A Trio of Possibilities for Summer Outdoor Adventures

Now that we are in full-blown summer mode and you want to experience some of New Hampshire’s finest natural, historical, and cultural resources, here are three recommendations: The Northern Rail Trail, the Bolles Trail, and Grafton Pond. Whether you like to bike, paddle or hike, each of these has something to offer that is unique and rewarding.

The Northern Rail Trail

I have ridden on several trails in the state, but my favorite is the 58-mile-long Northern Rail Trail. It starts in Boscawen and wends through the towns of Franklin, Andover, Danbury, Grafton, Canaan, and Enfield, ending in Lebanon. It uses the right-of-way of the former Boston and Maine Railroad’s Northern Line. Passenger service was discontinued in the 1965 and freight traffic ceased in the 1970s. The state purchased the right-a-way in 1996 and it’s now managed by the New Hampshire Bureau of Trails, along with community organizations and volunteers.

At one time, this heavily used rail line was a main transportation artery for people and goods traveling between Boston and Montreal, Canada.

The trail has much to offer — more than most rail trails — with beautiful scenery, a historic marker that describes a devastating train crash, eateries, inns, lakes, wetlands, village stores, a railroad history museum, abandoned factories and the famous “Hippy Hill” in Danbury. There are even original Boston and Maine Railroad granite post mileage markers that were artfully restored, giving riders the mileage to Concord (heading south) or to White River Junction (heading north).

I have biked the trail from Lebanon to Andover and found it to be well-maintained. You can ride the entire length of the trail in one day or break it up into sections. There are many access points along NH Route 4.

Recently, I teamed up with two of my biking buddies, Steve and Dave, for a section ride from Canaan to Andover. We started from the town park in Canaan, after hitting a small variety store for drink and food to take along for the ride. Then we leisurely rode south, stopping to observe a variety of songbirds and wildflowers in several wetlands along the route and adjacent to Tewksbury Pond. We found a Little Library along the trail and thumbed through several books.

Arriving in Danbury, we took time to eat lunch on Hippy Hill and pick up snacks at the Danbury General Store. The trail was being enjoyed by many families and camp groups. It was reassuring to see teens engaged with their families while trail-riding.

We finished our ride at Potter Place in Andover. We toured the beautifully restored 1874 Boston and Maine Railroad station, freight house and rail car that provide a history of railroading in the state. The properties are operated and staffed by the Andover Historical Society.

I suggest taking advantage of this wonderful recreational resource and get out for a ride, with family, friends or just solo. You will not be disappointed. For more details go to northernrailtrail.org.

Bolles Trail

Probably not many of you have heard of the Bolles Trail. It is a little-used trail located in a vale between Mount Chacorua and Paugus Mountain and connects Paugus Road (FR 68) with the Champney Falls Trail parking lot on the Kancamagus Highway. It follows an old logging road, probably used by early settlers to ferry goods between the early settlements of Passaconaway, Wonalancet and Tamworth. In 1892, Frank Bolles improved the route and called it “Lost Trail.” Later a large sawmill was built along the route, using the water from Paugus Brook to turn the enormous teeth of the saw wheel.

On a very hot and humid day (temperatures by noon reached 92 degrees), Reuben and I began our hike on the Bolles Trail, knowing we could find cool, clean water all along the well-shaded trail. We found plenty of parking at the trailhead on Paugus Road and began our walk along the forest road. The trail is also an ideal double-track mountain bike trail.

Within a quarter-mile, we crossed Paugus Brook and here Reuben took his first cooling dip in the water. It was the first of many plunges he took on this miserably hot day.

As we were meandering along, I noticed a large brown dome that looked like sawdust. This was the site of the former Paugus Sawmill. We walked into the woods and climbed over the large mound of sawdust and found a number artifacts: a rusted truck door, pipes, concrete abutments, tubing, slabs of rusted metal, and several small dams in the brook. Reuben and I were walking through the remains of a mill that in its heyday was a driving economic force in the area. Please take notice: The artifacts at the site cannot be removed or disturbed in any way, per the Antiquities Act of 1906.

After exploring the vestiges of the Paugus Mill, we returned to the trail, still following the Paugus Brook, crossing other small tributaries over sturdy snowmobile bridges. At about 2.5 miles, the trail entered into an old logging campsite where brambles cover the trail. Reuben and I halted and walked through the brushy area trying to find remnants of the logging camp that was here a hundred years ago, but to no avail.

The trail then began to climb steeply to the height-of-land. Reuben and I hiked to the height-of-land and then began our leisurely stroll back to the truck. On our return ramble, Reuben and I refreshed ourselves in the cold, clear water of the brooks and streams that border the trail.

The Bolles Trail is an ideal hike for anyone who desires a leisurely amble along a mountain stream on a hot, humid day, with the added bonus of exploring the site of an abandoned sawmill. This moderately difficult trail can also be ridden on a mountain bike and has the added bonus of utilizing several snowmobile bridges to cross the streams. For more information: AMC White Mountain Guide.

Grafton Pond

Located in an obscure corner of New Hampshire in the town of Grafton lies Grafton Pond. If you want to find a lake that isn’t crowded with power boats, water skiers, pontoon boats, jet skis and other water craft, then this is the place for you. Gas-powered boats are not allowed on the lake.

Grafton Pond is a nature-lover’s delight. The shoreline of the 300-plus-acre lake has not been developed. It has numerous bays and uninhabited islands that can be explored, offering opportunities for swimming, fishing, and observing wildlife.

On another hot and humid day, Dave, Dick, Fran, Karen, and I drove to Grafton Pond with kayaks and canoes strapped to our vehicles. We drove NH Route 4 to the town of Grafton where we turned left at the sign for the now-closed Ruggles Mine and headed into the hinterlands of Grafton. When we arrived at the state-owned parking lot and boat ramp, we quickly got our craft into the water. Within a few minutes, we were paddling around islands, exploring the shoreline, observing blue herons and several loon couples with fledglings, learning to dive and catch fish. The uninhabited shoreline is ideal for nesting water fowl and is protected by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (N.H. Forest Society).

I spent the entire day paddling along the shore, wishing I had brought my fishing rod. It looked to be prime bass fishing with plenty of rocks, fallen trees and stumps to cast around. Moose frequent the shoreline during the early-morning hours or at dusk. Blueberry bushes are prevalent along the shoreline and can be picked from your kayak or canoe.

Grafton Pond is the perfect lake for any number of related water activities: fishing, swimming, bird-watching, picnicking, or just enjoying the peace and serenity of an undeveloped, wilderness lake.

If you don’t want to take to the water, there is a short trail that begins near the parking lot and wends through the woods to a point on the shoreline. The pond is very busy on summer weekends, so be sure to get there early in the morning, as parking is limited. Carry out all your litter and respect the water and shoreline as if you owned it. For more information, go to forestsociety.org/property/grafton-pond-reservation.

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If you have questions or comments, contact Gordon at forestpd@metrocast.net.

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