Late summer, Ponemah Bog

Ignoring the onlooker at Ponemah Bog, Amherst NH

Ignoring the onlooker at Ponemah Bog, Amherst NH

See what this goose is doing? Right – it’s ignoring me. That’s amazing. Most of the urban and suburban Canada geese in these parts learn early that people will feed them, and they can be a nuisance. I came upon a gaggle on Ponemah Bog as I made my way around the boardwalk, and they were content to leave me alone when I stopped and sat on a bench for awhile.

Leaves on the blueberry bushes have turned rusty red, giving a hint of autumn. Some blue asters remain, and the odd-looking flowers of the pitcher plants are poking up. It’s been dry around here, and the boardwalk shifts underfoot only slightly without the squish one hears in the spring or after heavy summer rain. No bug repellent needed today, which was the most emphatic sign of all that summer’s almost over.

Five heat-wave hikes in southern New Hampshire

The thermometer is topping 90 degrees, and it’s not even July yet. What’s a walker to do? Air conditioning is a wonderful thing, but still, the trails beckon. I recommend shady ones. Here are a few favorites of mine, with photos I’ve taken along the way.

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Wild roses at Odiorne Point

Odiorne Point State Park, on the Seacoast in Rye (Rt. 1-A). If there’s an onshore breeze, this is heaven on a hot day. Take a walk along the rocky shore, or take one of the paths through the woods. The sharp contrast between adjacent environments is surprising. Bonus: the wild roses are in bloom this time of year. $4 admission/$2 ages 11 & under.

 Mine Falls Park in Nashua is accessible from exits 5E, 5W, and 6 on the Everett Turnpike. It’s a favorite of mine in all seasons. If you only have time for a quick lunchtime walk this summer, try the trail that runs along the mill pond, between Stellos Stadium and Nashua South high school. Bonus: if you have a kayak, you can launch it onto the pond via the ramp near Conway Ice Arena. Keep an eye out for muskrats, herons, and turtles. Free.

Lake Massabesic from Battery Point

Lake Massabesic from Battery Point

Massabesic Audubon Center, Auburn, just a few minutes from Manchester. 130 acres, several miles of wooded trails, shoreline on Lake Massabesic. Free admission, but donations are accepted and encouraged.

Madame Sherri's castle

Madame Sherri’s castle

Madame Sherri Forest, and the quiet roads around it, in Chesterfield. Sure, you could hike uphill from here, and getting to Mt. Wantastiquet is worth the effort. On a hot day, though, flatter is better as far as I’m concerned. Parking is available on Gulf Road. Check out the ruins of “Madame Sherri’s castle,” visit Indian Pond, and then stroll down Gulf Road at your leisure. Free.


Cooling off on Pawtuckaway Lake

Cooling off on Pawtuckaway Lake

Pawtuckaway State Park, Nottingham (take exit 5 from NH 101 and follow the signs). This is another year-round treat. Hike the flat trails, or pick a hill (one has a fire tower), or do both. I did a nine-mile loop here one warm Labor Day, ending at the beach on Pawtuckaway Lake — just the place to cool off on a summer day. Bonus: camping and boat rentals. $5 admission (day rate)/$2 ages 11 and under.

Water and bug repellent are essential.

Do you have any favorite summer spots for a dayhike? I hope you’ll leave a comment! I’m always looking for new trails.

A nearly bug-less Ponemah Bog, for the moment

Spring has a brief golden time, post-mud and pre-bugs. It’s here right now in southern New Hampshire, and it could end at any moment. I savored the golden time today at Ponemah Bog in Amherst. Read my earlier post about it here, and learn more about the bog at the New Hampshire Audubon web site.

Summer Visit to Ponemah Bog

Among New Hampshire Audubon’s many properties is this little one in Amherst, tucked away alongside a residential neighborhood yet not far from busy route 101-A. Ponemah Bog is what’s left of a kettle-hole pond formed long ago by the retreat of glaciers. The pond itself covers only about three acres, and it’s surrounded by a sphagnum peat bog that sustains flora unlike what can be found in most of New Hampshire. I visited today for the first time in quite awhile, and I had the place to myself on this sultry day.

To get there from Nashua, take 101-A west into Merrimack. Turn right onto Boston Post Road,  just past Home Depot. In about two miles, turn left onto Stearns Road. In 0.3 mile, turn left onto Rhodora Drive; there is a small sign at this intersection  pointing to the bog. Where Rhodora Drive curves right, drive straight into the gravel parking lot.

Take a few minutes to look at the information kiosk, where you’ll find information about the rich variety of birds and unusual plants that favor the bog. A loop path begins from the parking lot, with the two ends a short distance apart. I prefer starting on the left and going clockwise through the property, but either direction will do. The mulched path in the woods eventually gives way to a boardwalk as you make your way onto the mat of peat.

Watch your step, and watch your kids. Stay on the boardwalk for your own safety, since breaking through the peat will plunge you into water that’s very deep in some places. The boardwalk also protects the bog itself from undue disturbance. You could walk the length of the boardwalk, including the spur trails, in fifteen minutes or less. Don’t be in such a hurry, unless you’re with small children, as I often was in years past. Taking your time, stopping at the benches scattered around the property, is the only way to get a good look at the birds that scatter at the sound of footsteps on the boards.

When my youngest son (now grown) was little, I used to love to bring him here. The bog is home to several varieties of carnivorous plants, and he used to scoot ahead of me, keeping an eye out for pitcher plants. Whenever he found one, he grinned as though he’d won the lottery – and then he’d move on and look for more.

Today, pitcher plants were blossoming, and so was a tiny purple orchid that only blooms around Independence Day each year. The bog supports larch & pitch pine, with mixed hardwoods in the parking lot, but the bog’s most interesting plants are the flowering shrubs  no higher than my waist. Pitcher plants, bladderworts, and sundews are very low-growing. No wonder my son liked finding them.

Today, in hot and dry weather, I wore sandals and had no trouble. After heavy rains, sections of the boardwalk can be underwater. In the winter, even if there’s little snow, the boards can be icy and treacherous. Choose your footwear accordingly.

Audubon Society information about the property: