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.
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.
In Barrington. Yes, that’s frost on the ground, and I slipped on it.
On Route 16 in Wakefield, on the way to Effingham.