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

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Moderate Hike Through Caryl Park and Noanet Woodlands

A few months back, I had written about the Hale Reservation, a vast conservation area that is mostly in Westwood. I had briefly touched upon the adjacent Noanet Woodlands and Caryl Park, but didn't get into much detail about either. This entry is dedicated to those two areas, which when combined with Hale Reservation, can make for a very long (and satisfying) day hike that is just outside the Route 128 belt southwest of Boston.

photo of Caryl Park, Dover, MAA group of us went on a moderately difficult 5-mile hike through Caryl Park, the Noanet Woodlands, and, briefly, Hale Reservation a couple of weeks ago. We all parked at the Caryl Park lot on Dedham Street near the center of Dover, and entered the woods on a wide, mostly level trail. There isn't much to Caryl Park, which is owned by the town, but the woods are absolutely beautiful in some parts (see photo), especially as you get closer to the Noanet Woodlands. We started on the Caryl Trail (which is blazed in yellow), then took a left on the Peabody Trail (blue blazes) around where the Noanet Woodlands begin. From there, we walked through deep woods to our first stopping point, namely the Mill Site.

photo of pond in Noanet Woodlands, Dover, MAThe area around the Mill Site is particularly scenic, with rushing water falling sharply from a small pond that feels much more remote than it actually is. The pond is one of three that are connected by the Noanet Brook, with the middle pond having a pleasant area with a picnic table where people can stop for lunch or a short break (see photo). From here, we jumped back on the Peabody Trail and skirted along the wooded base of Noanet Peak before stopping at a point where the trail veers off to the left.

photo from Noanet Peak, Dover, MAIt was at this point that we took a right and started climbing Noanet Peak, a relatively high hill (for the Boston area) that can be extremely rugged in spots. We took some minor trails here and there, eventually ending up at the summit, with its extensive views mostly to the east, including the Boston skyline in the distance (see photo). From here, we descended back to the Peabody Trail, took a left on the Larrabee Trail (red blazes), and took a series of minor trails into the Hale Reservation where we had lunch at Powissett Pond. From here, we took a direct route back through the Noanet Woodlands and Caryl Park, getting back to the lot from Powissett Pond in a little less than 45 minutes.

The hike we did wasn't too difficult, though the trails around Noanet Peak were steep in spots, and some of the trails between Noanet Peak and the Hale Reservation had some decent rises. For those who might prefer a basic, easy walk, going as far as the three ponds around and just beyond the Mill Site in Noanet entails mostly level hiking and isn't too difficult.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Swampscott, Lynn, and Nahant Beaches

You really don't have to go very far outside of Boston to get some stunning, relatively unspoiled ocean views. Take the stretch of beaches from Swampscott through Lynn to Nahant, for example. As the photos below show, the views from these coastal areas are quite nice, with truly outstanding vistas from some spots. And while more of a walk than a true hike, you can go several miles along the walkways from Swampscott to Nahant, making for a good day trip.

photo of King's Beach, Swampscott, MAA good place to start a walk along the beaches in this area is in Swampscott Center, a picturesque spot located along King's Beach (see photo). From the center of town, a walkway heads generally southwest, crossing the Lynn border within minutes. Paralleling Lynn Shore Drive, the walkway gradually goes uphill, allowing for excellent views back into Swampscott.

view from Lynn Beach, Lynn, MANot too far after crossing into Lynn, a paved loop veers left and heads out to a rocky point that has sweeping ocean vistas, including scenes of Nahant and an island just off its shore (see photo). From there, the paved path loops back to the main walkway, giving more nice ocean views along the way, and continues back along Lynn Beach.

photo of Lynn Beach, Lynn, MAThe walkway continues on a southwest course, sometimes right up against Lynn Shore Drive, and other times being a bit further away from it, slowly dropping closer to the ocean. Before it drops toward Nahant Beach, however, another sweeping view unfolds, this one of a long, flat stretch of Lynn Beach where it meets Nahant Beach (see photo). Eventually, the walkway starts curving south as it begins its route along Nahant Beach.

photo of Nahant Beach, Nahant, MAThe Nahant Beach stretch of this walk can be busy during the warmer days of the summer, but on a day when the beach isn't crowded, it feels a bit more isolated then the stretch along Lynn Beach, Views eastward of Nahant Bay can be found along the entire path (see photo), with an interesting view of the Boston skyline across the causeway to the southwest. It is a long walk to the end of the beach, with terrific views of Lynn and Boston at the end. From this point, you can continue walking through Nahant or backtracking to Swampscott.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Lilac Weekend (2009) at the Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain

