Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Portsmouth Urban Forest Center and Fun in Downtown Portsmouth

The weather has been so beautiful lately that Jill, Lylah and I decided to make a day of being outside. We started off over at an area that I had never heard of before. It was the Portsmouth Urban Forest Center, which Jill had noticed while driving by recently. The sign conveniently mentions “TRAILS”, so it was obvious that we had to check it out. The parking area is just off from Route 1 and when we arrived, already had quite a few cars in it. Near the parking area, there were some great fields for dogs to play in (although it said they must be on their leashes, none of them were…however, all were behaving just fine). We put on our boots, assuming it would be muddy on this spring weather day, and stuffed Lylah in her new favorite mode of transportation, her Kelty child carrier backpack!

 Lylah, ready for her hike!

 Horse in penned area across the street.

View of field at the parking area

Before heading out, I took Lylah over to a horse that was penned in across from the parking area. She seemed to like it and the horse came right over. He looked bored since he was all alone.

The trail system was a little confusing to navigate using the map (click here for the online map) we found online, as neither the trails nor the map were marked with names!!! We decided to head down toward the salt marsh area, which we could see pretty well in the distance and hung a right and followed the marsh banks. Right away, we noticed that a lot of trees were marked with numbers. These numbers corresponded with a leaflet that could be picked up at the trailhead, which named the trees. Again, this was a bit confusing. There were some that I knew were wrong without question. At one tree, the leaflet said it was a type of pine, whereas it was clearly a maple tree :).

Chickadee, happy it's spring!

 Numbers at the base of trees, to align with legend at trailhead

NH-HD marker near trail. I'm not sure what the HD stands for. Highway Dept. purphaps?

The walk along the marsh area was very relaxing. The sounds of spring were in the air in the form of chickadee chirps and red winged black bird songs, both of which I was able to snap photos of. We saw lots of squirrels too, but they were too fast for me to shoot with the camera.

Old Cemetary

Red Winged Black Bird

Bird houses out in the marsh

Soon, to our right, we past an old cemetery which was fenced in with iron bars. These old cemeteries seem to pop up all over New Hampshire and really signify a lot of history. Typically, they are family plots which date back quite a ways. I was actually surprised to see this one so close to the salt marsh as I would think the water gets pretty high during the spring or when floods come around every few years. Who knows though…maybe since it’s a marsh, the water doesn’t significantly rise more than normal during floods.

 Squirrel nest I think

 Old stone walls in the woods

Duck at the end of one of the streams into the marsh

After the cemetery, the trail entered the woods. The trail was wide and easy on the feet, having rocks sticking out here and there, but nothing that you really needed to work to get over. There were a few runoff streams across the trail that I believe must have emptied into the salt marsh, and there were really nice foot bridges over them. After a bit of walking, it was nearing Lylah’s bottle time, so we figured we better head back. We looped around on one trail, which brought us back to the original trail. Again, the trails were not well marked or named, so it’s hard for me to understand how far we actually made it.

Foot bridges on the trail

Me in the baby, she's getting heavy for me at this point.

After leaving the parking lot, we decided to head down to downtown Portsmouth for some lunch. We hit up The Common Man restaurant as they welcome children and have fine food. Jill and I both got burgers (perfectly cooked I might add, well-done without being burnt) and Lylah munched on Cheerios. After that, we put her in the BOB stroller and headed down to Breaking New Grounds for some iced coffees. The square was filled with people soaking up the sun and blue skies. The motorcycles were all parked along the street and the guitar players were filling the air with music. I think people wearing flip-flops were certainly in the majority on this day.

The Common Man restaurant where we ate lunch

A New Hampshire cribbage board in Maine-ly New Hampshire

After grabbing our iced coffees, we went to one of my favorite stores, Maine-ly New Hampshire. Everything in the store is focused on product that is either about or from the states of Maine and New Hampshire. They have a wide selection of products such as books, games, wines, foods, stickers, etc.

The steeple in downtown Portsmouth

 A very busy downtown Portsmouth

The Memorial Bridge into Kittery, ME, currently being torn down

We finished off the day by sitting in Prescott Park along the harbor, where Lylah got out and had some fun in the grass. It was a fun day and the weather was awesome. We got in a hike and had a fun walk downtown. I plan on visiting the Portsmouth Urban Forest Center again soon since I have a better idea of the layout of the trails now. Hopefully, we can do so in the spring months as I’m sure the wildflowers are prominent near the marsh!



  1. Thanks for posting this Karl! Your very informative report provides added incentive for me and my wife to visit Portsmouth! I'm ashamed to admit that during the 8 years we've lived in NH, we've never visited this fine city!

    And lastly I must add that your photos are terrific!


    1. Hi John,

      Portsmouth is probably may favorite "city" in NH, although I'm not a city guy. It has the same quaint, port city feel as Newburyport but is a little bigger. It's definitely a happening place in nice weather. Also, there is no shortages of great restaurants in Portsmouth. If you do end up going down there, please let me know. I can recommend some places to check out!