Thursday, January 20, 2011

First Snowshoe Trek of 2011 - The Gonic Trails!

This weekend rolled around and I was absolutely determined to get out in the woods. It had been some time since Jill and I had set foot on a trail, and it was killing me. Right now, busy-work from our household "to-do" list and school is eating up all of my free time. Of course, these are things that are important and must be done. But sometimes you just need to take a few hours and do something to relieve stress. For us, that stress relieving activity is hiking around New Hampshire.

The beginning of Locke's Loop

Sunday certainly didn’t come without chores. I had to finish up some accounting homework and get some painting done in the nursery (chipping away slowly, but the trim is almost complete!!!). But we did find a few hours to take a ride up to The Gonic Trails to do some snowshoeing. I first heard about the Gonic Trails through a trip report from a fellow blogger, Jason, who is the author of Hike the Summits blog. Apparently, these trails are on land that is owned by Waste Management, Inc. It is located off a side road (Rochester Neck Road) of Rt. 125 in Gonic, NH.

Looking down the Isinglass River just above Locke Falls

The parking area is pretty large and we were pleasantly surprised to see quite a few cars there. It seemed many people were walking their dogs. The trails were covered with snow from the previous Wednesday’s nor’easter, but they looked as though they had been beaten down pretty well. Since it didn’t look like we were going to be breaking trail, we decided to start off with YakTrax for footwear. We did, however, decide to ruck our snowshoes in...just in case.

Picture of the Old Bridge Supports

After examining the map at the trailhead, we decided to venture to the right of the parking lot and head down Locke’s Loop, which was well marked with blue blazes. As we started down the path, it was clear to us that we were going to like this local hike. The forest had a mixture of both hardwood and softwood. It wasn’t choked with brush or fallen trees, but instead seemed wide open…even though we were in a mature forest. The sun was able to easily poke through the trees and made the wooded landscape really look beautiful.

The trail was pretty flat for the most part, but did gain and lose a small amount of elevation at times. It was wide enough for both of us to walk side-by-side rather than one in front of the other, which I think is always a bonus. Even after taking a few breaks (Jill gets tired easy these days since she’s carrying little Lylah), it didn’t seem as though it was long before we came to an intersection. Taking a left would continue on Locke’s Loop and bring us back to the trailhead. However, we decided to take a right, which was a small extension to the Luanne’s Lane Trail (blazed in Yellow). Once we made it to this trail, we hung a left and walked a short distance before making our way down to the banks of the Isinglass River.

Strange Ice Formations, From Locke Falls (Looked Like Upside Down Mushrooms or Jellyfish)

The Luanne’s Lane Trail meets up with the Isinglass River at an old bridge crossing. The banks are built up with stone which were obviously supports for the bridge at one time, but the bridge itself is not there anymore. I’m sure it was used during the horse and carriage days. At this point, we also saw a few small, round emblems nailed to trees along the river which indicated that we were trekking through Barrington Conservation Land.

The King Jellyfish!!!

As we made our way down the river, it was obvious that Locke Falls was very close by. The trail descended and we came to some decent size ledges to the left (we were at the bottom of the ledges, not the top). Features like this on the trail always reminds me of White Mountain hikes like Boulder Loop. As we passed the rock walls, we finally got a slightly restricted view of Locke Falls. Jill and I made our way down the banking and found a very nice, picturesque river scene. The waterfall was flowing hard on the right, and looking down river, all the exposed rocks in the river were still covered with snow. It was very nice.

Locke Falls Running Strong

Being down next to the river, we did notice a couple things that I figured I would mention. The river seemed to give off a strange, slightly-unpleasant odor. I’m not sure if this was because the upper portion of the river was under ice, or maybe it had something to do with how hard Locke Falls was pounding the river bottom. Also, at the bottom of the falls, the ice formation was like nothing I had seen before. Ice was forming in small, round shapes, that looked kind of like inverted mushroom tops or jellyfish. It’s hard to explain, but I did snap a few shots of it. I think maybe the foam created from the falls was freezing and causing this strange ice formation. There was actually a stump or a rock that had snow on top of it with an ice skirt all around. As the water moved in and out of the ice skirt, it change color from white to black and almost looked like it was moving. Jill called this the “giant jellyfish”…he must have been in charge of all the small ones! :)

We stayed on the banks for a while but then started to get cold. So, we headed back in the direction we came, making our way back up to the Locke’s Loop intersection where we had broken off. At this point, we started to pass quite a few groups heading out and had fun watching dogs (that actually had fun in the snow...our pugs HATE the snow) play and run around in the white powder.

