I come from a relatively rural town (think: no sidewalks) in western Connecticut, so one of things I missed the most when I first came to Tufts was being in open spaces, surrounded by nature. That’s why I’ve always loved uphill campus so much: that traditional New England-y vibe of brick buildings and grassy lawns reminds me most of home. Recently, I have begun to venture beyond campus and explore the nature that our surrounding communities have to offer. Since outdoor activities are safer than indoor ones right now and my housemate (and friend!) and I both have bikes, we decided to pick new destinations every couple of weekends and check them out. Tufts Bikes runs a bikeshare that any Tufts student can use to rent a bike for free, so all of these locations are open to you!
Our first destination was Spy Pond, a ten-minute ride from campus in Arlington, Massachusetts. The pond sits right along the Minuteman Bikeway, a paved bike trail that runs all the way from Davis Square up to Bedford. While we were there, we hopped on the Bikeway and enjoyed pedaling along the tree-lined path. Spy Pond is a relatively small body of water, but its proximity to campus is a huge plus, and it even made its way into my running destinations this semester. Pro tip: the Bikeway is the least crowded in the early morning (before 9am or so), and it’s a great way to experience fall foliage! I have also made a tradition out of taking the Bikeway to Lexington with friends during Spring Fling Weekend—the weather is usually just warm enough by then for a pleasant bike ride.
A couple of weeks later, my friend and I headed to Fresh Pond Reservation, a reservoir in nearby Cambridge, Massachusetts (15-20min by bike). This place is great because it has a 2-mile or so path that encircles the reservoir, which lends itself to biking, running, walking, etc. The path is currently one-way only (likely due to COVID-19), but that just gives you an excuse to get a little extra exercise in! My housemate and I actually went here twice, and I am always impressed by how still the water is—it makes for some great pictures! Rumor has it that Elizabeth Warren has been known to frequent this location, so keep your eyes peeled. And, on your way back, you can swing by Trader Joe’s or several other shops in the strip malls that line the route back to campus.
A hidden gem that we found was Menotomy Rocks Park, just a few minutes from Spy Pond in Arlington. This place is woodsier, with paths accompanied by the smallest pond of the several we visited. The park is definitely a little more off the beaten path, with the 20-minute trip taking you through a few Arlington neighborhoods, and I enjoyed the change of scenery. I wish we had been able to spend more time there, but our commitments back on campus pulled us away. I guess I’ll just have to go back once the weather warms up!
Another destination we visited was the Middlesex Fells Reservation, arguable the largest green space in the area. Depending on where in the Fells you want to go, the time it takes to get there can vary, but it’s about 15 minutes by bike. I was particularly excited to go to the Fells, since I hadn’t been back since my first year at Tufts, when my preorientation program, FIT (Fitness and Individual Development at Tufts), went on a hike there. The Fells is full of well-marked trails and different bodies of water that take more than just one trip to explore! I will admit that my knowledge of the Fells is limited, having only been there twice, but so far, my favorite spot is the South Reservoir—it makes for such a great panorama, and I particularly loved being able to close my eyes, enjoy the silence, and feel like I was away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. If you had to pick just one of these destinations to visit, I would definitely choose the Fells.
And last, but not least, are the beautiful Mystic Lakes! The Upper and Lower Mystic Lakes are only a 10-15min bike ride from campus. I personally prefer to jog to the lakes, though, because there are two parallel running trails that lead to them; plus, I think the views make for a great reward! My housemate and I chose the Mystic Lakes as our destination for the makeshift independent “Turkey Trot” run we did over Thanksgiving break, and the water was incredibly still, making my photos of that morning some of my favorites of the semester. While you’re there, check out the Tufts Sailing Pavilion, too!
So there you have it—a glimpse into some of the many destinations around campus that you can use to escape into nature for a few minutes, hours, or even a day while at Tufts! I am grateful that we have these spaces available to us, especially during all that is going on in the world right now, and it comforting to know that the nature that reminds me of home is only a quick bike ride away. So, when in-person visits to Tufts are possible again, make sure to stop by one (or more!) of these places. You’ll be glad you did!