Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Mine Hill in Auburn, NH - High Point and Historical Fire Tower Location

Another small, lunchtime hike I did last fall was Mine Hill in Auburn, NH. Mine Hill is one of three hills that take credit for being the highpoint of this town at 580ft. The other two locations are Mount Miner and Mount Misery. Along with being known as the town highpoint, it is also the site a NH historical fire tower which no longer resides there. The information for this tower can be found here. So, hitting this summit allows you to check off boxes for both the NH highpoint list and the NH historical fire tower site list.

Mine Hill as seen across Massabesic Lake from its northern
shores on NH Route 121 near the 28B rotary

Another interesting tidbit about this hill is that it’s also known as “Devil’s Den”, or at least an old well or cave on the side of the hill helped term the nickname. Apparently, many years ago a body was found in the well or cave and apparently now the location is considered haunted. From the research I’ve done, there’s not much left to this specific feature as it was filled in a number of years ago. This story didn’t interest me too much so I did not go in search of this site. There are a number of YouTube videos online which would help one navigate to the site if you so choose.

The trailhead starts at Fire Road 42 on the east side of NH Route 121 almost across from where Shore Drive enters on the west side of NH Route 121. For those of you not familiar with Auburn, the town has the most extensive maze of fire roads I have ever seen! I parked my truck on the west side of the road, directly across from the gate at FR42.

Gate at FR42

I started my lunchtime journey by walking around the gate and headed in about 0.25 miles to a small clearing with a fork. I took the right leg as that headed uphill. I wasn’t super clear on directions so I was really winging it.

At the next fork, I continued right again and soon came to a stonewall, which seemed to be a party location with some creepy chairs suspended on some trees. The trail seemed to have disappeared at this point. I figured this was not right, so I backtracked to the last fork and took the left. The trail started to climb more steeply so I figured I was going in the right direction.

Soon the trail forked again. Posted property signs lined the path going straight. Going right brought you up a steep hill and had an old, unmaintained set of log stairs. I headed up the steep incline and soon came to the top of the hill. I want to note that there is a house at the top next to the summit, very close to the fire tower location. The fire tower location is not posted, but hikers should act respectful due to the proximity of the house.

Old log stairs leading up to the summit.

As many former fire locations have, the four original cement foundation blocks are still up there with some old tower junk (cables, brackets, etc.). There are no real views from the top as the trees have all grown pretty high.

Fire tower foundation blocks on summit.

 Junk left over from the fire tower.

Restricted view from the summit.

I didn't hang out for long as the house that’s up there is so close that it almost makes you uncomfortable because it feels like you’re in their backyard. After some quick pictures, I headed back down the way I came and found my truck. Unfortunately, this hike isn’t well documented online and finding the summit is a bit tricky from FR42. There are quite a few forks. Just remember to take a right at fork 1, left at fork 2 and right again at fork 3. That should get you to the top.

GPS Track, you can see where I made a wrong turn (right instead of left) at the second fork.

This was a great hike to fit in for a lunchtime break. However, if I were to do it again, I would have recruited a hiking buddy. I'm not sure why but these woods were spooky and I never really felt at ease while making my way to the top. Then, once at the top, that uneasy feeling continued being in someone's backyard. Regardless, I was able to check off a historical former fire tower location as well as a NH town highpoint (or at least 1/3 of a highpoint since there are 3 in Auburn).


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bald Hill - Newmarket NH High Point

It’s been a long time since I’ve written in my blog. There’s a couple reasons for that. First, I just haven’t been too active. Less outside activity means less activity on my blog. Second, and maybe what has impacted this the most is I have a new job. A longer, rat-race commute, new challenges and needed focus in this area has kept me strapped to my office chair for a bit. That being said, the weather is warming up and I’m excited to get back outside for my lunchtime treks. A new location came with the new job, so that means lots of new areas to explore!

Before signing off this past November, there were a couple short reports that I did not have time to post. This is one of them. Last fall, I decided to check out Bald Hill in Newmarket, NH. This hill is considered the town’s highpoint at 281 feet in elevation with no published trail leading to the top. I also found absolutely no trip reports on it so I’m hoping this one might serve as a good reference to some.

