The folks at New Hampshire State Parks have done their best to get me to break my long tradition of spending New Year’s Day at a 5k race in Temple, which I sometimes followed with a walk up Pack Monadnock. Last New Year’s Days have found me instead at a First Day Hike at Silver Lake State Park, organized by the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation. The program is coming back for another round on January 1, 2017.
Details have been posted on the State Parks web site about First Day Hikes at the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion State Historic Site in Portsmouth, Silver Lake State Park in Hollis, Monadnock State Park in Jaffrey, Weeks State Park in Lancaster, and Wellington State Park in Bristol.
Signing up for the First Day 2016 hike at Silver Lake State Park in Hollis. Photo by Ellen Kolb.
January doesn’t always make for the best daytrip weather, but it sure would be fun to head to Weeks for a walk up that amazing auto road leading to that amazing fire tower…or maybe to discover Wellington, which I’ve never visited…or I could just stay close to home and go to Hollis as I did last January 1. What a wonderful day that was.
Read the descriptions, pick a spot, and put it on your calendar. I’ll have to give it some thought. My customary 5k in Temple is always fun, but these options are mighty tempting. Come to think of it, Temple is on the way to Monadnock. Hmmm…
Another submission for the bad-picture-good-hike file:
One day a couple of years ago, I was trying to set up my camera on a wobbly support and then take a time-delay photo of myself at an overlook. Somehow, the shutter went off before the camera was properly oriented. You know what? I like this picture just as much as the ones from that day that actually came out the way they were supposed to.
Longtime readers who tilt their heads slightly to one side will recognize this as the vista to the east from the Weeks State Park auto road up Mount Prospect in Lancaster, New Hampshire. I have never had a bad day there, not even the day when BB-size hail pelted me for a few minutes on my way down from a visit to the fire tower at the summit.
The mountain that’s shown askew is Waumbek. The rest of the vista is captured in many other photos I’ve taken through the years: the Presidential and Pliny ranges, Mount Martha with its grace-note Owl’s Head, the Pondicherry area. (Search “Weeks State Park” on this site.)
Nearly every visit I’ve made to Weeks has been when the auto road has been closed. Great! That makes walking easier. There are trails up Prospect Mountain, but I like that auto road, and I especially like the overlooks. I’m not the only one. There are area residents who use the auto road for daily walks, weather permitting. If I didn’t live two hours away, I might join them.
Oh, and this is how an intentional shot came out that day. This is Mts. Waumbek and Starr King, with a little bit of the town of Jefferson. Not even a crooked photo could’ve spoiled that day.
Panorama from Weeks State Park auto road: Presidential Range in the center; Mt. Martha at right. All photos in this post by Ellen Kolb.
I’m not much of a photographer. When my daughter gave me a digital camera eight years ago and consigned my little plastic 35mm Polaroid to the junk drawer, I soon discovered my favorite aspect of digital cameras: the delete button. No more paying to develop film with 24 exposures but only one picture worth keeping.
Even the bad pictures can bring back good memories, though. This is one of my favorites, taken at Bald Rock on Mount Monadnock about ten years ago.
Bald Rock, Monadnock State Park, NH. Photo by Ellen Kolb.
Overexposed, lousy lighting, hard to see the intriguing and unexplained inscription on the rock: I didn’t get much right with this shot, except capture a special spot on what is so far the best day I’ve ever spent on Monadnock.
This was the day I realized that I could go to the mountain and not feel like a failure for skipping the summit. I sat by this rock and ate my lunch in regal solitude. I felt absolutely no need to join the crowd I saw on the peak above me. With a breeze and a view and a PB&J, I had everything I needed.
Trips to Monadnock don’t always work out that way for me. Last time I went, I kept moving up the Pumpelly trail despite a sore knee. The pain finally got so bad I had to turn around, hobbling slowly downhill, not getting to my car until well after sundown. On another day, a beautiful December afternoon, I dawdled on the summit and figured I’d make up some time on the descent. Bad move. I lost my footing, fell down hard, and slid on my back headfirst, certain that I was going to crack my skull on a rock. Instead, my backpack took the hit, which was more luck than I deserved. (Learn from my mistakes, folks.)
I’ve had good days to offset those misadventures. The day at Bald Rock beats them all.
Students from Northeast Catholic College in Warner welcomed me as I tagged along for their morning prayer service on Mt. Kearsarge. Bishop Libasci was among us as well, leading the service in the Rollins State Park picnic area before we trooped up the last half-mile to the summit. Good fellowship on a beautiful day!
Bishop Peter Libasci of Manchester, NH at far right, with students from Northeast Catholic College.
A foggy morning gave way to sunshine in time for our summit visit.
A tantalizing view from partway up the trail.
Bonus: a new historical marker in Warner. I’ve photographed more than a hundred markers statewide, aiming to capture them all.
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 nhstateparks.org web site.
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 (Weeks State Park)
View of the Presidentials and Mt. Martha (right) from Weeks State Park auto road, Lancaster NH
I had the good fortune to have business in Lancaster recently as fall was setting in across the North Country. I stopped for a walk up the Weeks State Park auto road, which is currently closed to auto traffic on weekdays. I wasn’t the only pedestrian enjoying the unseasonably warm day. The leaves are turning; my guess is that peak color in this part of Coos County is still a week away.
From Mt. Prospect: town of Jefferson and Mts. Starr King & Waumbek
The oaks lining the auto road are still in full leaf, with just a hint of color. Squirrels were busy gathering acorns and dropping more than a few onto the pavement (but I dodged ’em). The green canopy was out of sync with all the colorful foliage visible from the auto road’s pullouts.
Since my last visit to Weeks, a small unpaved parking lot’s been added just outside the gate to the auto road. That’s an improvement over having to walk across two lanes of 50 m.p,h. highway to get to the park from the pretty little lot on the other side of U.S. 3.
The fire tower was locked, unfortunately. Perhaps summer weekends are the only time to get a look at the inside of this unique structure.
Loveliest fire tower to be found anywhere, in my opinion. Weeks State Park, Lancaster NH.
Green and shady on the auto road, but that’s sure to change within a week.
No attendants at the park on a fall weekday – but there’s an iron ranger to accept donations.
View from the first pullout on the auto road, looking west.
Part of the easterly view from the auto road: Pliny Range, from Mt. Cabot (L) to Mt. Starr King (R-foreground).