It’s spring! Aisha and I celebrated the first really warm day of the season by visiting the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University in Jamaica Plain. We’d been once before, last summer, on a particularly hot day when everything was green in bloom, but the sweat was too real. Though many of the trees and shrubs are just starting to bud now, it was exciting relief to see some of the first flowers and vegetation of spring – like yellow daffodils and patches of blue-purple wildflower that I don’t know the name of yet. A great way to kick-off the season!
A huge perk of the arboretum is that it’s free – yes free! We grabbed a paper map at the visitors center and started on our way through the 281-acre park. It being so nice out, it was a busy day, with many folks having picnics, sitting on park benches, strolling with kids, walking their dogs. So many cute puppies! Little white fluffy dogs seem to be on trend.
First, we walked to the three ponds, where we saw an adorable turtle crossing the trail from one pond to the other. It was speedy (for a turtle) and lots of folks were watching and protecting it, letting it cross. We continued on to the shrub and vine garden, where a couple trees were in bloom. Because they were bare, the vines were especially impressive, because you could see where they snaked and twisted up and around trellises. We went to go see the bonsai trees next, but the bonsai collection was closed! Either there was a grand bonsai heist (they are usually protected by alarms), or it’s still too cold for them to be outside on view. Oh well!
From there we continued up Bussey Hill, which was a workout after a winter of not hiking much. At the summit, some people were doing yoga and playing music. The Boston skyline is somewhat visible from the overlook, but we would get a better view of Boston later, though we didn’t know it yet.
Next, we crossed through the Explorers Garden where a white rhododendron bush was already in bloom! On the map, I saw there was a “rhododendron path” so we descended the hill and headed there next. Unlike the bush in the Explorers Garden, the rhododendrons on that path weren’t yet blooming. It was still worth the detour because we found a sweet trickling stream through the woods and rocks to sit by it.
From the stream we got back on the main path and headed south towards Bussey Street and Peters Hill. We hadn’t traveled that far last summer, so we were excited to explore somewhere new. Along the way, we crossed a cute footbridge over the stream, and walked passed grassy fields. After crossing Bussey Street, we started walking uphill again. Phew. It was kind of steep, but I should’ve guessed Peters Hill was, well, a hill (240 feet, higher than the 198 feet of Bussey Hill). Along the loop around the hill we encountered some gravestones – surprise! Turns out that Walter Street Burying Ground is there, which houses a few 1700s pre-Revolution graves. About one-third away around the loop, there was a path leading up to the summit. We took it, discovering that Peters Hill offers an awesome view of Boston. Lots of people were hanging out at the top, looking at the skyline, taking photos. Little swarming bugs started irritating us suddenly, so we descended down to the bottom.
We walked up Hemlock Hill Road and Valley Road, taking a break on a shady bench for a little bit. As we made our way back north, we passed more adorable folks walking puppies and one man with a big tan lizard riding on his shoulder. Hmm. Hey, exotic pets deserve to enjoy the spring weather too! We also encountered a group of people gathered around a tree, where a lone snake was slithering around the base of the trunk. Having now encountered three different reptiles on our adventure (a turtle, a snake, and maybe a bearded dragon) we decided to call it a day, and head to the Forest Hills gate, conveniently near the Forest Hill T Stop, to take the orange line home.
I would love to go back to the arboretum to an adult education class in tree or plant identification. And Aisha and I agreed that now that we’ve been to the park in spring and in summer, we should visit the park in autumn too.