GSW rail trail photos in latest edition of New England Antiques Journal

Treat yourself to this article by Brian Roche in the latest edition of New England Antiques Journal: Bridging the Gap Between Past and Present: The Preservation and Repurposing of Historic Railroad BridgesIn one of the sidebars, you’ll see some pictures familiar to longtime readers of Granite State Walker.

Hands Across the Merrimack (and Manchester)

Hands Across the Merrimack bridge, Manchester NH

I was surprised and pleased to get a call a few months ago from Mr. Roche, a freelance writer. While researching the rail bridge article, he came across this blog and its posts about the Hands Across the Merrimack bridge in Manchester. He kindly sought permission to use some of my photos.

The resulting article features photos of several northeastern bridges of striking beauty. I’m honored that a few of my photos made the cut.

Mr. Roche spelled my name correctly in his text; it was left to a magazine editor to misspell it in the sidebar. But to err is human, and to publish photos of a New Hampshire treasure is divine.


Second Street bridge, just west of Hands Across the Merrimack Bridge, along the Pisacataquog trail.



Visits to Nashua River Rail Trail

Look back over this blog’s decade of posts and one place gets mentioned in all seasons: the Nashua River Rail Trail. It extends 12 miles between Nashua, New Hampshire and Ayer, Massachusetts.

I’ve biked it and walked it, and if I were so inclined I could skate on it or ride a horse. (Neither is likely.) I love marking the seasons. I like the sound of the skydiving plane overhead and the sight of the colorful chutes as the skydivers make their jumps. I like seeing what’s being planted at the farm in Dunstable. I am enchanted anew each time I see the soda machine that a trail-abutting family has set up. I LOVE the ice cream stand by the trail in East Pepperell.

There are no bad seasons here.

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I walk for fun, to explore, to more-or-less exercise. I also walk to keep my head on straight. I wouldn’t have gotten through today without a couple of miles outside.

I’m a political critter, you see. I’ve been a campaign staffer, an activist, a blogger from the State House, to name a few pastimes. Yesterday was election day after the nastiest campaign year I’ve ever experienced. This has been a backed-up-sewer of a season.

Nothing will flush it out except time on the trails.

All I had today was time for a couple of local miles. Manchester’s Piscataquog rail trail came through for me. There were enough leaves left on the trees to serve as a canopy. The overcast sky suited me; bright sunlight would have left me with a slashing headache.


Piscataquog trail, in another season.

Forty good minutes: enough time to escape agitation. Time to block out the noise, turn away from the news feeds, take lots of deep breaths, recall what’s important.

A man biked past me. I recognized him as the unofficial adopter of the trail, picking up bags of trash, neatly hanging fresh plastic bags every hundred yards or so. Seeing him was oddly consoling and reassuring. He has a simple, selfless volunteer’s dedication to an unsung job that consists of keeping a public area pretty.

Beat that, candidates.

Decompression is going to take awhile. Today’s walk was a good start.


First of June, Dunstable and Hollis

I shouldn’t have worried about not seeing columbines on my last walk along the Nashua River Rail Trail. I just hadn’t waited long enough. They were out this morning. So were ladyslippers, which I have never noticed along this trail. I spent a few minutes today on the short stretch of trail in Dunstable between the Massachusetts/New Hampshire state line and the first River Road crossing. I also took a side trail to look at the Nashua River, which is lazy and still today. My photo of the river shows only a sharp reflection of the trees along the banks. No apparent flow; just a mirror.

I didn’t have much company on this early-morning walk. I saw two bicyclists when I was nearly back to my car. I thought they were chatting with each other, until they got close enough so I could see they were each talking on a phone. Really, guys? But I shouldn’t judge. I carry my phone all the time, too. Those bicyclists missed some good flowers as they rolled past, deep in their respective conversations.

I also spent time on Beaver Brook land in Hollis today, north of Route 130. More ladyslippers – lots of them! They’ll be gone very soon, as the mountain laurel gets set to bloom. (And that’s a lovely sight.) I hiked around the wildlife pond with three other people who know the area well.

We stopped at the bridge that crosses the center of the pond, with a beaver dam nearby. One of my companions told us about bringing her five-year-old son to this spot. She told him beavers lived nearby. Being five and literal, the boy called out, “Mr. Beaver, you come out!” Just as Mom was explaining that beavers couldn’t answer him, a beaver surfaced, slapped the water with its tail, and swam away. Score one for the five-year-old.

What are you seeing this week?

