Coos’s “Continental Silence”

I’m a southern New Hampshire hiker, but I head upstate now and then. Another Cohos Trail trip is on my dream list, if I can somehow carve out a week or ten days from my schedule next year. Until then,  I can turn to the fine guidebook for the trail, because it’s fun to read and it has good information as well. It’s one of my favorite trail guides. The book’s credited author is “The Cohos Trail Association,” but the man who did the writing is the trail’s founder, Kim Nilsen.

Here’s one paragraph that always brings me back to my 2009 hike on the northern third of the trail. Makes me want to head back sooner rather than later.

Continental Silence (by Kim Nilsen, from The Cohos Trail guidebook, 3rd ed.)

Coos County still harbors the sound of blood in your temples, rushing wind in close-packed red spruce needles, the burbling of countless rivulets of water, and the maniacal laugh of the loon. I’ve seen snowmobilers turn off their engines on a bald wintry summit and sit and listen to the grand silence. It is the sound of the great continent before the year 1600. The all-silence has been killed off like the eastern mountain lion, and now it reigns in only a tiny fraction of its former range.

The Cohos Trail runs through the very heart of Coos County, right along its central spine. Nowhere on the trail do folks set foot in a town of more than a few hundred people, even though the trail is over 160 miles long.Because of this, the trail ought to attract to Coos County the sort of people who will give a damn about just how special a place this great northern forested county really is.

If you know how to get by in remote country when it’s too dark to walk outside, and there isn’t a McDonald’s for 60 miles, then welcome. If you carry your trash out with you and know how to dig a pit toilet, then welcome. If you can eat well without a fire, then welcome. If you can stay dry an warm in a raging sleet storm at 4,000 feet, then welcome. If you don’t have the urge to vandalize logging equipment or smash a window of a car at a trailhead, then welcome.

You’ve come to the right place. Leave your business suit in the dooryard (northern New Hampshire talk for “front yard”), and come along to experience some of the finest wilderness you’ll ever want to see in the Eastern United States!

Many New Hampshire booksellers carry the guidebook or can order it for you, or you can order it from the Cohos Trail Association web site.

featured photo: Deer Mountain state park, northernmost camping area on the Cohos Trail. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

Landscape: summer memory

Today’s Photo 101 assignment finds me reaching back into my archives. I found nothing around me yesterday or in my archives to meet the “swarm” prompt. Today’s “landscape” prompt is another story.

This is upstate New Hampshire – close to home and well-loved. I’ve been to Yosemite and many other beautiful places where I took landscape images. This one, though, speaks of home. Great luck, too, to have a clear summer day for this photo. Twenty-four hours later, the area sweltered under heavy humid haze.


First Connecticut Lake and Mt. Magalloway, seen from Prospect Mountain

Celebrate Ten Years of Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Conservation in NH

East Inlet, Pittsburg NH.

East Inlet, Pittsburg NH. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

Some years back, the decline of New Hampshire’s North Country paper industry left up in the air the future use of over 100,000 acres in Coos County. Conservationists got busy in an effort to protect the land for recreation and forest management. A serious team effort resulted in the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Working Forest in 2003. Time to celebrate the first decade!

Head to Lake Francis State Park in Pittsburg (get on U.S. 3 and just keep heading north) on October 5th for the big event. The Department of Resources and Economic Development – and has there ever been a worse acronym than DRED? – is hosting lunch and a few speakers at 11:30 a.m. At 1:30, the real fun begins. Attendees can choose from six tours, each in a different part of the CLHWF, lasting until 4:30. For more information, or to RSVP, email Eric Feldbaum at With your RSVP, be sure to specify your choice of tours.

Want to hear about the Cohos Trail, and walk on a short segment? Yes, I know I write about the CT a lot. You can find out why if you join Lainie Castine after lunch on the 5th.

Maybe you like fire towers instead. If so, head to Mount Magalloway. Forty-five vigorous minutes on the trail will reward you with views that will knock your socks off.

Have you ever been to Boundary Pond? Here’s your chance to see it, if you’re ready for a drive; the boundary in question is with Canada. Other afternoon options include kayaking, a timber harvest forestry tour, and a local-history lesson. I wish I could head north for the event, although I’d have a hard time choosing just one afternoon activity. I encourage you to make the trip, if you are anywhere near northern New Hampshire. Again, let me mention that address for RSVPs, so the organizers know how many people to expect:

Yes, I love the Connecticut Lakes. My photography doesn’t do the place justice. I hope you can take your own photos there someday.

First Connecticut Lake and Mount Magalloway, from Prospect Mountain. Photo by Lainie Castine.

First Connecticut Lake and Mount Magalloway, from Prospect Mountain. Photo by Lainie Castine.

River Road covered bridge, on the way to Lake Francis SP. Ellen Kolb photo.

River Road covered bridge, on the way to Lake Francis SP. Ellen Kolb photo.

Sunset, Cedar Stream Road. Ellen Kolb photo.

Sunset, Cedar Stream Road. Ellen Kolb photo.


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My limited wisdom from my first backpacking trip

I just had a freelance piece picked up by Yahoo: “Eight things I learned as a first-time backpacker.”  I’d be interested in comments from those of you with more experience who can add your two cents’ worth.

What a weekend here in New Hampshire! Humid, of course, but that’s July for ya. No rain today where I live. I checked out a place today that a reader recommended, and it was a treat. Photos & post to come in a couple of days.

North Country View

I spent this uncommonly warm April day driving upstate to Bethlehem, Littleton, and finally Lancaster. This is a blog about southern NH trails, but today’s trip was pleasant enough to rate a mention. I took this photo from the auto road up Mt. Prospect at Weeks State Park in Lancaster. The road is closed to auto traffic until sometime later this spring, but pedestrians may leave their cars at the base of the road and walk to the top. This is the view of the Presidential Range from one of the pull-offs along the way.

This has been a very dry winter and spring. As the photo shows, the Presidentials have far less snow cover than is typical for this time of year. I drove through Franconia Notch on my way north, and Cannon’s ski trails are merely streaked with snow. (The ski area shut down for the season some time ago.) On the eastern side of the notch, only Lafayette had a snowcap, and it looked unimpressive. The bright side to this drought – and it is definitely a drought – is that the bugs haven’t come out yet. I was out for several hours today and wasn’t bitten at all.

I didn’t walk all the way to the summit on this trip, but I encourage readers to do so if they get a chance. The summit’s fire tower is unique. Instead of the usual metal skeleton, this one is a flagstone tower. This is an active firespotting station, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be there on a day when it’s staffed & the cab is open to the public. As you’d expect, the views are outstanding.

The entrance to Weeks State Park is on U.S. 3 in Lancaster, about 2 miles north of the Whitefield town line. Details are available at the NH Parks & Rec web site here.