Sunday, June 10, 2012

St. Moritz's Pond

After a busy "domestic" day of cleaning, grocery shopping, and relaxing by the pool, I decided it was time to enjoy the beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon with a Blue Hills hike.  I had never explored the St. Moritz Pond area of the Blue Hills, which happens to be just a quarter mile from my house, so I decided that today was the day!

St. Moritz Pond was once the site of a winter carnival in Quincy in the 1920s, attracting 50,000 people each year, and hosting competitions for speed skating, barrel jumping, ski jumping, and tobogganing.  As the carnival grew, the Blue Hills Recreation Club created St. Moritz Pond by damming up a stream, naming the new body of water after St. Moritz, Switzerland - the site of the 1928 Winter Olympics.  Today the pond is absolutely beautiful, with lily pads covering the surface, an oasis in the middle of the forest.

I set off following the Blue Dot trail, but within a few minutes, got totally lost.  As I discovered several hours later, I ended up following an unmarked trail along the perimeter of the Blue Hills.  I hiked straight for almost an hour, determined to see where the trail would end - hoping it would end somewhere familiar!  The forest was absolutely beautiful - with groves of trees, grassy hills, and small streams along the trailside.

 At one point, I came along a small cluster of baby pine trees, looking as if they had just started growing a few years ago.  It was good to see how alive the Blue Hills were - constantly growing, and full of new life.  It made me feel grateful for this vast piece of untouched wilderness just steps from my apartment.  How rare it is to be able to escape so easily!  Just when I was about to give up hope of ever figuring out where I was, I came up to a sign, pointing the way to the Chickatawbut Overlook, just 800 yards away.  I had no idea what the Chickatawbut Overlook was, but after an hour of hiking, I wasn't about to miss it!

When I finally got to the overlook, I realized that I knew exactly where I was!  What a relief.  The overlook was actually a place I had visited by car several times before, along Chickatawbut Road, with a beautiful view of the Boston skyline.  This picture barely does the view justice... it is absolutely breathtaking.  Once I figured out where I was, I spent a while studying the trail map, and realized that if I could find the Blue Dot Skyline trail, it would be a straight hike back to St. Moritz Pond.  Easy, right?

I hiked past the stone overlook at the top of Chickatawbut Hill.  From the plaque at the base of the tower, I learned that it was constructed as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the Great Depression, as part of an effort by President Roosevelt to provide employment opportunities and to improve the country's forests.  At its peak in Massachusetts, the CCC had 51 camps enrolling 10,000 men.  Many of the CCC's legacies, including roads, bridges, ponds, picnic areas, log cabins, and trails are still in use today.

From the overlook, the Blue Dot trail was a difficult, rocky hike back.  Although it was a much more direct route than the wandering path I took to the overlook, it took me almost as long to get back, because of the cliff-climbing path.  In many sections, I was climbing on hands and knees, hanging on for dear life.  I did discover why the Blue Dot trail is also called the Skyline trail, for its beautiful views of the Boston skyline.  At one point, I also came across a view of the Braintree Plaza Mall, right next door to my house, that looked as if it were about a million miles away.  Talk about depressing!!
Many sections of the trail looked like glorified cliffs, with blue paint indicating that this death-defying set of rocks was not just a pretty view, but was, in fact, the trail.  Most telling was an older man who asked me how to get back to the overlook.  When I pointed back the way I had come, he stared at me with a look of disbelief, and said, "That is the trail??!"  Despite the rocky trail back, I managed to make it back to St. Moritz in one piece, after just an hour (and a quick jog for the last 1/2 mile, once the trail flattened out).  What I had intended to be a short walk turned into a 2+ hour adventure, but what a beautiful Sunday afternoon!