DuBois — BRATTS and the man behind it all

Since I have been hiking in the Belknap Mountains with friends and family for several years, I became interested in learning more about the trail system and had several questions I needed to answer: Who built he trails, how are they maintained, how did the rock steps get placed, who cleans out the water bars? About 3 years ago I was invited by a close friend and hiking partner, Steve Zimmer, to attend the annual meeting of BRATTS (Belknap Range Trail Tenders). I asked him, "What's BRATTS?" Steve responded, "Let's go and find out."

I attended the gathering of about fifty people at the Gilford Library, all of them there to support the work of BRATTS. At the head table sat Hal Graham, a stocky man who spoke with passion about the trail system and the need for volunteers to build and maintain trails in the Belknap Range. After hearing of their work and the need for trail maintainers I quickly volunteered to sign on as a "trail tender". But I needed to know about this group called BRATTS, as well as Hal, who led the meeting and was known and respected by so many people in the room.

What I have found out over my brief three years with BRATTS is this: BRATTS was formed in 1993, by a small group of volunteers led by Hal Graham whose mission is to construct and maintain the trail system in the Belknap Range Mountains. The organization relies totally on volunteers to do the trail work so that individuals, groups and families can enjoy hiking in this beautiful small mountain range. BRATTS is symbolic of the famous quote by Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." This is the ideal grass roots, community based organization that relies on a small and committed group of people to achieve its mission without a single penny from taxpayers. It interfaces with many other organizations who have ownership of much of the land in the range, such the Daniel Webster Boy Scout Council, the State of New Hampshire, private land owners and Belknap County. Volunteers of all ages, background, gender and skills work together to ensure trails are well maintained. All trail work is done by Best Management Practices under the supervision of The N.H. Division of Forest and Lands and The Gunstock Area. At present there are 21 trails in the range and all of them have trail adopters, whose job is to maintain these trails for public use.

Now to answer my second question, who is this guy Hal Graham? Over the past 3 years this is what I have found out: Hal is a former SEABEE with the U.S. Navy, married to Peggy, who is also active in BRATTS, and they live in Sanbornton. Hal started his training in trail work in 1979 with the Appalachian Mountain Club as the founder of the NH/AMC Chapter Trail Crew. For four years he worked on the AMC trail system in the White Mountains and worked on a variety of trail reconstructions, like the Bridal Path that climbs Mt. Lafayette. I now understand why Hal loves to work on heavy duty trail construction. For many years his trail work with the AMC provided him with the foundation of his work with BRATTS today.

In 1987 Hal, along with a few others formed Trailwrights, www.trailwrights.org, a committed group of hiking enthusiasts who work in Massachusetts, Vermont and of course New Hampshire rebuilding trails and building new ones. It is a unique group in that it is an educational and trail maintenance organization collaborating with other groups such as the Wonalancet Outdoor Club, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, NH Audubon and many others, including state agencies.

In addition to his love of trail building, Hal along with his wife Peggy are avid and experienced hikers, having been trip leaders for the AMC, hiking throughout the US and climbing the highest summits in most of the continental U.S. In addition Hal mans the Belknap Fire Tower during the summer months. He has stated several times over the course of the last two years that he would like to step down from the President's position of BRATTS, but remain on the Trail Crew (those doing the heavy trail work). Hal is BRATTS and typifies the spirit and soul of the organization. I think he'll be with us a long time and if you see him or any other the trail maintainers doing their work, please give them a huge smile and a few words of appreciation for the work they do in keeping the trails safe and fun to hike.

If you're interested in becoming a member of BRATTS or learning more about the organization go to www.facebook.com/BelknapRangeTrailTenders
BRATTS will also be holding a trail maintenance workshop on Saturday, July 18. If interested you can call 286-3506.

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Jim Hightower - Why a New Jersey puffer fish shouldn't be president

When Mitt Romney's campaign was investigating potential choices to be his 2012 running mate, they gave each prospect a fish-themed code name, such as Lake Fish, Filet-O-Fish, etc. Their name for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a tireless self-promoter known for his bloated ego, was Puffer Fish.

