Granite State Walker

dayhikes on the trails of southern New Hampshire, with occasional extended journeys

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Mt. Pemigewasset

This is what a perfect summer day in New Hampshire looks like. I joined two friends for a drive to Franconia Notch and a hike up forested Mt. Pemigewasset to its summit ledges, where there was nothing to do but enjoy the view. The Franconia Ridge is more than I can handle at this point. Mt. Pemigewasset, while still a challenge for me, has manageable trails. A wonderful daytrip!


Looking south from the Indian Head ledge on Mt. Pemigewasset: I-93 snakes away from the Notch

Mt. Pemi seen from U.S. 3 in Lincoln. Trailhead is off of I-93 in Franconia Notch; follow signs for The Flume.

Mt. Pemi seen from U.S. 3 in Lincoln. Trailhead is off of I-93 in Franconia Notch; follow signs for The Flume.


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Little Monadnock

So few free weekends this summer! This was a mountaintop day, though, with clear dry air that guaranteed good views. I dropped everything and drove to Fitzwilliam to visit New Hampshire’s Rhododendron State Park and its trail to Little Monadnock.

In early July, Rhododendron State Park's famous blooms are still a couple of weeks away.

In early July, Rhododendron State Park’s famous blooms are still a couple of weeks away.

Alas, the rhododendron grove is still a week or two from being in bloom. The loop trail makes for a pleasant shady walk nonetheless. That’s a short walk, and the well-prepared visitor will bring bug repellent (and for once, I remembered to pack it). Then I headed uphill, following the yellow blazes over rocks and roots to the summit ridge of Little Monadnock. Once I reached the ridge, I turned east-northeast and followed the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail a short distance to get a fine view of Grand Monadnock.

The trailhead at the state park's parking area leads to a junction with the Little Monadnock trail.

The trailhead at the state park’s parking area leads to a junction with the Little Monadnock trail.

Mt. Monadnock, seen from Little Monadnock's summit ridge.

Mt. Monadnock, seen from Little Monadnock’s summit ridge.

The sign at the summit ridge could use a little attention, but it gets its job done.

The sign at the summit ridge could use a little attention, but it gets its job done.

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I seldom get to the Dartmouth/Lake Sunapee region of New Hampshire, despite its many attractions. My husband The Runner had a race around Mascoma Lake in Enfield recently, and I went along for the ride on a warm early-summer day.

On a quiet Sunday morning, a walk along wildflower-lined Route 4-A was no trouble. Tree swallows were everywhere! I seldom see those birds where I live. I spent time on the quiet paths of the Shrine of Our Lady of LaSalette. Enfield Shaker Village is just across the street, and it surely rates a visit on another trip. I turned onto Main Street, the only bridge over the lake, to get to the Northern Rail Trail on the lake’s north side. I could have gone west to Lebanon or (on an ambitious day) southeast to Grafton, roughly following U.S. Route 4. This was a lazy day, though, and I simply meandered on the trail and on town roads as I waited for the runners to come through.

Never turn down a Sunday drive with someone special.  You might discover a lovely spot.

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NH projects on 2014′s National Trails Day, June 7

Sure to be seen on Trail Day: tiger swallowtails.

Sure to be seen on Trails Day: tiger swallowtails.

I was happy to find a link on my Facebook feed this morning, directing me to a list of Trails Day projects nearby this weekend. For my southern New Hampshire readers, take note of projects at Temple Mountain, Pisgah State Park (two projects there), and Bear Brook State Park.
Details here:

A new trail up Temple, to form a loop with a segment of the Wapack Trail? Yes, please.

If I can’t get out there Saturday, I’ll find something closer to home. Mine Falls will have a cleanup day on the 14th. I owe the trails a little love. Which reminds me – the city of Nashua, probably with some volunteer help, is doing heavy-duty work in Mine Falls Park this week to clean up the canal, pulling out trees toppled in the October ’11 snowstorm. Great job!

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First of June, Dunstable and Hollis

I shouldn’t have worried about not seeing columbines on my last walk along the Nashua River Rail Trail. I just hadn’t waited long enough. They were out this morning. So were ladyslippers, which I have never noticed along this trail. I spent a few minutes today on the short stretch of trail in Dunstable between the Massachusetts/New Hampshire state line and the first River Road crossing. I also took a side trail to look at the Nashua River, which is lazy and still today. My photo of the river shows only a sharp reflection of the trees along the banks. No apparent flow; just a mirror.

I didn’t have much company on this early-morning walk. I saw two bicyclists when I was nearly back to my car. I thought they were chatting with each other, until they got close enough so I could see they were each talking on a phone. Really, guys? But I shouldn’t judge. I carry my phone all the time, too. Those bicyclists missed some good flowers as they rolled past, deep in their respective conversations.

I also spent time on Beaver Brook land in Hollis today, north of Route 130. More ladyslippers – lots of them! They’ll be gone very soon, as the mountain laurel gets set to bloom. (And that’s a lovely sight.) I hiked around the wildlife pond with three other people who know the area well.

