Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hough's Neck, Quincy

photo of Hough's Neck, Quincy, MA
I do a lot of hiking, but not all of it is in the woods. Indeed, I take part in urban walks as well as walks near the ocean that are sometimes pieced together rather haphazardly. One such example of the latter is a walk we did recently in the Hough's Neck section of Quincy that took us through a variety of terrain, including salt marshes, placid beaches, and rugged oceanfront lands, as well as residential areas. We started our walk at Wollaston Beach in Quincy, heading south to the southern end of the beach where we took a left through some attractive, tree-shaded residential streets. We eventually ended up along the main drag that leads to Hough's Neck (Sea Street), crossing the street to a little-used trail that felt almost like a rail trail. This path formed the northern edge of some beautiful salt marshes that are hidden from view to most folks driving through this part of the city. The trail went on for a little under a mile, ending close to the ocean, where we walked north along a scenic beach (see photo) into the heart of Hough's Neck.

From the central area of Hough's Neck (which includes a restaurant called Louis' Crossing), we continued north on a couple of quiet streets, ending up at Nut Island, which is part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, though it is not technically an island, but rather a peninsula. The sweeping views from Nut Island include the Boston Skyline as well as many of the islands in Boston Harbor, and we spent a bit of time here having a snack and enjoying the nice weather. Then we took the short way back to Wollaston Beach, along roads on the north side of Hough's Neck that overlook the water.

If you're looking for a remote-feeling hike that goes through the woods or up steep hills, this is not the one for you. But if you enjoy ocean views (and would like to see what salt marshes look like), strolling through the Hough's Neck section of Quincy can certainly be a fun half-day walk.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sweeping Views from Buck Hill in the Blue Hills Revervation

photo of Wachusett Mountain from Buck Hill in the Blue Hills.
Awhile back, I had posted some information on one of the most popular spots in the Blue Hills Reservation south of Boston, namely Buck Hill. The summit of the hill has a nearly 360-degree view of the surrounding countryside, and on clear days, there is no telling how far in the distance you can see. On a recent hike up Buck Hill, several of us on the hike were surprised to see such a clear view of Wachusett Mountain, a 2,000-foot peak out in Central Massachusetts that is more than 50 miles from the Blue Hills. The photo here shows Wachusett in the background, taken using a powerful telephoto lens. It is not a rare occurence to see Wachusett from Buck Hill, but this was about the clearest view of it I have seen from the summit.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Fells Cascade, Middlesex Fells

photo of Fells Cascade, Middlesex Fells
Much of the western section of the Middlesex Fells Reservation consists of rolling hills and trails that are relatively easy to maneuver. But once you head into the Eastern Fells, the landscape changes a bit, with some areas that are very rugged. And one section along the extreme eastern edge of the reservation looks like something you might find in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, with extremely steep trails, rugged ledges, and a cascade that, especially in the spring, can be quite a site. Situated close to the beautiful Black Rock ledges and fanning out from a stream that cuts through the Eastern Fells between the Fellsway East and Washington Street, the Fells Cascade drops precipitously eastward toward a residential section of Melrose, and the trail that goes alongside it can be treacherous, especially if it is wet. The views from the bottom of the cascade (see photo) are some of the most interesting in the entire reservation.

The Fells Cascade can be reached via the Rock Circuit Trail from the Flynn Ice Rink in Medford as part of a longer hike, or from the Oak Grove T stop in Malden as a much shorter hike. There is limited parking along the Fellsway East as well, which allows hikers to reach this spot in a matter of minutes.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cedar Swamp, Essex

The North Shore has a number of areas in which to do hikes, including one that can either be done as an extremely short (and extremely scenic) boardwalk stroll or a much longer hike that includes deep woods and hills. This entry concentrates on the former, as one of the best parts of the extensive conservation land on the Essex-Manchester border is the cedar swamp that is within minutes of the start of the trailhead on Southern Avenue. The aforementioned boardwalk cuts through the heart of the swamp, with memorable views in all directions. The walk along the boardwalk only takes a few minutes, but there are so many good vantage points that you could easily spend an hour or more in the area, taking photos and looking for wildlife. For those who are looking for more of a workout, once the boardwalk ends a trail continues on, allowing for several miles of hiking over varied terrain.

