Forest Society invites all to discover NH

Call it the Society for Protection of New Hampshire Forests, the SPNHF, or the simpler Forest Society: however you say it, here’s an organization that wants to show off its holdings. The payoff for you and me: a patch. I’m a sucker for patches. My favorite in-state patch so far is the Tower Quest from the New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands (earning that one was great fun!), but the Forest Society is tempting me with a patch of its own.


The Granite State Walker at the Merrimack River near Forest Society’s HQ in Concord, NH

The Forest Reservation Challenge involves visiting 33 of the Forest Society’s New Hampshire holdings. No deadline that I can see, which is a good thing, since the 33 holdings are scattered all over the Granite State. These things take time. For all of us with either limited time or a limited budget for gas, there’s a “Tier 2” challenge: visit several properties in one region of the state, plus answer questions about each property. Alas, selfies are involved, which is a mild annoyance for those of us who are not photogenic (I illustrate this post with Exhibit A). That’s how the good folks at the Forest Society know that we’re not just using old photos from our friends’ collections.

The Forest Society’s web site explains the challenge in full. I’m going to give it a try. You may find, as I’m discovering, that some Forest Society lands are actually fairly close to home. Some may be close to routes you already travel regularly. I’m looking forward to re-visiting some favorite spots and discovering new ones.

Whether I earn the patch or not, I’m going to have fun on the trails.


Show Monadnock some love

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is having work days on Mt. Monadnock’s trails tomorrow through Tuesday, July 12-16, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. each day. I don’t know if I can get there one of those days, but I’m going to try. Monadnock State Park is hugely popular, as anyone who has been there on a summer weekend knows, and the trails can get badly chewed up in the course of a year. I’ll bet you have your own Monadnock stories; feel free to share in the comment box below. Here’s a poster with more information about the project:

Forest Society's Monadnock trail days 2013

Haven’t been to Monadnock? Really?! It’s worth a trip to Jaffrey or Dublin or Troy to find a trailhead. There’s a summit with outstanding views, and the mountain is laced with trails of many different lengths and degrees of difficulty. I am not a fan of big crowds, so I try to time my visits accordingly. One Columbus Day weekend, I counted 140 other people on the summit with me. A couple of months later, in a nearly snow-free December with a 4:15 p.m. sunset, I was one of four people who made it to the top one afternoon to enjoy crystalline views in a biting wind. I preferred the December trip.

My favorite spot on the mountain isn’t the summit. It’s Bald Rock, from which I can sit in solitude and watch the crowds on the summit. Views to the east and southeast from there are wonderful, dominated by the Wapack Range. Bald Rock is named for this distinctive boulder, with the word “Kiasticuticus” carved into it; no one has been able to tell me who did the carving or what it means. I took this photo years ago, and I take full responsibility for failing to compensate for the harsh lighting.

Bald Rock, Monadnock State Park, NH. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

Bald Rock, Monadnock State Park, NH. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

The White Dot trail from park headquarters in Jaffrey is the most popular and my least favorite. It’s not the crowds that bother me so much as the steepness. I am not a mountain climber. (The Halfway House trail, from the parking lot on Rt. 124, is much more my speed.) My story of defying death on New Hampshire’s most popular mountain: I was coming down from the aforementioned December hike in a hurry (mistake #1), alone (mistake #2), after starting too late in the day (mistake #3) on the White Dot trail (mistake #4). I wanted to get to my car before sundown. I slipped twice. Once, I simply scrambled back to my feet and kept zipping along, having learned nothing from that first spill. About two minutes later, I slipped again. This time, I was on a kind of polished granite chute. My walking stick snapped as I fell, and I had no way to break or slow my fall. I wound up sliding down on my back, head-first. Those few seconds seemed to last forever. I knew I’d keep going until I hit something hard, and the results were not likely to be pretty. I shortly did indeed slam into a rock – and my backpack took the hit. I did not deserve that luck. I haven’t tried anything quite as dumb since then.

So avoid that kind of idiocy, and get out on the trails!

New Hampshire State Parks site

Forest Society site

Mt. Monadnock from Temple Mountain. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

Mt. Monadnock from Temple Mountain. Photo by Ellen Kolb.

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.

Forest Society HQ in Concord

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests headquarters is in Concord, about a ten-minute ride from the State House off of exit 16. Follow signs for “conservation center”, and you’ll find the headquarters on Portsmouth Street. Stop in the foyer at the main building to pick up a map with the title Merrimack River Outdoor Education and Conservation Area, then drive another quarter mile down Portsmouth Street to a parking area and trailhead on the left. Don’t expect the map box at the trailhead to be stocked.

The Forest Society trail network at this property runs along the Merrimack River (photo shows view upstream to I-93) and includes a pine plantation, a silver maple forest (forming the natural archway in the photo above), floodplain, and a river cove with a canoe landing. The traffic sounds from nearby I-93 are easy to ignore. In this drought, the river is quiet, but the sharply-cut banks indicate how high the Merrimack can run in a rainy season.

I stayed here longer today than I had intended, stretching a quick lunchtime walk into an hour. The trail is flat & sandy; no boots required. The bugs are out, so bring your insect repellent. This is an undramatic, peaceful spot for a walk, and it’s open from dawn to dusk.