Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts has become synonymous with modern-day sports celebrations (and even serves as the namesake for our professional football team, despite the misalignment in seasons). The Red Sox play their customary eleven o’clock game at Fenway, while the Boston Marathon begins in Hopkinton at ten o’clock and ends in spectacular fashion at Copley Square. With the elite runners crossing the finish line around noontime, a continuous spigot of runners is released, pumping out a steady stream of finishers that doesn’t dry up until well into the late afternoon. A preferred perch – from which one can simultaneously witness both events – is atop the Monster at Fenway. From this spot, you can hear the roar of two crowds: the baseball fans in one ear and the crowds in Kenmore in the other, cheering the elite and not-so-elite runners making their way down the home stretch, the finish line at last in sight.
I was excited to recently learn of another event: the not-quite-famous “reenactment row” on Patriot’s Day Eve. For the past sixteen years, historical enthusiasts have read Longfellow’s revisionist history of Paul Revere’s midnight ride, hung the obligatory lights in the Old North Church, and then rowed, rowed, rowed their boat across the harbor to Charlestown, kicking off a celebration in the Navy Yard. Who knew?
Inspired by this evening event, I sought to undertake a secret crossing of my own. Though no stranger to river crossings as a former Cambridge resident, my understanding of the Charles River bridges– and the distances between them – had always been most informed by the Charles River running map, a simple matrix designating distances between bridges using assigned letters A-L. With this matrix as my guide, I had embedded the bridges into my mental map of the city. Habituated to their irregular rhythm, things quickly devolved into a cacophony of infrastructure beyond the Science Museum, becoming more than a little fuzzy at this point.
Since moving to Charlestown, all of that has changed! From my new homebase, I was delighted to discover there is yet Another Way Across. Beginning in the aptly-named Paul Revere Park (a successful Massport park used enthusiastically by dog lovers), and ending in the Lovejoy Wharf parking lot just beneath the TD Banknorth Garden, is an ingenious systems of catwalk-crosswalks. Laminating the top edge of the Charles River locks, this pedestrian-only crossing takes you directly across the line where the river meets the sea.
Crossing at different times of day reveals the height differential between the two water bodies. At night, the sight of the Charles pouring out beneath the North Washington Street Bridge creates a nice tableau. And on game days, the Bruins and Celtics fans spew across in single file with their matching jerseys.
It occurred to me that this path may not fly under the radar for much longer. The Miller’s River Bridge, currently under construction and slated for completion this year, is designed to connect Cambridge to Charlestown via a pedestrian bridge across a long-impassable stretch of Northpoint. The Miller’s Bridge will almost complete the loop extension of the Charles River Path. The last remaining link in the chain will connect the West End with the North End, bringing recreational enthusiasts to a part of the city long dominated by trains, boats, and automobiles. Though treasured by those “in the know,” giving up its secrecy seems like a fair tradeoff.