Bald Hill as seen from Jacob's Well Road in
Epping, NH, near the Newmarket border

I started my trek at a cul-de-sac which is at the end of short, new road off from Bald Hill Road in Newmarket called Hayden Place. This new road is not on any of the street maps online, but is shown on Google Map’s (Earth Satellite View) as shown below. This short road does climb Bald Hill for about one tenth of a mile.

The maps with the GPS are from Strava, the right map is Google
Maps (Satellite View) with an arrow on the cul-de-sac.

Along with the new construction going on in this development, a set of stairs have been erected leading northwest up the banking from the cul-de-sac into the woods toward the summit of Bald Hill. Along with the stairs, there’s a new kiosk which was not populated. These two things combined leads me to believe that the intention is to start a trail network at this site.

As mentioned above, there is no current trail network on bald hill. It was easy to determine which direction was up so I bushwhacked my way northwest through open woods. The terrain did change from gentle to steep grades a few times. The hill finally plateaued onto a large, flat topped hill.

View from the top...a little restricted!

The summit was completely wooded with no views. I did find some old rubbish and some hunting blind structures. There was also an old stone wall that ran the northern parameter of the high spot on the hill. Near the stone wall, I found a yellow stake. This stake was oddly shaped and didn’t look like a property marker. I’m assuming it was the summit marker. I could be wrong on this assumption but it did seem as though it was the high spot.

Old hunting blind at the top 

Some trail junk 

Stonewall on the northern perimeter of the summit area 

What I think is the summit stake, but could very well be a property bound

From the summit, I worked my way down the hill back to my truck using the same approximate route I used going up. It was a quick round trip, maybe only 20 minutes but it was cool nonetheless. I got to visit another highpoint in New Hampshire and it was a small bushwhack which I’m beginning to enjoy.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Quimby Mountain - Hooksett's High Point!

I recently posted my report from my visit to Pulpit Rock in Bedford, NH to a hiking related Facebook page. I received some nice comments and after explaining that I'm targeting shorter hikes in the greater Manchester area, someone mentioned that I should check out Quimby Mountain in Hooksett, NH. After doing a little searching online, I found a great trip report for Quimby Mountain on HockeyPucks Hiking and Highpointing. It was very informative and helped seal my next hiking destination!

As previously mentioned, Quimby Mountain is located in Hooksett, NH, east of Interstate 93. It serves as Hooksett's high point at 902 feet. From the research I did, I learned that there was no published trails to the top and bushwhacking would most likely be required to get to the summit. I read that it had a bald, rocky summit and also sported a benchmark (score!). 

View of the Uncanoonucs with Joe English Hill just visible to the right of North Uncanoonuc

My buddy and coworker, Keith (former LFAHNH guest blogger), accompanied me on this hike to Hooksett's high point. We parked at a cul-de-sac at the end of Quimby Mountain Road. There are a couple new houses going in at this location and the view to the south is beautiful, just from where we parked. Whoever buys those houses will be very lucky. From the HockeyPucks Hiking and Highpointing's report, it seemed there was some private property that we were going to have to avoid, but we found no posted signs so we didn't worry too much about it.

We started out heading southwest down an gravel road which looked like it may become an extension of the housing development in the future. We tried to locate a good place to head into the woods (southeast) but the scrub was pretty thick. We didn't have much of a choice so we dove in and in a 30 feet or so, the woods opened up. We quickly started heading uphill and tried our best to find the path of least resistance. We soon came to a stonewall which was extremely wide, flat on the top and mostly covered with leaves and pine needles. This ancient stonewall acted as a good road to the top and we took it some of the way up. Soon, we were just below some small ledges which we were able to easily scramble to get to the summit.

Gravel road we bushwhacked from

At the top, the summit was bald as I had read. There were some great views spanning south to southwest. The trees up there seem to be slowly growing in, restricting the views from each side. There was a great view of North and South Uncanoonuc, with Joe English Hill popping up from the side. We could also make out either Pack Monadnock or Mount Monadnock in the distance (not sure which one). To the south, we could see the profile of a city in the distance. We think it was Boston but had no map to verify.

