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?

Save the date: Beaver Brook celebrates 50 years on May 31, 2014

late-winter blogger selfie

The Beaver Brook Association in Hollis, New Hampshire will celebrate its golden anniversary on May 31. Tickets to the party are $10, which includes lunch, guided hikes, live music, and games for the kids. Find more information at the Beaver Brook web site. Beaver Brook is privately owned and managed, with miles of trails and year-round nature-themed educational programs for people of all ages. If you’re in southern New Hampshire and you haven’t seen it yet, check it out. It’s a year-round treat.

(All photos by Ellen Kolb)


near Rocky Pond Road, north side of BBA property

near Rocky Pond Road, north side of BBA property


white ladyslipper: a rare springtime treat, found near the Nissitisset River on the south side of BBA property

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Beaver Brook trail: snowshoes, anyone?

First day of Spring on a foot of new snow

Flexible work hours meant I could take a quick late-afternoon trip today to Beaver Brook Association in Hollis. I had the place to myself, as far as I could tell. I haven’t had nearly as much time to go hiking this winter as I would have liked. Winter went out yesterday with about a foot of snow in this area, and Spring began today with sunshine and temps in the 30s. Wonderful.

Location: Beaver Brook Association, Hollis, New Hampshire. See . The trailhead I chose is on NH Rt. 130. 0.8 mile west of NH Rt. 122. Parking lot (unpaved) is on the south side of the road.

My one snowman of the season.

My one snowman of the season.

Beaver Brook itself is flowing freely in this weather.

Beaver Brook itself is flowing freely in this weather.

Late afternoon sun, no one else in sight.

Late afternoon sun, no one else in sight.

Early Peek at a New Beaver Brook Trail

mountain laurel
tiger swallowtail

What a splendid weekend for mountain laurel. At Beaver Brook in Hollis, NH, it’s in full bloom. I went there this morning to join a team that’s preparing a new trail, and we spent three hours cutting back laurel & oak & birch along an already-flagged path that might be ready for public use in a couple of years along the northern edge of the property. I won’t give details on its location, since it’s not quite ready for its public premiere. There are plenty of other Beaver Brook trails to enjoy, and I recommend that you make your way to Hollis to discover them if you haven’t already. You can get more information including directions and trail maps at

I like to help maintain trails now & then, since I get so much enjoyment out of them all the time. I’m not skilled enough to be an asset on my own, but signing up for an organized trail day like this one lets me work with a team that can get quite a bit done in just a few hours. Keep an eye out for volunteer opportunities in your favorite park. Youth and strength are optional. And if you’re lucky, as I was today, there’s pizza afterward.

I was wielding a pair of loppers instead of a real camera on this hike, so I had only my phone’s low-resolution camera to capture a couple of shots. The tiny photo of mountain laurel gives you the barest hint of the profusion of flowers all over the trail. I saw the swallowtail butterfly when I stopped for a drink of water. It spent five leisurely minutes going from blossom to blossom on a single laurel shrub, apparently unconcerned that I was sitting two feet away.

This is unfortunately a great year for ticks, and I had to brush some off of myself despite using DEET. Anyone in this region who’s spent time outdoors this spring knows the drill. We have to put up with them to get near things like stands of mountain laurel.

Beaver Brook is unique in this area in that it’s a private holding, not a public park. The Beaver Brook Association is a nonprofit educational organization that owns about 2100 acres of open space, most of it in Hollis, with about 35 miles of trails. The association offers numerous educational programs and guided hikes. Its trails are open to the public every day from sunrise to sunset. Donations to the association are what keep it going, so bear that in mind as you enjoy the trails.

There are several trailheads: a couple on Rt. 130 (which bisects the property), one on Rocky Pond Road, several on Ridge Road, and a couple on the south side near the Massachusetts state line. Take your pick of trails: flat or hilly, ponds or dry woods, lots of company or lots of privacy. The area north of Rt. 130, which includes the area I was in today, is much quieter than the southern side.

Don’t let the fact that there are houses nearby keep you from carrying a trail map. Print one out in advance from the web site, or you can purchase one at the association’s headquarters on Ridge Road. There are signs but no maps posted at trail junctions. Cell service in the area has improved in recent years, as I discovered to my amazement this morning when one of my companions made a phone call from the trail. I wouldn’t count on that to be possible on other Beaver Brook trails, though.

I was part of a good crew this morning, and the weather was fine. I’ll look forward to the “grand opening” of this new trail, with its brook & pleasant overlooks. If I’m still blogging when it’s unveiled, I’ll mention it.

Beaver Brook, good & getting better

Nice to see on the Beaver Brook Association’s web site that the BBA may be able to add a few parcels to its holdings soon. See for details.

The snowy trails are well-packed, thanks to the many skiers, snowshoers, and even bicyclists who have been out & about since all this nice powder fell a week ago. I spent my time today around the wildlife pond in the northern part of the reservation. Though the parking lot was nearly full, the trail network north of Rt. 130 in Hollis is so extensive that visitors can spread out pretty quickly. I had solitude for most of my hike around the pond.

I’d be happy to get back there later this week if time allows, and head further north. I always liked the Tupelo Trail, which relatively few people use compared to the trails south of 130.