I needed a walk with no cars in sight. I headed to Mine Falls Park in Nashua. I found leaves over patchy ice over mud: not my favorite trail surface, but that’s what the end of October is dishing up in my area.
A scant inch of snow fell yesterday along with the leaves. Everything froze overnight, and then the sun came up and promptly warmed things up to about forty degrees. That left me with the layered trail. It wasn’t too bad, and it was certainly better than pavement. The bridges over canal and river were still a bit slippery from the snow.
The park was quiet. Weekends are usually busier. Even adjacent Lincoln Park, where I left my car, was nearly empty. No complaints. I was a bit out of sorts, and solitude suited me.
I usually see mallards in the canal. This day, I saw them in the Nashua River instead. About three dozen were together midstream. The river was sluggish, and the ducks paddled upstream effortlessly. That left the cove for about 20 Canada geese, most of them napping in the late afternoon.
I needed my sunglasses as I returned to my car, with the sun low in the western sky. That reminded me that I was walking during the last day of Daylight Savings Time. November will bring the sense of dislocation I feel every fall until I mentally reconcile what the clock says with what the sun does.
An hour’s free time let me string together a Mine Falls path with the Nashua Heritage Rail Trail to make a pleasant loop for an afternoon walk.
Once upon a time, the railroad line that’s now the Heritage Trail was on the same line that became the Nashua River Rail Trail. It’s not likely that the two trails will ever connect again, what with the Everett Turnpike and a few decades of real estate development in the way.
Today, the paved Heritage Trail parallels West Hollis Street from City Hall to just short of Simon Street. There are numerous road crossings and congestion through the Tree Streets behind City Hall. To the west, the trail is quieter. There’s a sign along the way indicating where to veer off to get to the 7th Street entrance to Mine Falls Park.
Mine Falls Park, as ever, was a beautiful place to visit. The cove’s water level in this drought-stricken season was lower than I’ve ever seen it. Even so, the park’s woods and waterside plants were irrepressibly lush.
How To: A bit of road walking was involved in the loop. I parked on Whipple Street, walked up Simon Street to Will Street – watching out for the tractor-trailers on their way to the nearby UPS depot – and then picked up the Heritage Trail. When I got to the sign on the trail pointing me to Mine Falls’ 7th Street entrance, I turned onto 7th Street and followed it across Ledge Street to the park entrance. I turned left at the canal and kept walking back to the Whipple Street entrance. A little shy of 3 miles, all told.
My area had its first snow of the season last evening – just a dusting. Cold weather came with it: not fall-crisp air, but winter’s-coming air. On with the layers, out to the trails.
Mine Falls Park’s trail along the canal sported lacy edging this morning. The trail surface was still in great shape, neither muddy nor frozen.
Mine Falls Park, Nashua NH, 11/21/16
I heard the unmistakable whacks of a pileated woodpecker’s attack on an oak tree nearby. I managed to spot the bird – so dramatic-looking! A flicker in the vicinity wasn’t impressed, though. It apparently wanted dibs on that tree, and it flew around the larger woodpecker squawking its disapproval. The pileated bird paid no attention to it.
This was a remarkable morning for birds in the park, given my short visit. The geese occupied the cove while the mallards were having a group swim in the canal. Tufted titmice swooped down and landed on the trail beside me, looking me over quizzically. A blue jay flew around showing off, perhaps afraid the woodpecker might get all my attention. A robin placidly hopped along the edge of the trail, pecking at whatever robins like to peck at, not at all disturbed by my presence.
Not a bad way to spend a morning, edging gently into winter.
In my opinion, Nashua’s best river walk is the unpaved trail along the Nashua River in Mine Falls Park. I give credit to the city anyway for efforts to create an official “Riverwalk” linking Mine Falls and the area behind the old mills east of Main Street. One feature along the way is the city’s tribute to the early-20th-century French-Canadian mill workers.
Parc de Notre Renaissance Francais is tucked into a parking lot just off Main Street, between Water Street and the river. Along with the millworker statue are several plaques offering some information about the influence French-Canadian immigrants have had on Nashua’s industrial and cultural history.
If you’ve never seen this nearly-hidden bit of art and history, take a few minutes to visit it when you’re in town for the Nashua Holiday Stroll on the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend.
As the Granite State Walker blog turns 10 this month, I’m looking back at some of my favorite southern New Hampshire destinations. Today’s gallery: Mine Falls Park in Nashua. This urban park is accessible from the Everett Turnpike (exit 5W, or 5E to Simon Street), Stellos Stadium, Lincoln Park, the Millyard downtown, or 7th Street off Ledge Street. If you live near Nashua and you haven’t explored this park yet, do yourself a favor and get out there!
Two boat launches serve the park, including this one outside Conway Arena.
The dam at Mine Falls.
This path edges the millpond, home to heron and beaver.
A short history of the park.
Muskrats love the Mine Falls canal. The canal, nearby Nashua River, and millyard cove are great areas for observing birds and wildlife.
In the winter, I bring my snowshoes.
A memorial to a fallen Nashua-area Marine graces the walkway leading to the Mine Falls playing fields.
Boots, you fool. Boots. Two days in a row, I’ve gone out in running shoes when boots would have been a much better idea. It’s uncommonly warm for late December, and a recent gentle 24-hour rain left local paths muddy. I’ve been on flat trails close to home, nothing adventurous, but they’ve left me with very dirty shoes. No harm done.
(And what was I thinking when I bought white athletic shoes? Nothing meant to be worn outdoors should be white, except for reflective tape.)
Nashua River at Mine Falls Dam. Spring runoff can cover those rocks.
I wondered if there’d been enough rain to make Mine Falls into a real falls. The Nashua River can be quite impressive at that spot during a good spring runoff. How about December? Average, I discovered, but still lovely.
I’ve shared the trails recently with a lot of dogs, leashed and unleashed. I don’t have any pets myself, but I have a soft spot for friendly and well-mannered dogs, like the majestic Newfoundland that accompanied its owners through Horse Hill yesterday when I was there. Just on the last couple of walks, I’ve seen a broader selection of canines than usual. To name a few: pit bulls, a Yorkie, standard poodles, a dachshund, a greyhound, and one exotic-looking creature that I had to resort to Wikipedia to identify, a Komondor. No wildlife. Perhaps the dogs saw to that.
The year will end with snow-free trails in my area, thanks to this warm spell. It won’t be the first time I’ll ring in the new year with spring-like conditions. I can always head a couple of hours north if the call of the snowshoes proves irresistible.