 I believe this is Mount Monadnock but could be Pack Monadnock

 Joe English Hill just barely popping over the north side of Uncanoonucs

What may (or may not) be the Boston skyline

Keith located the benchmark, which was hard to spot. It's right at the top and is accompanied by a drilled hole. The problem is, it's pretty small and made of an aluminum alloy so it blends into the rock easily. Being a soft metal, it's been pretty abused and looks like someone took a claw hammer to it. It's not legible.

Benchmark at Summit

 Some fall colors at the summit

 More fall colors with the Uncanoonucs in distance

Bald Summit

After soaking in the views and exploring the summit for a bit, we noticed a small herd path that led down the northeast slope of the mountain. The herd path turned into a legitimate, unmarked trail and followed the property line along a stonewall. The other side of the stonewall had been clear cut for what looked like a new house lot. The trail popped out right next to the car and we felt silly we bushwhacked up instead of taking the trail! To our defense, the beginning of this trail is pretty camouflaged with weeds...so I'll just say we went the hard way up on purpose...to create a loop of course!

GPS Track, about 0.5 mile loop only

This was a great little mountain top! I'm really surprised there's not more information for this destination on the old interweb. One great thing I can say about this hike is that it solidified my desire to work on the NH town high points. Not necessarily for the need to check peaks off a list, but instead to explore new places in the wilderness that may be less traveled. It also pushes me to be a bit more adventurous by doing a little more bushwhacking, which is still outside my comfort zone. I'm definitely looking forward to some more high pointing!


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Moore's Falls Conservation Area and Historical Canal

For one of my recent lunchtime exploration destinations, I decided to check out the Moore’s Falls Conservation Area in Litchfield, NH. Moore’s Falls is a length of rapids on the Merrimack River which drops 6 feet in elevation over 650 feet in distance.

Before I get into my report, it’s notable to mention that Moore’s Falls was the location of a canal that once operated there. It was one of many canals along the Merrimack, which were located from Concord, NH to Newburyport, MA. These canals helped allow boats to navigate the rough river during the years of the textile mills. Moore’s Falls specifically was a 2000 foot long tow path canal off the east bank of the river. It is believed to have had three lock gates measuring 10 feet by 82 feet to help raise and drop the ships past Moore’s Falls. At the end of this blog, I have supplied some links for your reading pleasure that provide more information about this canal and the history of the Merrimack River canal network.

This shot is from Google Earth. I labeled the Tow Path and my "assumed" Lock
Gate locations. The Lock Gate locations are mostly covered with earth and trees now.

The Moore’s Falls Conservation Area is located on the west side of NH Route 3A in Litchfield where powerlines cross the road. There’s a kiosk at the parking area with some limited information. Behind the kiosk the trail heads down into the woods parallel to the powerlines. The trail is pretty wide and is more like a woods road than a trail.


After about 0.25 miles, the trail comes to an intersection with an old trolley track. I couldn’t find much information on the history of this trolley line. However, for present day, it looks like it’s maintained pretty well as part of the trail network.

Trolley Bed

Artifacts found on Trolley Bed. Left - Cast iron culvert pipe draining into brook.
Upper Right - Some sort of brick or ceramic flange feature in the ground. Lower
Right - Pipes for water or electric half buried on side of Trolley Bed.

After crossing the trolley track, the trail became more of a hiking trail and traversed a brook that had a very high banking. As I worked my way closer to the river, the brook broadened and worked its way deeper into the ground until it did in fact dump into the Merrimack River.

The trail then headed south, down the banks of the Merrimack. Walking along such a huge river makes you feel pretty small. I finally found a place where I could climb down the 20-30 foot banking and checkout the river. I’m pretty sure I came out right where the middle lock gate of the canal once stood. The stonework of the canal walls was visible since the river was so low. It was pretty impressive to think of how this was constructive with primitive equipment.

Canal tow path walls still visible with low water

Some of the rocks that creates the rapids of Moore's Falls

 More Moore's Falls

Large boulder in the middle of the river is seen easily form arial shots (see Google Earth
Pic at beginning of post) which is about halfway down the canal

More canal tow path walls

What I believe to be the middle Lock Gate feature, with a tree
growing on it. Tow path bed is shown on the right, dry and free
of water. The seacoast is experiencing an incredible drought.

Another shot of the dry canal bed to the right.

