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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Happy New Year from the Granite State Walker!

 

Recovery: I couldn’t have done it alone

After tripping on a parking-lot pothole and falling hard on my knee last February, I thought I’d lose a year of hikes. February’s a depressing month anyway and such dreary thoughts fit right in.

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Flat trails have been blessings to me this year.

I was wrong. This has been a wonderful year, and I’m grateful for every mile on every hike. This has not been a year for many hilltops, but after using a cane for awhile during rehab, I developed a new appreciation for New Hampshire’s rail trails.

My resources for medical care were not unlimited (can you say “high deductible”?), so I had to be stingy about medical consultations. The ones I had were worth it. I’m grateful to the orthopedist who quickly ruled out a fracture & then encouraged me to keep my spirits up. I owe a lot to the physical therapist who helped me regain strength and balance. Along with the massage therapist who has worked with me for years and the pros at my local community acupuncture clinic, the doc & the PT got me back on the trails.

Hobbling up Pack Monadnock and partway up Kearsarge and Mt. Prospect left me feeling like I’d conquered the world. The Forest Society Challenge inspired me to find new places for walks, making boredom impossible. I managed about 300 miles of recreational walking and hiking this year, which is about 290 miles more than I thought possible right after my accident.

(Watch out for potholes. Seriously. And don’t run in the dark. Voice of experience here.)

This has been a year filled with blessings. May we all enjoy the same in 2017. See you on the Granite State’s trails.

Follow-up: two remarkable walkers finish their trip through the Granite State

A few weeks back, I told you about a pair of Granite State walkers who put me to shame with their border-to-border walk through New Hampshire. Wendy, half of the awesome pair, has written up the whole trip in a series of posts on her blog Lessons Learned from the Flock. Quickly now: click away from my site (and I don’t say that often!) and check out Wendy’s account of their journey.

I had the privilege of joining them in Nashua for their last couple of miles, and I got to see them greeting family members awaiting them at the Massachusetts border.

Now that I’ve read the day-by-day account of what it took for Wendy and her son Griffin to get to that state line marker, I’m more pleased for them than ever. They’ve given me some ideas, too.

As I read Wendy’s posts, I saw some things through her eyes that I had never noticed before, even on parts of her route that are familiar to me. I love living in a state that after more than thirty years can still surprise me with the beauty of its land and its people.

Wendy has reminded me to keep walking, keep watching, keep learning – and keep writing.

WMUR looks at southern NH rail trail route

It’s a good thing WMUR-TV in Manchester, NH maintains a Facebook page, or I would have missed Jamie Staton’s story “The Granite State Rail Trail: Southern Route.” It gave me an update on the status of the rail line between Manchester and Salem that has been chopped up through the years. I haven’t been on any part of it except the Windham stretch, which is in great shape.

I remember years ago when the then-manager of Manchester Airport (please, not “Manchester-Boston,” a ridiculous name that only a marketing consultant could have come up with) pretty much tore up the old rail line through airport property, to the dismay of people who had dreamed of restoring the line for recreational use. A runway has since been built across the old right-of-way. Staton reports that a trail may yet be restored anyway, working around the runway.

Many meetings have been held to get the trail through and around the airport. Involved in this project are the Airport Authority, Town of Londonderry, City of Manchester Public Works, Manchester Parks and Rec, and Manchester Moves. WMUR was told the city will apply for a grant to pay for the project in 2018, with hopes that construction will take place in 2020. Deputy Airport Director Tom Malafronte tells WMUR that an MOU (memorandum of understanding) is being drawn up with the city, and that the airport is very supportive of the project.

Check out the full post with its photos of the trail in various towns along the way. I’m pleased to read that some segments are much closer to being developed than I had realized.

Note: I’ve been to the Windham trail for a 5k race (a walk, in my case) along the smooth paved route. There’s another race next June, and I recommend it as a way to discover the trail as well as support the Windham Rail Trail Alliance which is responsible for so much of the trail’s development.

Everett Dam

There’s usually a fine view of Mount Kearsarge from the Everett Dam by Clough State Park in Weare. Not on this cold and foggy day, though. I walked across the dam toward the trail on the other side and felt like I was disappearing into a cloud.

There’s a extensive trail system nearby for ATVs and hikers, but there were no machines in sight or sound today. Clough State Park is closed for the season, so there was no summertime laughter to be heard from the beach. I walked in pleasing silence and solitude.

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The Piscataquog River downstream of the dam. It’s been a dry year.

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