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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Jerry Hill and the Marjory Swope Park in Concord, NH

Penacook Reservoir with Mount Chocorua, Mount Belknap and Gunstock Mountain in the background

I found another great, little hike in the Concord area the other day which brought me to the top of Jerry Hill on the western side of Concord, NH. Jerry Hill is approximately 712 feet at the summit and has some cool features ranging from an older lookout or fire tower site to nice mountain vistas. The easiest access to Jerry Hill is at the Marjory Swope Park trailhead. There’s also a map for this area on Concord’s facilities site and can be accessed here.

From the parking area, I headed left from the trailhead and found the trail split quickly into the “blue” loop. I took another left approaching the loop in a clockwise direction. The trail climbed gently and right away, I could tell the trail network was very well maintained and visibly blazed.

Wildlife encounters included two garter snakes and one small toad 

Some wildflower encounters

Near the southern point of the blue loop, I came to a trail junction where the yellow trail (on the right) ascended to the summit of Jerry Hill. At this point, I split away from the blue trail and hiked up the yellow trail. After a short time, I made it to another intersection and a trail sign. Continuing straight would bring me over the summit and going left (west onto the orange trail) would bring me by Gilfillan Rock and a “Mountain Vista”.

At this point, I decided to take a detour from my initial route to explore the Gilfillan Rock and the Mountain Vista. I found the Gilfillan Rock maybe a hundred feet down the orange trail on the right. It was basically a large, short ledge ran parallel to the trail. It is named after a carving “Gilfillan” which is carved in its side. It’s believed to represent a young boy who passed away in the 1890s since Jerry Hill was a favorite destination of the school kids back then. On the top of the rock, there are many other carvings of surnames as well, but none as prominent as “Gilfillan”. There’s a small memorial and explanation on a post in front of Gilfillan Rock.

Gilfillan Rock

The Gilfillan Rock Story

Just past Gilfillan Rock is a small clearing with a bench and a view finder image. There are nice views out to the west and Crotched Mountain is easily seen. Mount Monadnock is also easy to make out on a clear day but it was too hazy to find while I was there. After exploring for a bit, I backtracked the orange trail back to the yellow trail and continued on my planned loop.

Views to the west, Crotched Mountain to the left, Pat's Peak on the right

Back on the yellow trail, I passed what I considered to be the high point on the mountain and then quickly came to the old lookout tower location. All that’s left from the tower are the four foundation blocks that were near flush with the ground. It’s not known if it was ever used for a fire observation tower or not. It has been placed on the “official” excel spreadsheet as a “footnote” or a tower location that needs more info to determine if it should be officially added or not. The spreadsheet can be found here.

Lookout Tower Foundation Blocks. Note the yellow trail crosses right through it's location. 

Tower foundation block, not as tall as a a traditional fire tower foundation block.

After passing the tower location, the trail descended quickly and I came to a viewpoint to the northwest. The side of the hill had been cleared so that you could easily see Mount Kearsarge. After taking in the views for a few minutes, I continued down the yellow trail where it ended at the blue trail on the north point of the blue loop.

Mount Kearsarge to the northwest

Heading clockwise on the blue loop brought me to the best viewpoint of the day. It was a large clearing with a panoramic sized view that swept from the northwest to the northeast skyline. You could see the whole Penacook Reservoir with Chocorua, Belknap and Gunstock in the background. The blue trail then lead me back to my starting point at the Marjory Swope Park trailhead and parking area.

Penacook Reservoir with Mount Chocorua, Mount Belknap and Gunstock Mountain in the background

Mount Belknap (right) with Gunstock peaking over it's western shoulder

Left: from Concord's trail maps
Right: My Strava GPS

This lunchtime trek was roughly 1.5 miles in all. It provided a loop hike option (which I love loop hikes), multiple viewpoints and lots of historical features to explore. I was impressed by how well the trails were maintained and blazed which made it easy to move swiftly in the short time I had at lunch. I would highly recommend anyone in the area to check this park and trail system out!


Trail Signage

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Friday, May 5, 2017

Great Hill in Bow, NH

Last year, I spent a lot of time during my work week lunchtimes exploring the woods in the greater Manchester area. With my new job located in Concord, I plan on doing the same thing in this area. My very first lunchtime excursion landed me in southern Bow, NH exploring Great Hill!

Great Hill is bound within the Nottingcook Forest which is a town forest and considered conservation land within Bow, NH. From the trail map, which can be found here, it seems there are a few ways to get to the summit of Great Hill. I chose to use the Hamilton's Path Trailhead on north side of South Bow Road just east of the powerline crossings. This trailhead allowed for parallel parking on both sides of the road, had a very visible kiosk (with a map) and a trail sign.

Kiosk on South Bow Road

The Hamilton’s Path Trail meandered through the woods on a nice trail which was also clearly marked with yellow markers. They were very well maintained with roots and rock exposed. Some very short sections were a little wet with mud, but it easy to rock hop to get around them. The beginning was flat but did start to climb gently. At about 0.25 miles, an old woods road entered the trail from the right but there were arrows keeping you on the main trail north.

 Wildflower...couldn't identify???

Just past this intersection, there was a small clear with some boulders. It served as a really nice view point to the southwest where Mount Monadnock was clearly identifiable. Also, you could see a ski mountain just north of Monadnock which I believe to be Crotched Mountain.

View to the west, Mount Monadnock on the left and Crotched Mountain on the right. 

Zoomed in Mount Monadnock 

Zoomed in Crotched Mountain

After taking a short break at the viewpoint, I continued north on flat terrain through a crossing snowmobile trail. Soon after the snowmobile trail, the trail split and a sign pointed me to the left in the direction of the summit. This trail was called Walter’s Way and seemed to be a loop that went up the west side of the summit and most likely exited down the east side. I took this branch both ways. It was blazed with orange markers.

After climbing a short distance on Walter’s Way, I came to a large, clear cut summit area. It was a mess and was disheartening to see. I understand the need to harvest the forest but the condition that some logging companies leave these areas in are frustrating.

Clear cut summit with some seed trees still left. They left a mess!

After walking through the mess the skidders left behind, I came to a trail sign that read “NCF Great Hill Summit Elevation 879 Ft”. There were great views to the north all the way to the White Mountains. There was also a nice bench pointed in the direction of the mountains with a view finder on a pedestal. I could not find a benchmark of any kind.

Summit Marker Sign

 Wide view to the north. Many mountains are recognizable from the view finder at the summit.

Summit features

It was a bit hazy up there but I could make out Mount Washington with its white cap and Mount Lafayette. Some peaks that were easier to make out were closer ones such as Belknap Mountain and Mount Chocorua.

Mount Washington through the haze

Mount Chocorua through the haze

Belknap Mountain, a bit closer than the Whites

In the far, far distance, you can barely see Mount Lafayette's snow covered peak
poking up in the Franconia Notch

After enjoying the views for a bit, I continued on the Walter's Way Trail clockwise and came to a nice viewpoint to the northeast. Soon after the viewpoint, there was an intersection that looked like, based on the trail signage, would connect you to the rest of the Hancook Forest trail system. Soon after this intersection, the trail dropped me back on the Hamilton's Path Trail and I made my way back the way I came.



This was a great little hike and I think I’ll be back to explore a bit more since it’s so close to my office. It was about one mile round trip which makes it the perfect distance for a lunchtime excursion. I would highly recommend this hike for anyone in the Concord area looking for a quick trek as the rewarding views at the summit are plentiful!

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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).

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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.

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