this being the off-season and the weekend, the place was busy with off-leash dogs and mountain bikers. my sister told me about a large reservoir in the middle of the reservation, probably a mile long. we didn't see it at first until it became obvious and then we couldn't miss it. she said there was 3 reservoirs: upper, middle, and lower.
hailey kept in front of us for most of the trail, looking back every so often to make sure we were still following behind her. must of the place had bare understory, made that much more stark given the post-autumn landscape. once we got to a place that had a sizable population of small pines and hemlocks, hailey went crazy, flying through the woods, jumping over logs, disappearing only to reappear from a completely different direction.
besides the dogs, there was no other animals to be seen or heard. hailey kept her eyes open for squirrels and chipmunks, but we never spotted any. i did see a pair of diving ducks on one of the reservoirs. i thought they were buffleheads, but turns out they were overwintering ruddy ducks (they normally live on the west coast).
i wasn't paying too much attention to directions because i figured my sister knew the place well. even when she told me this was only her second time here, i wasn't that concerned. then we got lost after walking for about an hour without seeing any trail markers or signs. we were next to a reservoir, but didn't know which one, or even which direction (clockwise/counterclockwise) to walk to get us back onto some marked trails. my sister had her blackberry but we were out of service range. when she did get a signal, the map she pulled up was just some pixelated image, nothing useful. the built-in GPS couldn't get a signal through the trees. had i known she wasn't familiar with the reservation, i would've brought my own garmin GPS. until then we kept on walking until we either saw signs or people to ask for directions.
my sister flagged down some people we saw. one couple was new to the area and couldn't be sure how to get back to hillcrest road where we parked the car. they asked us, "did you see the sheepfold? or the parking lot? or the dog park?" we didn't see any of that stuff. a woman walking 3 dogs give us better advice, at least pointed us in the general direction.
we realized we were lost around 2:00. i was thinking about the worst case scenario, which would be stuck in winchester fells come night fall. at least i had bicycle headlight, but it wouldn't be fun trying to find our way out of the forest in the dark. it was also a hazy day so i didn't even know which directions we were walking; not that it'd help, since we didn't know where the car was. at least we ran into more people, which was a good sign. we were relieved to finally see some trail markers. the only problem now would be figuring out which direction to go. fortunately we picked correctly, and finally got back to the car by 3:30, with an hour left before sundown.
it wasn't until we got home did i realize where we went. i did an online search for "winchester fells" which came up empty, but there were several entries for the middlesex fells instead. could it be? i brought up a trail map of middlesex fells and located one of the named paths i remembered seeing, "willow spring." oh my god, we've been in the middlesex fells this entire time! not that it would've done me any good in navigating (lost is lost). all the clues were there, i just didn't piece together the puzzle. there seems to be something about the middlesex fells that makes me clueless. i didn't realize winchester is one of the towns bordering the fells (i've always associated the place with medford and to some extent stoneham). even when i heard about the 3 reservoirs, the unusually large reservation size, and some fells landsmarks like the dog park and sheepsfold - i still didn't get it. in my defense, we came into the fells from the northwestern side, a place i've never visited before in my many fells stops. what probably happened is we got stuck in that connected island between middle and lower reservoirs, one of the few places in the reservation that don't feature any trail markers (reason being this is town reservoir land and technically off limits).
my mother came home around 4:00. she was busy knitting scarves for some people next week. we also got a chance to use the knitting loom. my mother didn't have time to figure it out so i did the initial cast-on from some instructions in a book. i was also playing episodes of revenge, my soapy guilty pleasure which both my mother and sister seemed to enjoy as well.
i had dinner around 6:00 then left soon afterwards. temperature was 32°F and i wasn't looking forward to the cold ride home. at least on the bicycle i could warm up; riding the motorcycle would be like driving a car with the windows all rolled down. it first it was okay, but about a mile away from my house my hands started to hurt. it wasn't like i could just ride the bike without hands so i just had to bear the cold. even when i got back home, it took about 5 minutes of putting my hands underneath my armpits before they warmed up enough that i could finally undo the straps of my helmet.