October’s walks

Blue sky, thirty-odd degrees, visibility unlimited: October at its best. This was a month of short hikes in a pleasing variety of places. Some of them have been guided hikes as part of the Forest Society’s Five Hikes in Five Weeks series.

Goffstown Rail Trail

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The Friends of the Goffstown Rail Trail have just unveiled a short but welcome upgrade to the sandy stretch of trail running behind the county government complex on Route 114. The new hardpack surface is much friendlier to bicyclists.

The trail is covered with leaves, which is no surprise in October. What did surprise me was the absence of fallen twigs and branches after several windy days.

This was a between-appointments visit to the trail. I wish I’d had the time to walk clear out to the Piscataquog river bridge and back.

Muster Field Farm

Muster Field Farm is up Sutton way, just south of I-89. It’s a working farm as well as a historical homestead. It’s on a quiet road that’s fine for walking, with other paths and roads nearby to create loop routes of varying lengths. There’s a farm stand on the property, and I was lucky enough to be there on a day when $5 got me a big bunch of colorful cut zinnias.

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Muster Field Farm, Sutton NH.

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The Harvey Homestead is part of the Muster Field property.

Monson Center

My previous visits to the trails in Monson Center near the Milford/Hollis line were in the summertime, with irises blooming and mosquitos biting. October brings a different atmosphere, bracing and clear.

Monson was an 18th-century town that lasted less than 40 years before its inhabitants petitioned the state to formally rescind the town’s charter and divide the land among surrounding towns. Today, the land is a Forest Society property. Located only a few miles from busy Rt. 101-A, the parking area on Federal Hill Road is easy to miss. I’ve overshot it myself. It’s worth finding, though, for its historical interest as well as its trails.

 

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Beavers flooded part of the Monson property, and herons have taken advantage, as their nests attest.

Moose Mountains Reservation

This was a bit of a drive for me, taking me up to Middleton, but it suited me fine during foliage season. My hike in Moose Mountains Reservation took me to Phoebe’s Nable. That’s right, Nable. I wondered if that was a corruption of “nubble,” but my companions didn’t think so. None of us knows how the feature got its name. No matter – the views from there were fine, and it was possibly the month’s best lunch spot.

The reservation has other trails I had no time to explore. This would make a fine destination for a half-day of wandering through hills, fields, and forest.

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The view from Phoebe’s Nable

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Mushroom season

A late-summer visit to Winant Park in Concord brought me the sight of tall summer wildflowers blooming cheerfully by the parking lot. Once I passed the information kiosk where the trails begin, there wasn’t a blossom in sight. Instead, mushrooms were all over the place. I don’t know what’s what when it comes to fungi, so I was reduced to simple wonder at the variety of colors and sizes. A hazy day made the usual Winant vista unremarkable, but the colorful forest floor made up for that.

October Assortment

This has been a muted fall in New Hampshire, which is not to say a bad one. There are brilliant trees here and there, but for the most part, this month has been dominated by gold and bronze. Here’s my October sampler, featuring Oak Hill, Horse Hill Preserve, Ponemah Bog, Craney Hill, and Crotched Mountain.

Oak Hill, Concord

It had been seven years since my last walk to the fire tower on Oak Hill. Finally, I got back there. I had been warned about wasps near the cab, but the first frosts must have  nipped them.

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Oak Hill fire tower, Concord NH

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View to west from Oak Hill. The plume of steam is from a plant near the Concord-Boscawen town line.

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A small notice announces a new trail on Oak Hill, created by Concord High School students.

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The day’s best maple leaves, spotted along the two-mile trail leading to the Oak Hill fire tower.

 

Horse Hill Nature Preserve, Merrimack

The best color this fall has been in the wetlands, not the hills. A walk to the center of the Horse Hill preserve rewarded me with much brighter foliage than I’d seen just a couple of days earlier on a drive toward the Monadnocks.

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I’m amazed that the beavers haven’t abandoned this lodge so close to a Horse Hill trail. I guess we hikers haven’t been disruptive.

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Leaf-peeping in one of my favorite spots in Horse Hill Preserve.

 

Ponemah Bog, Amherst

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The shrubs and water plants in the bog were showier than the trees.

Craney Hill, Henniker

The NH Fire Towers page on Facebook clued me in to the Craney Hill lookout tower, once a fire tower. Now, it’s open to the public two weekends a year, during foliage season. I made it to the tower just in time – last visitor on the last day!

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Craney Hill lookout tower, Henniker NH.

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From Craney Hill, looking toward Craney Pond, mid-October.

 

Crotched Mountain, Greenfield-Bennington

I didn’t stop with the Gregg Trail this time. Two friends joined me for a walk to the ridgetop via Shannon’s Trail. I owe thanks to the folks who managed to get a picnic table up there.

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The view from the picnic table atop Crotched Mountain: a hint of color, and distant Monadnock. And oh, that sky.

Mt. Skatutakee, Early Fall

I headed to Hancock hoping to find some autumn color, but foliage season is only skimming the Monadnocks so far. The brilliant colors are a couple of weeks away. I had a beautiful drive nonetheless, followed by a good walk up Mt. Skatutakee on the property of the Harris Center for Conservation Education. (Check the “Trails” tab on that site for maps to local trails.) Great early fall conditions: sunny, cooling down, no bugs.

With or without fall color, Skatutakee’s summit is a good spot for lunch, just as I recalled. I was last there about thirteen years ago on a spring day when the blackflies were ferocious and ladyslippers were everywhere. I remember great views from that day, so the shrubs at the summit must have been trimmed back at the time.

I started too late in the day to add Thumb Mountain to the hike, with its Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down trails connecting to Skatutakee. That’s an inviting route for another day.

Harriskat trail

Harriskat Trail. Leaves are falling, but the maples haven’t turned yet. 

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The view from the Skatutakee summit south to Mount Monadnock was limited by the leafed-out trees. 

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Caterpillars are out and about.

North Pack and Pack from Skatutakee

North Pack Monadnock (at left) and Pack Monadnock, seen from Skatutakee’s summit.

Reblogged: Another N.H. Border-to-Border Walk

Wendy Thomas and son Griffin have made their second New Hampshire border-to-border walk, this time on a west-to-east route. (I wrote briefly last year about their first trip.) In this post from her own blog, Wendy offers advice for people contemplating their own adventures.

Griffin and I are back from our 2017 Border-to-border New Hampshire walk. As always we returned with lots of lessons learned. I’ll be writing up our adventures (just like I did from last year’s), but for now here are some tips for anyone who might be planning day-long walks. Water – make sure you […]

via Lesson 1549: 2017 NH Border-to-border walk — Lessons Learned from the Flock

July, Gregg Trail

The blueberries were gone along Crotched Mountain’s Gregg Trail on this July afternoon, but the Queen Anne’s Lace was in full bloom. A fair trade-off. Besides, there were still some raspberries left.

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turkey mom

This hen turkey was just off the trail, cooing softly. I’d never heard such a gentle sound from a wild turkey. A moment later I caught a glimpse of her babies, mostly concealed by the tall grass.

Lyndeborough hills from Crotched Mtn

Lyndeborough hills (Rose and Pinnacle) seen from Gregg Trail.

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Gregg Trail is graded and switchbacked to accommodate wheelchairs. It ends at an open ledge well short of Crotched Mountain’s summits.

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Uncanoonucs in Goffstown and and Joe English Hill in New Boston.