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 Skyline Trail Traverse Of The Blue Hills - 3/17/16 
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 Skyline Trail Traverse Of The Blue Hills - 3/17/16
Thursday looked to be a pretty lousy afternoon all over most of the northeast, but the one spot with little chance of storms was in eastern Mass. Well, what could be more appropriate than spending St. Patrick's Day on the outskirts of Boston?? So the Blue Hills it was. We had planned on an out and back from the east but after fighting the morning rush hour traffic (never again will I complain about traffic in Conway!) we decided at the last minute to spot a car and head to the other end for a one way traverse of the hills instead, both to avoid any chance of getting caught in the thunderstorms and to get done in time to beat traffic north through the city.

W -> E Skyline Trail traverse of the Blue Hills. 9.2 miles with 1850 feet of elevation according to the AMC guide book.
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There is no official parking at the western end of the trail, but there is a bus turn around with room for a couple cars and no "No Parking" signs in sight so we left the other car there and hit the trail. There is an old highway ramp in the woods that was never completed and that's where the trail starts, so in an effort to be complete we made a 5 minute detour to the actual start of the trail and to see the never finished highway project. After checking that out we officially started our winter Skyline Traverse. Winter on the calendar only however, as once the morning clouds cleared off we were treated to a day of 60+ degree sunshine and blue skies for the remainder of the hike. The first mile or so was unexciting, but made for a nice warm up, and we took a side trail over the first summit of the day up Little Blue Hill, which would have provided a nice view of it's greater neighbor except for the clouds.

Parking at the western end
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The old highway interchange that was never put to use is where the trail officially starts
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Start of the trail alongside where I-95 & I-93 split
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Nice woods to warm up in. It's not spring yet, those trees have marcescent leaves which don't fall off. :wink:
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The roller coaster hiking began, dropping down and crossing a road before making the steep, rugged climb up Great Blue Hill. That was the high point, although not the highlight, of the day. Rising about 500 feet in half a mile to the summit the trail is a mix of rock and ledge the whole way with some stone steps thrown in for good measure. We got to the summit observatory just as the clouds began to burn off, so we hung around for a bit on the 640 foot high summit. Doesn't seem like much but it's on a few lists. The mass county high points, as well as being highly ranked on the US Atlantic Coast high points and the highest of the 22 hills in the Blue Hills. It is also #24 out of 25 peaks in New England that have 25+ miles of isolation. Not bad for a lowly little hill. We made the short trip over to the Elliot Tower for a good look around before taking the north branch of the Skyline Trail from there.

The roller coaster begins coming down Little Blue Hill
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Road crossings were a little tricky at rush hour
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A short (.5 mi) but steep (500 foot) climb up Great Blue Hill
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All rock and ledge too
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Not the best weather to start off but it was supposed to improve
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The summit observatory
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The Elliot Tower is a short walk from the summit
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Views of the Blue Hills and city skyline from the tower
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There are a lot of short but steep down and ups along the Skyline Trail, and it often passes near but not directly over the summits proper of the hills, so we made a lot of short side trips to hit the actual high points when going by, and sometimes would double back to make sure we got every foot of the main trail completed. Terrain was generally rugged, more than you might expect, with pleasant pitch pine stands and lots of ledge thrown in for good measure among the hardwoods and white pines that made up the forest. Viewpoints abound, looking out at the other hills, the mountains around southern NH, the Boston skyline, the Boston Harbor Islands and up the coast towards Cape Ann. Almost Acadia like terrain in many areas as we passed over Little and Great Blue, Wolcot, Hemenway, Hancock, Tucker and North Boyce Hills.

Hazardous water crossings! :D
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Rocky ups and downs. This place is PUD city!
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Look back at GBH from Hemenway Hill
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Headed up Hancock Hill
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Peter watching the turkey vultures swirl overhead
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Boston and the Hancock Tower from Hancock Hill
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Rugged trail down Hancock Hill
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GBH from Tucker Hill
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Turtle Head Rock on North Boyce Hill
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About halfway through the hike we arrived at the brush covered summit of Buck Hill. Definitely one of the highlights of the trip with clear views in most directions so we took our only prolonged break of the day there, chatting with a nice guy who used to work for the Mass DRC and gave us a brief history of the place before we all headed down and we went our separate ways at the next road crossing. From there terrain was generally easier but still had a couple ledgey summits and scrambles, and we took a side trail to the second tower on Chickatawbut Hill, only to find it still (or permanently??) locked up. Looping back to the trail we passed over more hills, adding Fenno, Kitchamakin, Nahanton and Wampatuck Hills to our list before coming to the grand finale at Rattlesnake Hill, the most rugged chunk of rock all day. A 100 foot scramble up gave us a clifftop final view of the Boston Skyline and the hills behind us before we finished the hike off, passing an old quarry and the turtle filled St. Moritz Ponds in the 65 degree sunshine on the last leg of the trail.

