This weekend I ventured back to the Middlesex Fells Reservation to take on the Skyline Trail. This trail is a challenging 8 mile loop with 1400 feet of elevation gain that follows the outer perimeter of the western Fells. Most of the Skyline trail is in wooded landscape, with several steep ascents to rocky outcrops. I enjoyed several spectacular views of Boston and the surrounding area from the many hills I climbed.
I began my run from the Sheepfold parking lot. I started out on a short flat stretch of the Reservoir trail which connected to the Skyline trail. After running for a short time I came upon the first of the white blazes that mark the trail. I immediately started to climb up a long, winding trail to the top of Nanepashemet Hill. At the top on the hill I met two mountain bikers who appeared to be taking a break. We exchanged greetings and I ran pass knowing the bikers would soon be overtaking me. The trail narrowed into a twisting, undulating single-track with several rock outcroppings to scramble over. It wasn’t long before I could hear the mountain bikers on my tail. I pulled off to the side to allow them to pass. As they rode by I tucked in behind them. I wanted to see how long I could keep in contact with them. By now the trail was starting to descend down the other side of the hill. The bikers pulled away from me with ease. I never saw those two again but did see other bikers along the route. A short time later I ran into a group of volunteers doing some trial maintenance. They were building some stone steps into a steep section of trail. I thanked them for their hard work and continued on my way.
It wasn’t long before I realized this trail was going to be more difficult than my run on the Reservoir trail two weekends ago. I ran along for the next couple of miles constantly ascending or descending a hill. In fact, there was very little flat ground during my entire run on the Skyline trail. At 4 miles I started another long climb on my way up to Pine hill. At the top the hill there is a large, stone lookout tower. Below me I could see Route 93 and in the distance the Boston Skyline. Touring the Fells on the Skyline Trail, you may sometimes believe you are deep in the woods of New Hampshire. You would never know that the concrete jungle was surrounding you so closely.
I was really beginning to fatigue after 6 miles of hard running. Lucky for me the trail was getting a little easier. Most of the last two miles were on the same trail shared with the Reservoir loop. Here, I finally got to run some flatter terrain. It was a welcome reprieve for my weary legs. As a final test of my determination the trail took a detour up one last hill and then down a very steep, rocky trail. By now I was so tired I thought it best just to walk until I got back to level ground. I didn't need to take a tumble so close to finishing. I was pleased to see the sign for the Sheepfold parking area. I arrived back at my starting point beaten, but not broken, having survived a difficult and rewarding run.
If there is one word I would use to describe my run on the Skyline trail it would be “more”. More hills, more views, more single-track, more rocks, more stubbed toes, more sweat and more pain. Oh, and of course, more fun!
See you on the trails…..