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.

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

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

 

Waterfall Walk

A waterfall, good company, and a Bette Davis plaque: welcome to Coppermine Brook and Bridal Veil Falls in Franconia, New Hampshire.

The plaque’s been documented elsewhere, but in brief: in the 1930s, actress Bette Davis was married to Arthur Farnsworth from nearby Sugar Hill, who died in a tragic accident. Someone, reputedly Davis, later mounted a memorial plaque on a boulder in Coppermine Brook, with an affectionate inscription to “the keeper of stray ladies.”

Bette Davis "stray ladies" plaque

The Coppermine Brook trailhead is just off NH Route 116. Our trip was a few days after heavy rains and flash flooding had left significant road and property damage in the area, and between I-93 and 116, we passed two work crews repairing washed-out edges of roads. The trail itself, alongside the brook, was a bit gullied but otherwise intact.

The trail rises about 1100 feet in two and a half miles to its terminus at Bridal Veil Falls. If you want a shorter hike, the plaque is only a mile or so from the trailhead – but you have to want to find it. No directional signs will help you. It’s on a boulder in the brook, accessible via a clearing that you’ll see between the trail and the brook. The plaque faces downstream.

 

On the way home, we stopped in Franconia Notch State Park to visit the Old Man of the Mountain profile plaza, memorializing the rock profile that became a New Hampshire icon. The rock formation collapsed 16 years ago, but the symbol remains well-loved.

Old Man of the Mountain plaque That’s my third visit to the state park in the past year, and I haven’t seen the same part of it twice. Worth a stop, even if you’re just passing through Franconia Notch to get from the state’s southern tier to the north country.

Cool and Shady

Another northern foray, another walk on the Cohos Trail’s Falls in the River segment. No trip to Pittsburg, New Hampshire on a 90-degree day would be complete without this through-the-woods walk to the unnamed flume on the Connecticut River, a half-hour walk south of the Second Connecticut Lake Dam.

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Falls in the River, Pittsburg NH, June. Photos by Ellen Kolb.

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Cracks in the granite give some tiny blossoms a home.

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A peek at Second Connecticut Lake from the parking lot by the dam. 

Notes on this trip: no moose. I figured the hot weather would keep them from being out on the roadside at midday, but I thought for sure I’d see one in the woods. I saw only their prints in the mud.

Bring your bug repellent of choice. It’s mosquito season. Also, it seems to be a fine year for ticks, which is bad news for the moose.

I was determined to get ice cream at Moose Alley Cones, but alas! It’s closed on summer Mondays. The fudge at Treats and Treasures next door was ample compensation. So was T&T’s air conditioning.

 

 

 

Back to Oak Hill

Over the ten years I’ve been keeping this blog, there’s one unassuming little post that keeps getting hits every single month: my walk to the Oak Hill fire tower where Concord meets Loudon, New Hampshire. Is it the “fire tower” phrase that keeps the search engines happy, or does Concord have a lot of enthusiastic local walkers?

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The only blossoms in sight on a spring day were on the ground cover at the edge of the trail. Photos by Ellen Kolb.

Either way, the Oak Hill trails deserve the attention. They’re pleasant, easy, varied, and only a few minutes away from downtown Concord. I headed there after some work at the State House recently, knowing that I could only spare a half hour or so.

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Junctions are well-marked, but this little “new vista” sign helped keep me on the right path.

I followed the signs to “vista,” only about a 12-minute walk from the parking area, and was treated to a good view of Mt. Kearsarge. I had thought that the fire tower was the only place on the hill with such a vista. My quick visit was well-rewarded. Bonus: a walk in the woods after a few hours in a hearing room is a good idea.

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Mt. Kearsarge to the west. Trees conceal the Merrimack River, flowing south past the industrial building at right.

Midweek, Mt. Monadnock

When the Forest Society announced its challenge last year, offering a patch for anyone visiting 33 specified Forest Society properties, I jumped on board immediately. Since then, I’ve had great fun discovering some new trails. Others are already familiar – Mt. Monadnock’s trails, for example.

Monadnock State Park is only one piece of the patchwork of ownership on the mountain. The Forest Society has a reservation there as well. For the most Monadnock hikers, borders between properties are imperceptible.

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The view south from Mt. Monadnock’s Halfway House clearing

On a recent visit to Monadnock, my indifferent level of fitness ruled out a summit hike. I settled for an easy walk to the Halfway House clearing, featuring a wonderful view to the south with Gap Mountain foremost.

The well-marked parking lot on NH Route 124 on the south side of the mountain is where to pick up the Halfway House trail and the parallel Old Toll Road path. (Bring $5 for park admission; there’s an iron ranger when the booth is unattended.) The Old Toll Road is a wide, well-drained boulevard with a packed crushed-gravel surface. Uphill, to be sure, but easy. It leads to a tiny patch of private land with an imposing house on it. Past the house, the boulevard becomes a trail: rocks, roots, spring’s inevitable mud. No problem. The Halfway House clearing, named for an inn that once stood there, is less than a 5-minute walk ahead.

Old Toll Road, Spring

Old Toll Road, mid-spring

I looked up to the summit and saw no hikers. That’s unusual, as local hikers will attest. Normally the summit seen from that distance looks like an anthill.

A cool breeze kept the bugs away on the overcast day. I knew I was likely to be rained on any minute. I didn’t care. Solitude on a Monadnock trail is meant to be savored.

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A peek at Monadnock’s summit from the Halfway House clearing

Notes From a Midday Ride

I broke away from work on this weekday just long enough to take my bicycle out for the first ride of the season on the Nashua River Rail Trail .

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Feature from mural along NRRT. Ellen Kolb photo.

I like the mural in Groton, in the underpass crossing Route 111. I think local students must have painted it. It’s a map not of local streets, but of the Boston and Maine rail lines, including the decommissioned one that now serves as a trail. Nice bit of history, paying respect to the trail.


A beaver resisted all my attempts to photograph it. I almost missed it, in a swampy area alongside the trail: only concentric ripples gave it away. It’s good to see the wetlands looking like wetlands again, as gentle spring rains heal the effects of last year’s serious drought. Last September I had no more chance of seeing a beaver at trailside than of seeing a pod of whales.


The NRRT was dedicated fifteen years ago, and the road crossing at Route 113 in Pepperell has always required extra caution, from motorists as well as bicyclists. The ice cream shop across the street is one compensation. So is the pocket-sized park that’s been developed just south of 113. The shrubs are in bloom. Benches and markers have been spruced up. Something new – at least to me – is an air pump anchored in place, ready to tend to a summer’s worth of flat bicycle tires. That’s being neighborly.

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A little history to go with my stop along the trail.


The river that gave the trail its name is not visible from the trail, except for a lovely mile-long stretch in Pepperell and Groton. Every time I see it, I think of the guidebook I received when I moved to New Hampshire more than thirty years ago, which had this to say about the Nashua River in Pepperell, where there’s a dam:

…but for the dirty water this would be a fine smoothwater trip. From [Groton] to East Pepperell, the river is not attractive, as the increase in water level has flooded swampland and killed the trees. [AMC River Guide Volume 2, Appalachian Mountain Club, 1978]

By 2002, the Guide’s third edition told a different story.

The Nashua River has enjoyed a major restoration in the last 25 years. The industrial pollution is gone now. Birds, wildlife, and fish are returning, and paddling the Nashua River is now an enjoyable experience.

Walking and biking alongside the river is pretty enjoyable, too.

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Nashua River, Pepperell, Massachusetts. Ellen Kolb photo.