We stopped at the bridge that crosses the center of the pond, with a beaver dam nearby. One of my companions told us about bringing her five-year-old son to this spot. She told him beavers lived nearby. Being five and literal, the boy called out, “Mr. Beaver, you come out!” Just as Mom was explaining that beavers couldn’t answer him, a beaver surfaced, slapped the water with its tail, and swam away. Score one for the five-year-old.

What are you seeing this week?


Pitcher Mountain fire tower

When was the last time I got to one of New Hampshire’s fire towers? Was it Kearsarge or Pawtuckaway? It’s been awhile, at any rate. The other day, everything came together for another tower expedition: perfect weather, access to a car, and an afternoon to myself. I took a beautiful drive to Stoddard for a visit to Pitcher Mountain. It’s not much of a hike – only ten or fifteen minutes from parking lot to tower. The 360º views are splendid, though, and the drive was a treat. Dozens of miles on roads with no traffic signals and not a single Dunkin’ Donuts in sight: how’s that for a Sunday drive?

Pitcher Mountain fire tower, Stoddard NH

Pitcher Mountain fire tower, Stoddard NH

I couldn’t miss the small parking lot on Route 123 on Stoddard. There’s a sign, but there’s also a view of the tower from the road.

First peek at the tower, approaching from the east on Rt. 123.

First peek at the tower, approaching from the east on Rt. 123.


The walk uphill  from the parking lot through woods suddenly opens up to a field with a fine view of Monadnock to the south.

Mt. Monadnock in the distance, seen from the path to the Pitcher Mountain fire tower.

Mt. Monadnock in the distance, seen from the path to the Pitcher Mountain fire tower.


From the tower, there was a full panorama on a nearly cloudless day. Monadnock is the most prominent feature, but plenty of other peaks are visible as well. I had the second edition of Hiking the Monadnock Region (a fine guidebook by Joe Adamowicz) to help me identify some of them.

Wind farm in Lempster, seen from the fire tower

Wind farm in Lempster, seen from the fire tower


For more about New Hampshire fire towers:

One of the most interesting local publications in my collection is a little orange booklet called A Field Guide to New Hampshire Firetowers by Iris W. Baird and Chris Haartz (2002).  Look for used copies online. The booklet includes a short history of all the currently operating towers in the state, along with notes on other towers that are still standing but have been decommissioned.

The New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands has a web page, including information on the Tower Quest program: visit five fire towers to earn a patch. Fun for kids. I admit I have one of those patches myself.


Related posts: Visits to towers at Weeks State Park, Oak Hill, Pawtuckaway State Park, Mt. Kearsarge


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Greening up

No columbines yet on the Nashua River Rail Trail. I knew today was kind of early in the season, but I was eager for the year’s first visit to this old friend of a trail. I spotted a columbine along the way in the Dunstable stretch about three years ago. The following year, a second plant sprang up a few feet away. Since then, I haven’t been able to spot them – pulled up? died? I don’t know, but I look for them anyway.

Tiny violets - harbingers of wildflower season

Tiny violets – harbingers of wildflower season

Blossoms were few this weekend – a dandelion, and a few of the tiny violets that I refuse to call weeds even when they’re all over my lawn. The deciduous trees along the trail are just beginning to leaf out, and little pines are taking root in the shadow of big ones. The skunk cabbages down in the wetlands are the brightest green in sight. Spring cleanup has already been done by some wonderful group, probably volunteers, who have moved the winter’s deadfall off the pavement.

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Columbine, seen along NRRT in 2012.

Most flowers are still a few weeks off, and yes, I’m impatient for them. Still, I liked what I saw today – if not for its own sake, then for what it means for the coming season. Clumps of green grasses and ground cover are poking up through the dead leaves along the edge of the trail. The farm in Dunstable has sheets of white row-cover already out on one field, so something’s been planted – will it be pumpkins or butternut squash this year? The soda vending machine that one whimsical family sets up annually in their back yard adjacent to the trail is back, and the price per soda is unchanged at $1.

No plane from Skydive Pepperell. I’m not sure if that was due to the weather or the calendar. From late spring through fall, I’m accustomed to the every-20-minutes rhythm of the Twin Otter as it takes off from its airstrip near the trail, makes lazy circles up to what I’m told is 13,000 feet to let out the skydivers, then descends and returns.

From a good NRRT neighbor: the soda stand

From a good NRRT neighbor: the soda stand

Weekend traffic was far below summer levels. Very few Type A’s, as I call the cyclists that seem to be on a mission, zooming past everyone else, calling out a courteous but abrupt “On your left!” as they fly by. This was a family day, featuring kids on training wheels or on very shiny bikes that were probably under the Christmas tree. One high-spirited six-year-old had a BMX-style helmet that probably cost more than his bike.

No helmet or bike for me this weekend, just sneakers and a hankering for wildflowers. They’re not out yet, but I’ll see them soon.




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