Sunday, June 05, 2011

MWOBS Forum Hike and Get-together At Blue Hill Observatory

For the last few months our online friends from the Mt Washington Observatory forums have been getting together in person for some regional get-togethers.  There has been good food, good friends and all around good times.  Today we had an extra special event when our group visited the Blue Hills Reservation and Blue Hill Observatory in Milton, MA.  The observatory had graciously agreed to host our group and give us a tour and we also decided to take advantage of the great Blue Hills trails to get in a hike while we were there.  This is really one of the hidden gems for hiking in southern New England and we really don't take enough advantage of the fact that it's only 45 minutes from home.  The Observatory falls into that hidden gem category as well.  It is the oldest weather observatory in the US and has kept continuous records since 1885. Between this and the Mt Washington Observatory we've got quite the history of weather observation in our back yard.

The group met in the morning and hiked up the Red Dot trail to the Obs.  It was just the perfect day to be out on the trails today!  We stopped and dropped off our food for the afternoon picnic and half the group headed out for a hike while the rest stayed at the Obs to do some bird watching and relaxing in the sun.

Arriving at the Obs

Boston views from Eliot Tower

Eliot Tower

Our hiking crew did the Skyline Trail loop.  We took the North Skyline to reservation headquarters and then took the South Skyline back to the Obs.  This is only about a 3 mile loop but it is rock and steep with virtually continuous ups and downs.  This is one of the reasons we love Blue Hills.  Hiking here feels much more like being in the Whites that being just a couple of miles from Boston.  It even has the views!  After a nice couple of hour workout we'd worked up a good appetite for lunch.

Heading across the North Skyline Trail

Walking the road between trailheads

Beautiful walk in the woods

A bit of scrambling

Following the kilted clan

Arriving back at the Obs after a great hike we gathered up the rest of the group and headed out to a nice spot in the shade for our picnic.  Everyone brought sweets to share and we definitely replaced the calories we walked off in the morning.  Don McCasland, our Obs host, also gave us a look at Blue Hills kite flying.

Don gives a kite flying demo

The official group photographer and all his gear

The beautiful alpine flowers blooming in the rarefied air at 635' 

Nigel hoping Karen has something for him

Nice spot for lunch in the shade

After lunch Don gave us a fantastic tour of the Obs.  Starting with some videos for the background story we then go a walk-through of the operations and all the instruments - some of which are the originals from 1885.  The almost 130 year old barometers are still more accurate that most of the modern technology versions.  Amazing.  They also use a device called a Campbell-Stokes sunshine recorder that uses a glass crystal sphere to record the hours that the sun is shining by burning holes in a calibrated oaktag card.  Fascinating!  The Obs also has all the hand written daily log books dating back to 1885.  Don pulled out the log for April 12th 1934 to see what the wind was like a Blue Hill.  It was a bit breezy that day a hundred miles or so north.

Checking the records for a record day

 After checking out things inside the forecast center we headed up to the top of the tower to check out the rest of the gear and the fabulous views.  It was so clear today that we had views of 4 states!

Beautiful afternoon on the tower

The Kilted Clan

The Campbell-Stokes Recorder

We wrapped up the day with our traditional group photo taken by Brad, one more round of desserts and a nice walk through the woods on the "easy side" of the Red Dot trail back to our cars.  Hopefully we'll continue these forum get-togethers many times in the future and find more new and interesting places to have them.  It's going to be really hard to top this one though.  Thanks to Don and the Observatory for being such wonderful hosts!  Looking forward to seeing everyone again (along with the rest of our Mt Washington friends) in July at Seek the Peak!

The whole crew  
(photo courtesy of Brad Bradstreet)

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