The Romneyites determined that the prima donna governor was wholly unqualified to be America's vice president, but the rejection didn't deflate Christie's puffed-up self-esteem one dot, and he has continued to brag, bluster and bully his way into national politics. Having convinced at least himself that he's the can-do, big-idea, forceful leader America needs, the Jersey guv is now offering to be our president and has become No. 14 on the Republican presidential dance card! How exciting is that?

Before accepting, however, you might check with one group of voters who are less than enchanted: the people of New Jersey. With a moribund economy, a state budget mess, a growing pension crisis, the state infrastructure crumbling and his own office caught in a web of scandals, Christie is not faring well with the homefolk, earning a sorry 30 percent approval rating, with most voters saying they dislike "everything about him."

Nationwide, only Donnie Trump is rated lower than Christie by Republican primary voters. But he has found one friend — Maine Gov. Paul LePage has enthusiastically endorsed him! Problem is, LePage is even more insufferable and insolent than Christie, so arrogant and autocratic that he's even alienated fellow Republicans in Maine and is now threatened with impeachment.

Still, if anything, the Puffer Fish's ego is puffier than ever. Asked on Fox News why 65 percent of New Jersey voters say he'd make a poor president and shouldn't run, the vainglorious governor actually said: "They want me to stay. Don't leave to run for president, because we want you to stay."
It's one thing for a politician to say that, but — far scarier — Christie is so out of touch with reality that he actually believes it!

The Big Man from New Jersey entered the race with all the chutzpah and hullaballoo that marked his five and a half years as governor of the Garden State, promising to be a truth-telling leader: "There is one thing you will know for sure," he roared in his announcement speech. "I say what I mean and mean what I say."

Swell, Chris... but when your campaign slogan is "Telling It Like It Is," it would help if you were not infamous in your home state as a stunningly audacious, inveterate liar. Even the editor of Jersey's largest newspaper felt a journalistic duty to warn America about Christie. "Don't believe a word the man says," the editor wrote, pointing not to a few fibs and fabrications, but a lengthy "catalog" of "over-the-top, hair-raising type of lies," including these gems:

— Having assured public employees that their pensions were "sacred" to him, Christie then made cutting their pensions the centerpiece of his first term in office.

— This June, he bragged on national TV that a court had approved those pension cuts — but the court actually ruled them unconstitutional.

— At a recent South Carolina gun rights meeting, Christie crowed that "no new (gun laws) have been made since I've been governor," when in fact he has enacted three gun-control measures.

— After he and his family racked up a $30,000 hotel bill during a luxurious weekend getaway at a Jordanian resort, paid for by the King of Jordan, Christie claimed the junket was not a violation of the state gift ban, for he and the king were personal friends — but he'd only met the king once at a political dinner.

Beware of Christie the compulsive liar. As the newspaper editor bluntly put it: "He's a creep."

(Jim Hightower has been called American's most popular populist. The radio commentator and former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture is author of seven books, including "There's Nothing In the Middle of Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos" and his new work, "Swim Against the Current: Even Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow".)

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DuBois — A Long Day’s Journey in the Belknap Range: The Belknap Range Traverse