A group of us hiked around the Arnold Arboretum this past Saturday (May 10, 2009) to see the lilacs and other plants and trees blooming during Lilac Weekend. Below are a few pictures from the walk:

photo of Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain, MA

photo of Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain, MA

photo of Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain, MA

photo of Arnold Arboretum, Jamaica Plain, MA

Monday, May 04, 2009

Melrose Rock and Black Rock, Middlesex Fells

I hike a lot in the Middlesex Fells Reservation, a huge area of conservation land just north of Boston. The Fells is split in two by Route 93, with western section being much larger than the eastern section. But the eastern section has a lot ot offer in its relatively compact area, including some very rugged geography and spectacular views that you just don't get in the more placid, less rocky western section.

photo from Melrose Rock, Middlesex Fells, Melrose, MAA number of us saw some of these rugged sections of the eastern Middlesex Fells late last month, including the extreme eastern edge of the reservation where the land drops off sharply. From Black Rock (see photo, you literally cannot go further east, as the Fells simply ends in such a steep dropoff that it feels a lot like a cliff From this point you can see some of the residential sections of Melrose as well as Melrose Center in the distance.

photo from Black Rock, Middlesex Fells, Melrose, MAWe also hiked south a short distance from Melrose Rock, ending up a Black Rock, which is perhaps even more stunning than Melrose rock, with the same sharp dropoffs as well as more sweeping views of both Melrose and Malden (see photo). Black Rock is a great place to stop for a lunch/picnic break, as there are lots of rocky outcroppings where hikers can sit and enjoy the views far below.

There is another scenic spot south of Black Rock called Pinnacle Rock which is so steep and rugged that some hikers feel a little hesitant climbing it. But it does make for a great third stop before turning west once again and heading into the woods. I will try to post pictures of Pinnacle Rock in a future entry on this site.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Battle Road Trail, Minute Man National Historic Park

For those who haven't been to Minute Man National Historic Park in Lexington, Lincoln, and Concord, it really is a special place, as you have a mix of history and scenic beauty along the roadways and trails within the linear park. A group of us recently walked the entire Battle Road Trail within the park, and it was quite a nice experience.

photo of Fiske Hill, Minute Man National Historic ParkWe started at the Minute Man Visitor Center, which is just off Route 2A near where Lexington and Lincoln meet. We initially walked east, getting to the eastern end of the Battle Road Trail near Route 128, then going up the Fiske Hill trail to the top of the hill, where there is a peaceful meadow surrounded by woods (see photo). From there, we went down the other side and soon ended up back on the Battle Road Trail, heading west this time.

photo in front of Hartwell Tavern, Minute Man National Historic ParkAfter skirting the visitor center, we wound our way through a mix of woods and fields with Route 2A off to the left and Hanscom Field Airport nearby to the right. A little over a mile from the visitor center, we came to a beautiful tree-shaded stretch of the Battle Road Trail (see photo), stopping at the Hartwell Tavern for a short time before continuing on to the Bloody Angle, a few more historic structures, and a boardwalk before meeting up (briefly) with Route 2A near the Lincoln/Concord line.

photo of Historic Farming Fields, Minute Man National Historic ParkWalking away from Route 2A on the Battle Road Trail (and going past a farmstand that was unfortunately closed for the season), we soon ended up on another boardwalk that led to the historic farming fields (see photo), which is perhaps the most picturesque part of the Battle Road Trail. We looped around the fields, ending up back near Route 2A, then walked the short stretch marking the end of the Battle Road Trail. From here, we walked along Route 2A for a bit less than a half mile, stopping for lunch next to The Wayside and the Orchard House, just east of Concord Center.

photo of Hartwell Tavern, Minute Man National Historic ParkAfter lunch, we backtracked east along the Battle Road Trail, making a few stops at the historic farming fields, one of the boardwalks, and the Hartwell Tavern. By this time, the tavern was open to the public, so a few of us toured the historic home (see photo) before continuing on. From there, it was a relatively quick walk back to the visitor center and the cars. The total trip was around 13 miles, but a fairly easy 13 miles since much of the walk was flat.

