Winn Mountain

Winn Mountain is a relatively small peak west of Manchester in the Monadnock foothills. It’s an easy climb that rewards you with beautiful views of Monadnock as well as the other mountains in the area. On clear days you can see to the Uncanoonucs (Goffstown) and Pack Monadnocks (Peterborough). For only 1686 feet, that’s pretty good. While there is no trail map, the way up is easy to follow and begins as an abandoned road that will take you a good way up. On the way you’ll pass overgrown and long abandoned orchards and oddly, what appears to be a pet burial site right on the side of the trail. It’s quite a ways up so seems like an odd place for a pet’s grave.

The climb takes you past wildflowers galore including fern leaf false foxglove. Among the flowering trees is the alternate-leafed dogwood which puts on a showy display every spring. The invasive species Autumn Olive is also rumored to be present, but I didn’t see it on my hike. In summer it produces pale yellow flowers shaped a bit like trumpets and in the fall it has large, red berries. On the peak are plenty of small trees and wildflowers like the plentiful blue-stemmed goldenrod. There are also a couple of stone camp fire rings.

How to get there –

Head for the town of Lyndeborough, NH

From Route 101 west turn onto Route 31 north (for 5.2 miles) then turn on Center Road north (for 1.3 miles) to Pinnacle Road north (for 0.3 miles) to Holt Road northwest (dirt road; for 0.1 miles) and finally to Joslin Road west (dirt road; for 0.2 miles). Parking is next to a residence and I believe the mountain is still private land, so don’t abuse the privilege of hiking here.

You can find an unofficial map here that gives you an idea of how the trail works up the mountain.

More photos can be found here.

Happy trails and remember to carry out what you carry in (and pick up after those who don’t) and please leash your dogs! Also please respect local rules and regulations.

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Posted in Monadnock area

Pulpit Rock Conservation Area

With easy access, trails ranging from easy to moderately difficult and one of the most picturesque brooks in southern New Hampshire, Pulpit Rock Conservation area remains a popular place to connect with nature.

The property is named after a rock formation which resembles a pulpit, although I can’t quite see it myself. The gorge carved by glacial melt and Pulpit brook is quite impressive although requires some skill and care to descend and ascend. You will reach it after about 1/2 hour of steady walking from the Kennard trailhead on New Boston Road (marked with white blazes). The rolling path winds through pine and hemlock forest with beeches and other hardwoods sprinkled throughout. There are many small bridges to get you over the wettest parts; small seasonal streams and ponds that eventually drain into the brook. Be on the look out for side trails to the left as you approach the main gorge; these take you to pocket views of a small marsh and a small waterfall. One of them, the Landry trail, has an amazing display of yellow clintonia/bluebead lily.

At the top of the gorge there is an information kiosk and map. Directly to your left is the Gott trail (yellow blazes) which brings you over a feeder brook and down to the largest waterfall on the stream. It is steep, but well worth the effort. Another view to smaller cascades lies directly across the granite ledge and also requires some careful climbing.

From the kiosk by the top of the gorge you can also choose the Ravine trail (orange blazes) or the Tufts trail (white blazes) and make a loop that takes you through most of the property. Taking Tufts trail from the top of the gorge will bring you through woodland which can get very wet in spring and there is an alternative route marked to keep you out of the water. Intersecting Tufts trail is Martin’s trail (yellow blazes) which winds through similar forest to an open meadow. It is an out and back trail. The Ravine trail takes you down to the water and the gorge and leads directly to a second waterfall which is split into two main channels over a large granite ledge. After descending this rocky area you follow the stream closely and there are some lovely cascades and waterfalls to enjoy along the way. Farther downstream the Ravine trail and the Tufts trail meet and the Tufts trail continues to the old Gage sawmill site. While not official, you can continue walking on the nearside of the brook to a small beaver pond.

Crossing the brook (there is no bridge so please watch your footing) will lead you to another glacial boulder formation known as Indian Rock. From there you reach the Gage’s Mill trail which is a bit more strenuous and leads to a second (limited) parking are on Pulpit Road. Backtracking from the mill to the intersection of the Ravine trail and Tufts trail will give you two more options. The newest leads to the nearby Joppa Hill Farm which is also open the public and features its own trail network. Marked by red blazes is the Campbell trail which brings you steeply along a feeder brook and then through more upland forest. It’s a moderately strenuous trail that loops back to the Kennard trail which will bring you to the main parking area on New Boston Road.

How to get there –

Head for the town of Bedford, NH

At the intersection of Routes 101 and 114, follow Route 114 to the next light and turn left onto New Boston Road (opposite the Market Basket). Follow for several miles until you’re almost at the town border where you will find a parking area and signage on your left at the bottom of a long hill. If you reach Bedford Road, you’ve gone too far. Alternative parking can be found on Pulpit Road where the Gage Mill and Scouting Way trailheads can be found. Hidden to the right just past the sign at the main parking lot on New Boston road are a couple of picnic tables, but you have to look to find them.

