Matthew Thomas completed the 125-Mile Club hike… and then reflected on his journey.  He says, “I didn’t strive to take the most “efficient” route – more so I would think “where do I want to go and what do I want to see today?” And then would see what I haven’t done yet.”

You can sign up for the 125-Mile Club today… and start exploring all parts of the park!  Learn more.

Learn a little more about Matthew’s 125-Mile Challenge experience below.  And if you’d like to share your experiences, visit our 125-Mile Club Facebook page, or let us know in the comments!

Final Stats:

  • # of Hikes: 39
  • Miles Hiked: 190.14
  • Elevation Hiked: 21,647
  • What were your favorite trail(s) hiked?

Trail over Hancock Hill between 1170 and 1201.

I sum this one up in the “favorite view” section, but just the view tied with how it’s a much less traveled trail make it so incredible.

Eustis Trail

I truly do not remember why I liked this trail, but I remember saying “good job Eustis” in my head while hiking it. From what I remember, it was just a gentle walk in the woods. The spirit of Eustis lives on!

Ponkapoag Boardwalk

This one has to be earned. I’ve started this trail three times, but only completed once. The first time was in the summer after a few storms, so it was overgrown and flooded right from the start. The second time I made it 2/3 of the boardwalk until I hit the infamous sunken section, and since I didn’t have my waterproof boots on, and it was December, I bailed again. FINALLY, later in the winter word got around that the pond was finally frozen through and it was time! The whole trail was beautiful and mystical, and even more so now that it was frozen over. I cannot wait until next winter to do it again!

Buck Hill between 2182 and 2165

Buck Hill undoubtedly has some of the best views from the reservation, and rightfully so! The Skyline trail always had this alpine-zone feel to it, like when you break above treeline in the whites. Then I hiked up the north side of the hill and fell even more in love. Again, a less traveled route leading to amazing views.

Trail down Kitchamakin Hill (3085)

This was a trail where I constantly thought “there’s no way I’m still on the trail.” It was down scrubby-piney rocks, but had a certain rugged feel that you don’t get too often in SE Mass. It also appears this was a part of the abandoned Great Dome Trail.

Spur trail around 3121

This is a super short trail that gets up and close to the Great Cedar Swamp, formerly a part of the abandoned Great Dome Trail, and for just a second it transports you to a different world. The mood changes entirely and it’s so beautiful. Even some old blazes!

CCC Camp

So often I find myself basing how much I like a trail on the views, but the CCC Camp area had a ton of history to be discovered that I supplied a one-of-a-kind experience in the Reservation.

Trails around the Quarries

This one is going to come up a lot. The quarries (specifically the actual quarries area, not the whole Quincy Quarries/4000s section) are so cool and pack so much history and wonder within them. The views from the tops are one of a kind. The star comes because of the disaster that is the trail network in this area, which I’ll touch on later.

What were your least favorite trail(s) hiked?

Sawcut Notch from 4083 to Little Dome

Wet. Wet. Wet. Never dry. Buggy. Wet. That’s all.

Hemlock Path at I-93

Cool, but scary. The trail here is well under water, so there is a “bushwhack” trail that goes through the fence, incredibly close to I-93, and then back through the fence into the reservation. It was cool, but too close to the highway for my comfort.

Pipe Line (HQ Path north of Chickatawbut Rd. and between 3022 and 3013, specifically)

WET. SQUISHY. Usually overgrown too. Not fun.

Field Path

Someone on Facebook said they’d bring a machete next time they hiked this trail and I firmly agree. Overgrown with thorns.

Trails around the Quarries*

The trail system here is just a mess. There are unmapped trails everywhere, mapped ones are unrecognizable and/or covered in thorns, and it’s near impossible to find the Quarries Footpath from the Ricciuti Drive entrance. I finished by challenge by hiking the Quarries Footpath from the Wampatuck Rd. side and was met with the same – overgrown and unmapped trails galore, and no discernable trail continuation. I hope someday this area gets more attention because it’s such a cool area that is so frustrating to navigate.

What was your overall favorite hike?

I have two answers for this: my default favorite has to be the skyline trail traverse. It’s a lot of work for a lot of reward, and just a classic trail. There are so many other gems in this park, but none beat the Skyline Trail. That being said, in this journey specifically, hiking the frozen Ponkapoag Boardwalk was one of the coolest things. The scenery is like no other, and when it’s frozen you just walk right onto the pond. It was just beautiful.

What was your least favorite hike?

My least favorite during this journey will have to be the slushy hike I did around the crags this past winter. 3-6 inches of snow, all pure slush. 3+ miles of heavy steps and sliding around. I’m sure the trails there are lovely, but that day was rough.

What was your favorite view?

The view off the ridge of Hancock Hill is, in my opinion, the best view in the whole reservation. Sure, the Eliot Tower provides a panorama and Buck Hill makes you feel like you’re up in the Alpine Zone, but this view off the beaten path is just mesmerizing. You get Boston, the ocean, and neighboring hills, all without the crowds of the Skyline Trail. Only caveat is that I still have yet to figure out where the trail connects to 1201. Usually end up rock climbing/bushwhacking until I land on the Hancock Hill Path.

Why not sign up for the 125-Mile Club today? 

Learn more!

What were some “rite of passage” trails?

Neoponset River Trail

For me, this is an honorary mention. I had a very nice and easy hike on this trail, but according to others’ reports, it was an anomaly. For me, the path was dry and narrow with only a couple slightly sketchy water crossings, but for others they’ve had to trek through a jungle of weeds and deal with mud and brutal crossings. Grateful for my experience!

Ponkapoag Boardwalk

Same as above. You either need to live with wet feet, fishing boots, or wait until the water’s frozen. Worth the wait!

Loop around Great Cedar Swamp (I-93)

Same as above – The trails surrounding the Great Cedar Swamp are very cool and scenic, but that stretch that parallels I-93 is scary and worth being considered a rite of passage.

Trails around the Quarries

See above . Frustrating, yet rewarding. I feel proud that I eventually (think) I found and connected all of the trails.

Other Thoughts?

Overall, I loved this journey. I have a deeper connection with the reservation and a much stronger knowledge of everything. I am grateful for the community on Facebook for being available to answer questions and share victories. I’m excited to start exploring again to see what I remember, see what I forgot, see what’s stayed the same, and to see what has changed!

Click here to sign up for the 125-Mile Club today!

Learn more!

Top photo: Timo Newell (Jamaica Plain) Buck Hill