The New Hampshire Rail Trails Coalition biennial conference went virtual this year, and the online environment didn’t get in the way of an informative event. I was invited by fellow NHRTC board members to talk for a few minutes about a walker’s view of the trails, and how even the slowest of users can become an enthusiastic advocate for rail trails. My presentation is now up on Vimeo, and I hope you’ll enjoy it.
For all of you who have suffered through videoconference indignities this year, you’ll sympathize with the post-slide-show Q&A here featuring my deer-in-the-headlights reaction to someone’s unintentionally muted mic. Once that problem was solved, our ace moderator kept the questions flowing.
You can find other presentations from the conference at The New Hampshire Rail Trails Coalition Vimeo page.
One more thing to love about autumn in New Hampshire, as if there weren’t enough already: playfully shuffling and kicking my way through the fallen leaves.
I recently arrived in The Big City (well, big for New Hampshire) for a long-booked three-hour business appointment, only to find it had been cancelled due to a broken piece of equipment. I understood the situation but was miffed nonetheless. Then it occurred to me that with three open hours ahead, I could probably find a decent trail nearby.
Epping was only a few miles away, with its piece of the Rockingham Recreational Trail that I hadn’t yet explored. Off I went. I found a small pullout at the trail crossing on Depot Road, just off Rt. 101.
Fall colors are weeks past. Leaves are down. It’s all quite low-key, which is actually perfect for recovering from a moment of being miffed at a blown appointment.
The trail was covered with crisp dried leaves that rustled with my every step. At some spots, the wind had piled them up. And so I did something I never had a chance to do back when I was a kid in south Florida, and something I used to get annoyed at my own kids for doing after a wearying session of raking: I kicked the pile. I made a racket. Those leaves flew into the air.
It felt great. I had fun. And when I found other piles, I kicked through those, too. I was alone, so I wasn’t worried about looking silly. Pretty soon, I was downright grateful for the busted thingamajig that had caused cancellation of my appointment.
Go ahead. Find yourself a leafy late-fall trail, and send those leaves flying.
Take time for Oak Hill when you’re passing through New Hampshire’s capital city. Concord has many fine parks and trails, but only one includes a fire tower. The tower on Oak Hill was rebuilt not long ago, so it’s as shiny-and-new as you’ll ever find it. A hard frost or two has smacked down the local insects. Autumn colors are muted now, more gold-and-bronze than scarlet-and-yellow. Trees are losing their leaves, and so views are opening up. Wear something that’s blaze-orange; ’tis the season.
Oak Hill is exactly that: a hill covered with oak trees. It’s all a walk in the woods except for the fire tower and a couple of vistas (conveniently marked on the trail map). Follow the Tower Trail’s yellow blazes from the parking area on Shaker Road. Once at the tower, a climb to the landing just below the cab will reward you with a 360 degree view.
I needed a hill climb as a mental palate-cleanser the other day. Not a big hill, just one with a view. Brookline (the New Hampshire version) is not-too-terribly far away, so I scooted down Route 13 to the Andres Institute of Art with its hilltop view of the Wapack Range.
It’s been awhile since my last visit, I guess. I pulled into what had been the driveway, and found out it’s not the public driveway anymore. Go back to the visitor center at 106 Rt. 13, said the sign. Visitor center? And which way was #106? My phone’s GPS was slow as molasses to give me the answer: a stone’s throw north.
Once I got there, I was oriented. Even first-timers will have no trouble following the signs into the AIA’s property.
The property was once a tiny ski area (rope tows, not gondolas) on a little hill in Brookline. The ski area is long gone. The current owner is a patron of the arts with a passion for sculpture created by artists from all over the world who come to New Hampshire to work in granite. Their work adorns a network of trails winding around the hill.
At the summit is the payoff: a view of the Wapack Range, complete with seating. A striking sculpture entitled Phoenix is in the foreground of the vista. For a short walk uphill (a generous half-mile or so), it’s a pleasant experience.
Late-day haze dulled the view a bit. The silhouette of the range was clear enough, though, and I even caught a glimpse of Mount Monadnock playing peek-a-boo behind Kidder Mountain.
On the October day I was there, the paths had a golden glow. Beech and aspen leaves are turning. Flashes of crimson from maples are hinting at the peak foliage that will be on display on a couple of weeks.
The AIA trails can be very popular, but my late-day midweek autumn visit was delightfully quiet. A mental palate cleanser, indeed.
As reported by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, the castle ruins at Madame Sherri Forest in Chesterfield are now a bit more ruined. Time, weather, and probably a few too many human footsteps resulted recently in a collapse of one of the arches supporting the stone staircase. That makes me a bit sad. I’ve always found the remains of the “castle” – actually a once-fancy house – to be a charming visual gateway to recreational land.