Cool and Shady

Another northern foray, another walk on the Cohos Trail’s Falls in the River segment. No trip to Pittsburg, New Hampshire on a 90-degree day would be complete without this through-the-woods walk to the unnamed flume on the Connecticut River, a half-hour walk south of the Second Connecticut Lake Dam.

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Falls in the River, Pittsburg NH, June. Photos by Ellen Kolb.

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Cracks in the granite give some tiny blossoms a home.

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A peek at Second Connecticut Lake from the parking lot by the dam. 

Notes on this trip: no moose. I figured the hot weather would keep them from being out on the roadside at midday, but I thought for sure I’d see one in the woods. I saw only their prints in the mud.

Bring your bug repellent of choice. It’s mosquito season. Also, it seems to be a fine year for ticks, which is bad news for the moose.

I was determined to get ice cream at Moose Alley Cones, but alas! It’s closed on summer Mondays. The fudge at Treats and Treasures next door was ample compensation. So was T&T’s air conditioning.

 

 

 

Back to Oak Hill

Over the ten years I’ve been keeping this blog, there’s one unassuming little post that keeps getting hits every single month: my walk to the Oak Hill fire tower where Concord meets Loudon, New Hampshire. Is it the “fire tower” phrase that keeps the search engines happy, or does Concord have a lot of enthusiastic local walkers?

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The only blossoms in sight on a spring day were on the ground cover at the edge of the trail. Photos by Ellen Kolb.

Either way, the Oak Hill trails deserve the attention. They’re pleasant, easy, varied, and only a few minutes away from downtown Concord. I headed there after some work at the State House recently, knowing that I could only spare a half hour or so.

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Junctions are well-marked, but this little “new vista” sign helped keep me on the right path.

I followed the signs to “vista,” only about a 12-minute walk from the parking area, and was treated to a good view of Mt. Kearsarge. I had thought that the fire tower was the only place on the hill with such a vista. My quick visit was well-rewarded. Bonus: a walk in the woods after a few hours in a hearing room is a good idea.

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Mt. Kearsarge to the west. Trees conceal the Merrimack River, flowing south past the industrial building at right.

Midweek, Mt. Monadnock

When the Forest Society announced its challenge last year, offering a patch for anyone visiting 33 specified Forest Society properties, I jumped on board immediately. Since then, I’ve had great fun discovering some new trails. Others are already familiar – Mt. Monadnock’s trails, for example.

Monadnock State Park is only one piece of the patchwork of ownership on the mountain. The Forest Society has a reservation there as well. For the most Monadnock hikers, borders between properties are imperceptible.

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The view south from Mt. Monadnock’s Halfway House clearing

On a recent visit to Monadnock, my indifferent level of fitness ruled out a summit hike. I settled for an easy walk to the Halfway House clearing, featuring a wonderful view to the south with Gap Mountain foremost.

The well-marked parking lot on NH Route 124 on the south side of the mountain is where to pick up the Halfway House trail and the parallel Old Toll Road path. (Bring $5 for park admission; there’s an iron ranger when the booth is unattended.) The Old Toll Road is a wide, well-drained boulevard with a packed crushed-gravel surface. Uphill, to be sure, but easy. It leads to a tiny patch of private land with an imposing house on it. Past the house, the boulevard becomes a trail: rocks, roots, spring’s inevitable mud. No problem. The Halfway House clearing, named for an inn that once stood there, is less than a 5-minute walk ahead.

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Old Toll Road, mid-spring

I looked up to the summit and saw no hikers. That’s unusual, as local hikers will attest. Normally the summit seen from that distance looks like an anthill.

A cool breeze kept the bugs away on the overcast day. I knew I was likely to be rained on any minute. I didn’t care. Solitude on a Monadnock trail is meant to be savored.

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A peek at Monadnock’s summit from the Halfway House clearing

Notes From a Midday Ride

I broke away from work on this weekday just long enough to take my bicycle out for the first ride of the season on the Nashua River Rail Trail .

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Feature from mural along NRRT. Ellen Kolb photo.

I like the mural in Groton, in the underpass crossing Route 111. I think local students must have painted it. It’s a map not of local streets, but of the Boston and Maine rail lines, including the decommissioned one that now serves as a trail. Nice bit of history, paying respect to the trail.


