Connect, slowly

Nashua River,  Autumn

Nashua River, Autumn

I live in a textured place. Nothing dramatic or showy, but interesting. Hills here, watercourses there, ledge all over the place: it adds up to very few straight roads and not nearly enough bridges for convenience. The Nashua River in southern New Hampshire could use a few more bridges, and if you don’t believe me, try driving through Nashua during rush hour. Hollis, the next town upstream, is a much quieter place. It gets by quite comfortably with one bridge over the river, connecting a small quiet town with a much busier one. There’s something about this bridge, though, that speaks to me less about connection than about rest and pause. I wouldn’t be surprised if someday I saw a sign here saying Don’t be in such a hurry to get from here to there. Stop awhile. 

Nearby trails I love: Beaver Brook Association and the Nashua River Rail Trail

Save the date: Beaver Brook celebrates 50 years on May 31, 2014

late-winter blogger selfie

The Beaver Brook Association in Hollis, New Hampshire will celebrate its golden anniversary on May 31. Tickets to the party are $10, which includes lunch, guided hikes, live music, and games for the kids. Find more information at the Beaver Brook web site. Beaver Brook is privately owned and managed, with miles of trails and year-round nature-themed educational programs for people of all ages. If you’re in southern New Hampshire and you haven’t seen it yet, check it out. It’s a year-round treat.

(All photos by Ellen Kolb)


near Rocky Pond Road, north side of BBA property

near Rocky Pond Road, north side of BBA property


white ladyslipper: a rare springtime treat, found near the Nissitisset River on the south side of BBA property

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Beaver Brook trail: snowshoes, anyone?

Hollis: Buffalo, Tough Cookie & Beaver Brook

Dan Szczesny, readying his slide show

Dan Szczesny, readying his slide show

Buffalo and Tough Cookie cover

cover of B&TC’s book

I got to shake hands today with a pair of hikers I’ve been wanting to meet. Dan Szczesny and his hiking partner Janelle are better known in the blogosphere as Buffalo and Tough Cookie. They were at the Hollis, New Hampshire library today with a slide show about their book, The Adventures of Buffalo and Tough Cookierecounting their year-long quest of New Hampshire’s “52 with a View.”

And just what might 52-with-a-view mean? I had never heard of such a list before discovering Dan’s blog. The only New Hampshire hiking list I had heard of was the 48 4000-footers. 52-with-a-view is a creation of the Over The Hill Hikers of Sandwich, New Hampshire who compiled a list of fifty-two peaks under 4000′, each featuring good views.

The audience in Hollis today consisted of an energetic group of kids who knew more about basketball than hiking. Dan didn’t worry about getting through the whole slide show as planned, cheerfully adapting his presentation to the everyone’s questions and comments. If he and Tough Cookie come through your area for a book signing or slide show, make a point of stopping by. You’ll enjoy the conversation and the wonderful photography.

I was very pleased when Dan told me their next hiking project and book are in the planning stages now: a trip on the Cohos Trail. Followers of this blog know how much I love the northern part of that trail.

Following the slide show, I took a short drive to the trailhead on Rt. 130 for Beaver Brook and spent an hour in the woods. It was a day for YakTrax on my boots, with thin snow cover melted-and-refrozen in many spots. I saw one couple on cross-country skis having a rough time of it. The temperature in the upper thirties felt positively balmy after the bitterly-cold month just ended (although bear in mind I’m a bit of a weather wimp).

There’s logging going on in Beaver Brook this winter, although no equipment was in use today. I appreciated the quiet. There are orange arrows spray-painted into the snow as traffic-control marks for the trucks, and signs affixed to some trees with an explanation to passersby of how forest management – which includes careful logging – has been part of Beaver Brook Association ever since it was established.

Showing those loggers where to go

Showing those loggers where to go


looking north from Bouchard Bridge on Beaver Brook

looking north from Bouchard Bridge on Beaver Brook

First day of Spring on a foot of new snow

Flexible work hours meant I could take a quick late-afternoon trip today to Beaver Brook Association in Hollis. I had the place to myself, as far as I could tell. I haven’t had nearly as much time to go hiking this winter as I would have liked. Winter went out yesterday with about a foot of snow in this area, and Spring began today with sunshine and temps in the 30s. Wonderful.

Location: Beaver Brook Association, Hollis, New Hampshire. See . The trailhead I chose is on NH Rt. 130. 0.8 mile west of NH Rt. 122. Parking lot (unpaved) is on the south side of the road.

My one snowman of the season.

My one snowman of the season.

Beaver Brook itself is flowing freely in this weather.

Beaver Brook itself is flowing freely in this weather.

Late afternoon sun, no one else in sight.

Late afternoon sun, no one else in sight.

Early Peek at a New Beaver Brook Trail

mountain laurel
tiger swallowtail

What a splendid weekend for mountain laurel. At Beaver Brook in Hollis, NH, it’s in full bloom. I went there this morning to join a team that’s preparing a new trail, and we spent three hours cutting back laurel & oak & birch along an already-flagged path that might be ready for public use in a couple of years along the northern edge of the property. I won’t give details on its location, since it’s not quite ready for its public premiere. There are plenty of other Beaver Brook trails to enjoy, and I recommend that you make your way to Hollis to discover them if you haven’t already. You can get more information including directions and trail maps at

I like to help maintain trails now & then, since I get so much enjoyment out of them all the time. I’m not skilled enough to be an asset on my own, but signing up for an organized trail day like this one lets me work with a team that can get quite a bit done in just a few hours. Keep an eye out for volunteer opportunities in your favorite park. Youth and strength are optional. And if you’re lucky, as I was today, there’s pizza afterward.

I was wielding a pair of loppers instead of a real camera on this hike, so I had only my phone’s low-resolution camera to capture a couple of shots. The tiny photo of mountain laurel gives you the barest hint of the profusion of flowers all over the trail. I saw the swallowtail butterfly when I stopped for a drink of water. It spent five leisurely minutes going from blossom to blossom on a single laurel shrub, apparently unconcerned that I was sitting two feet away.

This is unfortunately a great year for ticks, and I had to brush some off of myself despite using DEET. Anyone in this region who’s spent time outdoors this spring knows the drill. We have to put up with them to get near things like stands of mountain laurel.

Beaver Brook is unique in this area in that it’s a private holding, not a public park. The Beaver Brook Association is a nonprofit educational organization that owns about 2100 acres of open space, most of it in Hollis, with about 35 miles of trails. The association offers numerous educational programs and guided hikes. Its trails are open to the public every day from sunrise to sunset. Donations to the association are what keep it going, so bear that in mind as you enjoy the trails.

There are several trailheads: a couple on Rt. 130 (which bisects the property), one on Rocky Pond Road, several on Ridge Road, and a couple on the south side near the Massachusetts state line. Take your pick of trails: flat or hilly, ponds or dry woods, lots of company or lots of privacy. The area north of Rt. 130, which includes the area I was in today, is much quieter than the southern side.

Don’t let the fact that there are houses nearby keep you from carrying a trail map. Print one out in advance from the web site, or you can purchase one at the association’s headquarters on Ridge Road. There are signs but no maps posted at trail junctions. Cell service in the area has improved in recent years, as I discovered to my amazement this morning when one of my companions made a phone call from the trail. I wouldn’t count on that to be possible on other Beaver Brook trails, though.

I was part of a good crew this morning, and the weather was fine. I’ll look forward to the “grand opening” of this new trail, with its brook & pleasant overlooks. If I’m still blogging when it’s unveiled, I’ll mention it.