Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In My Footsteps: Trip 108: Canton, Massachusetts

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 108:  Canton, Massachusetts
February 17, 2011

            Being a huge fan of all things outdoors it surprised me that I had not yet paid a visit to the Blue Hills Reservation.  It is 7,000 acres of amazing views and natural beauty stretching through several different towns.  For my trip I decided to hike up Great Blue Hill which straddles the line between Milton and Canton, the subject of this article.
The otter at the Trailside Museum.
            Great Blue Hill reaches 635 feet up into the sky with the Blue Hills Ski Area on the southern side of the mini-mountain, the Canton side.  I parked at the ski area lot and was immediately sidetracked from my hike up Great Blue Hill by something just as cool.  There is a Trailside Museum run by the Massachusetts Audubon Society at the foot of Great Blue Hill accompanied by a small collection of animals native to the area.
            I was particularly enamored with a pair of white-tailed Deer who were very friendly and came over to the fence to become better photo subjects.  There was also an adorable otter in a circular tank.  It acted relatively normal until it spotted me; then it put on a show by swimming back and forth across the tank making sure to flip upside down to swim once it reached the wall.  I ended up watching it for a while until I realized that there was still a big hike ahead of me.
Boston's skyline from atop Great Blue Hill
            Despite there being a paved road leading up Great Blue Hill to the weather observatory the only way up the hill is by walking.  The scenery was incredible.  It was a weird sort of dichotomy as the temperature on this day hovered near sixty but after a very eventful winter there was a good foot of snow on the ground for the hike.  I was warm and cold all at once.
            Once the climb started getting near the top, much more vertical, I began to get glimpses through the trees of the surrounding landscape.  The stone observatory building at the summit was really neat, the warmth was melting all of the snow on top of the roof and there was the constant sound of water falling.
            There is a tower to climb where the views will blow you away.  The Boston skyline is easily recognizable to the east.  I will not try to name all of the other spots I saw at the summit of Great Blue Hill but it is very likely you will spend a good chunk of time just turning your head side to side to see as much as you can of the surrounding landscape.  It was such a great way to begin my time in Canton.
Brookwood Farm in the shadow of Great Blue Hill.
            Ironically the next spot I visited was made even better by the looming shadow of Great Blue Hill.  The Brookwood Community Farm is another spot that straddles the line between Canton and Milton; it is a working organic farm with amazing scenery as well.  The weather observatory on Great Blue Hill is clearly visible as you walk the grounds of Brookwood and it can distract you a bit from the lush farmland, not that I am complaining.  It gave the farm a different feel.
            The farm is on two different parcels of land.  The one I visited is seventy acres and is on the Blue Hills Reservation.  The other location, a ninety acre farm called the Bradley Estate, is a few minutes south.  Not only does Brookwood sell their produce at the Milton and Roslindale Farmers Markets but anybody can be a volunteer and actually have a hand in creating that very same produce.
            For the history lover in me I made a stop at the David Tilden House at Pequitside Farm.  The red house built in 1725 sits back from Pleasant Street which made for a beautiful scene when coupled with the snow.  Also when you park here you can cross the street and check out Reservoir Pond.  The house is in a bit of disrepair and contributions can be made to help restore it.  It was a little tough getting around the house thanks to the foot of snow but I did get several great photos while trudging through the snow.   
David Tilden House c.1725
            David Tilden was one of the earliest settlers of Canton and the land on which the home stands is the very same tract that Tilden purchased from the Ponkapoag tribe of Native Americans.  The Pequitside Farm is thirty-three acres and owned by the town.  The Colonial Era Main House is available for weddings and other functions.  I imagine it must be an awesome place to have a get together when the weather is warm and the flowers are in bloom.
            The final spot I visited in Canton was something that seemed very much out of place. The Canton Viaduct looks like something straight out of Ancient Rome but in reality it is one of the two oldest multiple arched stone railroad bridges in the United States.  That is a lot of information but all you really need to know is that it is a spectacular site.  I drove under it on Neponset Street to find a better place to park and get a great view. 
The amazing Canton Viaduct
            It literally looks like the aqueducts used in Ancient Rome.  The Viaduct stands out yet somehow fits right in.  It was built in 1835, is over 600 feet in length and crosses over the Canton River.  There are two similar bridges to the Canton Viaduct in Russia and both were designed by a man who had a hand in the Viaduct.  As a side note, the man was George Washington Whistler, his son, James, is the artist who painted the world renowned Whistler’s Mother in 1871.  There is an entirely different article in that fact alone.
            Whether hiking up Great Blue Hill, visiting Brookwood Farm, or standing in amazement next to the Viaduct the town of Canton is a fabulous place to spend the day.  Although it may take longer as Great Blue Hill itself is a day trip.  I highly recommend taking your time to enjoy all of what this small part of Greater Boston has to offer.  Have fun and happy traveling!    

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DirectionsGreat Blue Hill:  From Rt. 3 take exit 20A to merge onto I-93 S., take exit 2B to merge onto Rt. 138 N.  Parking for Great Blue Hill is 1.4 miles on right.
            Brookwood Farm:  From Rt. 3 take exit 20A to merge onto I-93 S., take exit 2B to merge onto Rt. 138 N.  After a half mile turn right onto Blue Hill River Rd., Brookwood is .4 mi. on right.
            Canton Viaduct:  From Rt. 3 take exit 20A to merge onto I-93 S., take exit 1 to merge onto I-95 S.  Take exit 11A to merge onto Neponset St. toward Canton.  Follow just over 1.5 miles.  The Viaduct will be ahead of you, parking is the difficult part there are areas a short walk away though.

ReferencesSki Blue
            Brookwood Community
            Canton, Ma. Official Town Page

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