Among New Hampshire Audubon’s many properties is this little one in Amherst, tucked away alongside a residential neighborhood yet not far from busy route 101-A. Ponemah Bog is what’s left of a kettle-hole pond formed long ago by the retreat of glaciers. The pond itself covers only about three acres, and it’s surrounded by a sphagnum peat bog that sustains flora unlike what can be found in most of New Hampshire. I visited today for the first time in quite awhile, and I had the place to myself on this sultry day.
To get there from Nashua, take 101-A west into Merrimack. Turn right onto Boston Post Road, just past Home Depot. In about two miles, turn left onto Stearns Road. In 0.3 mile, turn left onto Rhodora Drive; there is a small sign at this intersection pointing to the bog. Where Rhodora Drive curves right, drive straight into the gravel parking lot.
Take a few minutes to look at the information kiosk, where you’ll find information about the rich variety of birds and unusual plants that favor the bog. A loop path begins from the parking lot, with the two ends a short distance apart. I prefer starting on the left and going clockwise through the property, but either direction will do. The mulched path in the woods eventually gives way to a boardwalk as you make your way onto the mat of peat.
Watch your step, and watch your kids. Stay on the boardwalk for your own safety, since breaking through the peat will plunge you into water that’s very deep in some places. The boardwalk also protects the bog itself from undue disturbance. You could walk the length of the boardwalk, including the spur trails, in fifteen minutes or less. Don’t be in such a hurry, unless you’re with small children, as I often was in years past. Taking your time, stopping at the benches scattered around the property, is the only way to get a good look at the birds that scatter at the sound of footsteps on the boards.
When my youngest son (now grown) was little, I used to love to bring him here. The bog is home to several varieties of carnivorous plants, and he used to scoot ahead of me, keeping an eye out for pitcher plants. Whenever he found one, he grinned as though he’d won the lottery – and then he’d move on and look for more.
Today, pitcher plants were blossoming, and so was a tiny purple orchid that only blooms around Independence Day each year. The bog supports larch & pitch pine, with mixed hardwoods in the parking lot, but the bog’s most interesting plants are the flowering shrubs no higher than my waist. Pitcher plants, bladderworts, and sundews are very low-growing. No wonder my son liked finding them.
Today, in hot and dry weather, I wore sandals and had no trouble. After heavy rains, sections of the boardwalk can be underwater. In the winter, even if there’s little snow, the boards can be icy and treacherous. Choose your footwear accordingly.
Audubon Society information about the property: http://bit.ly/LIb276