Why go urban hiking? You won’t find stunning natural vistas, peaceful solitude, or the freshest of mountain breezes. But on the other hand, you can get some sunshine (and sunburns), exercise, and see new things. You also don’t have to worry about food, altitude sickness, bears, or a heavy pack. Best of all, if you live in a city, you can start an urban hike anytime just by going out your front door. I took the train to Salem, MA, and hiked the asphalt trails back to Cambridge.
0.3 miles: Gulu Gulu Cafe; Salem, MA
Cute, comfortable, and spacious! If I wasn’t on a Very Serious urban hike, I’d love to curl up here with a book or a friend.
Gulu Gulu offers a variety of crepes both sweet and savory. I opted for the Brie-berry, a uniquely delicious combination of fresh blueberries, sliced brie, and a generous sprinkling of walnuts. They charge extra for real maple syrup (vs. the fake stuff), but I think it’s well worth a splurge.
1.7 miles: Mack Park; Salem, MA
3.2 miles: Stunning view off of Route 107. What’s all this nature doing in my urban hike?!
4.3 miles: Bob’s Famous Fried Clams; Salem, MA
On the North Shore, fried whole-belly clams are a classic summertime treat. These were crisp and lovely dunked in lemony tartar sauce. But the box convinced me that clams are not my favorite seafood to fry. For plump, meaty morsels, fried shrimp fit the bill. For a satisfyingly firm texture, I’ll stick with calamari. And for a snack that melts with luscious briny flavor, give me fried oysters. I’ll take my clams in chowdah from now on.
5.1 miles: Entering Lynn, MA
5.9 miles: Lydia Pinkham house
I had never heard of Lydia Pinkham until I hiked past her house. What a character! As the sign says, she ran a patent medicine business, marketing Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound for the relief of “female complaints.” Women across the country wrote letters to Lydia, which she diligently answered from this house until her death – and, when she died, the company kept on answering letters for her. The compound itself was also likely manufactured here.
The two slogans on this truck read: “No pain, no gain,” and “It tastes good, honestly!” I’m…pretty dubious that both can be true simultaneously. Thin ‘n Trim, you’re trying too hard.
7.6 miles: Murals at Tony Lena’s sandwich shop
8.4 miles: Rest stop at Marshview Park
8.9 miles: Kane’s Donuts; Saugus, MA
Kane’s World Famous Donuts has been serving coffee and fresh pastries in this charming setting since 1955. Along with tray upon tray of picturesque donuts, they’ve got oversized coffee rolls, muffins, and cupcakes piled comically high with bright icing. I was extremely excited to get my hands on an old-school donut.
Sadly, I wasn’t blown away by the chocolate buttercrunch. It was good, but not noticeably superior to others I’ve had. In fact, although I liked the sweet coconutty crunch on the outside, the cake part tasted a little strongly of the frying oil. I would love to go back and sample their raised (yeasted) donuts instead of cake-style, because I bet the artisan touch is really great there.
9.8 miles: A mysterious figure stands guard amidst the shadows…
10 miles: Leaving Saugus
10.3 miles: Entering Revere
10.6 miles: “I got it made at Hampton Beach.”
11.4 miles: Entering Malden
11.8 miles: Hardy Mums
12.2 miles: Holy Cross Cemetery. One thing the East Coast does better than the West Coast is beautifully landscaped cemeteries. I like reading the names and thinking about our collective ancestry in the quiet of these outdoor sanctuaries.
14.5 miles: The awkward sunlight makes it difficult to fully appreciate this mural. Note that the color palette is exactly the same as the Hampton Beach Sweatshirt (see above).
14.9 miles: Entering Boston.
15.5 miles: Nice view crossing over the Mystic River.
16.5 miles: I may have sweated out all my electrolytes. A bit nauseated, I grope wildly for coconut water with lemon in a convenience store.
17.6 miles: Coconut water guzzled but still feeling dehydrated, so I drop into Whole Foods for kombucha with raspberry, lemon, ginger, and the most pretentious name ever: “Enlightened Synergy Trilogy.” Yep, I’m back in Cambridge. But the drink does make me feel better.
17.9 miles: Flat on my blessed floor. Ahhh…home at last.