After exploring the river and old canal features, I took a trail which headed east and met back up with the trolley bed. I headed north on the trolley bed and that dropped me back off where I had crossed the first it the first time. From there, I retraced my steps and finished back at the truck covering a total of about 1.5 miles.

GPS Track

This was a really cool location that I didn’t know existed. In the short one hour break for lunch, I was able to check out hiking trails, historic trolley beds, a canal that was instrumental to the textile industry in the 1800’s and some cool artifacts I found on the trolley bed. Definitely worth the hike! 

Links on Moore's Falls Canal and the Merrimack River Canal System 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Amesbury's Powder House

After our short hike up to Powow Hill the other day, Jill told me that she knew of a location in the area that would be of interest to me. She brought me down Madison Street (in Amesbury, MA) and we parked in a parking lot to an apartment building just north of Monroe Street. We walked for about 500 feet (south) down the road and came to a set of stairs, a sign and a plaque on a rock on the east side of Madison Street. She had brought me to Amesbury's Powder House which I was definitely interested in checking out.

Amesbury's Powder House how it currently looks. It's been fenced off to keep people away from it's delicate condition before renovation occurs.

The stairs lead you up a high embankment on the side of Madison Street and dump you onto a trail heading up Brown's Hill. The trail heads east the whole way (all 0.1 miles of it) and dumps you at the summit where the Powder House resides. From the summit, there's another connecting trail heading north which will bring you to the Amesbury Country Club or to the Christopher Merchant Conservation Area via a public access easement.

Stair Access from Madison Street

Plaque and Sign at Stairs

It's worth noting that the summit of Brown's Hill used to be bare and one could see the ocean from the top...it's now completely wooded. Brown's Hill is actually the 3rd highest hill in Amesbury (over 180') and Amesbury's Powder House is only one of seven remaining in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

There's not a whole lot of information out there on Amesbury's Powder House. From what I gathered on Amesbury's Trails website (here), it is believed to be constructed around 1810 for the purpose to store gun powder and munitions during the War of 1812. It is a round masonry structure (as many powder houses in New England are) that is brick with some type of mortar over it.

It's current condition is pretty poor as it's been riddled with graffiti and has holes through the walls. It's my understanding that there has been efforts in the past to restore and repair the Powder House. There's actually an active effort to do so again right now. I think it's great that the town is recognizing this historical building as something that should be preserved within the town for future generations to appreciate.

The current condition is poor

Map vs. GPS

If you're interested in learning more on the restoration effort, I would encourage you to visit their Facebook page here.

The map for the Powder House trails and the surrounding trail network can be found here. I must warn you though; it was not laid out with north at the top...which is a huge pet peeve of mine!


Monday, October 17, 2016

Powow Hill (or Po Hill) in Amesbury, MA

My daughter had the day off from school for Columbus Day so Jill and I took it off too. We decided to bring her to Newburport’s Fall Festival. It was a fun morning event and we followed it up with some local pizza from Anchor Pizzeria. After that, the afternoon was free so I suggested we head over to neighboring Amesbury, MA to hike Powow Hill.

I grew up in South Hampton, NH which is the neighboring town of Amesbury, MA. I actually went to high school in Amesbury so I’m pretty familiar with the area…but never really ventured up to Powow Hill or “Po” Hill as we called it back in the day. Powow hill is 331 feet above sea level and serves as Amesbury’s highpoint.

Powow Hill (towers visible) from the shore of Lake Gardner

Like many mountain and hill tops, this hill is rich in history. Its name is derived from the Native American tribe that used this hill’s summit as a ritual spot. I believe the Native American tribe was known as the Powow Indians, but this name would have been given to them by the European settlers of the time. The explanation in many history books was that these Native Americans congregated or “powwowed” on its summit. The best account of this is from an article entitled “Powow Hill, A Legend of Essex County” in New England Magazine, Vol. 2 which was published in 1832 and it reads:

