Everett Dam

There’s usually a fine view of Mount Kearsarge from the Everett Dam by Clough State Park in Weare. Not on this cold and foggy day, though. I walked across the dam toward the trail on the other side and felt like I was disappearing into a cloud.

There’s a extensive trail system nearby for ATVs and hikers, but there were no machines in sight or sound today. Clough State Park is closed for the season, so there was no summertime laughter to be heard from the beach. I walked in pleasing silence and solitude.

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The Piscataquog River downstream of the dam. It’s been a dry year.

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Take Notes

When my husband and I went to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks last year, I scribbled some notes at the end of each day. Too sketchy to amount to a journal, they nevertheless recorded some important details. Once we got home, I typed up the notes and emailed a copy of the resulting document to myself for safekeeping.

It was so safe that I forgot I had it, until this evening. I’m laid up at the moment with a cold or flu or whatever the microbe du jour might be, and to pass the time I’m clearing out things from my email inbox that I never properly archived. Lo and behold, there were my Yellowstone notes.

Reading them took me right back to the Old Faithful Inn and the Teton bike trail.

I neatened up the notes, imposing complete sentences on my fragmentary observations. Then I printed out the resulting text and tucked it in our photo album of the trip. Yes, an actual hold-it-in-your-hand photo album. Now, when we or our kids look at the pictures, we’ll have more context than simply “ooh! what a pretty meadow!”

Do yourself a favor and take notes on your next trip, especially if it’s to a place you’ll likely not visit again. No need for elegant writing; my own sketchy notes were hardly poetic. I wasn’t writing for publication. I wrote to capture impressions that I was afraid I’d lose once the vacation was over.

I should have printed out my notes right after the trip instead of relegating them to email limbo for more than a year. They’ve come back to life now.

Take notes. You won’t be sorry.

(I managed to wring a blog post out of the Yellowstone trip shortly after coming home. It’s mostly photos. I hope you enjoy it!) 

First Day Hikes for 2017 announced

The folks at New Hampshire State Parks have done their best to get me to break my long tradition of spending New Year’s Day at a 5k race in Temple, which I sometimes followed with a walk up Pack Monadnock. Last New Year’s Days have found me instead at a First Day Hike at Silver Lake State Park, organized by the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation. The program is coming back for another round on January 1, 2017.

Details have been posted  on the State Parks web site about First Day Hikes at the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion State Historic Site in Portsmouth, Silver Lake State Park in Hollis, Monadnock State Park in Jaffrey, Weeks State Park in Lancaster, and Wellington State Park in Bristol.

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Signing up for the First Day 2016 hike at Silver Lake State Park in Hollis. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

January doesn’t always make for the best daytrip weather, but it sure would be fun to head to Weeks for a walk up that amazing auto road leading to that amazing fire tower…or maybe to discover Wellington, which I’ve never visited…or I could just stay close to home and go to Hollis as I did last January 1. What a wonderful day that was.

Read the descriptions, pick a spot, and put it on your calendar. I’ll have to give it some thought. My customary 5k in Temple is always fun, but these options are mighty tempting. Come to think of it, Temple is on the way to Monadnock. Hmmm…

 

Is that what I looked like?!

True confession: I just watched the four-part Gilmore Girls update on Netflix. What can I say? I got hooked when my daughter watched the originals all those years ago. A few scenes in the new show cracked me up in a way my daughter might not get.

In the program, the co-leading actress, supposedly in her late 40s, decides she needs to take a hike in the manner of Cheryl Strayed on the Pacific Crest Trail. The character doesn’t know the first thing about hiking, or even about the outdoors for that matter. Hilarity ensues. Spoiler alert: she doesn’t get past the trailhead.

I saw her trying to cram all her stuff into her backpack, and it sent me right back to my 2009 Cohos Trail trek, my one and only backpacking trip so far. I wanted to mark my 50th birthday with a solo hike. I picked a good one. It was a formidable undertaking, though, and despite many months of preparation and training, I was a total amateur.

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How amateur? In all the months of training for longer and longer walks, I never carried any weight on my back. Never. Imagine how I felt when I slung my overladen backpack onto my shoulders the first day of my hike and struggled to walk up a not-very-steep hill. I thought I had eliminated all unnecessary pack weight. I hadn’t. To compound the mistake, I had misthreaded my pack straps. I figured that much out after the first mile.

The trip got much better in spite of all that.

I laughed – nay, I howled – at our Netflix heroine’s bulging, ill-balanced, enormous pack. I realized at that moment just how comical I must have looked to all the amazing, generous people in Pittsburg, New Hampshire who offered me hospitality along my way in 2009. They were very kind by not laughing in my face. I sure had it coming.

Once I was within walking distance of the Pittsburg post office, I mailed home equipment that I didn’t need. As a result, I practically sailed through 19 miles my last day on the Trail.

If you’ve never taken a long hike but you want to give it a try, go ahead – I heartily endorse the notion. Train with weight, though, and be really picky about what constitutes “necessary” equipment. Don’t look like something out of Netflix.

Waterfalls on the to-do list: Franconia Notch

My last visit to Franconia Notch State Park featured a visit to the ski museum there. The trip before that included a long walk on the bike trail. The one before that was a hike up Mt. Pemigewasset. But wait…there’s more.

I guess I’ll just have to go back there sometime.

Favorite rail trails

I’m reading a biography of Theodore Roosevelt. A description of a jam-packed campaign tour that he undertook in 1912 via rail includes Nashua, New Hampshire and Ayer, Massachusetts on a list of stops.

Hello, Nashua River Rail Trail. It appeals to my inner history buff that whenever I’m there, I’m retracing a path that was once traveled by a former President.

Who knows how many other distinguished passengers were once conveyed by rail along paths I take today? I’m sure there are stories I haven’t heard yet.

The NRRT has long been my favorite local rail trail, but the Goffstown Rail Trail along with its Piscataquog cousin in Manchester has become a contender. The connection between the Goffstown and Manchester trails was worth the wait. I’m particularly fond of the segment between West Side Arena and Danis Park Road. I get to use the pedestrian bridge that finally replaced the abandoned trestle over the Piscataquog River, and then I walk with just enough people on the trail to make it a pleasant experience. It’s a place of peace and quiet but not isolation.

I’ve yet to explore the full length of the Rockingham Recreational Trail between the Manchester/Auburn line and Newfields, but the westernmost segment alone does not disappoint with its views of Lake Massabesic.

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View from the trail’s main parking area, just south of the Massabesic traffic circle.

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Massabesic Lake seen from a boat launch along the trail: imagine the variety of birds to be seen and heard here.

My single visit to the trail along the old Troy-to-Fitzwilliam line left me determined to come back and explore more of Cheshire County’s rail trails.

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Heading from Troy to Fitzwilliam on a foggy day: silent, eerie beauty.

The Presidential Rail Trail and its crown jewel, the Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge, are too far away for me to visit more than once a year. An easy mile-and-a-half hike from Airport Road in Whitefield leads to one of New Hampshire’s hidden treasures.

For eight years, I’ve relied on Charles F. Martin’s comprehensive book New Hampshire Rail Trails for information about the location and history of these and other trails. You could order the book online, but I prefer finding my trail guides at local book shops. The browsing always yields new resources for planning future trips.