Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Little Blue Hill (Blue Hills Reservation)

photo of stream near Little Blue Hill, Canton, MAA group of us went on a nature walk around Little Blue Hill in the extreme western section of the Blue Hills Reservation in Canton over the weekend. Much of the vast Blue Hills Reservation (especially the Milton section) is popular with hikers, but the extreme east section (near the Shea Rink in Quincy) and the extreme western section (Little Blue Hill) aren't as popular. But both areas are quite scenic, with the Little Blue Hill area having a variety of features, including streams (see photo), hilltop views, and pristine woods.

photo of meadow near Little Blue Hill, Canton, MAWe more or less took a counter-clockwise route around the base of Little Blue Hill, starting out by taking a right at the end of the parking lot just south of the Trailside Museum on Route 138. We wound our way up gradually, coming to a beautiful view looking west from the shoulder of Little Blue Hill. From there, we dropped down and walked past some meadows and fields (see photo) and along some little-known paths before turning around near the Route 128/95 intersection. From there it was a quick walk back to the parking lot. This section of the Blue Hills is cut off from the rest--and isn't a huge area--but is a perfect spot for a short walk along some peaceful paths.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lincoln Conservation Land: Pine Hill and DeCordova Area

Lincoln, along with neighboring Weston, is a mostly rural town northwest of Boston that is crisscrossed with trails. Indeed, the trail network is such that you can hike for miles without seeing the same area twice. And while the areas near Walden Pond, Minuteman National Historic Park, and Mount Misery seem to be the most popular spots for hikers, the lands just north and west of Lincoln Center are well worth checking out.

photo from Pine Hill, Lincoln, MAWe did such a trip recently, starting at the Lincoln Public Schools just off Lincoln Road near the center of town. From the parking lot near the tennis courts (hikers are allowed to park here), we walked north past the school fields and into a beautiful meadow area, eventually reaching a wooded trail that kept close to Sandy (Flint's) Pond. After awhile, we turned left, crossing Sandy Pond Road and working our way up to the top of Pine Hill, where we were awarded with limited, though pleasant views to the west (see photo).

photo from near DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA From Pine Hill, we wound our way down to the bottom near Walden Pond, then walked around the hill and back over to Sandy Pond. We walked around most of the rest of the pond, stopping for lunch at a scenic overlook above the pond and just below the DeCordova Museum. After our break, we continued up the fairly steep trail, skirting the museum, and heading east a few hundred yards, where we were treated to a remarkable view of fields, meadows, and rolling hills that felt more like Vermont than the Greater Boston area (see photo). From here, we headed south down a trail that was steep in a couple of spots, ending up back at the meadow just north of the school. From here, it was a short walk back to the parking lot.

This part of Lincoln isn't all that popular with hikers, but it is certainly worth going to, as it is mostly remote and quiet (except for the parts near Route 2), and the views of the pond and open areas are particularly nice.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wright's Pond, Medford

photo of Wright's Pond, Medford, MAThe Middlesex Fells Reservation is a popular hiking area north of Boston. Its deep woods, moving streams, and views from open hilltops make the Fells a favorite destination for walkers, whether they go to the Winchester, Medford, Malden, Stoneham, or Melrose section (or all of the above). Some parts are better known than others, however, and one of the least known parts of the Fells just happens to be one of the most popular recreation areas in Medford. Confused? Read on to find out more....

photo of Wright's Pond, Medford, MAWright's Pond is located in the eastern part of the Middlesex Fells, wedged between Route 93 and Route 28, Elm Street, and Woodland Road. And while the beach area of Wright's Pond gets very crowded during the summer, much of the rest of the pond (which is actually manmade) is quite pristine. And since it is not really on any through trails in the Fells, it is often overlooked by hikers. One way to get to Wright's Pond is by parking in the Flynn Rink parking lot on Woodland Road, then walking along the Cross Fells Trail past Quarter Mile pond and up and down some low hills. At a rock outcropping perhaps 10 minutes from the parking lot, take a left down into the woods. From here, it gets a little confusing since the trails are mostly unmarked, but once you see the northern edge of the pond through the woods, try to stay on the trail that heads to the left shore. Once you get to the pond, you will soon find a rocky ledge above it that has outstanding views (see photo). This is a popular lunch spot among hikers.

