road & trail work

I am overdue in giving thanks to all the people who were busy this winter cleaning up roads and trails after the ice storm. I’ve done very little trail maintenance myself, and anything I can do locally that doesn’t require bushwhacking is thanks to someone else’s efforts. To all of you, and you know who you are, thank you.

It’s good to read on the state park web site that Monadnock SP’s trails are slowly opening back up to authorized use after storm cleanup. I hope the new campground at Gilson Pond wasn’t completely trashed! I’d been looking forward to staying there this summer, its first scheduled season.

Here in Merrimack, Horse Hill is in good shape, and it pleases me that it’s been getting so much use. I’m glad the town acquired the land when it did. In the current economy, I don’t think a land acquisition of that size would pass.

I drove down Rt. 31 from Wilton to Greenville the other day and was shocked at all the downed trees along the roadside. I thought the crews in my town had a big job after the ice storm. We actually had it easy. I remember driving through Dunbarton in January and seeing how bad the tree damage was. That’s what Rt. 31 looked like last weekend — two months later. It’s spring now, the snow is receding, and I’m sure there will be enough work to last all summer for anyone who knows how to wield a chain saw.

I see that the Friends of the Wapack are planning their annual end-to-end hike for next month instead of the fall. I wonder how much of the day will be spent flagging spots for future work.

Mud season will actually be an interesting time this spring, as I discover how more of my favorite trails fared over the winter. I’m half inclined to carry a small folding saw in my backpack for the spring hikes. I suppose the more sensible approach would be to note any difficult spots and then bring them to the attention of the land managers, who probably have trail crews who actually know what they’re doing. I probably shouldn’t go out armed with only a saw and good intentions.

New year, and I’m back outside

The P’Nut Chip 5k in Temple this morning was the perfect way for me to put months of inactivity behind me. Several things falling under the category of “medical issues” turned me into a slug, and I and my plantar fasciitis are ready to hit the roads and trails again to make up for lost time.

Our whole region endured a severe ice storm a few weeks ago, and I’m sure I’ll be seeing the aftermath for months to come. I was heartened by the look of Temple today; that town took an even harder hit than my own. Broken branches lined the roadsides today, but no roads were blocked by fallen trees. I must have seen half a dozen utility trucks (and on a federal holiday, too) making their way through town. A road race couldn’t have been very high on the priority list for town officials & residents as they cleaned up the mess from the storm, but everything today went smoothly.

Walking the course before the race began was a real pleasure. I haven’t been outside much over the past few weeks as that whole “slug” thing took over. Clearly, I’ve been wasting time. As cold as the weather was today (11 degrees at the start of the race), I had the right clothing, so there was no problem on that score. My regular walking shoes handled the packed snow just fine — no boots for me when I’m timing myself on a course. And never mind what my time was. Think “slow”, which was all the better for enjoying the sunshine and the rural roads along with all those cheerful, energetic people who were much faster than I.

I’m not forgetting that the trails around here, unlike the roads, are still a mess. I needed today’s outing to restore my optimism for the pace of recovery from the ice storm. Monadnock State Park is still closed. The Friends of the Wapack have posted a message on the group’s web site warning against hiking the trail for the time being, since the tree damage has rendered the trail “very hard” to follow. My favorite cross-country ski area, Windblown in New Ipswich, was shut down by the storm, and the owners are doing heroic work to arrange for the extensive logging and cleanup necessary to restore at least a few kilometers to skiable (and hikable) condition.

Today proved, as if any proof were needed, that things are looking up.