Is that what I looked like?!

True confession: I just watched the four-part Gilmore Girls update on Netflix. What can I say? I got hooked when my daughter watched the originals all those years ago. A few scenes in the new show cracked me up in a way my daughter might not get.

In the program, the co-leading actress, supposedly in her late 40s, decides she needs to take a hike in the manner of Cheryl Strayed on the Pacific Crest Trail. The character doesn’t know the first thing about hiking, or even about the outdoors for that matter. Hilarity ensues. Spoiler alert: she doesn’t get past the trailhead.

I saw her trying to cram all her stuff into her backpack, and it sent me right back to my 2009 Cohos Trail trek, my one and only backpacking trip so far. I wanted to mark my 50th birthday with a solo hike. I picked a good one. It was a formidable undertaking, though, and despite many months of preparation and training, I was a total amateur.

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How amateur? In all the months of training for longer and longer walks, I never carried any weight on my back. Never. Imagine how I felt when I slung my overladen backpack onto my shoulders the first day of my hike and struggled to walk up a not-very-steep hill. I thought I had eliminated all unnecessary pack weight. I hadn’t. To compound the mistake, I had misthreaded my pack straps. I figured that much out after the first mile.

The trip got much better in spite of all that.

I laughed – nay, I howled – at our Netflix heroine’s bulging, ill-balanced, enormous pack. I realized at that moment just how comical I must have looked to all the amazing, generous people in Pittsburg, New Hampshire who offered me hospitality along my way in 2009. They were very kind by not laughing in my face. I sure had it coming.

Once I was within walking distance of the Pittsburg post office, I mailed home equipment that I didn’t need. As a result, I practically sailed through 19 miles my last day on the Trail.

If you’ve never taken a long hike but you want to give it a try, go ahead – I heartily endorse the notion. Train with weight, though, and be really picky about what constitutes “necessary” equipment. Don’t look like something out of Netflix.

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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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When is it NOT “take a hike” day?

How did I not know this? Once again, Twitter expands my horizons.

National Hiking Day, indeed. Well, every day is a day to hike. I’ve done my best to prove that true.

Now to find a photo to tweet back at the station that posted this. Post one yourself, if you’re so inclined. Maybe we can give each other ideas for the next destination.

A decade of good times

While the rest of the nation is occupied with the presidential election, I’m celebrating a modest milestone: I started this blog ten years ago this month.

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Second Street bridge, near east end of Piscataquog Rail Trail, Manchester NH. All photos by Ellen Kolb.

 

 

It’s still a fun project for me. It reaches only a handful of people, including a few very faithful readers to whom I send my grateful greetings. Granite State Walker is mainly my online journal and album, a repository for my memories and a resource for trips yet to come.

Most of the posts in this anniversary month will be looks back at some of my favorite destinations. Many of those destinations are close to New Hampshire’s largest cities, easily accessible, and good for kids as well as adults. Maybe one of them will become a favorite of yours.

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Woodmont Orchard near Silver Lake State Park, Hollis NH.

I love my southern New Hampshire trails more than ever. I appreciate trail maintainers more than I used to. I understand more than I did a decade ago about the long administrative slog that goes into authorizing a new recreational trail even before the first weed is whacked.

I’m grateful to many people I’ll never meet, whose work has left us with parks and trails to which I return again and again. The blogging shall continue as long as I have “wows” to express. No end in sight, at this point.

 

Ice cream shop is open on Nashua River Rail Trail

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I was surprised to find that the ice cream stand near the trail in Pepperell is open! The young man at the window told me it’s their first day of the season.

The trail between the NH/MA state line and MA113 is in good shape. Trail maintainers have cut & cleared all the trees damaged over the winter. It’s too early for wildflowers yet along the trail, but it’s a good time for birdwatching since the hardwoods haven’t leafed out yet. The Dunstable Coke machine is in action for the first time this spring. (If you ever walk the Nashua River Rail Trail between the state line and Pepperell, you’ll know what I’m talking about.) I picked a good day for my first 2013 trip to the trail.

The parking lot in Nashua at Gilson Road, the southern end of the rail trail, is open. It had been chained off as recently as a couple of weeks ago.

Watch out for a pair of Canada geese scouting out the ponds near the Dunstable-Pepperell line. I had to back off briefly when one stood in the middle of the trail & hissed at me. The pair moved away eventually.