The Hippo


May 19, 2019








Adams Pond Trail, Londonderry. Photo courtesy of Beth Murphy.

 Haunted Hikes of New Hampshire

Where: Manchester City Library (405 Pine St., Manchester)
When: Tuesday, Oct. 16, from 7 to 8:15 p.m.
What: Marianne O’Connor will share stories and legends of haunted hikes in the Granite State. She will also be selling and signing copies of her 2009 book Haunted Hikes of New Hampshire. She will be putting out a revised second edition of the book in the spring.
Cost:  Free
Southern N.H. Fire Towers
After visiting five of New Hampshire’s fire towers, fall hikers of all ages and can earn a special patch through the state’s Fire Lookout Tower Quest program. Below are six towers in southern New Hampshire to get you started on your journey. Visit
Kearsarge Mountain Fire Tower
Start: Rollins State Park (1066 Kearsarge Mountain Road, Warner) or Winslow State Park (475 Kearsarge Mountain Road, Wilmot)
Elevation: 2,937 feet 
Pack Monadnock Fire Tower
Start: Miller State Park (13 Miller Park Road, Peterborough)
Elevation: 2,280 feet 
Oak Hill Fire Tower
Start: Oak Hill Hiking Trails (292-342 Shaker Road, Concord)
Elevation: 920 feet 
Pawtuckaway Fire Tower
Start: Pawtuckaway State Park (7 Pawtuckaway Road, Nottingham)
Elevation: 908 feet 
Federal Hill Fire Tower
Start: Off Ponemah Hill Road, Milford
Elevation: 690 feet 
Warner Hill Fire Tower
Start: Ballard Road Town Forest (Warner Hill Road, Derry)
Elevation: 605 feet
The Ten Essentials of Hiking
Founded in 1906, the Mountaineers is a nonprofit focused on outdoor recreation, education and conservation. The group started developing “The Ten Essentials” in the 1930s and has updated it over time. While hikers may not need every item on every trip, the Mountaineers say these outdoor essentials can be lifesavers in an emergency. 
• Navigation: Map, altimeter, compass, GPS device, PLB or satellite communicators, extra batteries or battery pack.
• Headlamp: Plus extra batteries.
• Sun protection: Sunglasses, sun-protective clothes and sunscreen.
• First aid: Including foot care and insect repellent.
• Knife: Plus repair kit.
• Fire: Matches, lighter and tinder or stove as appropriate.
• Shelter: Carried at all times (can be light emergency bivy sack). 
• Extra food: Beyond minimum expectation. 
• Extra water: Beyond minimum expectation, or the means to purify.
• Extra clothes: Beyond minimum expectation.