photo of Wright's Pond, Medford, MAFrom the ledge, continue along the trail that goes alongside the pond, and keep bearing to the right whenever you can. Soon you will reach the beach at Wright's Pond (see photo). If you go during the summer, it will most likely be crowded, but most of the rest of the year it is quiet. From the beach, continue along the pond, heading clockwise around it until you come nearly to the trail that you first saw the pond. From here, continue on until you reach the Cross Fells Trail and head back to the parking lot, or if you want a longer hike, take a left on the Cross Fells Trail into the western part of the reservation or go straight which will take you to Spot Pond.

Again, many of the trails are not marked well in the Wright's Pond area, so it best to get a map of the Middlesex Fells and use a GPS if possible. You can't really get lost because the area is bordered by roads, but it can be a confusing area in spots.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Buck Hill (Blue Hills Reservation)

photo of  Boston skyline from Buck Hill (Blue Hills Reservation)At just under 500 feet above sea level, Buck Hill isn't the highest point in the Boston area, but it certainly has some of the best views. A favorite of hikers in the Blue Hills reservation, Buck Hill is one of the most rugged spots in this hilly, wooded area south of Boston. The summit of this broad, round hill is mostly treeless, allowing for nearly 360-degree views including the the Boston skyline and the ocean.

There are several ways to get to Buck Hill, including particularly scenic approaches from the Skyline Trail. For hikers who don't have much time, it is best to park on Route 28 near the Milton/Quincy border and take the Skyline west for a short but very steep climb to the summit. For a more leisurely hike (allow 45 minutes to an hour each way), the Skyline Trail can be taken from the park headquarters (just east of the Houghton Pond parking lot) climbing mostly east over Tucker Hill and Boyce Hill before reaching the summit.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ponkapoag Pond, Canton

Most hikers who come to the Blue Hills Reservation south of Boston tend to stick to hiking trails north of Route 128. Indeed, many hikers don't even realize that the reservation extends south of this highway. But some of the best hiking in the Blue Hills can be found on the other side of Route 128, notably in the Ponkapoag Pond area which is mostly in Canton.

photo of Great Blue Hill from Ponkapoag Pond, Canton, MAThere are relatively few trails in the Ponkapoag area, with the most popular trail being the loop that goes around the pond. Access to this trail can be found at the Ponkapoag Golf Course, which has a parking lot that hikers can use. Starting at the clubhouse, hikers can walk along the main road through the golf course, reaching the pond after a few minutes. From this point, folks can go either clockwise or counterclockwise; to go counterclockwise, continue straight along the trail (rather than turning left) where the golf course ends and the pond begins. The trail here is mostly wide and flat, and after about a mile, a remarkable view of Great Blue Hill from the pond (see photo) can be had from a small beach. From this point, hikers can continue along the lake, eventually turning left and coming to the Ponkapoag Camp where cabins can be rented on or near the pond. This is a perfect spot for lunch, as there is a boardwalk below the cabins that extends a short distance out into the pond and a number of picnic tables up on the hill where many of the cabins are.

photo of boardwalk at Ponkapoag Pond, Canton, MAFrom the Ponkapoag Camp, the trail continues near the pond for the most part and gets a bit hilly (there are also a few trails that veer off to the right in this area, mostly meandering through the woods). About a half mile before the trail meets up with the beginning of the loop by the golf course, there is a boardwalk that extends a good ways out into the pond by way of wetlands and marshes (see photo). This boardwalk is a must-see as long as the water isn't too high; if it is, the boardwalk can sometimes be under water in parts, and a bit dangerous as it becomes slippery. The boardwalk goes on for about a quarter mile, stopping at a spot with nice views of the lake. After backtracking to the main trail, it is an easy, mostly level walk back to the start of the loop and the road through the golf course that heads back to the parking lot.