Pondicherry is for the birds (and beavers and hikers)

A friend and I have been trying for several weekends to arrange a hike, with last-minute work commitments sabotaging every trip so far. Still, we keep planning. When I suggested Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge, she said “where’s that?” I was going to refer her to a blog post here, when I discovered to my embarrassment that I hadn’t yet written about this lovely place, despite my fondness for it. Oops. Making up for lost time here.

This is another northern trip, from my base in southern New Hampshire. The refuge straddles the towns of Jefferson and Whitefield. I usually see it in April, after I attend a certain annual event in nearby Bethlehem. I can’t drive that far without adding an extra hike to the agenda. In good years, I can fit in a summer trip as well. I take U.S. 3 (what else?) through Franconia Notch and Twin Mountain, and look for the airport sign in Whitefield pointing me to a right turn. A drive around the south side of the one-runway airport brings me to a little biomass power plant, across from which is a well-marked parking area for Pondicherry.

Mount Martha, with Presidential range at left. All photos by Ellen Kolb.

Cherry Pond, with Presidential range at left and Mount Martha at right. All photos by Ellen Kolb.

trailhead, Airport Road

trailhead, Airport Road

From the parking area, one could be forgiven for thinking “is that all there is?” The Presidential Rail Trail extends north from there, looking like a long dirt boulevard. (In fact, it’s a busy snowmobile thoroughfare in the winter.) Cherry Pond is a mile and a half away via the trail. During my April visits, little spring flowers are usually peeking up on the sunny side of the trail when there’s still ice along the shaded side. I seldom have company here, and there is little noise except for the occasional small plane landing at the airport.

Presidential Rail Trail, leading to Cherry Pond

Presidential Rail Trail, leading to Cherry Pond





The walk into the refuge is tree-lined, as you can see from the accompanying photo. This makes the sudden view of the Presidentials all the more startling when I arrive at Cherry Pond. I never get tired of that view.

Nearby are Little Cherry Pond and the adjacent wetlands. The Cohos Trail passes through, piggybacking on the Presidential Rail Trail for some distance. There’s an observation platform, affording excellent views for the birdwatcher who remembered to bring her binoculars (which I ALWAYS forget). A rail line runs through the property as well. Signs sternly warn that the rail line is “active,” but that means “two trains a week” or thereabouts. I sometimes see a few freight cars parked on a nearby siding; this quiet location still bears the old name of Waumbek Junction.

Beavers have waged undeclared war on hikers for years by causing flooding of a trail on the east side of Cherry Pond. Hikers currently have the upper hand with the recent rehabilitation of the Slide Brook Trail. The beavers don’t affect the southern access that I’ve described above. Critters of all sizes find Pondicherry a congenial place. I’ve seen moose tracks, but no moose.

Pliny Range, north of Cherry Pond

Pliny Range, north of Cherry Pond


Mt. Washington from Cherry Pond

Mt. Washington from Cherry Pond

On the boardwalk to Little Cherry Pond

On the boardwalk to Little Cherry Pond

Click on this link to read what the state of New Hampshire has to say about the refuge. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has information as well, though a link is unavailable at this time. The Pondicherry refuge is a cooperative venture of state, federal, and private organizations.

The best guide to the Pondicherry trails can be found in the Jefferson Dome chapter of Kim Nilsen’s 50 Hikes North of the White Mountains, about which I’ve raved before.



Rail line near Waumbek Junction

Rail line near Waumbek Junction; trail goes alongside it & should be traveled with caution.

Mount Martha, with its pointed Owl's Peak to the left of the rounded summit

Mount Martha, with its pointed Owl’s Peak to the left of the rounded summit. There’s a trail over there for me to explore on another day.

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A short Manchester stroll: no bridge, but plenty of sunshine

I reported last April on plans to build a pedestrian bridge over the Piscataquog River to link rail trails in Manchester and Goffstown. How’s that going? Alas, very slowly, it appears. The old trestle is still in place, still fenced off, with no new bridge next to it.  I know these things take time. Here’s hoping that all the factors come together soon.

I couldn’t visit Manchester’s side of the trail on a fall afternoon without spending a half hour on it. My last visit to this segment was three years ago. I took these photos today to show how the leaves aren’t at peak color yet in this area. I should have another couple of weekends for leaf-peeping.

This will be a pedestrian crossing, someday.

This will be a pedestrian crossing, someday.

Piscataquog River upstream of the old rail crossing

Piscataquog River upstream of the old rail crossing

Fences between the trail and private yards are softened by blossoms like this.

Fences between the trail and private yards are softened by blossoms like this. Note the lack of fall color. The best is yet to come.



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