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.

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Late summer, Ponemah Bog

Ignoring the onlooker at Ponemah Bog, Amherst NH

Ignoring the onlooker at Ponemah Bog, Amherst NH

See what this goose is doing? Right – it’s ignoring me. That’s amazing. Most of the urban and suburban Canada geese in these parts learn early that people will feed them, and they can be a nuisance. I came upon a gaggle on Ponemah Bog as I made my way around the boardwalk, and they were content to leave me alone when I stopped and sat on a bench for awhile.

Leaves on the blueberry bushes have turned rusty red, giving a hint of autumn. Some blue asters remain, and the odd-looking flowers of the pitcher plants are poking up. It’s been dry around here, and the boardwalk shifts underfoot only slightly without the squish one hears in the spring or after heavy summer rain. No bug repellent needed today, which was the most emphatic sign of all that summer’s almost over.

A nearly bug-less Ponemah Bog, for the moment

Spring has a brief golden time, post-mud and pre-bugs. It’s here right now in southern New Hampshire, and it could end at any moment. I savored the golden time today at Ponemah Bog in Amherst. Read my earlier post about it here, and learn more about the bog at the New Hampshire Audubon web site.

Summer Visit to Ponemah Bog

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