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Walk 1 - Cat Rock and 80 Acres
From "Walks on Weston Conservation Land: A Guide"
By Elmer E. Jones
Weston Forest and Trail Press
Copyright 1999 by Elmer E. Jones. All rights reserved.
Cat Rock and the adjacent 80 Acres Conservation Land have a total area of about 130 acres.
Cat Rock consists of 64.4 acres. The summit of Cat Rock is 334 feet above sea level and is lower than several other sites to the south. Doublet Hill's west summit is slightly higher than 360 feet and the marker on the east summit reads 356 feet. The site of the Revolutionary War Beacon on Sanderson Hill along Highland Street lies about 350 feet, and the Mt. Lemuel in the Pine Street Town Forest has a marker reading 356 feet. The ridge of Cat Rock runs roughly in the direction of flow of the glacier during the last glaciation which ended about ten thousand years ago. The glacial striations indicate that the glacier flowed southeast over our area.
The Cat Rock Area was purchased from the Trustees of the Cat Rock Trust by the Town of Weston in 1957. The Recreation Commission maintains the baseball field at the end of Drabbington Way. From 1957 through 1978, the Recreation Commission maintained a rope ski tow on Cat Rock. Lack of reliable snow during the winter and the cost of converting the crude rope tow to a system meeting present safety standards were among the reasons for closing the ski slope. William Martin Jr. wrote an article "Skiing at Cat Rock: Yesterday and Today", The Weston Historical Society Bulletin, XXVIII, 14, Spring 1997, which describes some recent activity at Cat Rock.
80 Acres was the name given to the area north of Cat Rock by Frederic C. Dumaine, Jr. and Albert B. Hunt when they purchased this land. This land was first farmed by Abraham Sanderson who built the house at 178 Lexington Street in 1761. About 1830, the farm and homestead became the property of John Warren Cutting. Sometime after Mr. Cutting's death, the estate was sold to Sidney E. Tyler. In the late 1800's, the Tyler farm was noted for sweet corn which was exported to the Boston market. Herbert E. Tyler, Sidney's son, continued the farm and served Weston as a Selectman for 36 years from 1912 to 1948. His portrait is displayed on your left as you enter the Town Hall. In 1953, the farm was sold to Frederic C. Dumaine, Jr. and Albert B. Hunt. The two hundred year old farm house was rebuilt, a wet meadow was dammed to form Hobbs Pond, and the area was used as a wildlife sanctuary. During the mid-1970's, they deeded much of the land to the Town.
Hobbs Brook runs through these areas dropping from 135 feet at the Waltham/Weston border to 95 feet at North Avenue. It connects the Cambridge Reservoir with the Stony Brook Reservoir. The flow of Hobbs Brook between the reservoirs is controlled by the Cambridge Water Department. These reservoirs supply water to Cambridge and were made by excavating and damming portions of the Hobbs and Stony Brook drainages during the 1890's. Hobbs Brook takes its present name from Ebenzer Hobbs. In 1750, he built a tannery at the corner of North Avenue and Church Street. Thus, this road junction was known as Hobbs Corner. From about 1750 through 1860, the Hobbs family ran a tannery using Hobbs Brook as its water supply. During the winter months, many of local farmers made shoes from the tannery leather.
PARKING: (See map)
There are three convenient parking spots.
RECOMMENDED WALK: (3 miles, see map)
Starting from the Cat Rock Ball Field Parking Lot, follow the path to the right of the ball field fence to the fire road. Turn right on this road and cross the bridge over Hobbs Brook. During May, one should scan the trees along the brook for migrating warblers. Along the brook in May, one may find flowers belonging to the lily family - bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata), Solomon's seal (Polygonatum sp.), and wild spikenard or false Solomon's seal (Smilacina racemosa). During spring and summer, cinnamon fern (Osumunda cinnamonea), interrupted fern (Osumunda claytoniana), royal fern (Osmunda regalis), and other ferns may be found along the brook. Just beyond the bridge, turn to your right off the fire road following a path through moist woodland to the edge of an overgrown dry meadow. You may either turn to your right making a loop along a path which returns to this spot or turn to the left following an old farm road. During May, this is a good birding area. Many warblers may be present including the blue-winged warbler.
Leaving the overgrown dry meadow along the old farm road, one soon encounters the fire road again. To your right, there is an old swimming pool built by the White family. Their estate occupied the land now belonging to the Cambridge School.
Turn right on the fire road and continue east towards Lexington Street. About 50 feet before the gate on Lexington Street, there is a path leaving the fire road on the left just before a large red oak. Follow this path across an overgrown meadow and pass through a stone wall. This path ends at a large glacial erratic where it meets an east-west path. A glacial erratic is a boulder transported by a glacier and then dropped when the glacier melted. There are several smaller erratics here. The path leading to your right goes over a bedrock outcrop before reaching Lexington Street and Georgian Road. To our north, there is a swamp that is a good place to look for ducks and marsh birds. During the summer, a green-backed heron may often be found.
