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.


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


Cracks in the granite give some tiny blossoms a home.


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.





Is that what I looked like?!

True confession: I just watched the four-part Gilmore Girls update on Netflix. What can I say? I got hooked when my daughter watched the originals all those years ago. A few scenes in the new show cracked me up in a way my daughter might not get.

In the program, the co-leading actress, supposedly in her late 40s, decides she needs to take a hike in the manner of Cheryl Strayed on the Pacific Crest Trail. The character doesn’t know the first thing about hiking, or even about the outdoors for that matter. Hilarity ensues. Spoiler alert: she doesn’t get past the trailhead.

I saw her trying to cram all her stuff into her backpack, and it sent me right back to my 2009 Cohos Trail trek, my one and only backpacking trip so far. I wanted to mark my 50th birthday with a solo hike. I picked a good one. It was a formidable undertaking, though, and despite many months of preparation and training, I was a total amateur.


How amateur? In all the months of training for longer and longer walks, I never carried any weight on my back. Never. Imagine how I felt when I slung my overladen backpack onto my shoulders the first day of my hike and struggled to walk up a not-very-steep hill. I thought I had eliminated all unnecessary pack weight. I hadn’t. To compound the mistake, I had misthreaded my pack straps. I figured that much out after the first mile.

The trip got much better in spite of all that.

I laughed – nay, I howled – at our Netflix heroine’s bulging, ill-balanced, enormous pack. I realized at that moment just how comical I must have looked to all the amazing, generous people in Pittsburg, New Hampshire who offered me hospitality along my way in 2009. They were very kind by not laughing in my face. I sure had it coming.

Once I was within walking distance of the Pittsburg post office, I mailed home equipment that I didn’t need. As a result, I practically sailed through 19 miles my last day on the Trail.

If you’ve never taken a long hike but you want to give it a try, go ahead – I heartily endorse the notion. Train with weight, though, and be really picky about what constitutes “necessary” equipment. Don’t look like something out of Netflix.

Waterfalls on the to-do list: Franconia Notch

My last visit to Franconia Notch State Park featured a visit to the ski museum there. The trip before that included a long walk on the bike trail. The one before that was a hike up Mt. Pemigewasset. But wait…there’s more.

I guess I’ll just have to go back there sometime.


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.


Union Leader on the Goffstown rail trail’s mysterious cemetery

I was surprised one day on the Goffstown rail trail to come across a little cemetery along the trail, behind the Hillsborough County government buildings. It was neatly kept, but clearly old, and the stones bore numbers instead of names. I wondered if it had been the county’s “potter’s field” at one point.

The New Hampshire Union Leader recently published an article that shed a little light on the situation. Thanks to reporter Jay Bouchard and trail walker Steve MacDonald, I now know a little more about this fascinating spot. Read “Town’s rail trail brings exposure to mysterious county cemetery.” 


Cemetery beside the Goffstown Rail Trail. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

Glimpses of fall

It’s the prime part of the year for Granite State walkers of all ages. Crisp air and fewer bugs make every trail more inviting. And then there’s fall foliage, which I thought would be a disappointment after our region’s drought. How wrong I was.

I have a paper map of New Hampshire that I’ve marked with sites of historical markers, Forest Society reservations, and of course state parks. It’s a great guide for my daytrips. Last weekend, I consulted the map and set off to scout some trailheads for future exploration. I meandered all over the place, just for fun.

Once I got home, I discovered that many of the photos I’d taken with my phone were unfocused and useless. (I blame the equipment and the photographer in equal measure.) You simply have to trust me that it was a good day. You can make some good days of your own on Granite State highways and trails.


The drive to the Green Mountain trailhead at the end of High Watch Road was the stuff of travelogues. There’s a point on Route 16 northbound from Rochester where I got to a rise in the road, and suddenly mountains were in view, swathed in colors. Past peak, perhaps, but still exciting and refreshing.


View to the north from High Watch Road. I’m pretty sure that’s Mount Chocorua in the distance on the left. A hike for another day, perhaps?

Once on the trail, I very nearly threw away my watch. There was a fire tower up there, after all, and what views it promised! But this was a scouting trip, and I had a schedule to keep, so I contented myself with a short walk in the woods and a silent promise to come back someday.

New Durham

Route 11 connects Rochester and Alton, with New Durham along the way. A 55-mph speed limit makes scanning for trailheads a bit tricky. I plugged the coordinates for Cooper Cedar Woods into my phone’s GPS and hoped for the best. It worked, which is always a pleasant surprise to someone who surrounds herself with low-grade electronics.


In Cooper Cedar Woods, New Durham, NH. 

The wooded tract features a simple loop trail less than a mile long, and I had it all to myself. I set off and was startled immediately: the fragrance in the air was amazing. No cologne in a bottle could compare. It was some indescribable combination of trees and their fallen leaves, unique to that particular location. I could hear Route 11’s auto traffic nearby, and yet it seemed to be a world away.



Champlin Forest, seen from Route 108 in Rochester, NH

Early in my road-trip day, I was one of the walkers bringing up the rear at the Foley Run in Rochester, a joyous 5k event in memory of photojournalist James Foley. Main Street’s trees were at their showiest, right on schedule for the visiting racers.

After a quick post-race snack of bagels and fruit and (OK, I’ll admit it) a pastry, I drove south of town to a quiet parking area tucked across the road from the town’s airport. Here was the Champlin Forest, another Forest Society property, with about two miles of trails meandering through it. A woods walk, pleasant though unremarkable, except there’s this:

As a community resource featuring woods, water, wildlife and high-quality farm soils, Champlin Forest has many significant and diverse conservation features. Half of the property consists of well-managed, productive woodlands, containing marketable timber along with a diversity of wildlife habitats, consisting of a field, varied woodland types, vernal pools and wetlands.

The property serves as the headwaters of and includes extensive frontage along Clark Brook and contributes to two nearby public water supplies. Remnants of a small-scale granite quarry dating to the mid-1800s, when stones were drilled and cut by hand, are evident as well.


Spotted during the day:

This in Wolfeboro. ice-harvesting-wolfeboro

In Barrington. Yes, that’s frost on the ground, and I slipped on it.



On Route 16 in Wakefield, on the way to Effingham.