Bicentennial Trail

Old Bicentennial Trail Sign
Bicentennial Trail
Map:  North end in Joe English Reservation
Length: 4 miles.
Identification: White blazes.
Difficulty: Walking: moderate
                  XC skiing: difficult.
                  Mountain biking:  Moderate to very difficult
 
“The Bicentennial trail was the brainchild of Alice (Betty) Arnold in 1976, the year it commemorates. It is a hiking trail from the Amherst Highway Department Barn on Dodge Road to the Joe English parking area on Brook Road.” So writes Thornton Stearns, an ACC veteran, in a history of the trail. Thornton worked closely with Betty in selecting the route, clearing the trail and in mapping the route.  The original trail marking system used red and blue surveyor’s tape that stood up for 20 years. The tapes now have been removed and the conventional system of white paint blazes adopted. The trail generally traverses the higher land on the western part of the greenbelt. Access points are on Dodge, Austin, and Brook Roads.  There are also connections via the Arnold Trail and Lorden Path to Nathanial Drive. In the course of four miles the hiker is introduced to many glacial and bedrock features with a variety of forest species growing on them.  Today’s trail route north of Austin Road varies little from the original route except in some areas where new land acquisitions have made more favorable routings possible. South of Austin Road to the Dacquino Forest, relocation of the route takes advantage of two easement gifts in 2000 to skirt a new development and the recycling facility.

Log:  The following trail description is written for the hiker going from north to south. Begin the Bicentennial Trail at Post 1 on the Hammond Brook Trail 500 feet west of the Joe English Reservation parking area on Brook Road. The trail drops down beside Hammond Brook and then borders an area logged in 2001.
At .2 miles, the trail crosses the brook on a bridge constructed as an Eagle Scout project. Beyond the brook, the trail begins a climb that in half a mile will reach the height of land on the trail. Climb through large white pines and hemlocks in an area considered too steep to log without undue harm to the land. 
At .3 miles, a skidder road crosses the trail, continue straight.
At .55 miles, the trail crosses property lines marked by yellow and red blazes. These are not trails.  At a sign showing trail directions at the Hemlock Trail junction, the Bicentennial trail begins a rocky descent through tall hemlocks to cross Hammond Brook. A left turn brings the trail along the brook to the junction with the blue-blazed Hammond Brook Trail. Turn right on Hammond Brook Trail to the parking lot at the end of Brook Road.
At .7 miles the Hemlock Trail (yellow) enters on the right. At this point, a portion of the original Bicentennial Trail, now abandoned, plunged off into the rocks and mountain laurel. The Hemlock Trail provides an alternative and more gradual route than the Bicentennial Trail to Post 1 on the Hammond Brook Trail.  For the next .8 miles the Bicentennial Trail follows the ups and downs of the ridge passing lichen-covered ledges, mixed upland forests and an occasional blueberry-bordered vernal pool. Wild turkeys seek for beechnuts in this area of the ridge.
At 1.2 miles the Lorden Path leaves down hill on the left for the Arnold Trail and Nathaniel Drive.
At 1.6 miles, the trail turns left along a stone wall and the B-H Trail leaves right for Austin Road and Haseltine Reservation. A small stream is crossed and soon the Arnold Trail from Nathanial Drive enters on the left. Beyond this junction, the Bicentennial Trail drops to Austin road two miles from PMEC.  Continue south, cross Austin Road diagonally (jog 75 feet west) and reenter the woods. Between here and the Dacquino Forest trailhead on Dodge Road the original route has been relocated in several places.  Follow the white blazes. From Austin Road to a bridge over a small stream the trail traverses land that was once cleared, maybe 100 years ago for a hard-scrabble pasture. Past the bridge, the trail skirts a kettle hole* and climbs steeply through mature woods past recent development to the top of rugged ledges that form the walls of a short ravine below. Once above the ledges, the trail continues south into Dacquino Forest, a gift of John and Mary Dacquino, to join a former logging road that leads to the Dodge Road trailhead. The trail then climbs abruptly over a small esker* and continues in the Dacquino Forest to cross a stone wall, the boundary of the King Pine development. This section of the trail including the small bridge was the first Eagle Scout project on ACC property. Beyond the wall the trail follows development common land rising to its terminus on Dodge Road 4 miles south of Peabody Mill.

*Kettle holes or just kettles and eskers are geological remnants from the ice age 10,000 years ago. Kettles were formed in places where large ice blocks remained in the glacial till after the main ice sheet retreated. As the block eventually melted a depression often holding water was left in the soil. Eskers were formed where channels of meltwater flowing under the ice sheet deposited
suspended gravels.