Below are some photos of the cedar swamp, which by the way, is only a couple of minutes north of Route 128 (take the School Street exit).

photo of Cedar Swamp, Essex, MA

photo of Cedar Swamp, Essex, MA

photo of Cedar Swamp, Essex, MA

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hellcat Trail, Plum Island

photo of Hellcat Trail, Plum Island, MAOne of the most scenic seaside settings in all of New England is that of Plum Island, a barrier island just east of the city of Newburyport, MA. Parts of the island includes the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, which is a great place for bird watching, walking, and just enjoying the solitude the area has to offer. One of the most remote-feeling sections of the refuge is about midway down the island, where the Hellcat Wildlife Observation Area and the Hellcat Trail can be found. The trail, which starts from a parking area on the right side of the road (heading south) is mostly a boardwalk that cuts through some otherwise inaccessible land that includes thick brush, high grass, and swampland. It is an easy, level trail that can be done as a fairly quick loop, and some of it is exposed, affording views of Plum Island Sound and the low hills in the distance. Figure on a half hour to an hour to do the loop, including breaks to soak in the views.

Most of Plum Island is breathtakingly beautiful, especially at sunset, and the Hellcat area is certainly one of the most scenic parts of the island. The trail is easy to do and parking usually isn't a problem, so this is a good walk to do with beginners or those who otherwise might not be into hiking.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hillside Pond, Milton (Blue Hills)

photo of Hillside Pond in the Blue Hills, Milton, MAThe Blue Hills Reservation, which is located south of Boston along Route 128, is a vast area of steep hills, woodlands, rivers, and ponds. And while Houghton's Pond is wildly popular in the summer with its beach and huge parking area, there is another body of water nearby (Hillside Pond) that is almost completely unknown. Part of the reason that Hillside Pond is quiet and lesser-known is the fact that there is no real parking area near it, while another reason is because only minor trails lead to the pond. But it is a beautiful spot, with Tucker Hill forming a peaceful backdrop, giving it a tucked-in feel, and deep woods surrounding it that make the pond seem much more remote than it actually is. A narrow and rather rough trail goes around the pond, while a series of slightly wider trails meander nearby.

One easy way to get to Hillside Pond is to park at the Houghton's Pond parking lot, walking along the road east for about five or ten minutes to the Skyline Trail (blue blazes) where you take a right, then follow the blue blazes for a few minutes, taking a left on the green dot trail. From there, follow the green dot for maybe 10-15 minutes to the intersection marked #2112, at which point you can take a left down to the road, then cross the road, continuing on the trail for a few more minutes until you come near the east side of Hillside Pond. From there it's a quick scamper over to the pond.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Savin Hill Park, Dorchester

Dorchester may not seem like a place to get away from it all, but the densely-populated neighborhood of Boston does have some nice open areas, including scenic stretches along the ocean and the Neponset River, and a postage-stamp size park wedged between the Southeast Expressway and Boston Harbor that is difficult to find, almost completely unknown, and really quite beautiful. Indeed, Savin Hill Park is a very nice area of woods, grassy stretches, and steep trails leading to a rock outcropping where there are strikikng views of both the harbor and the Blue Hills off to the south. To find this park, you can either take Savin Hill Avenue east from Dorchester Avenue (over the Expressway) or you can take a right onto a short side street off Morrissey Boulevard more or less across the street from the entrance to UMass Boston and the JFK Library.

A few pictures of Savin Hill Park are shown below:

photo of Savin Hill Park, Dorchester, MA

photo of Savin Hill Park, Dorchester, MA

photo of Savin Hill Park, Dorchester, MA