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Blue Hills Reservation: A Nature Preserve in Canton's Backyard

Blue Hills has trails, a museum and a zoo.

The which locals call "Blue Hills" extends into Canton, Milton, Quincy, Braintree, Randolph and Dedham. The park offers hiking trails, mountain biking, downhill and cross country skiing during the winter months as well as lessons for the beginner in rock climbing and horseback riding. With the warm weather months upon us, it is a popular weekend destination for all.  

The Blues Hills Trailside Museum is the interpretive center for the state's Blue Hills Reservation and is managed by the Mass Audubon. There is an outdoor animal exhibit which features animals who are no longer able to live out in the wild and an indoor museum with numerous displays, indoor critters and a brand new gift shop.

When I arrived at the museum Monday morning, I was greeted by volunteer Sean Morrison who was holding a large female "Raven" not to be confused with a crow. Both look similar but are easy to tell apart by the shape of their tail. One is straight and the other is shaped like the letter "V." 

Morrison and other volunteers spend time with families and educate them about the animal that Blue Hills is featuring; other presentations include Creepy Crawlers, snapping turtles, snowy owls as well as others.  

Perry Ellis, the head of education at the Blue Hills Museum, said, "The land which spans over 7,000 acres hasn't been touched since the 1890's. We are located at the base of Great Blue which reaches a height of 635 feet and is the highest point of land for miles. The forest has re-forested itself and has views with varied terrain and offers 150 miles of trails. The skyline trail is the longest running from east to west and about 9 miles. There are still carriage paths from the horse and buggy days as well".  

Some of the animals that you may come across as you climb one of the many trails are the endangered timber rattlesnake, turkey vultures and a fisher. A fisher is the size of a small dog with a beautiful coat that resembles a mink. Often mistaken for an otter, the fisher has longer legs and is a little more chunky. Fishers are members of the weasel family.  

"Coyotes came back in the 1970's. They are eastern coyotes which are larger and have longer fur than the ones out west. They are often referred to as the brush wolf," said Ellis.  

Ellis continued, "There is a historic weather observatory on the mountain which is the oldest in the United States and built in 1885. It has the most extensive site record for weather and has used the same equipment for this past century. The tower part of the observatory is shaped like a round castle. This gives more accuracy for wind levels since the building is round." 

Blue Hills will be open on Monday, April 16, 2012 through Friday, April 20, 2012 for school vacation week. It will be running its weekend programs every day of the week as well as other activities celebrating spring.  

In the summer, camp starts again and runs from June 25 through August 24 from 8:30am till 3pm, with an extended day offered to working parents. The camp is called "Adventures in Nature" and is offered in one- or two-week sessions. The Chickadees group is for grades K-1, The Naturalists for grades 2-3, Explorers for grades 4-5 and the Adventurers for grades 6-9. There is also a counselor in training program for grades 10-12.  

Visit their website at: www.massaudubon.org         

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