Little Blue, Great Blue, Houghton, Wolcott, Hemenway, Hancock, Burnt, Breeze, Tucker, South & North Boyce, Buck, Hawk, Fenno, Nahanton, Kitchamakin, Chickatawbut, Fox, Great Dome, Little Dome, Wampatuck and Rattlesnake. That's the 22 hills in the Blue Hills State Reservation, but you probably knew that already!
Peter and I had hit 13 of the hills previously on a Skyline Trail traverse of the area (http://forum.hike-nh.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=9125
) so we had but 9 little hills to go. Why you may ask?? Because it's there!! And because the weather looked really lousy up north and downeast.
After getting stuck in traffic for 45 minutes each on both Route 1 for Peter and I-93 for me (At 6AM!! WTF?!) We spotted a car at the Shea Rink and drove to the Houghton Pond visitor center, as we already had Great and Little Blue Hills, and since it didn't look like we would have much of a sunrise to catch anyhow, we skipped the planned start at the Elliot Tower for the view of that. A million people circling the reservation going about their morning, traffic backed up for miles on the highways getting to the place, and only three cars in the huge parking lot when we started. And as best I can recall we only saw 3 people on the trails all day too. Not bad for hiking in the middle of a metropolis. The most dangerous part of the day was crossing the road to head up Houghton Hill, which we did on some side trails, circling around and finally gaining the summit on a segment of the Skyline Trail. There could have been some restricted views but the towering 423 foot high summit was still in the morning clouds, so after a very short off trail ramble looking for the actual high point we went back to the parking lot on some different trails to start the rest of the planned traverse.
6:15 AM on I-93!! Are you kidding me?!
Headed under the city
Maybe we missed a moment of sunrise
Pretty quiet in the parking lot
Headed up Houghton
A dusting of snow but it melted quick
A clearing on top but not much for views
We passed by the visitors center, beach and pond, where just a few lonely geese were hanging around, and then headed up red dot blazed path on Breeze Hill. Another towering summit at 285 feet was quickly attained and photographed for posterity before we descended on the green dot path back to the pond. From there it was off to find a chunk of trail I had been looking at since first hearing about it a few years ago, the Old Route 128. Just an abandoned section of highway but I always find it kind of neat to see old infrastructure or other man made ruins abandoned and left for the woods to swallow up. There are old paint markings too but apparently they were just practice for the Mass DOT after the road was closed, and after a half mile or so of strolling along we found our exit trail and headed back into the woods.
A quiet Houghton Pond visitors center
Only the geese were making noise
Morning light on the pond
God Rays along the way
Headed up the red dotted trail on Breeze Hill
Conquering the mighty summit
Old Rt 128
Thick paint. No wonder it's still around
A hike up Burnt Hill with another short whack to the true summit was followed by one of the longest whacks to the summit of South Boyce. Some views through the trees of surrounding hills but otherwise thickly wooded, so down the other side we went to connect with the red dot blazed Deer Hollow Path and eventually the Pig Rock Trail. It sounded as interesting as anything else in the area so we took it, scoping out every rock along the way for one that resembled a pig. A mini version of Acadia's Bubble Rock is perched on a small ledge, but otherwise no rocks really seemed worth naming a trail after. Finally at the end of the trail we came to an oddly shaped rock, which I guess with a little imagination you could make it out to be a pig or wild boar. Or maybe the trail namers were just drunk when they named it. Who knows, so on we went to the next mighty hill.
Checking the elevation on Burnt Hill
Whacking up South Boyce
Nice bushes to whack through at least
Blue skies arriving in full force
Geared up for the extreme elevation and looking for VFTT
Hawk Hill provided some of the rockiest terrain of the day, as well as a few ledges. It sits away from the main range of hills but actually has a few viewpoints and some interesting terrain complete with a couple scrambles, made more interesting by the fact that the bedrock in the blue hills is exceptionally slippery when wet, but somehow we survived, topping out on another summit in brushy woods, and coming in at 423 feet it tied Houghton Hill for our highest summit of the day. The route down was where the scrambles were which added some fun for the day before we joined the Bouncing Brook Trail and taking that to the Slide Notch Path, which was a nice alternative to climbing up and over Chikatawbut Hill. A short side venture to get a view of the Boston Skyline for the ledges on Nahanton Hill and then we went to the Chikatawbut Tower area and the scenic overlook for a snack and another view of Bean Town before continuing on.
Don't forget to unbuckle your pack!
