Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ponkapoag Pond, MA

The Blue Hills span an area of 7000 acres just a tad south of Boston - a green little escape that we'd overlooked thus far in our nature pursuits in favor of hikes further afoot. However, this overcast Easter Sunday seemed like a good time to head out and see what treasures lay in our own backyard, and so the bf and I headed out to stroll the Ponkapoag Pond loop - around 4 miles of mostly flat trail that surrounds Ponkapoag Pond and its adjoining patch of white cedar bog.

45 minutes and a Honey Dew stop after leaving RI found us pulling into the "parking lot" off of Route 93, which was in reality a little cul-de-sac with about room for 8 vehicles - I'm not sure how busy the area gets, but you might want to get there early to be sure of snagging a spot! We polished off some brownies for sustenance before hitting the trail, opting to embark in an anti-clockwise direction following the green dot trail blazes around the pond.

A few minutes in, we passed a YMCA center and reached the turnoff for the boardwalk that led out into the middle of Ponkapoag Bog, a white cedar bog that offered what we thought was a tantalizing opportunity to see some carnivorous plants and hopefully a salamander or two. The boardwalk proved to be exactly that - a series of single boards laid out across the bog, some more deceptively stable and less afloat than others. Definitely a tad less structured than the boardwalks we'd been accustomed to elsewhere! We picked our way out into the bog trying not to get our toes too wet, as the boards would often sneakily dip when you stepped on them. Luckily the weather had been pretty dry over the past few days and we made it out the whole way to the end of the walk with mostly dry feet. At this point the walk simply ended at the edge of the pond proper, and it was a choice between donning swimming gear or turning back around - we opted for the latter especially since 50 degree weather was still a little too chilly for a dip!

The walk was pleasant, mysterious and mossy over dark tannin-stained water with the cedars arching still mostly-naked branches overhead. We thought we picked out some pitcher plants lying low on the ground, but the furled purple-spotted vegetation turned out, on later investigation, to be swamp or skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) instead. Unfortunately, no amphibians, reptiles or fish came out to play and the only animals that we heard or saw were birds.

The remainder of the circuit around the pond was pleasant if unremarkable - the spot by the dam with open water was pretty, and offered a sighting of a lone flying goose and some ducks a-bobbing for lunch. It was fairly quiet on the path although we did come across several other people, many with dogs in tow and some on horses, and at one point the trail passed through a golf course where some folks were out and about getting their game on.

It probably took us under two hours to walk the boardwalk and the circuit at a leisurely pace - all in all a pleasant little excursion if you're looking to just get out of the city for an hour or two and take a little stroll. Checking out the bog was definitely a neat experience and a little change of scenery from typical New England walks. We'll definitely be back in the Blue Hills in the near future to check out some of the other hikes!

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