New Monadnock Guide

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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.

The Wapack Trail: a series of dayhikes

From Ashburnham, Massachusetts to Greenfield, New Hampshire, the Wapack range extends over a series of peaks that can be seen clearly from the eastern slopes of Mount Monadnock. The 21-mile Wapack Trail spans the range, with segments that make for great dayhikes.

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My copy of the the Wapack Trail guide is well-thumbed, and the map that comes with it has held up pretty well for me through the years. Map and guidebook, along with recent trail notes, are available at the Friends of the Wapack web site.

Pack Monadnock is the most popular part of the trail, with Miller State Park and the summit’s fire tower apt to draw crowds. North Pack is close enough to add for an out-and-back hike.

Other segments I’ve enjoyed: I like the ridge of Temple Mountain in July, when I can make a lunch out of blueberries. Barrett Mountain is a winter destination for me when I go snowshoeing at Windblown in New Ipswich. Watatic, at the southern end of the trail, has a wonderful open summit. The variety of birds in the Binney Pond area make the mosquitoes worth tolerating.

Endurance racers have been known to run the entire trail in a day. To each her or his own. I take the Wapack in segments, at a gentle pace. Either way, the Wapack Range is memorable.

North Pack Monadnock – Pack Monadnock

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Temple Mountain – Barrett Mountain (Windblown Cross-Country Ski Area)

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Southern section of the trail

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Mt. Kearsarge, late summer

Students from Northeast Catholic College in Warner welcomed me as I tagged along for their morning prayer service on Mt. Kearsarge. Bishop Libasci was among us as well, leading the service in the Rollins State Park picnic area before we trooped up the last half-mile to the summit. Good fellowship on a beautiful day!

Bishop Peter Libasci of Manchester, NH at far right, with students from Northeast Catholic College.

Bishop Peter Libasci of Manchester, NH at far right, with students from Northeast Catholic College.

A foggy morning gave way to sunshine in time for our summit visit.

A foggy morning gave way to sunshine in time for our summit visit.

A tantalizing view from partway up the trail.

A tantalizing view from partway up the trail.

Bonus: a new historical marker in Warner. I've photographed more than a hundred markers statewide, aiming to capture them all.

Bonus: a new historical marker in Warner. I’ve photographed more than a hundred markers statewide, aiming to capture them all.

Plan a First Day Hike for January 1

Which will it be on New Year’s Day for me? A trip to Monadnock, where I went last January 1? Maybe it’ll be a good day to check out the Little Harbor Loop in Portsmouth instead. Or perhaps, if everything falls just right, I’ll somehow be able to head north to Weeks State Park in Lancaster for a view of the Presidentials. Those are the three sites for the guided First Day Hikes 2015 being sponsored by New Hampshire State Parks and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests  All hikes are easy to moderate, and there’s no charge. Details are on the nhstateparks.org web site.

The Granite State Walker kicking off the New Year at Monadnock State Park.

The Granite State Walker kicking off the New Year at Monadnock State Park.

You can hike on your own anywhere you’d like on January 1, of course. I usually start the new year with a walk on Temple’s quiet roads, and if the weather’s right I follow that with a walk up the auto road in Miller State Park on nearby Pack Monadnock. Last year, for a change, I headed to Monadnock for the guided First Day Hike. Two hikes were offered that day: one for people who didn’t mind heading uphill in icy conditions, and one for the rest of us content to explore the lower slopes. Just fine, either way. (By the way, if you hike with your dog, Weeks State Park has the First Day Hike for you. Alas, no pets allowed on Monadnock,)

If you head to Weeks in Lancaster, don’t worry if you don’t make it to the summit. There are two lookouts partway up the auto road (pedestrians only, in the winter) that are worth a stop. Nothing like a crisp, cold day for fine views.

from summit of Mt. Prospect, Lancaster NH, 4/6/13

from summit of Mt. Prospect, Lancaster NH (Weeks State Park)

Mt. Pemigewasset

This is what a perfect summer day in New Hampshire looks like. I joined two friends for a drive to Franconia Notch and a hike up forested Mt. Pemigewasset to its summit ledges, where there was nothing to do but enjoy the view. The Franconia Ridge is more than I can handle at this point. Mt. Pemigewasset, while still a challenge for me, has manageable trails. A wonderful daytrip!

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Looking south from the Indian Head ledge on Mt. Pemigewasset: I-93 snakes away from the Notch

Mt. Pemi seen from U.S. 3 in Lincoln. Trailhead is off of I-93 in Franconia Notch; follow signs for The Flume.

Mt. Pemi seen from U.S. 3 in Lincoln. Trailhead is off of I-93 in Franconia Notch; follow signs for The Flume.

 

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?