Close to Home

One of my town’s conservation properties is practically next door to me, yet I hadn’t been there for more than a decade. I made up for that today, walking to Wildcat Falls on a warm spring day.

Wildcat Falls Apr 2017

Wildcat Falls on the Souhegan River, NH

The Souhegan River runs through my town, and I live only a couple of hundred yards away from it. The river wraps around my neighborhood. On the other side, a stone’s throw away, is the Wildcat Falls conservation area. I show my age, or at least that I’ve lived in town awhile, when I call it 80 Acres.

80 acres was the unimaginative name for – wait for it – an 80-acre parcel of undeveloped land along the north side of the river, near Wildcat Falls. Thumbs-up to whomever renamed the parcel to reflect its most remarkable natural feature.

Wildcat Falls is the reason there’s a canoe take-out upstream where the river crosses Turkey Hill Road. Way too much granite and way too many fallen trees make the falls a spot that’s pretty to look at but lousy to navigate.

There are a couple of miles of trails winding through the conservation area and the adjoining state property. All I was interested in today was the falls: pleasant, very close, and too long neglected by me.

The walk to the falls from the parking lot goes through a sandy, pine-y area that reminds me of where I grew up in flat southern Florida, where rivers looked like canals and where waterfalls were pure fiction. Today’s sandy pines led me instead to the Souhegan, a modest river in the greater scheme of things, but quite a fine one to me.

woods at Wildcat Falls

Near the parking lot for Wildcat Falls conservation area in Merrimack NH, sandy woods belie the river and falls that are only a short walk away.

The Wildcat Falls stop was an oh-by-the-way that I added to my travels as I came home from a couple of hours on the trails at Beaver Brook Association in Hollis. Beaver Brook features several parking lots and trailheads around its property, so that on sunny weekend days like this one I’m not likely to be deterred by a full parking lot there. The one lot at Wildcat Falls was nearly full today, but the residential street nearby is probably fine for overflow parking. (Don’t tell the neighbors I said that.)

I tried visiting the Andres Institute trails today, but parking was impossible. Save that one for a weekday.

 

 

New Monadnock Guide

DSCF0315

Rail trail, Troy NH. Ellen Kolb photo.

Southern New Hampshire wanderers, I’ve added Monadnock Region Outdoor Activities to my bookmarks, and you might want to do likewise. It lists trails, of course, but also parks, including local ones of which I was unaware. I like the links to local conservation commission sites; I’ve found that those commissions are sometimes the only source for maps of trails on a town’s land. My compliments to the Reluctant Enthusiast for putting this resource together.

This rainy spring day puts me in mind of my last rail trail hike out Monadnock way, between Troy and Fitzwilliam. I’m about ready to find that trail again. The newly-discovered web site ought to give me more ideas for a day in Cheshire County.

Snowshoes on Goffstown rail trail

We braced for two feet of snow with high winds, and got a little shy of a foot and a half. No wind to speak of, although neighbors to the north and east got slammed. No ice or mixed precipitation. Just fresh powder, plowed roads, and no obstacles between me and the trailhead of my choice.

I took  my snowshoes to the Goffstown rail trail and had it to myself for an hour on a weekday afternoon. I saw one set of fresh cross-country ski tracks. A set of snowshoe tracks looked a day old. Aside from that, the powder was mine.

And omigosh, holy boot camp, Batman…! This was only the second time this season I’ve used my snowshoes, and the last time was on a well-packed down path. This time, all the splendid snow gave me a workout. Every muscle from ankles to hips is now indicating that I should have some ibuprofen handy tomorrow. Worth it, though. Conditions were excellent.

Through the trees,  I saw and heard a red-tailed hawk doing lazy circles over the river. I figured I’d get a good look at it once I got to the bridge over the Piscataquog River. Darned thing waited until I got there and then flew away downriver.

(If you’re in the Goffstown/Manchester area: The little parking area at the Moose Club Park Road trail crossing is plowed enough to allow a subcompact car without snow tires to get in and out without needing a push. Heading eastward from there, the trail has no deadfall from the recent storm. At the Manchester end of the bridge over the river, there’s a wall of snow left by plow trucks clearing the road to the ice arena, and the boat launch parking area is temporarily inaccessible.)

Packed snow on the trail

My winter walks so far have almost all been on pavement, even though we’ve had plenty of snowfall. It was time to find a local trail and maybe give the snowshoes a workout. I headed for Horse Hill close to home.

It had been a few days since the last snowfall, so the Loop Trail was packed down. No snowshoes needed, although spikes were handy. The weather’s brought some thaw/refreeze cycles, leaving icy spots here and there. (I’m using a new set of StabilicersLite that I picked up at my local L.L. Bean outlet, having finally worn out my old YakTrax.)

A quiet walk in the woods was perfect at the end of a day spent in front of a laptop screen. Pavement wouldn’t have been nearly as refreshing.

Temps reaching 40° left a kiosk’s snowcap drooping at a rakish angle.

horsehillsign021717.jpg

A tree looked freshly girdled, probably by one of the beavers from the nearby pond. The tree beside it bore a few fresh marks, as though a beaver had sampled it and thought “nah…I like the other one better.”

beaverworkhorsehill.jpg

Bridge-builder Helen Closson, RIP

This morning’s newspaper carries news of the passing of Helen Closson of Manchester, New Hampshire at the age of 94. The headline describes her as “a force for good.” The long list of her civic activities bears this out. As a Granite State walker, I will always think of her as the woman who brought us the Hands Across the Merrimack pedestrian bridge over the Merrimack River in Manchester.

Hands Across the Merrimack (and Manchester)

The Hands Across the Merrimack bridge. Ellen Kolb photo.

The bridge is a gem, pleasant in itself, all the more valuable for its setting along a rail trail that now stretches from the south end of the Millyard well into Goffstown.

Turning an abandoned rail trestle into a pedestrian walkway is a team effort, and my gratitude for the bridge ought to be extended to many people. Mrs. Closson, though, was the team leader who saw the project through to the end.

I appreciate the gift.

manchester-from-hands-across-the-merrimack

Manchester, New Hampshire, as seen from the Hands Across the Merrimack bridge over the Merrimack River.

 

First day hike 2017: Wellington State Park

New Hampshire enjoyed benign weather on New Year’s Day, perfect for a First Day Hike. I headed to Bristol, home of Wellington State Park and the Elwell Trail. No snowshoes needed; the trail was well-packed. Gravity got the best of me a few times despite the YakTrax on my boots, but I fell gently thanks to the snow cover. About sixteen of us were led up the trail by Andrew of the Newfound Lake Region Association.

NewfoundLake 1Jan2017.jpg

Newfound Lake in Bristol, NH, seen from Little Sugarloaf

Our destination was Little Sugarloaf, a modest little peak about a mile and a half from the Wellington parking lot. There were plenty of hikers on the hiking trails and snowmobilers on the snowmobile trails, with cooperation and good cheer all around.

The payoff view: Newfound Lake on a clear and sunny day, with ideal sights and sounds. We watched a pair of bald eagles fly around the islands below us. The snowy peaks of Franconia Notch about 40 miles away were visible. I knew there were snowmobiles all over the lower trails, but I could barely hear them from Little Sugarloaf’s summit.

A few of my more ambitious companions decided to hike on to Sugarloaf, a few hundred feet higher and (I’m told) with much more exposed ledge than Little Sugarloaf. I might check that out some autumn day.

Find maps of the area at newfoundlake.org.

IMG_20170101_123600.jpg

Happy New Year from the Granite State Walker!