On a beautiful summer day Reuben, my dog, and I met four close friends to hike the Belknap Range Traverse. This hike would take us from Mt. Major to Mt. Rowe, a thirteen mile trek across the entire Belknap Range. The day was a welcome relief from the rain that we experienced the past few days and I was fortunate to have good friends along for the day. This was truly a day to appreciate the mountains that are a gift to us, living in the Lakes Region.
The Belknap Range traverse (BRT) is a challenging all day hike that is not recommended for the beginner hiker or families with small children. It crosses the summits of eight mountains: Major, Straightback, Anna, Mack, Clem, Belknap, Gunstock and Rowe. The entire length of the trail is marked with BRT signage as well as blazes. Be sure to watch for the BRT signs and stay on the trail as there are several other trails that join the BRT. Many hikers have taken one of these trails and ended up miles from their intended route. The Alton Fire Dept. and NH Fish and Game can readily attest to this fact, as they have made numerous rescues each year of lost hikers. It's essential that you have a map of the Belknap Range. Maps can be purchased from many local libraries or downloaded at belknaprangetrails.org/belknap-range-trail-map/. It's also important to have a compass and know how to use it in conjunction with the map. The hiker should also have at least two liters of water, plenty of food and snacks, proper footwear, and appropriate clothing for the 13 mile hike. It's also necessary to have a car parked at the end of the traverse or have someone pick you up and drive you back to your car from where you started.
We all met at the Gunstock parking lot, left a car there and drove to the start of our hike at the Mt. Major parking lot. The BRT starts from the right side of the parking lot and is marked with blue blazes.
At 1.4 miles we reached the ledges and several spectacular viewing points looking east to Lake Winnipesaukee and the Ossipee Mountains, soon after we stood on the Mt. Major summit and found the foundation of a cabin that once stood there. From this point we found the BRT signage and blue blazes. There are several trail intersections that can lead you off in another direction, so be sure to follow the blue blazes/BRT signs. At 2.7 miles we arrived at the summit of Straightback Mt. Here we found open rock ledges that offer stunning views to the west. After a short snack break we descended from Straightback, continuing to follow blue blazes. The trail is well marked and winds through a beautiful mix of hardwoods. At 3.6 miles the Precipice Trail diverges left, and soon after we found the summit of Mt. Anna. There are no views from the summit, but a short spur or goat path leads to an old pasture that provides views to the south and west. We continued on the trail dropping down off Anna and climbing to Mt. Mack at 5.2 miles.
After having lunch on Mt. Mack we followed the trail along the ridge to Mt. Clem, following red diamond markers. The ridge offers impressive views to the east. We then dropped down to Round Pond, a beautiful mountain pond occupied by a thriving beaver colony. We followed green blazes and at 8.2 miles we arrived at the junction with of the Boulder Trail (blue blazes). We made our way up a steep incline through an extensive rock slide and boulder field and at 8.5 miles the trail merges with the E. Gilford Trail (yellow blazes). Within a half mile we ate our lunch at the summit of Belknap Mountain, beneath the iconic fire tower. All along the way were fields of blueberries just starting to ripen. We had the pleasure of munching on a few berries and within a couple weeks the fields will be filled with ripe, succulent berries.
After a snack break we continued on to Gunstock. At the summit is located a rest room and the trail continues just to the left of this building. From this point the trail begins its final leg to Mt. Rowe along a newly constructed trail following the west side of Gunstock and arriving at Mt. Rowe and the cell phone tower at 12 miles. The BRT follows a service road down to the ski area and the parking lot where our cars were waiting for us.
Our traverse covered 13 miles (Mt. Major to Gunstock parking lots) and took us 9 hours at a leisurely pace. At the cars we said our farewells and looked forward to our next adventure in the mountains of the Lakes Region. I would hope some of you will take the challenge and hike the traverse. It's an experience that you'll long remember.

Gordon DuBois
Gordon has hiked extensively in Northern New England and the Adirondacks of New York State. In 2011 he completed the Appalachian Trail (2,285 miles) hiking north from North Adams, MA to Mt Katahdin, ME in 2007 and in 2011 hiking south from MA to Springer Mt. Georgia, GA. He has also hiked the Long Trail in VT, The International AT in Quebec, Canada and the John Muir Trail in CA. Gordon has summited the New Hampshire Hundred Highest peaks, and the New England Hundred Highest, 98 of these in winter. He spends many days hiking locally and in the White Mountains with his dog Reuben. He especially enjoys hiking in the Lakes Region due to the proximity to his home in New Hampton. He is also a trail maintainer for the BRATTS (Belknap Range Trail Tenders) and can be found often exploring the many hiking trails in the area with his dog Reuben.

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Sanborn — What's in a name?

