This photo is just a tease. It’s not snowshoe weather in southern New Hampshire just yet. I’ll be back on Windblown’s trails (like the one in the picture) soon enough. It’s time to prepare for the season, though, and Windblown cross-country ski area’s annual ski swap is coming up on December 6, 9-11 a.m. at 1180 Turnpike Road (routes 123/124) in New Ipswich. Keep an eye on Windblown’s Facebook page for updates.
“Walking for pure joy sort of snuck up on me.” Thus started my first post for Granite State Walker, seven years ago this week. I’ve been feeling the joy ever since, and I don’t expect it’ll ever wear off.
I thought seven years ago (and still think) that the mighty White Mountains were getting plenty of coverage, while the recreational opportunities in other parts of the state were not much appreciated. I want people to know how much beauty is here. I’ll keep wearing out shoes on the rail trails and in the state parks and on the occasional peaks. Thanks for following me.
I’ve written before about Windblown cross-country ski area in New Ipswich, New Hampshire, one of my favorite snowshoeing spots. Five years ago (already!) next month, it took a hard hit from an epic ice storm. Last weekend, owner Al Jenks teamed up with Ben Haubrick of the Harris Center for a guided hike along Windblown’s trails to show how the area has recovered. What seemed catastrophic back in ’08 has given way to a ski area that’s busier than ever amid a well-managed forest. Normally, with the exception of the portion of the Wapack Trail that runs through the property, hiking on Windblown’s trails in the off-season is a no-no. It was interesting to follow Al and Ben the other day on paths that I know better when they’re snow-covered. The texture of the bare ground – as bare as it could be, considering the fallen leaves – was lumpy and bumpy. Bits of ledge protruded here and there along with tree roots and little mounds of grass. Packed snow, when it’s there, hides all that texture. The whole area has taken on a different look since the storm, with the loss of many oaks and maples leading to more open views. Al pointed out a few of the 800 pines recently planted to serve eventually as windbreaks, now that a lot of large damaged trees have been cut down. He noted that after five years, cleanup from the storm is “almost over.” His forest-management decisions are once again focused on the future, which is the way he likes it after owning the land for 40 years.
The Wapack Trail travels through Windblown Cross-Country Ski Area in New Ipswich, New Hampshire, and continues over Barrett Mountain on its way to the southern terminus on Mt. Watatic. The 21-mile-long Wapack is one of southern New Hampshire’s gems, maintained but not too busy, within sight of Monadnock but without that summit’s sometimes-overwhelming crowds. I am eating my heart out that I can’t get to New Ipswich this Saturday for a guided walk through Windblown up Barrett.
Al Jenks, owner of Windblown, just emailed this invitation to Windblown’s customers and supporters:
This Saturday, June first, is National Trails Day and the ninetieth anniversary of the Wapack Trail. I will be giving a talk on the life and times of Marion Davis who worked with her husband, Frank Robbins, to build the trail and run the Wapack Lodge.
Meet in the Windblown parking lot at 9 AM, walk to the lodge cellar hole, smell the lilacs, get to know our local black flies, and hear tall tales (most of them will be true). Marion was a neighbor, a friend, and the person who sold me this gorgeous piece of property in 1963.
Then hike to the top of Barrett Mt. to learn about the past, present, and the future life of Windblown Cross Country Ski Area.
Please, someone, go enjoy this event for me! I was part of the large crew that helped Al tidy up Windblown after the ’08 ice storm. As we worked, Al told us about the history of the property and how he came to buy it as a teenager. It was wonderful to learn more about land to which we all felt attached enough to visit twice in a blackfly-filled May for a clean-up effort. The Jenks family has collectively been a wonderful steward of this property. The Wapack Trail wouldn’t exist without support of such landowners.
Windblown is on NH Rts. 123/124 in New Ipswich. For detailed directions, please go to the Windblown web site => General Info => Directions. As the web site says, “We highly recommend following our carefully planned detailed directions [from the web site] and highly discourage using Map Quest or Google Maps because they have sent drivers to many crazy out-of-the-way routes in the past.”
Earlier posts about the Wapack Trail on the blog:
Wapack Trail Through Windblown (Dec. 2010)
Breaking Up the Workday (Jan. 2010)
Recovery! (April 2009)
Temple’s Piece of the Wapack (Nov. 2006)
Trail conditions were too good to pass up this week. A bit of planning, and I managed to take a few hours midday during the work week to visit Windblown ski area in New Ipswich. I packed both skis and snowshoes, but I decided when I arrived to stick with the snowshoes.
A little piece of the Wapack Trail passes through the property, and I started there, heading to little Stony Top. That’s one of southern NH’s easiest-to-reach grand views. The packed-powder trail had a fresh dusting from the night before, and I had the trail to myself. This not-for-skiers sign is posted at Stony Top where the Wapack heads south, just before a short-but-steepish (and narrow) stretch.
I veered off the Wapack before it started up Barrett Mountain so I could stay on flatter snowshoe trails. I was the only one on the property in snowshoes, apparently, and the woods were as peaceful as they ever get. A few skiers were on the ski trails, and I was welcome on those as long as I stayed out of the set tracks. About an hour & a half of meandering through the woods on the trails was all I could manage, but it was a great hour & a half.
Windblown welcomes hikers when the ski area is closed, but when there’s snow on the ground, they very sensibly expect me to pay for a trail pass and wear snowshoes instead of barebooting it. I’m glad to oblige.
I am nursing itchy welts from about 75 blackfly bites. Serves me right for wearing short sleeves last weekend out at Windblown x-c ski area, helping clear brush off the trails. Yes, I brought DEET, but it proved pitifully inadequate to the task. New Ipswich blackflies are tough ones. (I have since purchased a much stronger DEET formula. To heck with concerns over systemic toxins.)
The Jenks family, owners of Windblown, have put out the word that their trails are open to hikers, now that the ice storm’s damage is somewhat cleared. Friends of the Wapack took care of the section of the Wapack trail that runs through Windblown, and the Jenks family did the heavy work on the rest of the property’s trails. I spent some time each of the past two weekends with a crew doing cleanup by tossing cut brush off to the trailsides.
My boots got extremely muddy, I was nibbled to distraction by the blackflies, and I had a great time. Call it a slow hike uphill through the woods on Barrett Mountain, with some light weight work thrown in as I tossed brush: low weights, high reps. I’m sure that fits some kind of workout plan.
My thanks to the Jenks family for letting me help with this!
The first real snowfall of the season didn’t come until Valentine’s Day. The snowshoes I bought in Dec. ’06 have spent way too much time in the basement. Between the Valentine snow and the storm three days ago (St. Pat’s Eve), I have made up for lost time.
If you enjoy the Wapacks and want some winter recreation, I encourage you to head to Windblown cross-country ski area in New Ipswich. This little gem is owned and run by the Jenks family. They welcome hikers on the Wapack Trail that crosses the property, asking only that hikers pay the trail fee in winter. I hand over the $15 with pleasure. It’s like an investment in land conservation. There are about 40 kilometers of trails, and snowshoers are welcomed to share all trails with skiers (just stay out of the set tracks). The snowshoe trail includes the Wapack from Rt. 124 to the summit of Barrett. I’ve roamed over the property three times in the past few weeks, taking different routes every time and loving every minute of it. Thank God for people like the Jenks family.