The Battle Road Trail within the Minute Man National Historic Park isn't all that challenging, but it is very peaceful and scenic, and there is a lot of history to see along the way.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Webb Memorial State Park. Weymouth

The South Shore suburb of Weymouth doesn't have a ton of open space, but what it has is really quite scenic, including some real hidden gems such as Pond Meadow (which it shares with Braintree) and Webb Memorial State Park. I visited the latter spot over the weekend and was pleasantly surprised by its pastoral feel and occasional stunning views. It isn't a huge open area, but there are enough trails to make for a leisurely morning or afternoon walk and the place is made for frequent stops with its benches, grassy areas, and outlooks. From certain parts of Webb Memorial Park, you can see the Boston skyline, sections of Hull and Quincy, and some of the islands in Boston Harbor, including Grape Island, which seems almost close enough to touch. The low hills and lowland areas make Webb Park feel a bit like a smaller version of World's End, a spectacular conservation area just to the east that is popular with hikers.

Several pictures of Webb Memorial State Park are shown below:

photo of Webb Memorial State Park, Weymouth, MA

photo of Webb Memorial State Park, Weymouth, MA

photo of Webb Memorial State Park, Weymouth, MA



Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Winter Hike at Hale Reservation, Westwood

photo of Storrow Pond, Hale Reservation, Westwood, MAA group of 25 of us went on a long hike through Hale Reservation in Westwood (and briefly crossed over into the Noanet Woodlands in Dover) a little more than a week ago. Hale is a huge reservation, so we went at a brisk pace from the start, looping northwest from the Cat Rock parking area over to the pristine Storrow Pond (see photo) near the northern edge of the reservation. After spending some time enjoying the sights of the pond and the sounds of the stream that fell away from it, we turned southwest, hiking through some of the most remote-feeling land in the Boston area along a part of the Storrow Pond Trail.

photo of Powissett Pond, Hale Reservation, Westwood, MAAfter nearly a mile of walking through some very deep woods, we approached Powissett Pond (see photo), which is in the hilly western part of Hale Reservation. Like Storrow Pond, Powissett Pond is a small but scenic body of water, and we spent some time on the picnic tables there relaxing and wandering around the beach area. From there, we started climbing west toward the southwestern edge of the reservation, staying mostly on a fire lane trail, but eventually veering off to reach the highest point of the hike.

photo of Powissett Peak, Hale Reservation, Westwood, MAAfter several fairly steep twists and turns along some minor trails, we made it to the top of Powissett Peak, which is about 400 feet above sea level and has some sweeping views to the west (see photo). It was a bit windy at the top, so we didn't stay long, backtracking to the fire lane and dipping down into the Noanet Woodlands where we had lunch. From there, we took some little-used trails east back into Hale, skirting Strawberry Hill and ending up back near Powissett Pond. From there, it was an easy (and scenic) walk back to the parking area via a trail that went alongside Noanet Pond, the biggest body of water in the reservation.

The hike that we did was about 8 miles in length, but for those who want to really push themselves, a hike through Hale, Noanet, and adjacent Caryl Park in Dover could stretch well over 10 miles, depending on the route taken.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wilson Mountain Hike, Dedham

photo of stream near Wilson Mountain, Dedham, MAThere aren't too many "mountains" in the Boston area, so having the word attached to a recreation area, even if it's not accurate, is rather intriguing. And after finally hiking through the Wilson Mountain Reservation in Dedham last weekend, I can say that no, Wilson Mountain is not really a mountain, but it is a peaceful, scenic spot with deep woods, bubbling brooks (see photo), and a surprisingly steep hill with decent views at the top.

photo of trail along Wilson Mountain, Dedham, MAWe started our hike from the small parking lot (room for 10 cars or so) along Route 135 just east of Route 128. The green dot trail started out as what looked like a logging road, but it quickly became narrower and steeper once the red dot loop veered off to the right. As we skirted the top of the hill, some limited views of the Blue Hills could be seen to the east, but then we quickly lost the views as we descended into a deeply woooded are with many streams. A little more than halfway through the green loop, we took a side trail up to the red dot trail, where we took a right and were soon dropping steeply from the hill, on the part of the trail where the red and green dot were one and the same. Then the red dot trail left the green dot and passed through a beautiful pine forest (see photo) before starting a rather treacherous scamper up toward the summit of Wilson Mountain.

