Dogtown is a neat place to bike. The trails are rough in many parts, but there is a history to the place that remains today. During dry spells, signs will be posted stating that the woods are closed to prevent forest fires, but the woods are usually open.
Throughout the woods, there are rocks that have been carved into signs. There are also remains of foundations of homes deep in the woods. We did not have a map to the area when we biked in 2003, but we found that by using Robert S. Morse's 25 Mountain Bike Tours in Massachusetts's guidebook, we were able to navigate and return safely to the car. We returned in 2011 with a printout of Map by Eric Bickernicks which was clear and obvious, but we turned off th path and became a bit lost before we found ourselves at the D.T. SQ rock and were able to reorient ourselves on the map. Another benefit of the map, the first being to go and see the rocks, was that it brought us to the area that has the remains of the structures from long ago.
A lot of the trails in Dogtown are gentle paths, some are wider gravel roads and others are single track. In some areas the path gets very rocky, and it might require you to get off and walk the bike through. This is a very easy place to get lost in. We have accomplished that once already which is a 50% fail rate. We wish you the best of luck. We have two sources we used for maps: Map by Eric Bickernicks and Robert S. Morse's 25 Mountain Bike Tours in Massachusetts's guidebook.
The woods are divided by a railroad track. You must actually ride along the track (or on it) to get from the trail on one side of the woods to the other. This is an active rail.
Roger Babson donated 1,150 acres of Dogtown land to Gloucester in 1930. Part of his personality and values are still seen in Dogtown today. A unique aspect of Dogtown is the mottos carved in rocks. In the 1930s, Mr. Babson hired out of work stone engravers to inscribe a set of mottos collected mainly from the Good Cheer Library which was a set of inspirational and self help books. According to the book entitled Dogtown | Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town, the 24 mottos that are carved into some of Dogtown's larger stones are:
- Be clean
- Be on time
- Be true
- Get a job
- Help Mother
- If work stops values decay
- Keep out of debt
- Never try never win
- Prosperity follows service
- Spiritual Power
- Use your head
Eleven of the photos were taken from our first trip in 2003, but the rest (as noted) are from our trip in 2011. We went on a sunny day in 2011 and it made for some bad photography due to the contrast between the strong sunlight and the shade of the leaves cast on the rocks.
We found 11 of the 24 stones in 2003. That meant we have more paths to travel to find the whole set. We were fortunate to make it out there in the summer of 2011 to try again. We now have all 24, though I still feel as though we need to return on a cloudy day to get better photos. Perhaps we will use the excuse to photograph some of the ruins a little closer.
As I sit down and write this, I look at the values he found to be permanently etched in stone to have merit today. I thought about the values on the rocks and people I have met in my life - who lives these values and who does not. I certainly see a trend in the people I have met who live these values and are happy. Babson just may have been on to something!