Years ago, when I was a completely out-of-shape cycling novice, I had a vague dream of someday riding my bike the entire length of the Minuteman Bike Path — a 10-mile trail that starts in Cambridge, winds through Arlington and Lexington, and ends in Bedford. It seemed like a good thing to try to work up to, a reasonable goal for a decided non-athlete such as myself. As with most fitness-related goals, however, it fell by the wayside.
But now, as a slightly-less-out-of-shape, seasoned cycling veteran, I finally decided to give it a shot. I wanted to find some open spaces, see some unusual historic spots, and maybe discover something interesting in three towns I rarely visit (I live in Cambridge). I'm not sure I succeeded on all of those fronts, but I do think the ride is worth taking.
Before you try this, here's some general advice: the Minuteman is a well-traveled bike path, used by cyclists of all ages and abilities, as well as by numerous pedestrians and rollerbladers. If you're one of those riders who lacks patience with slower vehicles — full disclosure: this was me on my way to Bedford — then you may want to stay away on the weekends. If you must go, a working bell (or set of lungs) is your friend. Conversely, if you are one of those slower vehicles — full disclosure: me on my way back to Cambridge — then keep your ears open for things that seem to be moving faster than you, and move out of their way.
The Minuteman trail delves further into nature than most city dwellers tend to dare. Indeed, open spaces are probably one of the biggest draws of the path. Not far from Alewife, just inside of the Arlington boundary, you'll find SPY POND, a picturesque little lake that makes for a good stopping point if you're looking to reconnect with nature. Granted, it's not far from a playground — a recurring theme on this ride — but it's easy enough to avoid that area. It's a quiet spot with a few places to sit by the water. You can fish there, if that's your thing, although the biggest catch on record is only 15 pounds. If you prefer bird watching, this is a great spot as well: I'm no ornithologist, but I'm pretty sure a red-winged blackbird flew, like, a foot over my head. I don't recall having seen one of those anywhere around the city before.
Further up the path, in Arlington — after you cross the downtown area — you'll find ARLINGTON GREAT MEADOWS. Take your bike up a slight hill and you'll come to an open field from which several walking trails branch off. I saw the remnants of a couple of (hopefully legal!) bonfires and a brightly plumed cardinal. What I did not see was a place to chain your bicycle, so park at your own risk. Or look harder for a post than I did.
Beyond the Minuteman, there are a few spots in Bedford that require only a brief deviation from the path. Indeed, you can bike to another unpaved trail — the REFORMATORY BRANCH TRAIL — that will take you through even more nature.