A beaver resisted all my attempts to photograph it. I almost missed it, in a swampy area alongside the trail: only concentric ripples gave it away. It’s good to see the wetlands looking like wetlands again, as gentle spring rains heal the effects of last year’s serious drought. Last September I had no more chance of seeing a beaver at trailside than of seeing a pod of whales.


The NRRT was dedicated fifteen years ago, and the road crossing at Route 113 in Pepperell has always required extra caution, from motorists as well as bicyclists. The ice cream shop across the street is one compensation. So is the pocket-sized park that’s been developed just south of 113. The shrubs are in bloom. Benches and markers have been spruced up. Something new – at least to me – is an air pump anchored in place, ready to tend to a summer’s worth of flat bicycle tires. That’s being neighborly.

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A little history to go with my stop along the trail.


The river that gave the trail its name is not visible from the trail, except for a lovely mile-long stretch in Pepperell and Groton. Every time I see it, I think of the guidebook I received when I moved to New Hampshire more than thirty years ago, which had this to say about the Nashua River in Pepperell, where there’s a dam:

…but for the dirty water this would be a fine smoothwater trip. From [Groton] to East Pepperell, the river is not attractive, as the increase in water level has flooded swampland and killed the trees. [AMC River Guide Volume 2, Appalachian Mountain Club, 1978]

By 2002, the Guide’s third edition told a different story.

The Nashua River has enjoyed a major restoration in the last 25 years. The industrial pollution is gone now. Birds, wildlife, and fish are returning, and paddling the Nashua River is now an enjoyable experience.

Walking and biking alongside the river is pretty enjoyable, too.

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Nashua River, Pepperell, Massachusetts. Ellen Kolb photo.

 

Close to Home

One of my town’s conservation properties is practically next door to me, yet I hadn’t been there for more than a decade. I made up for that today, walking to Wildcat Falls on a warm spring day.

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Wildcat Falls on the Souhegan River, NH

The Souhegan River runs through my town, and I live only a couple of hundred yards away from it. The river wraps around my neighborhood. On the other side, a stone’s throw away, is the Wildcat Falls conservation area. I show my age, or at least that I’ve lived in town awhile, when I call it 80 Acres.

80 acres was the unimaginative name for – wait for it – an 80-acre parcel of undeveloped land along the north side of the river, near Wildcat Falls. Thumbs-up to whomever renamed the parcel to reflect its most remarkable natural feature.

Wildcat Falls is the reason there’s a canoe take-out upstream where the river crosses Turkey Hill Road. Way too much granite and way too many fallen trees make the falls a spot that’s pretty to look at but lousy to navigate.

There are a couple of miles of trails winding through the conservation area and the adjoining state property. All I was interested in today was the falls: pleasant, very close, and too long neglected by me.

The walk to the falls from the parking lot goes through a sandy, pine-y area that reminds me of where I grew up in flat southern Florida, where rivers looked like canals and where waterfalls were pure fiction. Today’s sandy pines led me instead to the Souhegan, a modest river in the greater scheme of things, but quite a fine one to me.

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Near the parking lot for Wildcat Falls conservation area in Merrimack NH, sandy woods belie the river and falls that are only a short walk away.

The Wildcat Falls stop was an oh-by-the-way that I added to my travels as I came home from a couple of hours on the trails at Beaver Brook Association in Hollis. Beaver Brook features several parking lots and trailheads around its property, so that on sunny weekend days like this one I’m not likely to be deterred by a full parking lot there. The one lot at Wildcat Falls was nearly full today, but the residential street nearby is probably fine for overflow parking. (Don’t tell the neighbors I said that.)

I tried visiting the Andres Institute trails today, but parking was impossible. Save that one for a weekday.

 

 

New Monadnock Guide

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Rail trail, Troy NH. Ellen Kolb photo.

Southern New Hampshire wanderers, I’ve added Monadnock Region Outdoor Activities to my bookmarks, and you might want to do likewise. It lists trails, of course, but also parks, including local ones of which I was unaware. I like the links to local conservation commission sites; I’ve found that those commissions are sometimes the only source for maps of trails on a town’s land. My compliments to the Reluctant Enthusiast for putting this resource together.

This rainy spring day puts me in mind of my last rail trail hike out Monadnock way, between Troy and Fitzwilliam. I’m about ready to find that trail again. The newly-discovered web site ought to give me more ideas for a day in Cheshire County.