Granite State Walker

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

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Nashua River Rail Trail spring update

Conditions on the Nashua River Rail Trail are pretty good for the second week of April, especially in view of the exceptionally cold and snowy winter we had here in New England. I scouted a couple of parking areas and then walked the stretch between MA 113 in Pepperell and Sand Hill Road in Groton.

The trees aren’t yet in bud, so the river was the star of the show today.

Nashua River in Pepperell, Massachusetts, April 2015

Nashua River in Pepperell, Massachusetts, April 2015

Parking areas:

  • Gilson Road, Nashua: gate is open; ice and snow cover half the lot but about 20 parking spaces are clear and open.
  • NH Route 111-A at Nashua/Hollis line: plenty of roadside parking.
  • State line at Dracut: lots of snow was plowed into the far side of the lot, leaving room for three or four cars.
  • MA Route 113 in East Pepperell: clear and open.
  • Sand Hill Road, Groton: a snow pile covers about half the lot, but there’s still room for about ten cars.

Trail surfaces:

  • Pepperell: some patches of ice and snow, which should be gone soon with a few more 50-degree days.
  • Groton: mostly snow-covered between town line and Sand Hill Road. About three inches of well-trodden soft snow make for an uneven surface, but it’s certainly passable on foot.

It’s the beginning of another beautiful season on the NRRT. I’m looking forward to it.

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New Cohos Trail web site goes live

The Cohos Trail is about 160 miles long, winding through New Hampshire’s North Country from Crawford Notch to the Canadian border. The northernmost section is a favorite of mine, and I’ve recounted my longest hike there at my blog Cohos to Canada.

The official web site for the trail has just gone live after a complete re-design. Check it out, and I hope you’ll share it with your friends. If you’re a New Hampshire hiker and you’ve never been north of the Whites, the site will inspire you. If you’re from more distant parts, the Cohos Trail just might tempt you to this little corner of New England.

Pliny Range, north of Cherry Pond along the Cohos Trail

Pliny Range, north of Cherry Pond along the Cohos Trail

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Temple, January 1

I made my customary New Year’s Day drive out to the Monadnock region, deciding at the last minute not to do the fun little 5k race (walk, in my case) in Temple that would have set me back $20. Instead, I continued to the Wapack trailhead in Sharon. No trails or uphill work for me this day – lazy, out-of-shape, call me what you will. I did my 5k on local roads, blessedly free of traffic and ice.

Temple Road in Sharon; Mt. Monadnock in the distance

Temple Road in Sharon; Mt. Monadnock in the distance

It wasn’t a brisk walk. I kept stopping to take pictures. Most of the photos are unusable thanks to midday’s harsh lighting. I like this one, though. My route today was flat, except for the gentlest rise on Temple Road where I got a glimpse of Mount Monadnock.

Have a wonderful new year, with plenty of Granite State walks.

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Hike safe card: yes, I’m in

New Hampshire Fish & Game is selling a Hike Safe card beginning on New Year’s Day, in an effort to boost the search-and-rescue fund. Given the amount of time I spend on trails, and with my boneheaded decisions from a day on Monadnock more than a year ago still fresh in my memory, I’m going to plunk down the $25. Hunters and boaters have helped fund Fish and Game’s rescue work for years by means of a surcharge on their annual licenses. It’s about time hikers like me got into the act.

Hikers with a Hike Safe card will not be responsible for repaying any rescue costs incurred due to the hiker’s negligence. Reckless or intentional behavior is not covered. In other words, Don’t Be Stupid.

FAQs about the program are answered on the Fish and Game web site. The card is available for online purchase only.


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Muddy trails, four-footed friends

Boots, you fool. Boots. Two days in a row, I’ve gone out in running shoes when boots would have been a much better idea. It’s uncommonly warm for late December, and a recent gentle 24-hour rain left local paths muddy. I’ve been on flat trails close to home, nothing adventurous, but they’ve left me with very dirty shoes. No harm done.

