Volunteer activities: Trail Maintenance
Most adults would say that Caleb Blankenship grew up on a dead end street in Milton. Caleb, however, would say he lived on a thoroughfare to the Blue Hills. He can recall countless adventures that began at his house.
“From about age 5, my brother, sisters and I would explore the wooded sections of my family’s property that abutted what is today the Emerson Woods development in Milton. There was a wide trail that ran through the property which intersected a second wide trail which then led to the northern boundary of Camp Sayer.
As we got a bit older, it was usually my brother and I with a friend or two who would hike out on the trails. Often we’d try and figure out our way up a large glacial erratic and when successful, we’d feel like the kings of the mountain! Not far from home, just off the trail, was our ‘frog pond’ which was no more than a small pool, maybe twelve feet long by eight feet wide. We were fascinated to discover the egg masses for the first time in spring and would return later to see the hatched tadpoles and then the frogs. There was a favorite stream that we’d play in for hours, usually making mud pies and the like. Just beyond the frog pond was another spot under some large white pines where we built our ‘hideout’ which was just a crude lean-to made up of a few pine boughs. We’d hide there when we were ‘under attack’ from our imaginary enemies.
When we were older, we would venture out beyond to the actual Reservation. We’d hike down the trail to the chain-link fence at Camp Sayer, shimmy under to cut through the camp, and at last would reach the Blue Hills. By this age, it was all about exploring new areas of the reservation but making sure not to hike too far so as to return by nightfall. Thinking back, we mostly would roam the area by Hemenway Hill, Border Path and the adjacent section of the Skyline Trail. Once, we found a glacial erratic that was formed in such a way as to create a hollow inside – our own little cave. On another occasion, when my friend said we were going to hike to Breakneck Ledge, I was intrigued by the ominous sounding moniker. I inquired and he explained that back in the days of the settlers, the English had chased one of the leaders of the local Indian tribe, Mingo, to the edge of Breakneck Ledge where he plunged to his death! I couldn’t wait to get there.”
Caleb now helps to maintain those same trails that led to such rich childhood memories. When he was growing up, he never thought about what it took to maintain the trails. But as Chair of the FBH Trail Maintenance Committee, Caleb has spent countless hours trimming branches, cleaning water bars and installing culverts. He feels a pride in knowing that his work will help others enjoy the Blue Hills and help protect the surrounding habitat from erosion. “There’s a satisfaction,” he says, “to returning a few weeks later to a section of trail where we’ve worked and seeing that it’s still holding up.”
Although Caleb no longer lives on that dead end street, he still explores the Reservation from his Milton residence with his dog Bruschi, who Caleb swears loves the Blue Hills as much as he does. The convenience of the Reservation is still one of its draws and even after a lifetime of hiking the Blue Hills, Caleb still loves the changes and surprises that he finds on every hike. “It’s great how over the course of a year, one trail can change. Now, in early spring, the trees are bare and you can see incredible vistas. On that same path in a couple of months, it’s like a whole different trail.”
By maintaining the trails, Caleb and other volunteers have helped all of us enjoy the trails in every season.