Down river from Locke Falls

Once back on Locke’s Loop, I decided that I had had enough of the YakTrax for this trip and it was time to breakout my Tubbs snowshoes for the first time this season. The trails were wide enough that I could easily trek on unpacked trail through powder, while Jill continued on the packed areas with her YakTrax.

Strapping on my Tubbs

On this section of the Locke’s Loop, halfway back to the trailhead, it coincided with the Watson’s Way Trail (blazed in red). In the short time I had the snowhoes strapped on, I could feel the workout in my legs. I think the snowshoes definitely make you use muscles that you typically don’t use with a normal stride. It wasn’t long before we could see the cars parked at the trailhead, and the parking area had certainly filled up quite a bit.

What a great day of snowshoeing!!! Sure, I would have much rather been snowshoeing in the beautiful White Mountains, but sometimes, time just doesn't allow it. With our schedules so busy right now, this small outing in a Gonic forest was exactly what we needed. It was a short drive there, had a great forest landscape, rivers, waterfalls and some small bits of history (stonewalls, bridge supports, etc.). We will certainly be heading back there soon, most likely this winter and the upcoming spring!



  1. Great post and photos, looks like a nice location! We have yet to get out on our snowshoes this year, hoping to head up to the WMNF soon with our two greyhounds, maybe the trails around the Great Gulf Wilderness area.

    How do you come across potential showshoeing trips?

  2. Wonderful trail report. I would love to do some snowshoeing. I've never done that before. The ice formations are indeed strange, I've never seen that before either.

    I didn't realize you've picked out a name, Lylah sounds quite lovely. Of course she will have to have Peanut as a trail name though.

    We took Clover out this past weekend for some epic snow running. We've got the vid on the blog.

    Take Care,

  3. seems ironic that such beautiful land would be owned by Waste Management! Your strange ice looks like lily pads or puffed rice to me. Iv never seen anything like it...but I live in Texas. It's hard to get ice to form in our freezers!

  4. Hi Jen - Thanks for stopping by. You know, it's funny. Snowshoeing trips aren't something we plan like we do summer hiking trips. I think it is because you are at the mercy of mother nature to provide snow...maybe! We usually just go spontaneously. This means most of our snowshoeing expeditions are close by home in the seacoast region. Unless we're up vacationing in the Whites, then we bring them along and plan something a bit more extensive. Have fun in the Whites with the Greys!!!

    Hey Tim - I was just thinking, do you guys get enough accumulated snow down there for snowshoeing? It's obviously common here because our storms are dropping 12" at a time. I missed the video of clover, but will be checking it out shortly.

    Hey Steven - I know, I thought that was ironic as well! It was really a beautiful area. The trailhead kiosk mentioned that this was part of their "green" initiative. Talking about making ice formations...have you ever seen the you-tube video for making snow up on Mount Washington. So cold and windy up there, they can literally take water, boil it, take it outside, pour it out and it becomes snow instantaneously...very cool!

  5. What a trip! I'm jealous. And love that weird ice. Also the name "Isenglass". Sounds straight out of Tolkien.

    Thanks for sharing your trip Karl. Except I'm kinda bummin' now. I'll get over it.

  6. Hi Casey,

    Sorry it's taken me a few days to get back to you. It was a very nice locations, close by to the house too. Don't be jealous...I've seen some equally nice outdoorsy areas that you've written about...just grab the snowshoes and head out!

    Thanks for stopping by!


  7. Those aren't "ice formations" - those are my lost uncooked pancakes! You found them! Horray!

    great pictures!


  8. Owl Joe,

    How in the world did your pancakes get in New Hampshire!?!?!?!?


  9. Love the report and the photos! Makes me want to get the snowshoes on myself! A bit warm my way but hopefully in 6 months time...

  10. Magnífico reportaje y precioso el paisaje que nos mostráis. Gracias por compartirlo
    Un saludo.

  11. Aweeome ice formations! Never seen that before! I have to get over there for a snowshoe. Perhaps on Wednesday, but the William Champlin Jr. Forest across from SkyHaven airport is looking lonely and trackless....soooo, will have to give it some love too :)