A HIKE to remember
5 Hikes to make the most of the season


 By Scott Murphy 
Though hiking among the state’s seemingly endless webs of trails in the fall takes a little more planning than summer hiking, the rewards are there: crisp weather, gorgeous foliage and fewer crowds. And with a variety of trail lengths and difficulty levels, nearly everyone can reap those rewards. Here’s a list of a few great fall hikes, plus tips on how to set yourself up for hiking success.
Be prepared 
“Ninety percent of your hike is the forethought,” said Beth Zimmer, co-chair of the excursions committee for the Appalachian Mountain Club’s New Hampshire chapter. “The preparation you do at your kitchen table is more important than anything you do on the tail.”
While this is true for every season, fall hiking requires a different type of preparation, especially coming off the summer months. Zimmer said people are sometimes caught off guard by the earlier sunset, and as with many aspects of hiking, relying on a cell phone isn’t always a sound plan. To avoid issues with battery life and shoddy reception, she recommended people bring navigation tools and a map that they’ve read in advance, as well as a headlamp for a hands-free light source.
“If you don’t know your sense of direction, your cell phone isn’t going to save you,” said Rick Blanchette, president of Friends of the Wapack Trail in Peterborough. “Always assume it’s going to take longer than you think it will. I always bring enough food and water and keep a headlamp in my pack in case I’m stuck out there.”
The changing sunrise comes with cooler weather, meaning shorts and a T-shirt won’t always cut it on the trail. Despite a particularly long stretch of heat this year, Blanchette said, there’s no telling how long the warm weather will last. In the meantime, layers are still a hiker’s best friend. If it’s too hot for long sleeves at the start of a hike, Zimmer recommended packing a fleece or wool jacket or sweater in case it gets cooler than expected. She said a lightweight knit cap and gloves are also wise investments. 
“Especially when you’re climbing, you’ll be hot going up and cooler coming down,” said Blanchette. “You should be able to put on and take off layers accordingly.”
Covering up is also an important way to protect against ticks and mosquitos. Blanchette said these pests become less of a problem further into the fall season, but DEET or other bug sprays are still important precautions to take whenever you’re out in wooded areas. (See p. 9 for more on how to stay safe). 
Zimmer added that fall can also be slipperier because of the leaves on the trail staying wetter longer, which may also be covering up roots waiting to trip unsuspecting hikers. Even in drier conditions, she said, watching the trail and preparing for an emergency are key. Hikers should let someone know when they’ll be back in case they get stuck on the trails. Zimmer said a rescue mission could still take some time on an hour-long hike, let alone a mountain or longer trail. 
“For smaller hikes, people think, ‘I’m just going to pop up and pop down.’ But if they twist or break an ankle, they need to be prepared,” said Zimmer. “It’s important to think ahead of time about not only what you need for the hike, but also what you’ll do if you can’t finish the hike.”
Of course, what a hiker will need depends on their experience level, and taking on a local trail versus the Presidential Range will mean something different in terms of preparation. But Zimmer said planning in advance, and referring to guides like the Ten Essentials (see box), can help people stay safe and “keep everything moving and grooving.”
5 fall hikes
As the fall foliage starts coming out in full bloom, there are a number of noteworthy hikes in Southern New Hampshire that offer scenic views and some equally fun post-hike activities. Here are a handful of trails to explore on a crisp fall day, including hikes through a ghost town, alongside multiple waterfalls and up to one of the best lookouts in the state to appreciate the season. 
Adams Pond Trail, Londonderry
Apple picking is among the most quintessentially “New Hampshire” activities enjoyed in the Granite State each fall. The Adams Pond Trail in Londonderry is bookended by two orchards owned by Mack’s Apples (230 Mammoth Road, Londonderry). In between, hikers will find a scenic, wooded walk leading to loops around both orchards and plenty of fall sights along the way. 
Londonderry Trailways, a nonprofit that maintains the town’s trails, refers to the entire hike as the “dog bone” loop. The north orchard (along Pillsbury Road) offers a 0.6-mile loop, while the south orchard (along Adams Road) has a slightly longer 0.8-mile loop. 
Parking is available at both orchards and along a dirt road between Pillsbury and Mammoth roads. 
Pick-your-own is available daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the apple season, so you can combine that activity with your hike. 
“There’s not just a single trailhead; people can walk into either orchard and go into the trails,” said Pollyann Winslow, a volunteer with Londonderry Trailways. “If people are enjoying the trail in the fall, they can pick one variety of apple one one end and perhaps pick another variety on the other end.”
Along with the connecting trail, the hike is about three miles round-trip. The main segment stretches a 0.75-mile route through the woods between both orchards. Volunteers have installed foot bridges over particularly marshy areas of the trail, and eventually hikers will find themselves at a clearing overseeing Adams Pond. Along the way and especially by the pond, Winslow said, hikers often report animal sightings. 
“People shouldn’t think just because it’s located in the community that it’s a neighborhood walk; it is definitely a wooded walk,” she said. “The minute you get on the trail, they wind through scenic woods, and you usually don’t hear any traffic or see any houses.”
Winslow suggests stopping by the Morrison House Museum (40 Pillsbury Road, Londonderry). Originally built in 1760, the house is designed to appear as it would have in the mid-19th century.
Monson Center Property, Hollis & Milford
You may not find Monson Center on a New Hampshire map, but you might find something mysterious where it used to be. The former colonial settlement is tucked away on 269 acres in both Hollis and Milford with plenty of fall-friendly hiking trails.  The entrance can be found a short walk from 508 Federal Hill Road in Milford. Parking is available on Federal Road and in front of the gate at the top of Adams Road, which leads down to the property.
The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests in Concord purchased the property in 1998 after it was threatened by a proposed 28-lot subdivision. More than two centuries earlier, the land was home to Monson Center, one of the first inland settlements in New Hampshire. Six families established the modest village in the 1730s in what was once a part of West Dunstable, Mass.
