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So that’s why they call it a trail: The Freedom Trail

June 10, 2009


I sat down at my desk this morning, somewhat embarrassed, ready to admit that we missed celebrating National Trails Day on Saturday. We didn’t make it to a single one of the trails around Boston that I mentioned in Thursday’s post.
Here’s how the day went: We were having so much fun with our friends, who were visiting from California and whose two children are close in age to ours, that we decided to stay in the city. When we learned that Benjamin is studying the American Revolution in fifth grade, we suggested walking The Freedom Trail. It was a beautiful day, sunny but not too hot: so perfect for walking, in fact, that we started right at our hotel.
We took our time getting to the Boston Common and its Visitor’s Center, where the trail starts. We zigged and zagged past carts with Italian ices and candied nuts and stopped to pet small dogs in sweaters. The Freedom Trail itself is a double-wide line of red bricks laid in the middle of the sidewalk: simple but unforgettable — a stroke of genius. Immediately, the four kids took the lead, walking single-file on the bricks up a small hill to the corner of the Common and our first historical site, which turned out to be about the Civil War. Ursula, who is studying the Civil War in fifth grade, told us the story of Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts regiment, memorialized there.
From there, we followed the red-brick road and the children back to early American history, into cemeteries, through Paul Revere’s house and through the doors of Old North Church, made famous by the line in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “one if by land, two if by sea.” Along the way, we had lunch and gelato. The children’s energy never flagged. They even re-enacted the Boston Massacre with such gusto that people stopped to take their pictures. 

It was only after we’d said good-bye and turned for home that I realized we’d spent the entire day outside. Virgil was asleep before we left the city, Ursula before we crossed the border into New Hampshire.
And only now have I realized that what we did was indeed a hike — an urban hike, a history hike, a hike that worked especially well for children. And, I might add, a hike of at least six miles. So, even though we didn’t plan it that way, I think we did celebrate National Trails Day after all.
LEARN MORE
  • Boston National Historical Park The National Park Service oversees many of the Revolutionary War-era historic sites in Boston. 
  • Urban Escapes (AMC Outdoors July/August 2008) Biking in Manhattan, hiking in Philadelphia, kayaking in Washington, D.C., and other urban adventures.
  • Carless Hikes (AMC Outdoors April 2009) Seven excursions in seven cities that don’t require a car.

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