I can tell already that the Rail Trail challenge is going to figure into many future posts. I hope readers who are inspired by the challenge will share their own posts and photos so we can learn from each other.
I enjoyed a walk on the Goffstown rail trail a few days ago with Paula Bedard of the Bike-Walk Alliance of New Hampshire, of which the New Hampshire Rail Trails Coalition is an affiliate. If the Challenge has a prime mover and guiding spirit, she’s it. It was great to talk with her about our favorite trails and the shape they’re in.
She made an important point to me that makes me much more optimistic about earning that Challenge patch: participants must explore each trail, not travel every inch of every trail. Whew! OK, so I’m not just going to do a quarter-mile of the Northern Rail Trail and then check it off the Challenge list. But it’s good to know that an overgrown trail – northern stretch of Fort Hill, maybe? – won’t be a stopper.
The next day, at Paula’s urging, I picked up the second edition of Charles F. Martin’s book, Rail Trails of New Hampshire. The first edition has been my companion on many trips. With more trails developed and with conditions changing on existing ones, a new edition is timely.
Brookline: a pair of short trails
Why go out of my way to check off anything from a trail list? In 2020, the only reason I need is that I am grateful for diversions from the challenges of COVID-19. I crave out-of-the-way places where no masks are required. Fresh air clears my head. A straight flat trail lends itself to prayer and reflection; I can’t say I’m too busy to pray when I have three quiet miles in front of me.
All of which brought me to the Brookline rail trail. The little town already has a place in this blog thanks to the Andres Institute of Art with its trails and outdoor sculptures. Nearby is the less-imposing rail trail. It’s short, straight, shady, and ideal for a brief respite from routine.
I parked off of Bohannon Bridge Road, next to a ball field, just past the Nissitissit River. Finding the trailhead for the developed part of the old rail line was easy. A runner was just returning to her car. A gentleman was walking his dog ahead of me. Farther along I saw a pair of friends laughing and walking briskly together. The trail might have been new to me, but clearly the locals were familiar with it.
The trail is about a mile long. The slow-moving river alongside is concealed this midsummer by heavy vegetation. The trail surface is unpaved but wide and smooth. There’s one road crossing. The trail peters out at NH Route 13, behind a gas station and a pizza restaurant. The parking there makes a convenient starting point for anyone who wants to go out-and-back along the trail from that direction.
The Brookline rail trail isn’t a destination trail in the sense of being worth a special trip from out-of-area. As a local recreational resource, it’s a gem. I live a couple of towns away, and I work from home. One day, when it was time to close the laptop and take a break, I drove down to Brookline to see about this little trail. It rewarded me with a perfect little shady walk.
After a hilly walk at the Andres Institute, the flat Brookline trail might be a good way to get the kinks out of those sore legs.
A map will tell you that the Nissitissit rail trail is a continuation of the Brookline trail, but a map is unlikely to indicate the break dividing what was once a single rail line into two sections. A bridge fell down long ago, and now the sections don’t connect. Getting to the Nissitissit trail requires driving from Brookline along Pepperell Road into Hollis. There’s parking within a stone’s throw of the Massachusetts state line.
The Nissitissit rail trail is part of the Beaver Brook Association’s holdings. (BBA provides many miles of trails, well worth exploring.) It begins with a walk along Great Meadow, a marsh providing good habitat for herons. Past the marsh, the trail enters quiet woods. Springtime visits in the past have rewarded me with a variety of wildflowers, including lady slippers – even white ones, far less common than the usual pinks.
The Nissitissit trail can be a short out-and-back walk, or one could keep going into the town of Pepperell, Massachusetts. This trail segment is chiefly notable for its peace and quiet. Its greatest rewards come from stopping along the way: watch the marsh for its wildlife and the forest floor for its variety of flora. I wouldn’t bike here. Walking sets the right pace.