Glimpses of fall

It’s the prime part of the year for Granite State walkers of all ages. Crisp air and fewer bugs make every trail more inviting. And then there’s fall foliage, which I thought would be a disappointment after our region’s drought. How wrong I was.

I have a paper map of New Hampshire that I’ve marked with sites of historical markers, Forest Society reservations, and of course state parks. It’s a great guide for my daytrips. Last weekend, I consulted the map and set off to scout some trailheads for future exploration. I meandered all over the place, just for fun.

Once I got home, I discovered that many of the photos I’d taken with my phone were unfocused and useless. (I blame the equipment and the photographer in equal measure.) You simply have to trust me that it was a good day. You can make some good days of your own on Granite State highways and trails.


The drive to the Green Mountain trailhead at the end of High Watch Road was the stuff of travelogues. There’s a point on Route 16 northbound from Rochester where I got to a rise in the road, and suddenly mountains were in view, swathed in colors. Past peak, perhaps, but still exciting and refreshing.


View to the north from High Watch Road. I’m pretty sure that’s Mount Chocorua in the distance on the left. A hike for another day, perhaps?

Once on the trail, I very nearly threw away my watch. There was a fire tower up there, after all, and what views it promised! But this was a scouting trip, and I had a schedule to keep, so I contented myself with a short walk in the woods and a silent promise to come back someday.

New Durham

Route 11 connects Rochester and Alton, with New Durham along the way. A 55-mph speed limit makes scanning for trailheads a bit tricky. I plugged the coordinates for Cooper Cedar Woods into my phone’s GPS and hoped for the best. It worked, which is always a pleasant surprise to someone who surrounds herself with low-grade electronics.


In Cooper Cedar Woods, New Durham, NH. 

The wooded tract features a simple loop trail less than a mile long, and I had it all to myself. I set off and was startled immediately: the fragrance in the air was amazing. No cologne in a bottle could compare. It was some indescribable combination of trees and their fallen leaves, unique to that particular location. I could hear Route 11’s auto traffic nearby, and yet it seemed to be a world away.



Champlin Forest, seen from Route 108 in Rochester, NH

Early in my road-trip day, I was one of the walkers bringing up the rear at the Foley Run in Rochester, a joyous 5k event in memory of photojournalist James Foley. Main Street’s trees were at their showiest, right on schedule for the visiting racers.

After a quick post-race snack of bagels and fruit and (OK, I’ll admit it) a pastry, I drove south of town to a quiet parking area tucked across the road from the town’s airport. Here was the Champlin Forest, another Forest Society property, with about two miles of trails meandering through it. A woods walk, pleasant though unremarkable, except there’s this:

As a community resource featuring woods, water, wildlife and high-quality farm soils, Champlin Forest has many significant and diverse conservation features. Half of the property consists of well-managed, productive woodlands, containing marketable timber along with a diversity of wildlife habitats, consisting of a field, varied woodland types, vernal pools and wetlands.

The property serves as the headwaters of and includes extensive frontage along Clark Brook and contributes to two nearby public water supplies. Remnants of a small-scale granite quarry dating to the mid-1800s, when stones were drilled and cut by hand, are evident as well.


Spotted during the day:

This in Wolfeboro. ice-harvesting-wolfeboro

In Barrington. Yes, that’s frost on the ground, and I slipped on it.



On Route 16 in Wakefield, on the way to Effingham.



October, Pack Monadnock

Columbus Day weekend is wrapping up for the leaf-peepers. Autumn colors are still muted in my area, except for a few specimen trees flashing scarlet. I figured the Monadnocks would be a little showier today. I stole a couple of hours from my schedule this morning and headed to Miller State Park in time for a walk up the auto road before it opened to cars for the day. I actually spent time alone on the summit of Pack Monadnock! A rare treat, that. I thank God for days like this.


From the Pack Monadnock summit: Mt. Monadnock, about twelve miles away.


Near the base of the auto road. My guess is that the P on this marker is for Peterborough, one of three towns that can lay claim to part of Pack Monadnock.


Plenty of colorful foliage over there on North Pack Monadnock.


When I took my kids to Pack Monadnock when they were little, the first thing they wanted to check from the summit was whether it was “a Boston day,” clear enough to see Beantown’s skyline. Today was a Boston day.


Bleached by the sun’s glare: the New Boston Air Force Station’s radomes on the left, city of Manchester, New Hampshire on the right.

And here’s the Granite State Walker, offering a chocolate-milk toast to the physical therapist who helped me get my knee back into shape this

A visit to Madame Sherri’s place

With a car and several hours at my disposal this weekend, I decided to head out to New Hampshire’s southwestern corner for a visit to the Madame Sherri forest in Chesterfield. I average about one hike there per decade. Believe me, it rates more. Only my distance from the area keeps me from more frequent visits.


The castle staircase: a signature spot in Madame Sherri Forest.

And who is the Madame Sherri who left us with the remnants of a castle? The Forest Society tells you all about it on a page that includes important information about the trails on the property.

I was a little concerned when I arrived at the trailhead and found the parking area filled and the roadside lined with “no parking” signs. I managed to find a tiny spot that accommodated my tiny car. Here’s a tip: the kiosk at the far side of the parking lot has a little notice card informing visitors that overflow parking is available a short distance up the dead-end road across from the trailhead. Too bad the sign can’t be seen from the road, but I’ll remember the parking arrangements for next time.

Once on the trails, I crossed three bridges over dry streambeds. The area’s drought is not easing. All the more remarkable, then, that wildflowers continue to bloom. I love the icy-blue asters still flowering.

