A Winter Hike
Story by Ashley Herrin
Photos by Jenn Bakos & Ashley Herrin
During the winter months, it's easy to forget the beauty of the outdoors. It's natural appeal becomes masked by frigid temperatures and a biting wind chill factor that New Englanders have seemingly become hardened by. As soon as the holidays pass, we are immediately sent into hibernation, our annual exit from the world as winter blankets the woods and icicles form on our rooftops. We begrudgingly emerge from our warm dens only to scurry to work and to scurry home from work. Maybe an occasional ski trip in an attempt to awaken the soul - though this usually ends in a puzzled 'what was I thinking?' The temperatures drop - and drop - and drop even more. A cold sets in that takes your breathe away the moment you step outside. Questions are asked. "Why do I live here? Why don't I live in Florida right now? Is it ever going to get warmer?" We as New Englanders have all been at the doorstep of this revelation. I feel your pain, you feel my pain.
But yet, sometime during our annual hibernation, an unsettled stir-crazy feeling sets in. Our legs itch for activity and movement. We yearn for fresh air, a hearty dose of nature and Vitamin D on our skin. Like bears, we awaken.
Driven from our dens one afternoon, we set out on a winter hike, the need for the outdoors becoming too much to ignore. Our adventure took us to Blue Hills Reservation in Milton, Massachusetts. A short car ride from Boston, Blue Hills is an expanse of reservation land nearing 7,000 acres with over 100 miles in hiking trails. With plenty of room to roam, we were free to hike and climb, and stretch our winter legs.
Our ascent to Great Blue Hill was steep and quick...something to get used to having been at rest for a few months. The snow crunched underfoot as we weaved in and out of pines, scrambled over rocks and tree stumps, but continued onward and upward.
Once reaching the top of Great Blue Hill, you have one more climb before being greeted with an impressive view of the sprawling metropolis to the north. On a bluebird day, climb Eliot Tower, a Meteorological Observatory, and you'll be rewarded with views as far reaching as Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire.
At the top, we indulged in homemade pretzels, hot cocoa, beverages from Trilium Brewery and a few laughs. A returning chill reminded us that it was still only February and forced us to pack up our picnic and begin the descent. The temperatures quickly dropped with the sun's descent, making a return to our warm(er) cars ever-more important. Huddling around the car's heaters, we thawed our frozen fingers as if it were the wood-burning stove at home.
Returning home was returning to the den. A cocoon of warmth wrapped us in a subtle reminder that 'here' is good and 'here' is all you need. A mountain of warm blankets besides a mug of hot tea and a crackling fire was seemingly that much better than the snow mountain that we had just conquered. Hibernation continued.
Our winter adventure awoke the spirit and excited the soul for future adventures to be had in warmer climates. It was nature's way of saying "your welcome" for what has yet to come.