind one of the great walks in all of Boston. We lived a short walk from the
1-mile loop around Jamaica Pond, a place where joggers do their thing, where fishing rods are cast, where rowboats can be rented, where parents push strollers to escape the madness of home confinement, and where small kids — with ear-to-ear smiles — on bikes or scooters (even though it’s frowned upon) snake their way through the crowded path. It’s sort of hard to beat as far as urban walks go.
Now that we’ve embraced the suburbs, we’ve come to appreciate our Jamaica Pond replacement — Cutler Park, a swath of 700 acres on the Charles River in a Needham-Dedham marsh. And sitting five minutes off of Interstate 95 (and about 100 yards from where a new 95 ramp is planned), it’s not only easily accessible from Newton, Dedham, Needham, Brookline, and Dover, but from all over.
Last weekend, after the snow from previous storms had melted and before the snow from the latest one arrived, we took advantage of a sunny, brisk afternoon and headed out with hats and gloves. If you park in the lot on Kendrick Street, the loop around Kendrick Pond is almost exactly 1.5 miles. It’s a longer walk than Jamaica Pond, but in a lot of ways more enjoyable.
Skimming rocks, walking sticks, downed trees perfect for jumping on, it’s a bounty of natural goodness. And for the adventurous, instead of doing the short loop, you can really head deep into the woods and follow the Blue Heron Trail, which winds across a long footbridge and eventually comes to a tunnel beneath the commuter rail tracks. Just a note, that walk is 2.5 miles out (or 5 miles roundtrip) so be sure and bring water and a snack.
Starting out from Kendrick Street, you’ll quickly notice it’s not entirely quiet on the path. The rumble of 95 is close by. But there are no bikes or strollers because it’s a dirt path and somewhat rocky. You’ll see joggers, walkers, and dogs, but for most of the walk expect solitude. Walk the loop counterclockwise, which will save the prettiest stretch for the second half.
The first few hundred yards are on pebbles behind a brick office building, before the path veers left and goes off into the woods. To the right you’ll see occasional narrow paths that go up a steep hill, an invitation to any kid who loves to climb. Staying on the path, you’ll pass an abandoned brick shack and then you’ll come to a path on the left that goes out to the water. A bench at the end is a perfect resting spot.
As you come to the top of the loop, veer left and continue looping back. You’ll see where you can go off to the right. That’s the trail that heads toward the footbridge.
The loop back is my favorite stretch. The canopy of trees and the soft dirt trail covered in leaves are postcard pretty. You’ll come to another turn off, to the right. Walk out toward the water and just skim rocks until your arms get tired. The homestretch of the walk will take you right alongside the Charles River, and there’s a great big concrete block to hop up on and splash more rocks into the water.
Depending on your pace, your stops, and whether you take the blue trail farther out, the walk might take you half an hour, an hour, or more. The only guarantee is that when you get back to your car, your blood pressure will be lower.