Bear left from the glacial erratic. The path soon turns to the left and passes through a stone wall. Immediately turn right and follow along a stone wall to a wall corner where the path passes through the wall. The path bears right for about 20 feet and then turns left (west). In about 50 feet, the path ends on a fire road. The fire road ends at a dam. This dam was built in 1957 and rebuilt in 1994. During the spring, Canada geese and ducks may nest on the small islands in this pond. Often goslings and ducklings can be observed either on the pond or on the adjacent meadow during late May or early June.
Cross Hobbs Brook on the bridge just below the dam. The path returns you to the top of the dam where it becomes a road. Follow the road keeping close to the south edge and then the west edge of the pond. In an open field the road ends on a second road coming from the end of Indian Hill Road. Turn right and follow the road to the edge of the meadow. At the sign, the road enters onto private land and one should respect the rights of the owners. At the meadow edge, you should pause to look over the pond. At the end of May, northern orioles can be seen building their nests in the trees. Young goslings can be present either on the island, the pond, or along the meadow. Shorebirds may often be seen along the edge of the pond. Eastern painted turtles are visible in late spring on warm and sunny days. Occasionally, one may see a snapping turtle.
At the edge of the meadow, turn left and head north on a path which leads to a stone wall. Upon reaching the stone wall, avoid the path going straight ahead, it goes to a site where GTE maintained a radar dish for many years. Take the path going to the left along the edge of the meadow. It soon passes through the wall to the right. The path passes along the base of a large bedrock outcrop. Avoid the path on your left which goes to the top of the outcrop and continue straight ahead to another stone wall which marks the Waltham/Weston border. Avoid the path to the right which goes to the former GTE radar site. Go to your left along the top of the outcrop, then the path drops down to your right passing through a wooded area before reaching an open meadow. Passing through this wooded area one may see great horned owls and deer in the early morning or at dusk.
Upon reaching the open meadow, turn to your left. If you turn to the right, the path soon reaches GTE land in Waltham and eventually reaches the end of Kings Grant Road.
The path soon crosses the road from the end of Indian Hill Road. Continue straight south along the path which follows the meadow edge. Northern mockingbirds, brown thrashers, gray catbirds, and other open field species can be found here during the late spring and summer. At the end of the field, a path comes from your left from the dam and enters the woods. Go right on this path into the woods. It may be quite wet where this path passes through the stone wall. The intermittent stream just beyond the stone wall is usually dry in late summer and fall. This stream comes from a vernal pond to your right and flows to Hobbs Brook. Continue along the fire road which bears left and continues to the Cat Rock Ball Field. A stroll along this road and the paralleling path between late April and early June will usually reward you with displays of many of our common woodland flowers.
Where the fire road turns back to our starting point, on the right there is a scenic path to the summit of Cat Rock. Woodland flowers also are found along this path. The path brings you near the end of Bradford Road. From here, one can go to the water tower just below the summit of Cat Rock. The view to the north is commercial. Early in the 1960's, this northerly view overlooked mainly woodlands. The view point south of the water tank looks towards Regis College and Wellesley. You may notice the crescent of hills which lie in the south and western parts of Town and which are higher than Cat Rock.
Walking down the open ski slope returns you to the ball field and the parking lot.
NATURAL HISTORY NOTE:
This area has been used by the Massachusetts Audubon Society for birding classes as the area presents a variety of habitats - hardwood areas, evergreen areas, open field and meadow, brushy borders, overgrown field, fresh-water marsh, stream sides, and an open pond. In March and April, woodcock courting flights may be observed near sunset. During the height of migration, it is easy to list more than 50 species here in a few hours. Often, great horned owl chicks can be observed in the tall pines during the spring. With luck, a parent owl may look you over as you stand watching its child. Mammals are more elusive. Rabbits are common; raccoons and possums are also present but harder to observe. Mice and voles are abundant during most years as can be judged from the constant presence of raptors. In some years, active fox dens can be found. In the late evening, deer can be found feeding on the open meadows.
NEARBY FEATURE OF INTEREST:
About 25 feet east of the mailbox for 9 Legion Road, there is a large bedrock outcrop along the road. If you examine the surface of this outcrop, you can clearly see glacial polish and striae. Glacial polish is a satin-smooth finish produced by the scouring action of the overriding ice on the rock. Glacial striae are large scratches and grooves produced by the rocks frozen beneath the ice as they grind over the surface of the bedrock under the weight of the overlying ice. The round holes in the rock are drill holes. Apparently, the rock was to be blasted but for some reason has been spared.
Between twenty to ten thousand years ago, our area lay under about a mile of glacial ice. This ice sheet determined much of the gross topography of our landscape.