CONCORD — Members of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests staff will lead "Peaks and Valleys" hikes to scenic Forest Society-owned destinations featuring sweeping views, from uncrowded mountain summits to forested hiking trails to riverside destinations.
The "Five Hikes in Five Weeks" series is designed for families and beginning hikers interested in reaching new places in different regions of New Hampshire. The hikes take a maximum of three hours and include breaks for interpretation, as well as ample stops for water and snacks.
Participants may choose a morning or afternoon hike, from 9 a.m. to noon or 1-4 p.m.
"The Forest Society started the Five Hikes in Five Weeks series several years ago to introduce some of our favorite places to those who may not be aware that we have 185 forest reservations around the state," said Jack Savage, vice-president of communications for the Forest Society. "The hikes have been so popular, this year we have added a second opportunity to go on any given hike, one in the morning and one in the afternoon."
Hike 1 will take place at the High Merrimack River Floodplain in Concord on Saturday, Sept. 14. On the quieter, east side of Concord lies the Merrimack River Outdoor Education and Conservation Area, which boasts walking trails along the sandy bluff of the wide Merrimack River. It is a mostly level hike that will explore a silver maple floodplain forest, open meadows along the Merrimack River, beautiful wetlands along Mill Brook, and even a "spooky" pine plantation. Participants may spot ducks or dragonflies along the waterways, or see hawks above as they travel. Long pants are suggested.
Hike 2: McCabe Forest Trails along Contoocook River, Antrim, on Thursday, Sept. 19, is a late-summer ramble along the Contoocook River at McCabe Forest. The beautiful 188-acre property is located just a quarter-mile north of the heart of Antrim village, and has old field habitat, former orchards, hemlock forests, vernal pools, and silver maple floodplain forest along the winding riverbanks. Cultural history is also evident in the stonewalls of former farms and remnant bricks from a brickyard at that location in the latter half of the 19th century. The group will explore the two miles of trails looking for heron and kingfisher along the cool and shady Contoocook, and late-summer wildflowers in the old pasture areas. Wear long pants and bring water and a snack to keep you energized during the easy hike.
Hike 3: Ashuelot River Headwaters Forest, Lempster, on Saturday, Oct. 5, is a moderate hike with one of the best views for the effort in the Connecticut River Valley of New Hampshire. The Ashuelot River Headwaters Forest's Silver Mountain Trail climbs though beautiful mixed woods and fall foliage to open ledges and the summit of Silver Mountain. Views are spectacular on a clear day, looking west to the Connecticut River and Vermont, east to Lovewell Mountain and north to Mount Sunapee. Be sure to wear layers and dress for the sometimes-chilly fall weather, and bring at least two liters water to stay hydrated as you climb. There is a steady uphill section, but it is not steep and the group will take plenty of breaks.
Hike 4: Morse Preserve, Alton, on Friday, Oct. 18, on Pine Mountain, on the Forest Society's Evelyn H. and Albert D. Morse Preserve, is a gentle climb to a loop trail over the open summit of Pine Mountain for breathtaking views of Lake Winnipesaukee during peak foliage season. Learn about the history of the Morse Family Blueberry Farm on Alton Mountain Road and visit the remains of the historic Avery Farm cellar. Be prepared for chilly fall temperatures and dress in layers, as the summit of Pine Mountain may be breezy. Bring water and a snack to keep you energized.
Hike 5: Powder Major's Forest, Madbury, Durham, and Lee, on Friday, Oct. 25, follows a woodland trail to the banks of the Oyster River and Dube Brook on Powder Major's Forest. The group will visit the "tri-town corner" where Durham, Madbury, and Lee come together, and the historic "Dishwater Mill" site on the Oyster River. Leaders will share the history of Chief Moharimet whose ancestral home and planting ground included rolling open land along Oyster River, and retell the story of the Powder Major, John DeMerritt, whose role in the American Revolutionary War earned him the nickname "Powder Major," the namesake of the Forest Society's newly acquired 193-acre Powder Major's Forest. Be sure to wear layers and dress for possible chilly fall weather, and bring water.
The cost is $8 for non-members; children under age 18 are free; and all current Forest Society members are free as well. To register for one or all hikes, visit https://forestsociety.org/five-hikes-five-weeks-autumn-2019-series.