A short stop at Winant Park, Concord

I love these little discoveries that leave me wondering how did I not find this place sooner: this week, it was Winant Park in Concord, near St. Paul’s School. I’d seen it listed on the city’s map of area trails, but had never managed to find time for a visit until recently.

My first attempt at a visit ended quickly due to ice on the trail, as seen in the photo below. A few spring-like February days later, I returned and enjoyed 45 good minutes in the woods.


Winant Park trailhead in Concord on an icy day. The bridge deck was clear just a few days later, after a February thaw.

Piles of snow edged the parking lot and some stretches of trail, but a warm week had melted a great deal of snow and left the trails muddy. There were a few other cars in the trailhead parking lot, which is easy to find on Fisk Road just off Pleasant Street.

The park is wooded, with a pair of vistas I enjoyed: one featuring the State House dome (a view obviously preserved with diligent tree-trimming) and one of the hills and low mountains to the south and southwest. A kiosk at the trailhead and informational signs along the trails offer information about the park’s history. The trail network is simple and well-marked.

Winant Park SSW overlook

View from a hill in Winant Park (l-r): the Lyndeborough hills, Crotched Mountain, and Monadnock peeking out from behind Crotched’s ski area.

This is an urban park, with “urban” being relative; we’re talking Concord here, not Boston. It’s not a destination park like Monadnock or Pawtuckaway. It’s an easy stop for anyone in or near Concord, though, and it’s a fine place for a quiet walk in the woods. Make a point of finding that southwestern vista, which might not be so visible once the trees leaf out.

In kindness to the trails and their maintainers, I’ll wait until mud season is over before I pay another visit here. But I will be back.


Destinations, Found and Missed

I really thought I could nail down that Forest Society patch for visiting 33 Society properties throughout New Hampshire. I’ve fallen short. Dalton and Sandwich did me in, which is to say I haven’t been able to manage a trip to Dana Forest or Eagle Cliff. I’ll settle for earning the patch via tier 2 status, AKA the easy way, which involves concentrating on one specific region and answering a few questions about the properties there. I shall send the Forest Society my entry in a New Year’s Day email.

Don’t think for a minute that my time on the patch project has been wasted. I loved every  property I visited. Every mile driven was worth the time and effort. Sometimes, I’d go a few miles off-route on a business day just to find one of the reservations or forests on the project list. (Tip: always keep walking shoes in the car.) One gorgeous fall day, I spent hours on the Route 16 corridor plus-or-minus a few miles, discovering four Forest Society properties including High Watch Reserve. I wanted to stay up there on Green Mountain until the last leaf dropped.

Seeking inspiration for your hikes this coming year? Check out the Forest Society’s list. Make a list of state parks you want to visit. Do a web search of conservation commissions in the towns near you; you’ll find a treasury of local trail maps and descriptions.

Just get out there.

October Assortment

This has been a muted fall in New Hampshire, which is not to say a bad one. There are brilliant trees here and there, but for the most part, this month has been dominated by gold and bronze. Here’s my October sampler, featuring Oak Hill, Horse Hill Preserve, Ponemah Bog, Craney Hill, and Crotched Mountain.

Oak Hill, Concord

It had been seven years since my last walk to the fire tower on Oak Hill. Finally, I got back there. I had been warned about wasps near the cab, but the first frosts must have  nipped them.


Oak Hill fire tower, Concord NH


View to west from Oak Hill. The plume of steam is from a plant near the Concord-Boscawen town line.


A small notice announces a new trail on Oak Hill, created by Concord High School students.


The day’s best maple leaves, spotted along the two-mile trail leading to the Oak Hill fire tower.


Horse Hill Nature Preserve, Merrimack

The best color this fall has been in the wetlands, not the hills. A walk to the center of the Horse Hill preserve rewarded me with much brighter foliage than I’d seen just a couple of days earlier on a drive toward the Monadnocks.


I’m amazed that the beavers haven’t abandoned this lodge so close to a Horse Hill trail. I guess we hikers haven’t been disruptive.


Leaf-peeping in one of my favorite spots in Horse Hill Preserve.


Ponemah Bog, Amherst


The shrubs and water plants in the bog were showier than the trees.

Craney Hill, Henniker

The NH Fire Towers page on Facebook clued me in to the Craney Hill lookout tower, once a fire tower. Now, it’s open to the public two weekends a year, during foliage season. I made it to the tower just in time – last visitor on the last day!


Craney Hill lookout tower, Henniker NH.


From Craney Hill, looking toward Craney Pond, mid-October.


Crotched Mountain, Greenfield-Bennington

I didn’t stop with the Gregg Trail this time. Two friends joined me for a walk to the ridgetop via Shannon’s Trail. I owe thanks to the folks who managed to get a picnic table up there.


The view from the picnic table atop Crotched Mountain: a hint of color, and distant Monadnock. And oh, that sky.

Mt. Skatutakee, Early Fall

I headed to Hancock hoping to find some autumn color, but foliage season is only skimming the Monadnocks so far. The brilliant colors are a couple of weeks away. I had a beautiful drive nonetheless, followed by a good walk up Mt. Skatutakee on the property of the Harris Center for Conservation Education. (Check the “Trails” tab on that site for maps to local trails.) Great early fall conditions: sunny, cooling down, no bugs.

With or without fall color, Skatutakee’s summit is a good spot for lunch, just as I recalled. I was last there about thirteen years ago on a spring day when the blackflies were ferocious and ladyslippers were everywhere. I remember great views from that day, so the shrubs at the summit must have been trimmed back at the time.

I started too late in the day to add Thumb Mountain to the hike, with its Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down trails connecting to Skatutakee. That’s an inviting route for another day.

Harriskat trail

Harriskat Trail. Leaves are falling, but the maples haven’t turned yet. 


The view from the Skatutakee summit south to Mount Monadnock was limited by the leafed-out trees. 


Caterpillars are out and about.

North Pack and Pack from Skatutakee

North Pack Monadnock (at left) and Pack Monadnock, seen from Skatutakee’s summit.

Reblogged: Another N.H. Border-to-Border Walk

Wendy Thomas and son Griffin have made their second New Hampshire border-to-border walk, this time on a west-to-east route. (I wrote briefly last year about their first trip.) In this post from her own blog, Wendy offers advice for people contemplating their own adventures.

Griffin and I are back from our 2017 Border-to-border New Hampshire walk. As always we returned with lots of lessons learned. I’ll be writing up our adventures (just like I did from last year’s), but for now here are some tips for anyone who might be planning day-long walks. Water – make sure you […]

via Lesson 1549: 2017 NH Border-to-border walk — Lessons Learned from the Flock

July, Gregg Trail

The blueberries were gone along Crotched Mountain’s Gregg Trail on this July afternoon, but the Queen Anne’s Lace was in full bloom. A fair trade-off. Besides, there were still some raspberries left.

Queen Anne's Lace

turkey mom

This hen turkey was just off the trail, cooing softly. I’d never heard such a gentle sound from a wild turkey. A moment later I caught a glimpse of her babies, mostly concealed by the tall grass.

Lyndeborough hills from Crotched Mtn

Lyndeborough hills (Rose and Pinnacle) seen from Gregg Trail.


Gregg Trail is graded and switchbacked to accommodate wheelchairs. It ends at an open ledge well short of Crotched Mountain’s summits.


Uncanoonucs in Goffstown and and Joe English Hill in New Boston.