So, here's the deal. I think every house should have a name. Houses always used to have names because, well, because they didn't have street addresses way back once upon a time. If I said I was going down to 1 Lodge Street you might mistakenly think that I was going down to the Fraternal Order of Elks, but in fact, I would be going to the fabulous Biltmore Estate in Asheville, N.C. which most likely has a few stuffed elks in the humongous game room. Nobody ever refers to this place as 1 Lodge Street.

I like houses with names and I suspect that the owners who actually name their homes must really love them a lot. And a house loved is usually a house that shows well. House names can be descriptive of the place, the style or architecture, the size, and even the owner's personality. And, in real estate, having a name adds a little cache and style to the listing. I've had some homes on the market that had interesting names like Stonybrook Farm, The Farley Garrison House, Temperance Tavern, and Windsong to name a few. These names tell you something or give you a feeling about the property before you even see it.

One of the earliest terms used in house names was "hall." Early halls were homes with just one room where everyone slept, ate, and just tried to survive. Often these were called mead halls. Eventually, rooms were partitioned off to give the lord of the house some privacy and the entry way and corridor retained the name "hall." There was apt to be a large room with a fireplace called the "great hall." That has evolved in to the "great room" of today. Now we think of halls as meeting places, town offices, concert venues, pool rooms, or college dorms down at UNH. Toad Hall is a great name for a house...if you like toads, I guess.

You can tell a lot about the house by the name. Words like "manor, mansion, or estate" when affixed to a name like "Rothschild" will set your expectations pretty high. The words "house" and "place" give you the feeling that either something great happened there or the property has some history attached to it. The term "lodge" can be taken as a sprawling lake house or a tiny shack in the woods. "Camp" could also be taken either way. You can have a camp up in Pittsfield which could be a far cry from one of the Great Camps in the Adirondacks.

In the Lakes Region there are some places that everyone knows by the name and not the address. Castle in the Clouds and Kona Mansion in Moultonborough, Moulton Farms in Meredith, The Lamprey House or Coe House in Center Harbor, and the Benjamin Rowe House in Gilford. But there's not many houses with names until you get down by the lakes.

It seems like lots of lake front property owners are often so excited and happy about being on the water that they just have to call the place something! I wish everyone was like that. These owners love their houses enough to name them. And if their property is for sale that feeling can perhaps impress and stay with the buyers that are looking at it, too. I'd rather market and show the Blue Heron Lodge, Eagle's Nest, Bayside Delight, Quiet Water Camp, Sandy Haven, Sunset Cove Retreat, or Long View Lodge instead of a bland 13 Point Drive or 103 Maple Street any day.

But what about names like Windswept, Mountain View Lodge, or Ridgeline Retreat for those places up on the hill? If you have some acreage you could go with Sunny Slope Farm, Wild Acres Retreat, or Willowgrass Acres (just don't use "Green.") If you have a great place, give it a great name! Get creative and go get a sign made and put it by your entry. It's cheap money and can make an impact and separate you from all those other houses that don't have a caring, loving owner like yourself.

So start thinking and using words like bungalow, cabin, camp, cottage, house, lodge, farm, acres, retreat, haven, respite, refuge, haven, delight, rest, cove, lakeside, shores, or view. Woodsy terms like pine, oak, cedar, and mossy will work nicely. Animal names like moose, bear, dear, chipmunk, and squirrel always work. Who wouldn't wanna live at a place called Chipmunk Lodge or Moose Tracks Retreat? But please, avoid using terms like shanty, hut, or shack. Those won't help.

On July 1, there were 1,284 single family homes available in the twelve Lakes Region communities covered by this report. The median price point stood at $275,668 meaning that half of those homes were listed under that price point. There were 364 homes available under $200,000. That's a lot of affordable inventory! There's a lot to choose from and interest rates are still low so it is a great time to go look for your new home. You can name it "Nu Beginnings Lodge."

P​ease feel free to visit www.lakesregionhome.com to learn more about the Lakes Region real estate market and comment on this article and others.

