Hiking the Blue Hills

When you live in Boston, hiking is often a multi-day affair. At the very least, it usually involves a 2-hour drive, and lord knows the last thing I want to do after climbing a mountain is hop in the car for a few hours. Generally, I want to hop into bed for a few hours after a hike like that. Or a hammock.

I’m planning to do some multi-day trips this summer though, and so I’ve been training to carry everything I need on my back. Last month, I started bringing my pack to Harvard Stadium, filled with water bottles and the heaviest cook books I own.

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While it was hard and helped build strength, climbing stairs with a 40 lb pack is a bit different from being on the trail- there’s more vertical, and fewer variations in terrain. So last week I packed my bag with all the stuff I thought I’d need for a multi-day trip and headed to the Blue Hills.

It’s less than a 20-minute drive from my house to this 7,000 acre reservation. Crisscrossed by trails (and a few roads), the terrain at the Blue Hills is varied. I’ve trail run and biked there, but I had never really hiked. For being just a few miles from home, I was surprised at how easy it was to get way from the bustle of the city.

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I decided to cross the whole reservation via the Skyline trail, a 9-mile point to point trail that boasts 2,500 feet of altitude gain. My trek started just after 7:30 a.m. in Quincy. It was cool, overcast, and threatening to rain. I took off and saw two other souls over the next two hours.

While it’s not the most challenging trail in the world, I was surprised at how tough it actually was. Between stone staircases and large rock scrambles, this was not a leisurely weekend stroll.

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Though I could occasionally hear cars and planes (Blue Hills lies in the flight path to Logan Airport), it was easy to forget that I was still in the city. I climbed to the top of rocks and saw nothing but trees for miles.

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Things started to pick up during the second half of my hike. I passed families and groups of college students out for weekend jaunts. I met up with some mountain bikers at the top of a hill and took a photo for them, and then chatted with a middle aged man with a pack bigger than mine about his upcoming trek across New Mexico.

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I didn’t stop. My water bladder meant I could drink on the go, and handily packed snacks (some dried apricots and a Picky Bar) kept my energy up. I hoped to see a deer, but only saw turkeys and chipmunks (though I ran into a deer the following day when I biked through the Blue Hills).

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I arrived at Eliot Tower on the top of Great Blue Hill just after 11. From there, I lost the blue hash marks of the skyline trail and ended up on another trail that brought me to the base of the Blue Hills Ski Area. I was home less than an hour later, with plenty of time to tackle laundry and make dinner for a group of friends.

Overall, I was super pleased with the length and challenge of this hike. While it got more crowded the closer I got to the ski area, it was really fun to be in the woods, to chat with like-minded folks about outdoor adventures, and to be home just after lunch. I even bought a trail map at the visitors center ($3) so I can do some more exploring.

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