The entire Ponkapoag loop is about 4 miles or so, with few difficult parts, making it a great walk for beginning hikers or folks wanting to take a leisurely stroll without much in the way of hills.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Great Brook Farm State Park, Carlisle

photo of Meadow Pond, Great Brook Farm, Carlisle, MAGreat Brook Farm State Park in Carlisle, MA, is one of the true gems of Eastern Massachusetts. It is a vast area that includes deep woods, low hills, farmland, meadows, streams, and beautiful bodies of water such as Meadow Pond (see photo). Great Brook Farm is also a four-season recreation area, as it has cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in the winter, and hiking and horseback riding for much of the rest of the year.

photo of Russell Mill Pond, Chelmsford, MAThe trail network at Great Brook Farm State Park is extensive, allowing outdoors lovers to really get deep into some rugged land here. One particularly scenic loop is to start at the Hart Barn and Ski Center at the Lowell Road parking lot, and head clockwise along a number of trails, including the Lantern Loop, and Litchfield Loop, and the rugged Stone Row trail. From here, a short side trip can be taken north into Chelmsford, where a trail runs alongside the serene Russell Mill Pond (see photo). From this short spur, hikers can continue on to the Woodchuck Trail and the Garrison Loop, where there are a few historic sites to be seen.

photo of Meadow Pond, Great Brook Farm, Carlisle, MAFrom the Garrison Loop, hikers can turn left and cross North Road, taking the mostly level Pine Point Loop around Meadow Pond. A couple of interesting side trails with water views branch off of the Pine Point Loop, including the Beaver Loop and the Keyes Loop. Just before the Pine Point Loop enters a meadow area (where other trails can be taken back to the parking lot), a tree-shaded area around a boathouse (see photo) affords great views of the pond, and is an excellent place to have a picnic lunch. From here, it is an easy walk back to the parking lot.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Locke Pond, Winchester

photo of Locke Pond, Winchester, MALocke Pond is a bucolic, remote-feeling body of water in the Whipple Hill Conservation Area that straddles Winchester and Lexington. Many people who hike around Whipple Hill never even make it down to Locke Pond, as the sweeping views from the hill are often enough for folks who come to this rugged area northwest of Boston.

photo of Locke Pond, Winchester, MAOne particularly nice approach to Locke Pond is from the aforementioned Whipple Hill. Park at the little pulloff on Johnson Road right where Winchester and Lexington meet, hike the few hundred feet up to the top of Whipple Hill, then go left from the summit, descending into the woods along a switchback trail that eventually straightens out, ending at a ravine just north of the pond. From here it is a very short walk to Locke Pond, where a number of trails afford excellent views.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Neponset River Greenway, Dorchester

photo of wetlands, Neponset River Greenway, Dorchester, MAEarlier this year, I touched upon the Neponset River greenway in a blog entry about Lower Mills and Milton Landing. Both of these places are near the western end of the greenway, and are perhaps the most interesting parts of the path. But there are other interesting parts of the Neponset River Greenway, starting with the eastern end at Pope John Paul II Park in Neponset, as well as the extensive wetlands and meadows (see photo) near the Neponset/Milton border.

photo of Neponset River Greenway, Milton Village, MAFrom Pope John Paul II Park and the wetlands shown above, the Neponset River Greenway moves west into a slightly more wooded (and at times residential) area. The Red Line crosses the path, following it all the way to Milton Village and the Lower Mills section of Dorchester (see photo). This section of the greenway includes views of historic factories and other buildings, a dam, and a particularly fast-moving part of the Neponset River. From here, the Neponset River Greenway heads west for a little bit before ending at Central Avenue on the Milton/Boston border.

