Blossoms in a dry season

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I’ve spent nearly three months hobbling with a knee injury, and physical therapy has finally begun. One of the less tiresome assignments is to Get Out There again, concentrating on distributing my weight evenly instead of limping as I walk. It was something of a triumph for me to cover three miles in an hour on the Nashua River Rail Trail this morning.

It’s bone-dry in my area, as in most of New Hampshire. Even so, buds and blossoms are turning up. A week ago, a few sprigs of grass were poking through the dry leaves at trailside. Today, bluets and violets were blossoming, and there’s much more greenery despite the drought. Rain is forecast for later this week – and a day of that should brighten up the trail in earnest.

What’s new in your area? What’s blossoming in spite of the weather?

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Like fall, without color

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If you peer closely at the photo, you’ll see ice on the this southern New Hampshire trail. I was in Horse Hill Nature Preserve for an hour on the first of March for cryin’ out loud, and this is as close to winter conditions as I could find. A sign at the trailhead warned about muddy conditions, but I had no trouble in regular athletic shoes. Boots would have been overkill. A sweater and thin gloves were my only concessions to the weather.

My snowshoes remain in the basement. I know winter’s far from over, and I may yet this month rave about a beautiful day in fresh powder. That won’t be happening this week, though.

All the local paved trails are clear. Dirt trails have some ice in shady spots. Overnight freezes make for some interesting texture in muddy areas. On a Seacoast trip I took a few days ago, it felt like fall at Odiorne Point in Rye and Peirce Island in Portsmouth.

I haven’t investigated the auto roads up Pack Monadnock and Mt. Kearsarge lately, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were in good condition for pedestrians with light traction aids. Let me know if you’ve scouted out those paths.

 

Miles to Go

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P is for Portland, Maine: northern terminus of what used to be a Boston and Maine rail line, 110 miles from this granite marker along the Nashua River Rail Trail in Massachusetts. The other side of the marker says W37, meaning 37 miles to Worcester. This is one of several markers remaining from the days of the active line.

It’s a fifty-degree February day, with open water alongside the trail. The three-mile stretch of trail I had to myself this weekend is a patchwork of clear pavement and slush and half-melted ice. I came upon a couple of skinny little blown-down trees that were easy to move off the trail. We have yet to see the season’s first serious sustained winds that will surely bring down a big pine or two.

This was a nearly-silent walk, perfect for a Sunday morning after Mass. There’s no hum from the Skydive Pepperell plane in the winter. The noisy geese that usually populate the swamps and ponds along the way were absent. No kids trying out their training wheels, no runners passing me, no backyard barbecues at nearby houses. There will be plenty of time for all that later in the year. For today, solitude suited me.

Join me: team up to support the Cohos Trail

Let me step away from my southern New Hampshire trails for a minute and draw your attention to my very favorite upstate place, the Cohos Trail. I’ve held forth at length about my long hike through the Connecticut Lakes portion of the CT up to the Canadian border, and slightly closer to home is the segment through the Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge that greets me like a friend whenever I visit.

The Cohos Trail Association – an all-volunteer group, I might add – has launched a crowdfunding effort to raise $7500 build more shelters along the 170-mile long path. The trail’s founder and leading light, Kim Nilsen, makes his pitch here to all who love the Granite State’s wild places.

Every little bit helps, and the Cohos Trail’s volunteers know how to stretch a dollar. You can learn more at the web site for the trail and at the Friends of the Cohos Trail Facebook page. 

And be sure to share the crowdfunding page! Thanks!

First Day Hike 2016: Hollis

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Woodmont Orchard, Hollis NH, New Year’s Day.

The New Hampshire state parks people added Silver Lake State Park to the list of locations for guided First Day hikes, and I think this one’s a keeper. The state park abuts town conservation land with trails maintained by the local snowmobile club. With the area’s first measurable snowfall of the season having fallen just a few days ago, boots were all the equipment I needed to join the fun. I left in the car every accessory except my camera and a map, and spent an hour on trails I’d never visited.

 

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I didn’t even mind the snowmobile that passed me at one point. It would have been churlish of me to object to the exhaust fumes when people like the sled’s cheerful and careful driver maintain the trail I was on.

Days like this remind me why I started this blog. Silver Lake State Park is where I used to take my kids swimming when they were little, and I thought the lake itself was all there was to it. Today, after living in the area for a whole lotta years, I discovered new trails in what I thought was a familiar place.

New Hampshire is really a tiny slice of the republic, and the southern tier is even tinier. Yet here in what looks like an insubstantial part of the map are parks and trails that most New Hampshire visitors and even some residents will never see. Every year, I find something new: a little trail connecting two urban parks, country roads with drivers who don’t mind sharing the pavement with pedestrians, a Hollis trail connecting Silver Lake with Woodmont Orchard. I want to drink it all in and come back for more.

 

Pawtuckaway, Round Pond Road

The snowless days are ending; I’ll be shoveling my driveway in just a few days, if the forecast holds. This was my last chance to visit some nearby trails before winter conditions set in. I had planned to walk up a hill with a pretty view, but decided at the last minute to stick to level paths. I went to Pawtuckaway State Park and explored the northwest corner of the park via Reservation Road and Round Pond Road.

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Reservation Road in Pawtuckaway State Park, December 26, soon to be snow-covered.

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North Mountain seen from Round Pond Road. This must be a wonderful birding spot at dawn and dusk.

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I don’t know what agency or company owns this odd square-shaped antenna on North Mountain. 

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Round Pond, harshly lit on a brilliant sunny day. The pond is about two and a half miles from where I parked on Reservation Road.

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A side trail off Round Pond Road leads to the Boulder Field, where the woods are full of large glacial erratics. Dozens of rock climbers were nearby practicing their craft.

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I heard a pileated woodpecker hammering away on my way to the pond, and saw this (but no woodpecker) on my return walk.