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:

A Country Road and a Fine New Book

After an all-day hard rain yesterday that delayed the Red Sox opener and left my local trails even muddier than before, I decided to take my walk on a road this morning. After doing some business in Amherst, I parked on Chestnut Hill Road, in the little pull-off that connects to the Joe English Reservation’s Highland Trail. One glance at the trail confirmed my guess that it was not a day for slogging through the woods in my sneakers. I headed up the road towards New Boston.

It’s a treat to have an hour in the middle of a weekday to spend on a country road in early spring. Next to no traffic passed me. The trees haven’t leafed out yet, so I got a good look at all the songbirds making music. Overcast was lifting, giving me a different view on the way back than I got on the way out of the Uncanoonucs in Goffstown and the hills out past Milford. Forsythia is about a week away from bloom, and daylily shoots are popping up all along the roadside.

Tree damage was obvious in the woods. I expect some of the houses & yards I passed needed quick action the week after the ice storm, but they look fine.

I gave a halfhearted effort at making this a workout, to compensate for my sluggish winter, but I abandoned that plan about five minutes into the walk. It was uphill, and that’s workout enough. I turned around at the New Boston town line & enjoyed going downhill on my way back to the car. Not a bad way to spend an hour — closer to 50 minutes, actually. I went back to the day’s “serious” work in a good frame of mind.

To change the subject, I found a great new book while I was browsing the table from Bondcliff Bookstore (Littleton, NH) at the recent Made In NH Expo. New Hampshire Rail Trails (there’s an easy title to remember) is by Charles F. Martin, and it’s published by Branch Line Press in Pepperell, MA. It’s going right on my shelf full of guidebooks, and will probably be in my backpack on several trips this year. He covers trails all over the state, offering the history of the various rail lines and the prospects for development of more trails. It’s not an encyclopedia, but he manages to cover quite a bit in 300 pages, including maps and a long list of organizations supporting these trails. Development of some trails is proceeding so quickly that even some of Martin’s 2008 information is outdated, but that’s hardly bad news and Martin notes which trails are likely to see extension or upgrading in the near future.

I’m delighted with this book. I’ve already made note of a trail he describes up in Bethlehem. I have a racewalk in that pleasant town next weekend, and I’ll head for the trail as soon as the race is over.