First Day Hikes for 2017 announced

The folks at New Hampshire State Parks have done their best to get me to break my long tradition of spending New Year’s Day at a 5k race in Temple, which I sometimes followed with a walk up Pack Monadnock. Last New Year’s Days have found me instead at a First Day Hike at Silver Lake State Park, organized by the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation. The program is coming back for another round on January 1, 2017.

Details have been posted  on the State Parks web site about First Day Hikes at the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion State Historic Site in Portsmouth, Silver Lake State Park in Hollis, Monadnock State Park in Jaffrey, Weeks State Park in Lancaster, and Wellington State Park in Bristol.


Signing up for the First Day 2016 hike at Silver Lake State Park in Hollis. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

January doesn’t always make for the best daytrip weather, but it sure would be fun to head to Weeks for a walk up that amazing auto road leading to that amazing fire tower…or maybe to discover Wellington, which I’ve never visited…or I could just stay close to home and go to Hollis as I did last January 1. What a wonderful day that was.

Read the descriptions, pick a spot, and put it on your calendar. I’ll have to give it some thought. My customary 5k in Temple is always fun, but these options are mighty tempting. Come to think of it, Temple is on the way to Monadnock. Hmmm…



A good view from any angle

Another submission for the bad-picture-good-hike file:


One day a couple of years ago, I was trying to set up my camera on a wobbly support and then take a time-delay photo of myself at an overlook. Somehow, the shutter went off before the camera was properly oriented. You know what? I like this picture just as much as the ones from that day that actually came out the way they were supposed to.

Longtime readers who tilt their heads slightly to one side will recognize this as the vista to the east from the Weeks State Park auto road up Mount Prospect in Lancaster, New Hampshire. I have never had a bad day there, not even the day when BB-size hail pelted me for a few minutes on my way down from a visit to the fire tower at the summit.

The mountain that’s shown askew is Waumbek. The rest of the vista is captured in many other photos I’ve taken through the years: the Presidential and Pliny ranges, Mount Martha with its grace-note Owl’s Head, the Pondicherry area. (Search “Weeks State Park” on this site.)

Nearly every visit I’ve made to Weeks has been when the auto road has been closed. Great! That makes walking easier. There are trails up Prospect Mountain, but I like that auto road, and I especially like the overlooks. I’m not the only one. There are area residents who use the auto road for daily walks, weather permitting. If I didn’t live two hours away, I might join them.

Oh, and this is how an intentional shot came out that day. This is Mts. Waumbek and Starr King, with a little bit of the town of Jefferson. Not even a crooked photo could’ve spoiled that day.



Panorama from Weeks State Park auto road: Presidential Range in the center; Mt. Martha at right. All photos in this post  by Ellen Kolb.

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 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)

NH fire towers: always worth a hike

The architecture of fire towers is pretty simple, stark and functional. With the exception of the glorious stone tower at Weeks State Park, they all look pretty much the same, distinguished only by the number of antennae and dishes attached. But oh, the wonderful hikes I’ve had to each one of these towers … with more to come.

Early fall, Weeks State Park

View of the Presidentials and Mt. Martha (right) from Weeks State Park auto road, Lancaster NH

View of the Presidentials and Mt. Martha (right) from Weeks State Park auto road, Lancaster NH

I had the good fortune to have business in Lancaster recently as fall was setting in across the North Country. I stopped for a walk up the Weeks State Park auto road, which is currently closed to auto traffic on weekdays. I wasn’t the only pedestrian enjoying the unseasonably warm day. The leaves are turning; my guess is that peak color in this part of Coos County is still a week away.

From Mt. Prospect: town of Jefferson and Mt. Starr King

From Mt. Prospect: town of Jefferson and Mts. Starr King & Waumbek

The oaks lining the auto road are still in full leaf, with just a hint of color. Squirrels were busy gathering acorns and dropping more than a few onto the pavement (but I dodged ’em). The green canopy was out of sync with all the colorful foliage visible from the auto road’s pullouts.

Since my last visit to Weeks, a small unpaved parking lot’s been added just outside the gate to the auto road. That’s an improvement over having to walk across two lanes of 50 m.p,h. highway to get to the park from the pretty little lot on the other side of U.S. 3.

Beating the heat with snowy souvenirs

No, I didn’t take any exciting hikes this week. I have been laid low by the area’s heat wave, which will probably be the only one we’ll have all year. I walked a few short miles today on a familiar shady trail and came home with a blistered foot. I had worn sandals since I thought my athletic shoes would be too hot. Whine, whine, whine …

I know the heat will break soon. In the mean time, I shall refresh myself with memories of some winter hikes, knowing that I’ll be chipping ice off my driveway in a few short months. Stay cool!