(And what was I thinking when I bought white athletic shoes? Nothing meant to be worn outdoors should be white, except for reflective tape.)

Nashua River at Mine Falls Dam. Spring runoff can cover those rocks.

Nashua River at Mine Falls Dam. Spring runoff can cover those rocks.

I wondered if there’d been enough rain to make Mine Falls into a real falls. The Nashua River can be quite impressive at that spot during a good spring runoff. How about December? Average, I discovered, but still lovely.

I’ve shared the trails recently with a lot of dogs, leashed and unleashed. I don’t have any pets myself, but I have a soft spot for friendly and well-mannered dogs, like the majestic Newfoundland that accompanied its owners through Horse Hill yesterday when I was there. Just on the last couple of walks, I’ve seen a broader selection of canines than usual. To name a few: pit bulls, a Yorkie, standard poodles, a dachshund, a greyhound, and one exotic-looking creature that I had to resort to Wikipedia to identify, a Komondor. No wildlife. Perhaps the dogs saw to that.

The year will end with snow-free trails in my area, thanks to this warm spell. It won’t be the first time I’ll ring in the new year with spring-like conditions. I can always head a couple of hours north if the call of the snowshoes proves irresistible.

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Autumn’s edge, Mine Falls Park

I was in Mine Falls Park today, a few days shy of the winter solstice. Leaves are down, everything’s brown. One plowable snowfall at Thanksgiving was heavy enough to bring down some tree limbs that plopped into the canal, and they’re likely to stay there until the Nashua parks department has time to remove them next spring. The faintest skin of ice is forming on the canal now.


The path alongside the canal has been cleared of deadfall (pushed into the canal, I expect). I saw fresh white “X”s chalked here and there, marking trees to be cut down or trimmed at some point. Sometimes, Mother Nature gets there first. I walked past one broken-off oak tree with a big white “X” on what’s left of the jagged trunk.

Oddly quiet along the path today. This is a busy urban park, but today, the area in which I walked was nearly deserted. Once I crossed the Whipple Street bridge, I didn’t see a living thing until I spied the swans in the cove near the Millyard. It was so quiet that I could hear the traffic on the Everett, nearly a mile away. That’s very different from my visits on summer afternoons, when on nearby Ledge Street, life is lived very much out loud. Late December is a quieter time.


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Plan a First Day Hike for January 1

Which will it be on New Year’s Day for me? A trip to Monadnock, where I went last January 1? Maybe it’ll be a good day to check out the Little Harbor Loop in Portsmouth instead. Or perhaps, if everything falls just right, I’ll somehow be able to head north to Weeks State Park in Lancaster for a view of the Presidentials. Those are the three sites for the guided First Day Hikes 2015 being sponsored by New Hampshire State Parks and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests  All hikes are easy to moderate, and there’s no charge. Details are on the web site.

The Granite State Walker kicking off the New Year at Monadnock State Park.

The Granite State Walker kicking off the New Year at Monadnock State Park.

You can hike on your own anywhere you’d like on January 1, of course. I usually start the new year with a walk on Temple’s quiet roads, and if the weather’s right I follow that with a walk up the auto road in Miller State Park on nearby Pack Monadnock. Last year, for a change, I headed to Monadnock for the guided First Day Hike. Two hikes were offered that day: one for people who didn’t mind heading uphill in icy conditions, and one for the rest of us content to explore the lower slopes. Just fine, either way. (By the way, if you hike with your dog, Weeks State Park has the First Day Hike for you. Alas, no pets allowed on Monadnock,)

If you head to Weeks in Lancaster, don’t worry if you don’t make it to the summit. There are two lookouts partway up the auto road (pedestrians only, in the winter) that are worth a stop. Nothing like a crisp, cold day for fine views.

from summit of Mt. Prospect, Lancaster NH, 4/6/13

from summit of Mt. Prospect, Lancaster NH (Weeks State Park)


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