photo of Milton Landing, Milton, MAAs mentioned in the earlier blog entry, a slight side trip can be taken from the Neponset River Greenway near Lower Mills and Milton Village. Milton Landing (see photo) is a calm, peaceful area just down the hill from Milton Village that has beautiful water views from the walkways around this area. The walkways at Milton Landing don't really go anywhere, but instead meander around, ending in spots and looping in others. From this area, it is easy to get back to the greenway and head back to Pope John Paul II park, where a vast network of trails and paths that await folks who wish to continue on.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eastern Middlesex Fells, Medford and Stoneham

photo of High Service Reservoir, Middlesex Fells, Stoneham, MAMost people in the Boston area think of Stoneham and Medford simply as bedroom communities north of Boston, but for those who love outdoors, a good chunk of these two communities is considered prime hiking territory, thanks to the area known as the Middlesex Fells Reservation. The eastern part of the Fells (the part east of Route 93 that is mostly in Stoneham and Medford) is a bit smaller than the western part, but some of the most beautiful parts of the reservation are here, including a number of rocky hills, the scenic High Service Reservoir (see photo), and some of the most pristine woods inside Route 128.

photo of Eastern Middlesex fells, Medford, MASeveral of us explored a large section of the Eastern Middlesex Fells over the weekend, enjoying the deep blue skies and mild late winter weather. We started at the Flynn Rink on Woodland Road in Medford and proceeded up to the aforementioned High Service Reservoir before descending into a beautiful wooded ridge with a stream running through it (see photo) before heading north into an area of low hills and pine forests.

photo of Spot Pond, Middlesex Fells, Stoneham, MALeaving the woods near the Stone Zoo on Pond Street in Stoneham, we briefly hiked near the road before re-entering the woods and ascending a rocky trail that afforded tremendous views of Spot Pond (see photo). The trail continued over several ledges before dipping back into some deep woods and continuing south, eventually bringing us back to the serene Quarter Mile Pond and the Flynn Rink.

This northern and western part of the Eastern Middlesex Fells isn't as rugged as the southern and eastern sections, but it is peaceful and lesser traveled, and is a great place to hike in the winter and early spring, especially when the trails can get a bit icy or muddy.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Winter Walk to Lower Mills and Milton Landing

photo of Neponset River, Lower MillsSeveral of us took a walk along the Neponset River Greenway over the weekend, spending a good amount of time near the end of the greenway around Lower Mills in Dorchester, Milton Village, and Milton Landing. This area include one of the most scenic and historic parts of Boston, with the Neponset River (see photo) roaring its way toward the ocean, and making a natural border between Milton and Dorchester.

photo of Baker Chocolate Factory, Lower MillsWe wandered around the Dorchester side of the Neponset River for awhile, taking a look at the many historic buildings and structures there, including the old Bakery Chocolate Factory (see photo), which has been converted into apartments and condos. Lower Mills itself is a gem of a neighborhood, with interesting shops, old-fashioned streetlights, old brick buildings, and a real community feel. We walked along Dorchester Avenue (the main street of Lower Mills), soaking in the history and character of this great section of Boston.

photo of Milton LandingBefore heading back to the parking lot at Pope John Paul II Park in Neponset, we spent a little time on the Milton Side of the Neponset River, walking through Milton Village and heading down to Milton Landing (see photo). Hidden away on a dead end street, Milton Landing is a quiet, peaceful spot with outstanding water views and pleasant walkways that go in various directions. Milton Landing is in the process of being renovated and redeveloped, with many condos there having sweeping views of the water below. There was virtually nobody out when we arrived at this area, so we pretty much had the walkways to ourselves. We stopped for a few minutes to enjoy the serenity of the spot before heading back to our cars, knowing we'd be back sometime in the summer to do more exploring in this interesting area just south of Boston.