Construction this spring at Miller State Park

A favorite tactic of mine for enjoying Pack Monadnock without crowds is going to Miller State Park midweek. That option will be on hold for awhile this spring, as major work on utility infrastructure in the park will begin in April. Read on the New Hampshire State Parks website about the project and its schedule.

Access to trails and the auto road will be limited at various times.

I won’t complain much about the inconvenience. As a southern New Hampshire resident, I benefit from assorted utilities and modes of communication whose infrastructure needs to be set up on hills. At the same time, I appreciate the fact that such set-ups are subject to public hearings and environmental considerations.

It’s a good idea to check out the state parks website before heading to any state park. A few are retaining a reservation system for parking, first established to manage last year’s COVID crowds. A few miles away from Miller and Pack Monadnock, Monadnock State Park requires a reservation AND a $15 parking fee (ouch!), which covers up to 6 people per vehicle. Know before you go.

Wapack Trail sign, mountain, New Hampshire
View of Mt. Monadnock from Pack Monadnock in Miller State Park. Ellen Kolb photo.

Golden Time

As Octobers go, this one has been a beauty in my corner of New Hampshire. We’re in that annual golden time, post-bugs and pre-ice. Literally golden, too. The trees are glowing.

rail trail in autumn

October on Nashua River Rail Trail

 Pulpit Brook Trail, Bedford and Amherst

trail sign, Bedford NH

Pulpit Brook trail, Bedford NH

I hadn’t visited Bedford’s Pulpit Rock conservation area in years. A recent mailing from the Bedford Land Trust advised me that the Pulpit Brook trail from that property now extends into Amherst and the Joppa Hill farm. When I compare a newer map of the Pulpit Rock area to my old map from 1997, it’s striking to see how much the conservation area has been expanded with the cooperation of area landowners. I like seeing a greenway linking towns.

autumn leaves

Mid-October: some leaves are just starting to turn.

Silver Mountain, Lempster

The Forest Society’s Five Hikes in Five Weeks program led me to this unassuming little hill with fine autumn views. The drive in was a little hairy: Lempster Mountain Road is paved and fine, and from there South Road is unpaved and sort-of fine, until it isn’t. The last few tenths of a mile of road before the trailhead feature a single lane with deep ruts. It must be all kinds of fun in mud season. At least it’s dead-flat.

But after a couple of minutes of bouncing along…what’s this? A parking area with decorative stone posts. On a dirt road in Sullivan County, no less.

From the parking area, the woodsy walk up to the open summit of Silver Mountain is easy.

berries on hilltop, autumn in NH

Autumn on Silver Mountain, Lempster NH

Silver Mountain summit cairn NH

Silver Mountain summit cairn; Mt. Ascutney in the distance at right

Kidder Mountain, New Ipswich

Here’s another spot I hadn’t visited in ages, just off the Wapack Trail. I had hiked up to Kidder with my son about fifteen years ago, and I recalled it as another one of those easy hills with great views (like Silver Mountain, come to think of it). I’m sorry I waited so long to come back.

The summit vegetation has grown in over the past few years, but the views to the south and southeast are still satisfying. There’s a great view of the southern Wapack Range from Barrett Mountain to Mt. Watatic.

southern Wapack Range

Southern Wapack Range seen from Kidder Mountain, New Ipswich NH

On my recent visit, I shared the summit with a young family. One of the children was a boy, maybe five years old. He surveyed the Wapack Range, and announced excitedly, “I see a volcano!” His dad took the news calmly. The boy wanted a livelier response. “I see lava!” At that point, I thought okay, I’ve got to see what this is about.

Mt. Watatic

At right: Mt. Watatic, faintly marked with old ski trails that spark the imagination.

I moved a little closer to see what the boy was pointing at. It was little Mt. Watatic just across the border in Massachusetts. It had a ski area long ago, and there are still faintly-discernible ski trails. To a five-year-old, those old trails looked like lava flows. I hope I never forget the look on that little boy’s face as he watched Mt. Watatic expectantly, hoping against hope that it would blow its top and show those Monadnocks who’s boss.

Sometimes the best part of a hike isn’t the hike.

Happy October!

Temple, January 1

I made my customary New Year’s Day drive out to the Monadnock region, deciding at the last minute not to do the fun little 5k race (walk, in my case) in Temple that would have set me back $20. Instead, I continued to the Wapack trailhead in Sharon. No trails or uphill work for me this day – lazy, out-of-shape, call me what you will. I did my 5k on local roads, blessedly free of traffic and ice.

Temple Road in Sharon; Mt. Monadnock in the distance

Temple Road in Sharon; Mt. Monadnock in the distance

It wasn’t a brisk walk. I kept stopping to take pictures. Most of the photos are unusable thanks to midday’s harsh lighting. I like this one, though. My route today was flat, except for the gentlest rise on Temple Road where I got a glimpse of Mount Monadnock.

Have a wonderful new year, with plenty of Granite State walks.

Windblown in the off-season; and seven years (!) of hikes

“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.

From my Cohos Trail trip, 2009. (See

From my Cohos Trail trip, 2009. (See

My once-small son on Kidder Mountain in New Ipswich. Excellent effort-to-reward ratio.

My once-small son on Kidder Mountain in New Ipswich. Excellent effort-to-reward ratio.

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.  

Looking south to Temple Mountain from Windblown ski area. Photos by Ellen Kolb.

Looking south to Temple Mountain from Windblown ski area. Photos by Ellen Kolb.

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.

Al Jenks and Ben Haubrick

Al Jenks and Ben Haubrick 

About twenty of us hiked up a trail on the slope of Barrett Mountain.
About twenty of us hiked up a trail on the slope of Barrett Mountain.

Midafternoon shadows on the Temple Mountain ridge.

Midafternoon shadows on the Temple Mountain ridge.

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Beating the heat with snowy souvenirs

No, I didn’t take any exciting hikes this week. I have been laid low by the area’s heat wave, which will probably be the only one we’ll have all year. I walked a few short miles today on a familiar shady trail and came home with a blistered foot. I had worn sandals since I thought my athletic shoes would be too hot. Whine, whine, whine …

I know the heat will break soon. In the mean time, I shall refresh myself with memories of some winter hikes, knowing that I’ll be chipping ice off my driveway in a few short months. Stay cool!