Indian Pond may be lower than usual, but it’s still a beautiful spot.


Indian Pond, Chesterfield, New Hampshire.

And then there’s the castle, which rates a respectful nod at each visit. Imagine what the full structure must have looked like in its glory days. The kiosk at the parking area actually has some good photos and historical information about the site.

I picked a wonderful day for a drive, with Monadnock dominating the scene between Dublin and Keene. I had actually planned to make several stops yesterday: Madame Sherri, Gap Mountain, and a short visit to Monadnock’s lower slope. Once in Chesterfield, though, I decided to enjoy the forest. More trail time, less car time. I don’t regret the decision.


The Granite State Walker at Madame Sherri’s castle.

Hint of fall


Goffstown, New Hampshire. The “W” is a mystery to me. Ellen Kolb photo.

This has been a summer of drought in southern New Hampshire. The heat seems exaggerated. Even the weeds are beginning to show signs of stress. Today, though, a few yellow beech leaves drifted down in front of me as I walked on the Goffstown rail trail – reminding me that summer’s end is in sight.

Will the fall foliage be affected by the drought? I don’t know. Even if the usual brilliance is dimmed, fall will be my favorite season with its crisp air. Today’s hint – those few leaves lazily dropping along my way – was enough to make me realize that my favorite time of year is almost here.

National Parks: an anniversary to celebrate

I’m told that today is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Huzzah! I treasure my trips to the gems of the park system. This is my little thank-you note to the NPS team.

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Acadia National Park, Maine.

I love Acadia, and I love it even more in the off-season. Best trip there I ever had was on a blustery, showery October weekend when I had the carriage trails practically to myself.


Acadia’s carriage trails get heavy use in the summertime, but October finds them quiet and inviting.

When I visited Yellowstone, bison greeted me as soon as I crossed into the park on Route 20. My one trip was during a week before Memorial Day – a shoulder season, post-winter and pre-summer, with no traffic jams. A week is too short a visit; there’s so much to see, and choices must be made. I felt the same way after seeing Yosemite.

last look at Yellowstone river

Geysers are all well and good, but be sure to get away from Old Faithful to find the Yellowstone River.


A springtime visit means seeing the bison calves – from a distance. I was safely in a car when taking this photo.

Grand Geyser

Grand Geyser is more impressive than Old Faithful and draws smaller crowds. I loved it.

It wouldn’t have occurred to me to visit Grand Teton National Park if I hadn’t gone to Yellowstone. On a map, Grand Teton looks like an afterthought compared to its imposing neighbor to the north. It’s a marvel in its own right.

view from Colter Bay GTNP

The Teton range from across Colter Bay Village. The summits were in cloud throughout my trip.

atop Signal Mountain looking east

Another side of Grand Teton NP: looking east from Signal Mountain.


I like my local hikes just fine. They’re affordable, for one thing, while a trip to any national park farther away than Acadia is a bit of a reach for me. I’m glad I’ve done some reaching, though. We have treasures out there.

A pair of real Granite State walkers

How many miles have I walked this year? A couple of hundred, if my journal is accurate, averaging a measly couple of dozen each month. Well, my knee hurt for awhile. The weather wasn’t always nice. I was busy. Blah, blah, blah … and just think, I fancy myself the Granite State Walker.


The last few yards of a 200+ mile walk.

Today, I met a couple of real Granite State walkers. Wendy Thomas and Griffin Nozell, mother and son, just finished walking the length of New Hampshire, beginning at the Canadian border in Pittsburg and ending today in Nashua at the Massachusetts state line. They chose road walking rather than trail hiking, and in the process they built an online community that cheered them on all the way.

I joined Wendy and Griffin for the last couple of miles of their trip, just to meet them. I’d been following their travels via their Facebook group, Border-to-Border New Hampshire.


Wendy Thomas and Griffin Nozell, at the end of their border-to-border walk.

Thanks, Wendy and Griffin, for your fine company and conversation! I especially loved sharing impressions of Pittsburg, where they found the same warmth and hospitality that have made all my hikes up there so memorable.

They tell their own story better than I can. Link to Wendy’s blog, Lessons Learned From the Flock, for her introduction to their journey. The title of her post includes an important clue: “…because we can.” She has chronic Lyme disease, as does Griffin.

Griffin and I have moderate Lyme related arthritis, along with other orthopedic conditions – which can sometimes make even walking difficult.

But we’re not a family known for throwing in any towels.

Last year when Griffin and I were talking about personal challenges I mentioned that we should climb all of New Hampshire’s 4K+ mountains. We looked at a map of NH’s mountains, sighed and realized that with our joints, that wasn’t going to happen anytime soon.

“Well we could walk New Hampshire instead,” I volunteered.

And with that simple suggestion the idea of a Border-to-Border New Hampshire walk was hatched.

The Lyme-related arthritis was not in evidence today. Both of the walkers might have had sore joints and blisters, but their pace was steady and no one was limping. It was a day of sunshine and good humor. I was glad to see that friends bearing flowers and sushi were waiting for them at the state line.

And you know what? It turns out that Wendy and I are neighbors. We live in the same town, about a mile apart. We didn’t meet until today.

Wendy plans to write up her travel notes for her blog, entitling the first post “Spoiler Alert.” She’ll have observations and insights different from those of someone hiking off-road. I urge you to head over to Lessons Learned From the Flock to read more about the border-to-border hike.

Griffin and Wendy have left me feeling inspired and encouraged to plod on, sore knees and all, always discovering more things to love about our Granite State.