First day hike 2017: Wellington State Park

New Hampshire enjoyed benign weather on New Year’s Day, perfect for a First Day Hike. I headed to Bristol, home of Wellington State Park and the Elwell Trail. No snowshoes needed; the trail was well-packed. Gravity got the best of me a few times despite the YakTrax on my boots, but I fell gently thanks to the snow cover. About sixteen of us were led up the trail by Andrew of the Newfound Lake Region Association.

NewfoundLake 1Jan2017.jpg

Newfound Lake in Bristol, NH, seen from Little Sugarloaf

Our destination was Little Sugarloaf, a modest little peak about a mile and a half from the Wellington parking lot. There were plenty of hikers on the hiking trails and snowmobilers on the snowmobile trails, with cooperation and good cheer all around.

The payoff view: Newfound Lake on a clear and sunny day, with ideal sights and sounds. We watched a pair of bald eagles fly around the islands below us. The snowy peaks of Franconia Notch about 40 miles away were visible. I knew there were snowmobiles all over the lower trails, but I could barely hear them from Little Sugarloaf’s summit.

A few of my more ambitious companions decided to hike on to Sugarloaf, a few hundred feet higher and (I’m told) with much more exposed ledge than Little Sugarloaf. I might check that out some autumn day.

Find maps of the area at newfoundlake.org.

IMG_20170101_123600.jpg

Happy New Year from the Granite State Walker!

 

Exceptional autumn – and a winter hike is already on my schedule

November’s here in southern New Hampshire, and foliage season goes on. Scarlet’s gone, but gold and bronze persist. Autumns like this make winters like the last one worth enduring. The trees in my yard are one stiff windstorm away from being stripped, but for now the leaves are dropping lazily.

IMG_20151014_163801

Already, New Hampshire State Parks has announced its slate of First Day hikes for January 1, 2016. Silver Lake in Hollis has been added to the usual venues: Monadnock, Weeks (please, someone up north go enjoy that one for me!), and Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion Historic Site. I like my New Year’s Day options: a First Day hike, the Peanut Chip Chase 5k in Temple, or something else that might occur to me the day before.

But that’s two whole months away. For now, autumn.

IMG_20151029_092855

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 nhstateparks.org 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)