Once we reached the summit, we took a breather, enjoying the fine views of the Boston skyline and the unusual rock formations at the top (see photo). Then we went back along the side trail down to the green dot trail where we continued on from where we had left off earlier. This part of the green dot was mostly flat and eventually went parallel to Route 135, but it was still quite nice, with several streams and some wetlands along the way. The trail took us back to the parking lot, but we continued on to another trail that skirted the eastern boundary of the reservation and led to a large meadow. From there, we turned around and headed back to the lot.

You can do about 4 miles or so in the Wilson Mountain Reservation if you hit all of the trails within the area. Figure on about 2 hours for the hike, plus any breaks you might take.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Winter Hike at Pond Meadow, Braintree

About 25 of us went on a winter hike through Pond Meadow in Braintree over the weekend. Conditions were pretty good (the snow was packed down and not very slippery), and because Pond Meadow is not a hilly area, it was a perfect spot for a Sunday morning hike.

photo of Pond Meadow, Braintree, MAPond Meadow is a smallish park mostly in Braintree, though some of it is located in Weymouth. It abuts Route 3, so parts of the area are tarnished by traffic noise, but much of the area is quiet. There is a main walkway that is paved loops around the pond, with some dirt paths veering off the loop. We hiked on both the paved walkway and most of the dirt paths (except for the yellow trail), walking about 4 miles total, much of which was along or within site of the pond. Perhaps the most scenic trail was the part of the red trail that meanders along the north edge of the pond. It was quiet, scenic, and afforded near-constant views of the water. But the trails away from the pond were also scenic, including part of the blue trail that crossed bucolic streams (see photo) and wandered through rolling terrain.

Pond Meadow is generally a place to go for a short walk; indeed, distance hikers probably won't like it because of its relatively small size. But it is a nice oasis in the middle of an area that is otherwise residential, and its easy access from Route 3 makes it a great option for a quick trip.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Winter Scenes at Ponkapoag Pond (Blue Hills), Canton

A group of us did a snowshoe hike around Ponkapoag Pond in the Blue Hills yesterday (including the AMC camps on the far side of the pond. The going was tough, as there was a foot of fresh powder on the ground, but the scenery was spectacular. Below are a few photos taken during the hike:

photo of Ponkapoag Pond, Blue Hills, January 2009

photo of Ponkapoag Pond, Blue Hills, January 2009

photo of Ponkapoag Pond, Blue Hills, January 2009

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Winter Snowshoe Hike in the Eastern Blue Hills

photo of Sawcut Notch Trail, Eastern Blue Hills, Quincy, MALast Weekend, I went on a snowshoe walk through the Eastern Blue Hills in Quincy after a moderate snowstorm. Conditions were perfect for snowshoeing, as the snow was light and powdery, so I set off that morning from the Shea Rink on Willard Street, starting on the Skyline Trail and soon moving on to the beautiful Sawcut Notch trail (see photo). The Sawcut Notch was in great condition and was mostly pretty level, so it was easy going for the first part of the hike.

photo near base of Great Dome, Eastern Blue Hills, Quincy, MAAfter awhile, the Sawcut Notch Trail started to rise a bit as it approached a scenic and remote hill called Great Dome. I skirted Great Dome--there is a trail that goes up the hill, but it is being phased out--and headed toward Little Dome and some marshy areas, taking some pictures of streams and wetlands along the way (see photo). A short ways after Little Dome, I took a left and found my way to Crags Foot Path, which is a peaceful, mostly level trail (and was particularly beautiful that morning).

photo near base of Great Dome, Eastern Blue Hills, Quincy, MAI hadn't really done any elevation gains up to this point, so just after the Furnace Brook Path veered off to the left, I took a right up a little-used path, scampering up the side of Rattlesnake Hill. The path soon brought me to the Skyline Trail once again, where I took a right and carefully hiked up the side of Rattlesnake Hill. When I got to the top, it started to snow, making for a really nice scene (see photo). I spent a few minutes at the top before retracing my steps and taking the Skyline Trail back to the parking lot.

The total snowshoe hike in the Eastern Blue Hills was about 5 miles, and took just under 3 hours. And while the top of Rattlesnake Hill was probably the most scenic part, the heavily-wooded Sawcut Notch Trail and Crags Food Path were also quite nice.