Just a few decades later in 1770, the village was abandoned for still unknown reasons. No records of the families’ decisions remain, but Carrie Deegan from the forests society said historians have speculated whether the move was due to political differences, Native American tribes, trouble surviving or something else. 
“There’s a history shrouded in mystery,” said Carrie Deegan, volunteer and community engagement manager for the forests society. “The fact we don’t know what happened in the community entices people to come and explore.”
What the settlers left behind is now home to an outdoor fall highlight in the greater Nashua area. The former roads of Monson Center now make for a historical walk through a rural ghost town, complete with signs for where homes used to stand and the outlines of their cellar holes. Winding through more than 150 acres of forest, hikers can expect a three-mile round trip on the main trail. Several narrower trails branch off and connect back farther on up the road. 
“It’s a neat place, because the trails you walk on were the actual roads of the community,” said Deegan. “There’s also some special wildlife spots, like a wetland area on one of the trails and a big beaver complex.”
One building, named the “Gould House,” still stands on the property. Believed to have been a clockmaker’s shop, it is now a museum. A volunteer will occasionally man the house and offer history on the property. Deegan added that visitors can enjoy about 15 acres of open fields. 
Some of the property’s visitors include paranormal investigators. Deegan said the forest society still gets requests from crews looking to prove that the property is indeed a “ghost” town. Though Deegan said visitors haven’t shared any convincing evidence, author and hiker Marianne O’Connor said she’s heard of different sightings over the years. 
“It’s a very spooky place; people say they hear drums and other strange sounds,” said O’Connor, author of the book Haunted Hikes of New Hampshire. “Supposedly there’s a cemetery on the land that’s never been located.”
Pawtuckaway State Park, Nottingham
For the best views of fall in New Hampshire, try the scenic tower hike at Pawtuckaway State Park (7 Pawtuckaway Road, Nottingham), which also offers several other trails fit to fill a fall day. 
New Hampshire State Parks recommends three different trails to reach the fire tower on Pawtuckaway’s South Mountain: the 0.5-mile Tower Trail off Reservation Road; the 1.8-mile South Ridge Trail off Round Pond Road; and the 2.5-mile Mountain Trail off Mountain Road, which runs down into the South Ridge Trail. 
Each of these trails leads to the same, scenic view from atop the firetower. According to Patty Driscoll from Pawtuckaway’s camp office, the hike is relatively flat until the summit of the 908-foot South Mountain. But the view at the top will be more than worth it for fall enthusiasts. On a really clear day, Driscoll said the Boston skyline is visible from the top of the firetower.
Families might also want to use the fire tower as part of some experiential learning. The New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands offers the “Fire Lookout Tower Quest Program” to hikers of all ages. After visiting five of the state’s 15 fire towers, hikers can fill out a form to send to the division, which will earn them a free patch, certificate and letter of recognition. 
“These are historic structures that harken back to a day where a forest fire might not have been discovered for a number of days,” said Chris Gamache, chief of the New Hampshire Bureau of Trails. “We are one of the last remaining states with actively manned fire towers, which were strategically placed on different peaks around the state.”
Besides the fire tower hike, several other hiking opportunities are located on about 30 miles of trails around Pawtuckaway. Trails lead to a large marsh with wildlife aplenty, as well as a unique field with large boulders deposited when glacial ice melted near the end of the Ice Age. 
Single-day admission to the park costs $5 for adults and $2 for kids ages 6 to 11. The park is always open for recreation unless otherwise posted. Visit 
Purgatory Falls Trails, Mont Vernon & Lyndeborough
Purgatory Falls is composed of a waterfall trio. The upper and middle falls are located close together at one end of the trail near the Lyndeborough border, while the lower falls is located near the other end in Mont Vernon. Roundtrip, the Purgatory Brook Trail runs six miles, with the three-mile Wah Lum Loop Trail located close to the upper and middle falls. 
Joanne Draghetti, chair of the Mont Vernon Conservation Commission, said the entirety of the trail is beautiful and scenic. However, she added that it’s also made up of mixed terrain with some steep, challenging trails near the upper and middle falls. The trails around the lower falls are easier to access, but even so, Draghetti preached preparation.
“Safety, safety, safety — I can’t stress that enough,” said Draghetti. “Sometimes people are lulled into a false sense of security here [in southern New Hampshire] because it’s not the White Mountains.” 
Even so, Draghetti added, the entire trail has incredible views, and there’s something for every skill level.
“It’s a nice rural area, and we feel you have to be proactive,” said Draghetti. “If you have a valuable resource in your town that you cherish, you better work on protecting that. They don’t make land anymore.” 
Parking areas are available on Dow Road and Purgatory Road in Mont Vernon, up the road from Fitch’s Corner Farmstand (499 N. River Road, Milford) and on Purgatory Falls Road in Lyndeborough. Visit 
Windham Rail Trail
Nothing caps off a hike quite like some good eats. Within walking distance of the Windham Rail Trail is the appropriately named Windham Junction Country Gift Shop and Kitchen (128 N. Lowell Road, Windham), where visitors can find menu items like shepherd’s pie, classic Reubens and good ol’ fashioned burgers.
The sights of the season on the trail itself make for a noteworthy fall excursion on its own. Just over four miles of paved trail includes more natural trails branching off into the woods. Trees running alongside the main trail are especially vibrant in the fall months. The mixed amenities of the trail lead to blended uses, in terms of biking and hiking as well as age and skill level.
“No pun intended, but you’ll see folks from all walks of life on that trail,” said Mark Samsel, president of the Windham Rail Trail Alliance. “You’ll see four generations on the trail at any given time, and that’s why we do it.”
Parking is available at the restored Windham Depot on Depot Road. Built in 1849, the depot buildings were part of an expansion north of Boston by Manchester & Lawrence Railroad. The former Boston and Maine C16 caboose will sometimes visit the property to bring that history back to life.
The Rail Trail project holds its own place in local history. Starting in 2006, Samsel said, the Rail Trail Alliance used a combination of grants and donations to fund the nearly $1 million project. The last half-mile of pavement was finished in 2015, completing what Samsel described as a community effort. Of the funding the nonprofit used, 87 percent came from private donations.

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