“On the border of the Merrimac, some eight or ten miles from the ocean, there rises a steep eminence called Powow Hill. It is a landmark to the skippers of the coasting craft that sail up Newburyport harbor, and strikes the eye by its abrupt elevation and orbicular shape, the outline being as regular as if struck off by the sweep of a compass. It obtained the name from the Pagan ceremonial of the aborigines; for, in ancient times, ere our worthy and pious ancestors routed these heathen from the land, the hill in question was the grand high-place of Indian worship, and the nocturnal powwows held upon its summit were the terror and abomination of the whole neighborhood. While the savages lingered in these parts, they never failed, annually, to assemble on this consecrated mount and practice their mysterious orgies, greatly to the scandal and annoyance of all the Christian folk that dwelt roundabout – they having a pious horror of the practice of powwowing, denounced by Cotton Mather as damnable and demoniacal. Even when the last of the red men had disappeared from the country, the scene of their mystic incantations continued to be regarded with profound awe. A spirit of the Pagan mysteries dwelt about the spot; strange sights were seen; a marvelous legend was current – but let me not anticipate” [1]

Wow!!! Talk about dramatics and spooky stories. My guess is these legends and stories were heavily fabricated by settlers that wanted to justify the taking of the Native American land! I’m sure the Native American Tribe in Amesbury really gathered together up on Powow Hill to smoke peace pipes, party and talk about their glory days as worriers before the English started pushing them out!

More recently, Powow Hill was home to a small ski location which had slopes on its east side. I actually remember watching people ski down it when I was a kid. It closed when I was very young in 1993. I really couldn’t find a whole lot of information other than it was opened around 1949 and was known as Amesbury Ski Tow (which I recall from being a kid) until 1986 when the name changed to Atlantic Forest. The New England Lost Ski Area Project site has a page of limited information here. There’s also some more info and some older (unconfirmed) photos on the New England Ski History site here.

Amesbury has set up an Amesbury Trails website (click here) which has a great little map of Powow Hill and the surrounding trails. The PDF map can be downloaded here. We decided to ascend the hill from the west side starting from the Lake Gardner beach area. There is a parking lot (free) and a kiosk here which also had maps for hikers to take. Heading northeast, we walked down a paved sidewalk which quickly entered the forest on Lake Gardner’s southeast bank. The trail quickly went over too bridges to help avoid the flood plains. This first trail was called the Stagecoach Trail. At the first junction, we headed north on the Batchelder Trail and ascended this path the whole way. The trail system is marked very well with new signage.

Beach at Lake Gardner Parking Lot

Bridges on the Stagecoach Trail

The Batchelder Trail climbed moderately and was mostly comprised of roots and dirt. My 5 year old daughter had no problem skipping and running the whole way up. It soon started to level off and swung to the northwest before dumping you off on the summit, which was very nice.

The summit is actually designated as Batchelder Park and is a flat, grassy area which is perfect for a picnic. The grass continues down the eastern slope for a short distance with some benches looking out over the land. There is also a flag pole, an Amesbury specific benchmark, a kiosk with a view finding legend and some older concrete slabs (I assume artifacts from the ski area that once stood up there). There is also a set of radio towers but they are segregated from the nice park scenery.

Cool Town of Amesbury Benchmark...unfortunately the shadow was in the way

 Proof we were there!

Radio Towers

I also found online that there was reference to a USGS Benchmark on the summit, but no accounts of anyone finding it. Instead, those who have sought it out feel it was buried many years ago. I too fell short and was not able to find it. But the Amesbury Benchmark on the flagpole foundation was cool enough. More on this here!

The view to the east was really incredible. I’m shocked that I practically grew up in Amesbury and had never experienced it before. You could see the Seabrook Station (nuclear power plant), the Isles of Shoals, some local landmarks (like Cider Hill Farm) and Mount Agamenticus in Maine. I think that was extremely cool when put into perspective. You are standing in Massachusetts, literally looking all the way across the State of New Hampshire and viewing something in the non-bordering State of Maine.

View to the East

Left: Mount Agamenticus zoomed in 
Right-Top: Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant with Isles of Shoals in the distance 
Right-Bottom: Cider Hill Farm with Mount Agamenticus in the distance.

After taking a few photos and enjoying the views, we turned around and headed down the same trails we ascended on. Once back to the car, we packed up and headed to our next destination for the afternoon; Amesbury’s Powder House on Brown’s Hill. Hint…my next post will be about this

 Map vs. GPS Track

Signage from this Trek