Patching up

Four years, folks. That’s how long it’s been since I plunged into the Forest Society’s Forest Reservation Challenge. Visit 33 of the Society’s New Hampshire properties & get a patch, they said. Piece of cake, I said.

It took me four years to consume that particular piece of cake, I just got my patch.

Forest Society patch held by Ellen Kolb of New Hampshire
The Granite State Walker meets a challenge.

A few favorites

The project sent me to easy hikes and challenging ones, wetlands and high granite ledges, near home and darn near Canada. A few of the properties made deeper impressions than others.

Christine Lake, Stark, New Hampshire
Christine Lake, Kauffmann Forest, Stark NH
  • Kauffmann Forest, Stark. Christine Lake with its view of Victor Head and the Percy Peaks is a worthy destination in itself.
  • Dame Forest, Durham. When my daughter was a UNH student, I didn’t know this beautiful wetlands jewel was only a few miles away from campus. A long easy trail leads to Great Bay, and shorter trails are available. I had the place to myself for an unhurried visit when I was there a couple of years ago. I’m told that since COVID, it has become much more popular. I recommend a midweek visit.
  • Morse Preserve, Alton, with the summit of Pine Mountain. After seeing the wonderful view of Lake Winnipesaukee from there, and sharing the trail with only three other people, I may never visit Mount Major again.
  • Moose Mountains Reservation, Middleton/Brookfield. The view from Phoebe’s Nable turned my brown-bag lunch into a special event.

That’s not to mention the lime kilns, and the roads with whimsical names like Faraway and Local Ox Team, and autumn on Silver Mountain. Then there are a few spots suffering these days from too-much-love syndrome, and I’ll let you figure those out for yourself.

berries on hilltop, autumn in New Hampshire
Autumn on Silver Mountain, Lempster NH

How I did it

Pre-COVID, I had a job that sent me all over the state for various projects. I fit in Forest Society reservations where I could: a stop in Bethlehem on the way home from business in Littleton, a trail in Sandwich on my way to a presentation in Ossipee. A couple of times, I took one-day road trips with two or three reservations on the itinerary. The Society’s 5 Hikes programs helped me.

Bretzfelder Park, Bethlehem New Hampshire
Bretzfelder Park, a Forest Society property in Bethlehem NH

The Kingsbury-Chippewa property in Haverhill was particularly elusive. I finally got there as my husband and I returned from a weekend upstate, determined to avoid I-93. I said, “There’s this Forest Society reservation over in Haverhill…” and I may have mentioned something about the patch. Actually I’m sure I did. “Let’s go,” said my traveling companion. And so we did.

As is often the case, the journey – in this case journeys – mattered more than the arrival. The arrival took the form of a little embroidered patch. Every time I look at it, I’ll recall one of those journeys, and I’ll be smiling.

Exploring Forest Society properties

The Forest Society has some excellent resources. Check out NH Forest Explorer for a mobile-friendly guide to select reservations. Enjoy the 5 Hikes Challenge, a modified version of the older 5 Hikes in 5 Weeks program. Follow the Forest Society’s Facebook page for videos including virtual field trips to various properties.

Heald Tract guided hike

I joined 17 people and one tiny-but-mighty dog for a leisurely three-mile amble through a portion of the Forest Society’s Heald Tract in Wilton, New Hampshire.

Castor Pond, where we enjoyed lunch on our hike. It’s home to heron and other water birds, as well as beaver and otter.

 

Our guide was David, a volunteer for the Harris Center for Conservation Education. Two of my fellow hikers owned property near the tract and knew a lot about the history of the area. This made for good company and good conversation for the three hours we spent together.

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We walked through an area with old wells and foundations, and heard tales of the people who had built them and settled the area. We saw the most imposing beaver dam I’ve ever laid eyes on. I heard kingfisher as we sat pondside enjoying our lunch. No one was in a hurry, the company was congenial, and the weather was fine. I left determined to keep an eye on the Forest Society and Harris Center calendars in the future for other walks like this one.

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This barn foundation dating back to the nineteenth century is about six feet high. The rest of the structure was lost to fire long ago.

For more about the Heald Tract including a map of the trails, go to forestsociety.org. Learn more about the Harris Center at harriscenter.org.

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This little terrier is an unlikely-looking hiker, but she proved to be an intrepid and friendly companion.

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The opening to this old well is about five and a half feet across – easily the largest I’ve seen.

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David from the Harris Center led the hike.