It’s not that common to have a sunny, 40+ degree, January day in New Hampshire, so on New Year’s Day, we decided to take advantage of the good weather and go for a hike. I found out later that ‘First Day Hike’ is an actual event held by state parks across the US to encourage park use throughout the year, which explained why the parking lot at the park was filled when we arrived.
Mr. C is becoming quite the outdoor adventurer so he was excited to go. He grabbed his school backpack and filled it up with his portable microscope, binoculars, compass, whistle, a spool of 25 feet of nylon rope, pen and notebook, calculator, screwdriver, his favorite toy car, an apple and a bottle of water. It seems as though his school is a bit over cautious on the playground. Running is not allowed, along with a number of other things that could be interpreted as being either too dangerous or too much fun and could lead to an overexcited class of First graders. So as a result, he looks forward to anything that could lead to some excitement outside.
We arrived at the park at about 3:30. It was surprisingly sunny and warm for a January day. We’ve only had one small snow storm so far, so there was just an inch or two of snow on the ground.
‘Which trail should we take ?’ Ms. J asked.
‘Hmmm.. let’s take a look at the map’ I said. We’ve been to this park several times, but there are still many trails that we’ve never tried out, so I thought we might want to check out a new trail. After all, it was so warm and sunny, might as well take advantage of the day before the weather was scheduled to turn much colder later in the week.
Checking out the map, it looked like the best route to take would be ‘Rocky Ridge Trail’. This is a loop trail, about three miles long, that would lead us around a pond, through the forest, up a hill, and back to the pond and out to the parking lot.
The pond supports at least one beaver lodge, which you might be able to spot in the middle distance of the photo above. The stumps to the right in the photo are the result of the beavers taking some of the trees for their lodge.
‘knock – knock – knock – knock knock!!!’ Mr. C hears a woodpecker. He takes out his pen and notebook and writes ‘woodpecker’ on a blank page. We saw the woodpecker, but I couldn’t get a good photo of it. It’s hidden in the trees to the right in the above photo.
We soon walked through the relatively flat forested area and came to the ‘Rocky Ridge’ portion of the trail as noted on the map. There were a number of other people on the trail, so we asked a family that approached from the opposite direction how hard the trail was. ‘Not bad at all!’ the Mother hiking with the toddler who seemed to be about a year or so younger than Mr. C told us. Reassured by a fellow parent, off we went up the ‘Rocky Ridge’.
Here’s a shot from the trail. It’s common to come across an old stone wall in the forests of New Hampshire. How anyone could farm in some of these rocky areas of New Hampshire in the colonial era is amazing. Any large rock the farmer’s plow came across ended up on the walls.
Mr. C made several stops to check out interesting items, either with his microscope, or with his binoculars. I also made several stops to take photos.
It soon became apparent why the trail was called ‘Rocky Ridge’ as the elevation quickly climbed and the rocks and boulders on the trail became more numerous. The trail leads to the left, between the huge boulder and the trees. Up, up, up we went.
We arrived at 3:30, which would be a fine time to hike in the Summer. However this is January and it was already starting to get dark as we approached 4:00. And up and up we went, as the sun started to go down. It dawned on me that even though the parking lot was packed, all the other hikers we came across were coming from the opposite direction and were on their way to completing their hike as we noticed that the trail was now empty of other hikers
As the trail wound around the hill I quickly checked the trail map again. There really should have been a few more contour lines on the map to show how steep it was. It looked like it would be a gentle slope, not a trip through the primeval forest into the mountains. Further and further away from the parking lot we went, and the temperature started to go down quickly.
Mr. C bounded over the boulders and tree roots like a mountain goat, while I slid around them on my bottom. What’s that I hear ? The back pocket of my pants ripped off on a tree root and now I was starting to get soaked from the snow. ‘Yippee, this is awesome’ Mr. C said as I was thinking that we might end up needing that 25 feet of rope at some point as I climbed over the rocks.
‘Ok, let’s not take out the microscope now, we have to get back to the car’ I said as it started to get dark at 4:20pm.
Finally, at about 5:00pm, here we are back at the beaver pond, it’s much darker and colder than when we started.
‘Yeah, let’s do that again’ Mr. C said
Next ‘First Day Hike’ we will start at Noon rather than at 3:30pm.