Hikes 18 & 19 of the #52hikechallenge: Dogs rule

I won’t lie – it’s getting tougher to find inspiration for the #52hikechallenge these days. I am longing for a trip where I can pack 3 or 4 hikes into a couple of days; I’m longing for a trip that takes me to canyons and mountain lakes and waterfalls. But, my work schedule and some big upcoming projects mean I need to stay close to home and save my pennies. Thus, I head back to my favorite haunts and look for ways to make them seem fresh.

In reality, once I’m out on the trail it’s all good, but it’s the getting there that’s proving harder than it should be. Reading this, I think I’m just lazy and need to get off my ass. Here’s looking at you, next weekend (this weekend I had to clean my apartment – no, I had to, I promise – and it was supposed to rain (it didn’t), so I skipped a week).

20 hikes is so close. I’m behind the pace, but I have high hopes for some trips later this year that will help me catch up before the end of 2018. Anyway, after focusing on my family twice in a row, it seemed fitting that these last two hikes be about my usual hiking companion, my sweet pup Sadie.

Hike 18: Ward Reservation + Boston Hill

I’ve told you of my love of Ward Reservation before. Indeed, since the Trustees of Reservations have recently decided to change their dog policies and demand dogs be on leash at my other favorite, Noanet Woodlands, Ward might now officially be my favorite spot in the Greater Boston area. It’s one of the few remaining places where Sadie and I can explore the woods at our own paces.

This my girl:

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She’s going on 9-ish (her actual age, like her Arkansan origins, are a mystery) and she loves being on the trail with me. There’s a zone of about 50 feet from me that she roams in, trotting ahead, then falling behind to sniff all the things, and racing back to me if we get separated. Occasionally, if we’re heading up something, she’ll stop and peek back at me to make sure I’m following. If I stop, she generally stops too; no judgment, just patience. It’s marvelous.

As she gets older, I worry about her stamina, so we don’t usually go beyond 4-5 miles, especially in the summer. This hike was supposed to start early in the day, but as usual I set off later than planned, so by the time we got into it, it was mid-morning and the cool of morning had burned away.

We went in a reverse loop from our normal path, which made for a nice change. We started with the quick hike up to Holt Hill, which features one of my favorite settings and views.

Ward Reservation June 102018 (2 of 8)

Can you see Boston waaay off in the distance on the left side of the horizon?

Then we headed on the blue trail toward Elephant Rock. Along the way, we took a little detour onto Boston hill, which was a narrow, cobwebby trail that snaked around some pretty dense hillside forest. Something back there smelled divine (I think it was honeysuckle?) – more than once I just stopped and stood sniffing for minutes on end. At one point on this trail, Sadie got distracted and fell behind, and I got to enjoy listening for her galloping at full speed down the twisty path once she realized I was out of sight. There is something about this that just makes me happy.

Before we reached Elephant Rock, I noticed this new feature of the trail:

Ward Reservation June 102018 (6 of 8)

I hope you’ll forgive the heavy, sentimental editing hand, but good grief. Can this be any more idyllic for those who travel in twos? Sadie refused to sit with me, by the way.

Approaching Elephant Rock from a different direction made a nice change. This really is one of the prettiest places I know of around here.

Ward Reservation June 102018 (7 of 8)

And then it was back through the forest toward the parking lot. By this point, it was pretty warm and we were getting tired. And of course, Sadie had to find the muddiest creek and slosh about in it. Of course. When we got back to the car, we cranked the AC and celebrated a lovely New England morning spent in the woods. Well, I did, at any rate. Sadie hates the car.

Ward Reservation June 102018 (8 of 8)

Hike 18: Ward Reservation and Boston Hill
Location: Andover, MA
Date: June 10, 2018
Distance: 4.68 miles
Wildlife: Bugs, the occasional squirrel
Notes: Don’t forget your bug spray!


Hike 19: Reservoir Trail, Middlesex Fells Reservation

Next up, a trail we’ve done before, but not since the start of #52hikechallenge.

Middlesex Fells Reservation, or The Fells, as it’s known, is managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. It’s a huge property that is pretty close to Boston, just a couple of exits up on Route 93. It’s a lovely place, but dogs have to be on-leash there, so we don’t hike it very often. They do have a huge off-leash dog park at the head of the trails, which is very nice of them.

Anyway, for a trail with a name like Reservoir, there wasn’t much water to be seen on this trek. It’s about a 6-mile loop, and it does indeed loop a couple of reservoirs, but the trail itself is far enough into the woods that water is only seen a few times. This is one of those odd hikes, like in the Blue Hills, where all kinds of trails wind in and around each other, so while one person can be clamoring up some rocks on the Reservoir Trail, a family can be strolling on a flat open path just 20 feet away. As the miles fell away and the temperatures climbed and the views didn’t really impress, I was tempted to bail on the “moderate” trail (it’s really quite easy, actually, despite a few boulder-strewn sections) and just walk by the water, but I persisted.

This hike was an example of another way my dog is amazing: she can do 6 miles on-leash and not pull my arm off. And it really is a good idea to keep your dogs on leash on this trail, because you share it with mountain bikers, and you don’t want to be the one who causes them to take a fall and/or run over your dog.

About 5 miles in, you do get a nice view of the reservoir:

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We stopped for a break here, to Sadie’s delight:

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The last stretch of the hike skirted the dog park, and we got a little turned around on the trails behind it, but eventually emerged into the hot sun and trudged back to the car. Sadie was dragging by this point; we stopped for a drink near a tree and she flopped delightedly into the cool grass and could probably have stayed there all day. We both napped when we got home. 🙂

Hike 19: Reservoir Trail, Middlesex Fells
Location: Winchester, MA
Date: June 17, 2018
Distance: 6.3 miles
Wildlife: Bugs, chipmunks, mountain bikers

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