Headed up Hawk Hill
View near the top of Buck Hill
Slippery when wet
Headed up Slide Notch
Views from Nahanton ledges
View from the roadside overlook
Our next objectives were Little and Great Dome. We got distracted by multiple signs for the CCC camp, and figured it must be worth a visit. Hoping to find something like the one in Bear Brook we detoured a mile or more to get to the site, only to find nothing more than a pond, a couple small crumbling foundation walls and a sign saying "Her it was!" Really not worth the effort, and they should tell you on signage and the map it's the "site of the former" and not THE
CCC camp. After that we also explored a strange square on the map, which turned out to be a natural gas station of some sort for the pipeline, but interestingly it was signed with warnings of poisonous snakes in the area. So I guess the some of the rattlers that call the reservation home live in this part of the park. The snakes are also the reason we did this hike in winter. If I have to bushwhack around the place I wanted those things hibernating deep underground!
Then it was off to the Domes, which were really quite similar to their slightly larger cousin, Half Dome, out in Yosemite (similar because they both have rocks and trees). Little Dome had a nice ledgey summit with a view, and I can only imagine the timber rattlers love basking on this one in summer. We even found some bones scattered about, maybe from an animal that didn't read the warning signs or something. After that we circled around to Great Dome, where again we had to bushwhack up to the summit. It also had some better than expected view ledges that looked out at Great Blue Hill among others.
Tossing a few rocks
"Site" of CCC Camp. NOT CCC camp like the signs and maps say
Evergreen leafs?? Or a real early spring?!
I guess timber rattlers like gas pumping stations
Headed up Little Dome
Nice open summit
View of Big Blue
I guess this guy didn't get the memo about the rattlers
Old Blaze on Little Dome. From an old trail maybe??
Whacking up Great Dome
Great Blue Hill is so tall it makes it's own weather
We whacked down the other side, eventually connecting with the Green Dot Trail and heading for Fox Hill, which had a short but steep ascent to a ledgey summit with no views that I could see. Then down the Fox Hill Path and along the road for a minute to climb Wampatuck Hill on the Skyline Trail, where we tramped around the brush to the highest point we could find and a few restricted views. Down the other side and up the scramble on ledges of Rattlesnake we went, taking in the views from the graffiti covered ledges before going down and up one more time to whack to the true summit of Rattlesnake Hill for the 22nd and final summit in the reservation. Nice pine woods and some really restricted views took us to the 305 foot summit, which towered over the urban sprawl below and provided a few more restricted views. There were some ledges nearby we could see from Wampatuck that we thought of looking for but decided to just finish off the day in an effort to beat traffic through the city, so that's what we did, passing the old Quarry and St. Moritz Ponds along the way before getting back to the rink and calling it a day.
Tunnel of trees going up Fox Hill
Summit of said hill
Going up Waumpatuck Hill
VFTT of Boston and Rattlesnake Hills crags
Headed up the Crags
One of a few herd paths to the true summit
#22. Victory is ours!!
None of these on Rattlesnake Hill today. A bonus of hiking the hills in winter.
The days route. 12.1 miles w/2300 feet. Not too bad for a bunch of hills.
Again on the ride home I got stuck in stop and go traffic on I-93 all the way from Boston to Haverhill (at 3PM!! Seriously, WTF??!!). We thought we'd timed it early enough both ways to beat it but nope! I'd hurl myself off the highest building in Boston if I had to do that every day. But it gave me a few minutes to think about the hike and another list completed and in the books. Time to get a patch for it, as it ranks right up there among my hiking achievements with redlining of Pawtuckaway and Agamenticus. 22 Summits ranging from 187 to 640 feet, but if you add up all their elevations it's 8955 feet, so they average over 1/10th of a 4K each! Obviously not big but the two hikes it took to hit them all were surprisingly solid and the ups and down really give you a work out even if it's just 2-300 feet at a time. The end to end Skyline Traverse we did last winter http://forum.hike-nh.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=9125
was 9.2 miles with 1850 feet of elevation. This hike was actually longer, 12.1 miles with 2300 feet of elevation according to Google Earth. Pretty good day for a day when the places you'd rather be don't have weather you want to hike in. Does that make sense?? And having seen all the hills I can assure you there is some really good, and at times surprisingly rugged, hiking to be had in these lowly hills south of the city. We just happened to hit them all within a year and all in winter, so add a "W" to this minumental achievement and make the patch ice blue, even though there was hardly any ice in sight either time. While hiking there in summer is also nice, winter allowed for the whacks without worry of snakes, and added views through leafless trees, as well as the fact that the place is extremely crowded in summer and nearly deserted on weekdays in winter. So next time you can't get where you want to go head out and tackle the "Blue 22"!