​Data compiled using the NNEREN MLS system as of 7/1/15. ​
Roy Sanborn is a sales associate at Four Seasons Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 603-677-7012.

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Sen. Jeanie Forrester - Governor needs to share spending numbers, soon

The governor's claims that the FY16/17 budget she vetoed is unbalanced and dishonest continue to be unfounded, misleading, and hurtful to the people of New Hampshire. As the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, I stand by our proposal as a solid foundation that is good for New Hampshire, spending $600 million more than the FY14/15 budget.

Within days of the House and Senate passing the $11.35 billion state budget, Governor Hassan irrationally acted on her veto promise. Many, on both sides of the aisle, are scratching their heads about what she hoped to achieve by taking this action. Many recall that when John Lynch was governor, he simply allowed the 2012/13 budget to go into law without his signature. He fully understood the turmoil that would descend on state agencies and our citizens with a veto. His priorities were well-placed when he allowed the budget to pass into law without his signature.

The House and Senate, in anticipation of Governor Hassan's veto, prepared a six-month continuing resolution (using FY15 appropriations) that would prevent a government shutdown. It was a bit of a puzzle when the Democrats introduced their own continuing resolution to fund government at FY16 levels, when they too had joined the chorus of claims that our budget was irresponsible and unbalanced.

Last week the Senate Finance Committee met in public with the non-partisan Legislative Budget Assistant (LBA) to review the governor's accusations that the budget was unbalanced, dishonest and made promises it couldn't keep. One by one, those claims were refuted.

In addition, the public learned that the Department of Health and Human Services had requested additional funding for Medicaid caseload spending. The governor denied that request and neglected to account for it in her budget. If the governor had acceded to the department's request, she would have been out of balance at the close of Fiscal Year 15. It was clearly disingenuous of the governor to then ask the Senate to address a problem she was aware of months before but didn't address.

I appreciate that the governor is willing to work together and I look forward to having some productive conversations. Since revenues are ahead of plan by $42.5 million, we can only assume that if there is a problem (which the governor clearly believes there is), it has to be on the spending side of the equation.

For us, what will be extremely helpful in finding a path forward will be for the governor to provide us with the spending numbers now — and not make us wait until the end of September. If the governor does have a problem, we want to be able to help solve that problem as soon as possible. The citizens of New Hampshire expect no less than for us to come together and solve this problem as soon as possible.

This budget does so much good: it funds the mental health settlement and the 10 beds at the N.H. Hospital and the staff; it fully funds developmental disabilities and the wait list; it restores cuts made by Governor Hassan to the home health agencies (like Visiting Nurses and Granite State Independent Living) and provides the first rate increase since 2006; it increases spending on drug and alcohol prevention, treatment, and recovery by 75 percent more than the last budget; and it restores ServiceLink, Meals on Wheels, the DHHS district offices, and Emergency Shelters.

This budget restores the retiree health insurance premium contribution to 12.5 percent; it spends more than the governor's budget on roads and bridges, restores the DMV stations and state troopers. This budget starts to seriously rebuild the Rainy Day Fund, from $9.3 million to more than $21 million over the biennium. It also offers a modest cut to business taxes which will help our small businesses grow.

This budget sends money back to our cities and towns through state aid grants, flood control, rooms and meals distribution, and increased education adequacy payments.

This budget does all that and more without the $129 million in taxes and fees as proposed by the governor. We found a way to build this budget without adding any unnecessary financial burden on our hardworking citizens.

The governor's unsubstantiated claims (much like the claims she made during our last budget) and her subsequent veto directly impacts our communities, state agencies, and important programs. As we wait for the governor to provide the information on spending, critical new mental health programs don't get funded, increased spending on drug & alcohol programs doesn't happen, cities and towns are held hostage and left wondering about the tax rate-setting process, and much more.

I urge the governor to work with the legislature and share the information we need to move forward.

(A Meredith Republican, Jeanie Forrester represents District 2 in the New Hampshire Senate. She is chair of Senate Finance Committee.)


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