This past weekend, Jill and I had a lot to do around the house, so we wanted to stick close to home. This of course, did not halt our desire to get out and absorb some fresh air. So, on Sunday morning, we got up early and headed over to Stratham Hill Park, which is only 20 minutes or so away from our house.
We've been to Stratham Hill a bunch of times. It's a small hill, climbing to an elevation of 292 feet and is surrounded by all types of trails. At the peak is an old, steel fire tower that gets you up another 53 feet. The fire tower has been standing since 1931, but has been inactive since 1973. The trails in the area range from small forest paths to wide, smooth roads that a truck could drive up. Recently, trail signs have been added to help hikers guide themselves.
Fungi, found on the Tuck Trail
At the foot of the hill, near the parking area, are many things. The one thing that catches my eye each time I go there is the veterans memorial which surrounds the flag pole and lists names of those who have served and given their lives. Also on the park grounds are baseball fields and a function hall building.
View of the fire tower as we approach the summit from the Lincoln Trail
View of Great Bay, with Blue Job Mountain behind, from the top of the fire tower
We started up the Tuck Trail which is located just behind the function hall. This trail climbs steadily for a short distance and soon meets up with the Lincoln Trail at a historical boulder. This boulder is the place where Robert Lincoln (Abraham Lincoln's son) read the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1860. There is a plaque on the large rock that indicates this.
Both the Tuck Trail and the Lincoln Trail were leaf covered and the trees seemed to be totally bare. It is a sure sign that winter is on its way and fall will soon be a thing of the past. As we neared the top of the Lincoln Trail, the fire tower came into view. The summit of Stratham Hill is a very well groomed, field area. The fire tower is very high, which you are constantly reminded of as you climb the stairs, because you can see through them on the way up. From the top, it is said that you can see well into the Whites, to the Presidentials, however I've never been able to. This was no exception as the visibility distance did not seem to be that far.
View from the tower, not sure which mountain!
White Birch on the eastern edge of the summit
After hanging out on top of the fire tower for a while, Jill and I made our way back down and over to one of my favorite features of the whole hill. It is a landmark table, which was designed and built in 1881 by Lester Lane. The top is round and has various landmarks called out in their respective direction from where you stand. It also gives the mileage from the top of the hill, to the landmark. Mountains such as Kearsarge, Mondanock, Pawtuckaway, Blue Job, etc. are all mentioned on the table. The one that jumps out the most to me, though, is Mount Washington, which it says is 88 miles away.
Landmark distance table at the summit
Mount Washington on the distance table
After locating the USGS bench marker and snapping a photo, we headed off to the east and down the Kitty Rock Trail for a few feet, before hanging a left onto the South Eagle Trail. The South Eagle Trail is a narrow hiking trail, which curves through the woods, descending and crossing many old stone walls. One can only imagine that this area was all fields one day and these stone walls indicated one farms boundary with another. Soon, Jill and noticed to the right that a swampy clearing was visible through the trees, which was Stratham Hill Pond.
USGS Bench Marker on Stratham Hill, in Stratham, NH
South Eagle Trail ended at what is known as the Old Tote Road. This road looked very much like the old carriage roads that run through my Dad's property. To the left were nicely mowed fields, separated from the Tote Road by more stone walls. Soon, we came to the remnants of what was once an old wagon. I found this surprising since I have been by this spot a bunch of times and never noticed this before. From here, Jill and I bushwhacked a few feet down to the banks for Stratham Hill Pond to find some wildlife, but instead, found another lonely wagon axle, rotting in the swampy water.
Stone walls were all over the woods...history at its best!
As we continued on the Old Tote Road, we came across some old barbed wire fencing that must have been left over from years ago. That was evident from the since the trees it was affixed to, had grown around the wire quite a bit. Again, being a history dork, I love this stuff.
Wagon axle and remnants on the side of the Old Tote Road
Wagon axle in the water by the banks of Stratham Hill Pond
Old barbed wire, half way in an old oak tree
Nearing the end of the Tote Road, we came to some open banks on Stratham Hill Pond where we finally found some wildlife. Some lazy ducks were swimming around the pond. I did my best to take some pictures but they unfortunately came out a bit fuzzy.
Duck in Stratham Hill Pond
Berries on the side of the Old Tote Road
View, looking down the Old Tote Road
From this point, Jill and I crossed a nice little wooden bridge, headed back up to the Kitty Rock Trail and worked our way back to the parking lot. For a day that was set aside to be jam packed with errands and chores, we certainly got in a great, early morning hike. We saw some nice views, got to see some wildlife and found some neat historical objects. All only 20 minutes away from our home!