You can find a trail map here.

More photos can be found here.

Happy trails and remember to carry out what you carry in (and pick up after those who don’t) and please leash your dogs! Also please respect local rules and regulations.

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Posted in Merrimack Valley (South)

Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge

It’s hard not to fall in love with Great Bay the first time you see it. New Hampshire doesn’t have a lot of direct seacoast, but it does have a near-pristine tidal estuary. In the mid-20th century an enormous grass roots effort went into protecting not only the estuary itself, but the surrounding land that supports and sustains the fragile ecosystem. With more than 1000 acres, the Great Bay NWR is an important habitat for migrating birds including black ducks and bald eagles which both overwinter on the Bay. Osprey, coopers and red-tailed hawks and kestrels are just some of the other raptors who make their homes here (if you’re lucky you may spy a northern harrier, too). Some of the mini-ecosystems found within the preserve include both fresh and saltwater marshes, woodland, ponds, swamps and fields. There are also extensive mud flats that provide ample feeding ground for wading shorebirds. Underpinning the entire ecosystem is a now healthy oyster population which was brought back from the brink by the cooperation of several conservation groups. Oyster beds help create a healthy environment for fish populations and the oysters themselves provide vital water filtration.

The trail system at Great Bay NWR is a small one, leaving most of the area untouched by daily human traffic. What makes this preserve different is that one trail is wheelchair accessible. That’s Peverly Pond trail which takes you out to the upper section of the pond and features a roomy bird blind. The elevated path takes you through mixed pine and oak forest with dense undergrowth. There you’ll find Indian cucumber, sensitive fern, Canada mayflower, goldthread, star flower and a lot of poison ivy, so please keep to the boardwalk.

The other trail is the Ferry Way trail which begins as a paved path and brings you to the edge of Little Bay itself where there is a viewpoint looking out over the water. You’ll see beaver ponds and an old apple orchard as you pass through to vibrant fields. Woodland trails are lined by red and white oaks, many maples and shag bark hickory. Wildflowers like geranium and asters mix with lush fern beds and sarsaparilla.

How to get there –

Head for the town of Newington, NH

Take exit 1 off Route 16 or Spaulding Turnpike and turn onto Pease Blvd. heading into Pease International Tradeport. Go through one stoplight to a stop sign and turn right on Arboretum Drive. Follow refuge signs for 3 miles to refuge parking lot, office, restroom and trails.

You can find more information here, a black and white map only here, a Ferry Way trail only guide here and a map and trail guide here.

More photos can be found here.

Happy trails and remember to carry out what you carry in (and pick up after those who don’t) and please leash your dogs! Also please respect local rules and regulations.

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Posted in Seacoast

Doe Farm

The Doe Farm natural area is an 87-acre property which lies directly on the Lamprey river and helps protect this valuable watershed. Once a working family farm, it is now an easily accessible green space that is surprising in how isolated it feels. Of course, that’s once you get away from the railroad tracks that run parallel to the access road. I couldn’t find a map online at the time of this writing, but there is one in the ample parking area.

The first thing that struck me (no, not the train) was the profusion of wild geranium along the sides of the trail. Upon taking a closer look I also discovered a profusion of poison ivy. At the end of the road leading into the property are the remains of the Doe house and other buildings. Nearby is the family cemetery.

The naturally occurring forest, already rich in oaks and maples, was given a hand in 1920 by the Boy Scouts who planted thousands of red and white pine and Norway spruce seedlings. Local scouts continue to assist with trail and bridge maintenance. One of the most pleasing aspects of the property is the Lamprey river frontage (approximately 3700 feet) which not only provides habitat for wildlife such as beaver, raccoon, otter, ducks and other waterfowl, but also alluvial thickets that host many, many wildflowers. Some of the species are Wild Geranium, Celandine, Ragged Robin, Bluets, Pink Lady Slipper, white and purple Violets and speedwell. During low water periods, you can access Moat Island which is approximately 15 acres on which the wildflowers continue to flourish.

How to get there –

Head for the town of Durham, NH

From Route 108 turn on Bennett Road, at the railroad bridge approximately 0.7 mi from the intersection with Packers Falls Road. Parking is available off Bennett Road near the railroad crossing.

More photos can be found here.

Happy trails and remember to carry out what you carry in (and pick up after those who don’t) and please leash your dogs! Also please respect local rules and regulations.

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Posted in Seacoast

Russell Abbott State Forest

While quite large by itself with over 800 acres, the Russell Abbott State Forest abuts other conservation properties making for a lot of natural habitat for New Hampshire wildlife. Part of the Mason Rail Trail goes through it and is popular with cyclists and snowmobilers. The Russell Abbott has miles and miles of well-marked trails, but there is no map at the time of this writing. That shouldn’t deter you from visiting. At the main parking area on Pratt Pond Road, trails lead off in both directions around the pond. The forest is mixed hardwood and hides some seriously craggy granite ledges (some you’ll have to climb, but they’re not too difficult). In between those ledges are some secret ponds, marshes and brooks. There are thick swaths of mountain laurel and witch hazel and in the fall, clusters of sugar maple color the canopy with intense yellows and oranges.