Buck Hill's brushy summit
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Hancock Hills rocky slopes are home to many of the reservations timber rattlesnakes
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60 and sunny on Buck Hill. Not bad for winter! :D
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Looking towards Boston from the ledgy summit
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Tree on top
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Towering trees below too
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Headed up Chickatawbut Hill
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The Chickatawbut Tower was closed but colorfully decorated
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Storms starting to brew by mid afternoon
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St. Paddy's Day on Wampatuck Hill
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Headed up Rattlesnake Hill
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Scramble to the top
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Top of the ledges
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Jump??
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Cleaning up orange peels. Good thing he who shall not be named wasn't around! :twisted:
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Checking out the old quarry
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A common problem with the old quarries, a young man drowned in this one in 1965
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How exactly did they get halfway up the hill??
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The turtle filled St. Moritz Ponds
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On the way home we hit a little traffic and some pretty sever storms arrived but we were already on our way out of the city by then. We even got a rainbow around Lynn, perfect ending for St. Paddy's Day! Overall this was a great hike, while there really was no point in hitting the first mile or so other than for completeness the rest of the hills had a lot of nice woods and ledgy hilltops, especially Hancock, Buck, Chickatawbut and Rattlesnake. If I look at it right we hit 13 of the 22 Hills and I have a couple more on my list from previous trips, so I think I'm at 15 of the Blue 22 now. 8) I thought the constant few hundred foot rise and falls were more tiring than one prolonged up and then back down like bigger hills give you. The entire hike was about 10 miles, although the Skyline Trail is only 9.2 from end to end with 1850 feet of elevation gain according to the AMC Mass Guide. Online websites and Google Earth have it closer to 2500 feet, so I'm not sure who's right. Not a snowflake or spot of ice in sight either way, so, unless the storm on Monday hits the area you can get in a great spring training hike here right now with terra firma under foot. If a car spot isn't in the cards there are a bunch of other loops you can make up on your own using the 125 miles of spider-webbing trails in the hills. All that packed into a 10 X 2 mile piece of land within sight of Boston. Not to shabby and the place has yet to disappoint me.

20 minutes later. Finished this one just in time!
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There was too much traffic to look for the pot of gold, but it was still a fitting touch to end the St. Paddy's Day hike!
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Sat Mar 19, 2016 2:14 pm
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Peak Bagger
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 Re: Skyline Trail Traverse Of The Blue Hills - 3/17/16
Nice!

Terry


Sat Mar 19, 2016 6:57 pm
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 Re: Skyline Trail Traverse Of The Blue Hills - 3/17/16
I must say. Traverses are always more difficult. 9 miles in and still climbing up. We for sure hit the bullseye here this day. Rain all around us. Rolletcoaster is right. Some of these would meet the criteria for 4ks of they were taller. Well a lot taller. I'd upload some pics but Google is killing picassaweb and I need to find another option. And Google photos pales in comparison in functionality. But hey! It looks pretty :roll:


Sat Mar 19, 2016 8:27 pm
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 Re: Skyline Trail Traverse Of The Blue Hills - 3/17/16
Quite the parting shot. :beer:

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Sat Mar 19, 2016 9:07 pm
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 Re: Skyline Trail Traverse Of The Blue Hills - 3/17/16
Love that last pic!

I've only been to the Blue Hills once, and I only did Great Blue Hill and Wolcott Hill, but I've heard there are good views elsewhere in the park. Your report confirmed all of that. Might have to go back. I've already done the full Skyline Trail loop in the Middlesex Fells, so it'd make sense to round out the area 8) .

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Sun Mar 20, 2016 7:59 pm
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 Re: Skyline Trail Traverse Of The Blue Hills - 3/17/16
hiker0200 wrote:
I've only been to the Blue Hills once, and I only did Great Blue Hill and Wolcott Hill, but I've heard there are good views elsewhere in the park. Your report confirmed all of that. Might have to go back. I've already done the full Skyline Trail loop in the Middlesex Fells, so it'd make sense to round out the area 8) .


You could do an out and back of the Skyline trail starting at the Shea Rink in Quincy. Then you could hike both branches and hit the whole thing. 18.4 miles with 3700 feet of elevation. Your recent Bondcliff hike of 18.2 with 3300 feet should have you tuned up nicely for this one. Hard to believe a traverse of these lowly hills is harder than one of the most isolated 4K's in the northeast but having done it twice, IMO, it definitely is. Bondcliff still wins in the scenery department by a hair.

And don't forget the Blue Hills 22 list. 8) This isn't official, but it's what I can gather from various maps out there.
1. Little Blue
2. Great Blue
3. Wolcott
4. Hemenway
5. Houghton
6. Hancock
7. Breeze
8. Tucker
9. Burnt
10. South Boyce
11. North Boyce
12. Buck
13. Hawk
14. Chickatawbut
15. Fenno
16. Kitchamakin
17. Nahanton
18. Broken
19. Fox
20. Wampatuck
21. Rattlesnake
22. Pine


Sun Mar 20, 2016 8:44 pm
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 Re: Skyline Trail Traverse Of The Blue Hills - 3/17/16
We were across the river at the Boston Flower Show all day. I can't believe we missed that rainbow :cry: . Thanks for this report. Prema has a friend who lives in Dorchester who was asking about hiking. We were going to take him here someday. We'll see how he likes it, and then maybe head up north eventually.


Mon Mar 21, 2016 8:44 pm
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