winter is a dead time for naturing. other than the occasional snowstorm that blankets the landscape in white, there is not much else to see during this season. nevertheless, my yearning to be out in the wilderness was too strong to ignore so this morning alex wong and i drove south to milton to the blue hills reservation, a place that i've often heard about but never visited. it's easy to get to, just off exit 3 on route 93. we went to the park headquarter to get a map, then drove to the trailside museum and started off on the green trail. there were a lot of cars parked outside, but the number of people we met on the trail was not proportionate. there were hikers with their backpacks and walking canes, people watching their dogs, and parents with childrens. i've always had a hard time with the word "hiking." hiking is just a fancy word for walking through the forest. there's nothing very special about it, and you don't really need any cool equipment other than a pair of good walking shoes and maybe a bottle of water or a snack. whenever i saw parents with a group of young children, i couldn't help to think, "ah, the poor family outing, for those too cheap to take their kids to a better place."
because honestly, there isn't too much to see in the forest during the winter, so it can get pretty boring unless you're really into it. we walked into the woods, trying hard to look for anything of interest. one thing that surprised me was there was still a lot of melting snow in the reservation. living in the city, i haven't seen snow in a long time, but apparently its alive and well in the forest. with 3 weeks before the summer, trees should start producing buds, and we did see some on low lying trees, but nothing very exciting. we made it to point 1103 on the map, located next to a small pond frozen over. i wanted to walk on the pond but since neither alex and i knew how to swim, we figured it'd be a bad idea. i found a big tree branch and tossed it into the center of the ice to see if i could crack it, which didn't happen. around the edge of the pond the ice had split apart, and we could see how deep the pond had froze, about 6-8".

we continued along the green path (occasionally taking out the map to get our bearing), taking a detour before point 1092 to climb wolcott hill, a rocky elevation, dotted with shrubby evergreens, possibly pitch pine. some of the rocks were covered in either lichen or moss. looking at the landscape, i imagined that during the summer the place would be crawling with rattlesnakes coming out from their burrow between the rocks to sun themselves, and for once i was glad it was winter. coming down some children saw us and asked their mother if they could come up as well (we're not very good influence with kids).

we passed another pond (large, and filled with vegetation), before getting to point 1083, where we scaled the great blue hill (635 feet), following the more challenging blue dotted trail. at the top of the hill was eliot tower, where there was a view of boston. i took some infrared shots and a few 32x monocular photos. i don't think i've ever seen boston from this side before, usually i catch it from the north (from the mt.auburn cemetery tower), where i could also see cambridge.

alex and i started back down again, this time on the red dotted trail. more children passed us, asking if they were close to the observation tower. "yeah, 5-10 minutes," i told one of them, who relayed the message to his other friends. the path down was icy, we were careful not to slip and fall. by that point we were pretty wooded out, and we just wanted to get back down. throughout this whole climb, we hardly saw any animals. we heard a loud woodpecker when we first came up, then going down i saw a squirrel and a chickadee, not the most slendid of nature observations. once we got to the bottom, we used the bathroom at the trailside museum. the bathroom was surprisingly modern for these reservations: i was just expecting maybe one of those biodegradable toilets, but they had a normal clean bathroom.

we didn't want to pay money to go see the trailside museum, but they did have animals outside in large cages you could gawk at for free. there was an otter moat, we didn't see any otters, but we could smell them. there was a snowy owl, we acted like a malfunctioning robot, swiveling it's head back and forth, then turned around and ejected some noxious fluids from its anus. at one corner of the cage was the remains of its dinner, a partially digested rat. there was a pair of wild turkeys, and i love telling the story of how the national bird of the united states was almost the wild turkey (an idea pitched by benjamin franklin). they're beautiful birds (if you can overlook its ugly head, a wrinkly obscene looking thing), iridescent feathers of various patterns and shapes, and unlike the bald eagle, turkeys are useful to men because we use them for food as well as decoration. there was two red tail hawks, fearsome in their raptorous ways, piercing eyes, curved pointed beak, and sharp claws. there were some mallard ducks you could feed with money dispensed pellets, and near a birdfeeder hanging from a tree, i saw a nuthatch hopping downwards. the only non-bird animal we saw at the museum was a red fox, and we only caught a glimpse, as it was sleeping and all we could see was the top of its back.

seeing all those birds made us hungry! we made it back to boston, where we got some wings from davis square and went to my place to eat them. i quickly devoured my share of 10 medium flavored wings, while alex lagged behind with his hot wings. afterwards he went back to malden, where i whittled down the rest of my day, watching the history channel where all this week it was back to back religious themed documentaries. i fell asleep and had the weirdest dream, dreamed that i had slept to 1:30am, then went around the house closing the blinds. minutes later i woke up and i was totally confused, as it was only 9:30pm. i ate the rest of my chicken drumsticks from yesterday (all about the birds today), drinking my birch beer (like root beer, except it's clear). mike and his girlfriend dropped by, they did some studying before taking off around 1:30am.