Also on site are the remains of an extensive potato starch mill operation. Potato starch was used commercially in the manufacture of cotton and in a more homey fashion to thicken puddings. The mill was built in 1818 by Ezra and Samuel Abbott who were born in nearby Wilton. It was the second such mill for Ezra Abbott, but the first to use the power of water. Great planning, scheming and secrecy went into the invention and fabrication of the machinery, and when they perfected the process the brothers added a 30 x 60 foot structure to an existing, but disused mill. Local farmers provided between 6,000 and 26,000 bushels of potatoes annually with an average yield of 40 tons of starch. In 1828 the mill burned and was rebuilt only to burn again in 1839 and need yet another rebuild. When Ezra retired he left the business to his son and nephew who ran it until 1850 when potato blight destroyed local crops. The mill continued operation, this time for wooden products such as barrel staves.

How to get there –

Head for the town of Mason, NH

From Route 13 turn onto N. Mason Road then left onto Old County Road and an almost immediate right onto Starch Mill Road. Follow until Pratt Pond road on your left. From Route 31 turn onto Adams Hill Road, continue and turn right onto Pratt Pond road. The parking area is large and there is a sign set back from the road. Be careful in wet seasons as Pratt Road is dirt and can get quite muddy.

More photos can be found here.

Happy trails and remember to carry out what you carry in (and pick up after those who don’t) and please leash your dogs! Also please respect local rules and regulations.

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Posted in Merrimack Valley (South)

Martha’s Brook & Sam’s Trail Loop

The Piscataquog river watershed is protected and preserved by the Piscataquog Land Conservancy and through their efforts many parcels of land are accessible to the public. The Martha’s Brook/Sam’s Trail property is on the small side, but it’s lush, enchanting and has many beautiful features. The trail is well blazed and an easy hike of about 1.5 miles. If you visit in late spring or summer one of the first things you’ll notice is the thick blankets of ferns crowding the sides of the trail and the hillside as you enter Martha’s Brook trail. A brief open space is dense with the more delicate species of fern such as hay-scented fern. Just inside the forest are masses of ostrich and cinnamon fern crowding the extensive stone walls that crisscross the property. And the profusion of Christmas fern on the hillsides is impressive.

Winding through is Martha’s brook which is picturesque and has many little bridges to help you across. After crossing a dirt road the sound of this little brook got louder and I soon found out why – a little cascade and a waterfall. Neither is enormous, but they are part of what makes this bit of New Hampshire so special. Along the waterway there are many wildflowers to see including foamflower, jack-in-the-pulpit and fringed polygala. While you’re exploring the banks, watch out for spotted newts.

How to get there –

Head for the town of New Boston, NH

From New Boston Center: Right onto RT 77, Left onto RT 136W for 2.1 miles, Left onto Thornton Rd, Right onto Pine Rd, to end of road where there is parking. The sign for the preserve is a set back from the road.

More photos can be found here.

Happy trails and remember to carry out what you carry in (and pick up after those who don’t) and please leash your dogs! Also please respect local rules and regulations.

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Posted in Merrimack Valley (South)

Hampstead Trails

Extensive, well-mapped and constantly being improved, the Hampstead Nature Trails are large and interesting enough to keep you busy for a couple of days. With over 1000 acres open to the public, it’s no surprise. Divided into East and West sections, there are many parking locations to choose from. A good idea is to start with the West Road Conservation Area (WRCA) and the superb trail guide published by the town and available for downloading. It guides you through 5 miles of easy walking through mixed forest.

The WRCA is connected to even more trails on the west network. There are streams both seasonal and persistent which host wildflowers such as marsh marigold, cardinal flower and even Canada lily. You’ll find large boulders known as glacial erratics. Extensive granite ledge which plays host to porcupines. And of course a diverse tree population including pitch pine and black birch. In addition to forest you’ll encounter wetlands and open areas free of tree cover. Also dotted through the property are cellar holes, wells and defunct mills.

If you like old mill sites, the east trail network is going to make you smile. There are 3 ruin sites within just a mile or two on Darby brook. One is quite large and still holds back a pond which is frequented by ducks and other waterfowl as well as playing host to a family of beavers. The other mills are smaller, but one has an intact spillway which was used to regulate the water flow into the wheel mechanism. Recently a new bridge went up over this part of the trails, connecting it to an even larger conservation area.

How to get there –

Head for the town of Hampstead, NH

Both the east and west trail networks have many places to park. Please refer to individual maps for the one that suits your outing best.

Eastern maps both complete and sections one and two. Western maps both complete and sections one and two, plus a trail guide here.

More photos can be found here.

Happy trails and remember to carry out what you carry in (and pick up after those who don’t) and please leash your dogs! Also please respect local rules and regulations.

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Posted in Seacoast