On Saturday we attacked the Skyline Trail at the Blue Hills Reservation south of Boston.
I’ve done a little too much coining of terms lately (grambling, grammering, trambling, etc.), so I won’t flog that horse by calling what we did on Saturday a rike (run/hike) or humble (hike/stumble), but it was a lot of many things without any of it being any one thing, other than hard.
On paper, the trail is 15 miles, an out and back, with a LOT of up and down along the way. That sounds hard enough, but it’s possible also that I have never covered rockier ground in my whole life. There were long stretches where every single step required thought and some sort of bodily contortion. There were also sections vertical enough that I used handholds to pull myself up or turned and slid down on my ass to avoid plummeting into a rock pile.
Did I mention that it was raining?
I spent the entire effort soaked although I’d have a hard time telling you how much was rain vs. sweat vs. dew whipped onto my body by the dense, overgrown trails. At some point I gave up on trying to keep my feet dry and just stomped through the standing water. I learned that lichen becomes slick as rink ice when it’s wet, and the sketchiness of the footing added another challenge multiplier to the whole adventure.
We mostly hiked, even though we were trying to run. Maybe a younger, fitter, more agile human could have run more of the terrain, but it would have been some of the most technical trail running I can imagine.
Early on our group split up, and I went with the forward group. We went fast, but we also failed to complete the route. At a pivotal split, where we needed to go left to the end of the trail and then back to reengage a loop to the right, we just went right, which cut about 3 miles off the fun. I can’t imagine what doing the whole thing felt like (see below), because by the time we were stumbling the last mile to the parking lot I was fully cooked.
The Blue Hills are pretty extraordinary for a patch of woods so close to a major urban center. You can see the evidence of the last ice age in abundance, massive piles of jagged rock and churned up topography everywhere you look. Add in a history of granite quarrying, and it’s hard terrain.
In the hours after we “finished,” as we found drier clothing, hot coffee, and some cheap calories, I thought, “Well, I never need to do that again,” and this despite feeling sorta lame to have missed the 3 mile tail of the route.
After a night’s sleep though, I’m more of the mind that I need to go back.
Photos courtesy of Caitlin.