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Taking the Muddy to Brookline Village

Hailing Distance: One of a series of great half-hour hikes


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View the walk to Brookline Village in the slideshow above. Photos by Brendan Gauthier and Edward A. Brown

When it comes to city exploration, public transportation is a popular option. In Boston, this is both a blessing and a curse. Since train tracks in this town run inward and outward, never across, the tendency is to follow those same patterns to explore.

Yet Brookline Village, which would be a four-leg round-trip on Green Line trolleys, is only a half-hour walk—and a beautiful one at that.

Beginning at Marsh Chapel, the journey winds through the Longwood Medical Area and delivers you into the thick of Brookline Village. To start, head across Comm Ave and over the Massachusetts Turnpike via St. Mary’s Street. Turn left on Mountfort Street and curve around right onto Park Drive towards Beacon Street and Audubon Circle. An assortment of restaurants and businesses lie near this intersection. A quick drink break at the Beacon Street Tavern or Johnnie’s Fresh Market may be in order—both have great outdoor patios.

Next, make your way across the C trolley tracks on Beacon Street and up the hill along Park Drive over the D tracks. Bear right as you start to pass the Landmark Center. On your right you will see the entrance to the Riverway, a parkway that comprises part of the Emerald Necklace, a chain of nine linked parks and parkways in Boston and Brookline designed or improved by 19th-century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The Riverway starts here and winds through the Longwood Medical Area alongside the Muddy River, almost all the way to Brookline Village.

Although the Muddy is referred to as a river, it is actually a collection of brooks and ponds running about three and a half miles, starting near Jamaica Pond in an area once known as Muddy River Hamlet, draining into both the Fens and the Charles River. It appears natural, but was actually rerouted as a part of the Emerald Necklace project and contains a number of conduits and pipes to aid water flow through the city.

The Muddy has at times made the news for less than happy reasons. Since October 1996, it has flooded three times, the first causing millions of dollars in damage to the Kenmore MBTA station and forcing temporary closure. The Muddy River Restoration Project has since been formed to clean up the river and prevent further flooding. The Riverway segment of the Muddy has benefited from its work.

Once you’ve descended onto the Riverway, you’ll find yourself surrounded by greenery and the sound of chirping birds, interrupted only by an occasional D trolley speeding by. The aptly named Muddy River is very shallow, but there are enough ripples to suggest life beneath the surface.

The other main form of wildlife demands careful treading. The Canada geese inhabiting this part of the city are not shy about their business. Be sure to keep a respectful distance, especially if their young are about. If a parent starts hissing, that’s a bad sign.

Continue along the path until you’re forced onto a street. Instead of following the path on the other side, turn right. You’ll be walking along Pilgrim Road, although there’s no visible proof of that. Follow the road until you reach a stop sign and continue straight onto Netherlands Street until it ends. Turn right on Aspinwall Avenue, cross over the D tracks again, and take the first left onto Kent Street. Follow Kent, bearing right at a fork, until it intersects with Harvard Street at the center of Brookline Village.

A delicious lunch can be had at Sichuan Garden, a Chinese restaurant specializing in Sichuan, or Szechuan, cuisine, quite different from the Cantonese and Chinese-American offerings on Comm Ave. Appetizers include unusual items like rabbit and ox meat with a roasted chili vinaigrette, julienne jellyfish with scallion pesto, and shredded cucumber with garlic sauce.

But Sichuan Garden is only one of Brookline Village’s many treats. And if you’re too full to walk back, just hop on the 66 bus to Comm Ave.

Brendan Gauthier can be reached at btgauth@gmail.com.

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