Manchester program invites exploration

It’s been a fine spring here in southern New Hampshire, even with the usual allergies kicked up by all the pollen in the air. I’ve been visiting familiar trails, a couple of new ones, and one that I haven’t visited in a long time. I’ll post some photos and comments in due course. But in last weekend’s Sunday News, I came across something I want to share right away. It just might be something that lets a city-bound Manchester reader discover new places.

Check out Transit to Trails, a project of Manchester Transit in cooperation with the Nature Conservancy and several other organizations. On the first Saturday of each month from June to October, buses will run between 775 Elm Street in Manchester (Veteran’s Park) and an outdoor destination within a half-hour’s ride away. The program is free to riders, and it even includes admission to the state parks that are part of the program. This is a first-come-first-serve program. Find details at

On June 3 and October 7, the destination will be Pawtuckaway State Park, with its fire tower, lake, and miles of trails. July 1 will be dedicated to Manchester parks and a farmer’s market. The August 5 trip will be to Bear Brook State Park, which like Pawtuckaway offers a variety of activities and plenty of trails. On September 2, the destination will be the New Hampshire Audubon Massabesic Center on the south side of Lake Massabesic.

I don’t know of any other way to find car-free and cost-free access to Pawtuckaway, Bear Brook, and the Massabesic Center. This sounds like an amazing program for Manchester residents.

glacial erratic boulder in Pawtuckaway State Park, New Hampshire
Glacial erratics are found throughout Pawtuckaway State Park. Backpack placed at base for scale. Ellen Kolb photo.

Snowshoes on Goffstown rail trail

We braced for two feet of snow with high winds, and got a little shy of a foot and a half. No wind to speak of, although neighbors to the north and east got slammed. No ice or mixed precipitation. Just fresh powder, plowed roads, and no obstacles between me and the trailhead of my choice.

I took  my snowshoes to the Goffstown rail trail and had it to myself for an hour on a weekday afternoon. I saw one set of fresh cross-country ski tracks. A set of snowshoe tracks looked a day old. Aside from that, the powder was mine.

And omigosh, holy boot camp, Batman…! This was only the second time this season I’ve used my snowshoes, and the last time was on a well-packed down path. This time, all the splendid snow gave me a workout. Every muscle from ankles to hips is now indicating that I should have some ibuprofen handy tomorrow. Worth it, though. Conditions were excellent.

Through the trees,  I saw and heard a red-tailed hawk doing lazy circles over the river. I figured I’d get a good look at it once I got to the bridge over the Piscataquog River. Darned thing waited until I got there and then flew away downriver.

(If you’re in the Goffstown/Manchester area: The little parking area at the Moose Club Park Road trail crossing is plowed enough to allow a subcompact car without snow tires to get in and out without needing a push. Heading eastward from there, the trail has no deadfall from the recent storm. At the Manchester end of the bridge over the river, there’s a wall of snow left by plow trucks clearing the road to the ice arena, and the boat launch parking area is temporarily inaccessible.)

Bridge-builder Helen Closson, RIP

This morning’s newspaper carries news of the passing of Helen Closson of Manchester, New Hampshire at the age of 94. The headline describes her as “a force for good.” The long list of her civic activities bears this out. As a Granite State walker, I will always think of her as the woman who brought us the Hands Across the Merrimack pedestrian bridge over the Merrimack River in Manchester.

Hands Across the Merrimack (and Manchester)

The Hands Across the Merrimack bridge. Ellen Kolb photo.

The bridge is a gem, pleasant in itself, all the more valuable for its setting along a rail trail that now stretches from the south end of the Millyard well into Goffstown.

Turning an abandoned rail trestle into a pedestrian walkway is a team effort, and my gratitude for the bridge ought to be extended to many people. Mrs. Closson, though, was the team leader who saw the project through to the end.

I appreciate the gift.


Manchester, New Hampshire, as seen from the Hands Across the Merrimack bridge over the Merrimack River.


Urban walk, unexpected delight

Dawn, Manchester, New Hampshire

Dawn, Manchester, New Hampshire

I was in Manchester this morning at the crack of dawn, walking on a sidewalk just off Elm Street, when I felt a sprinkle. The barest hint of rain, not even enough to speckle my glasses. It was over almost as soon as it started. Then I looked up: a perfect rainbow, at sunrise. That’s a fine a sight as anything I’ve seen on a trail lately. Enjoy the unexpected things.