On a busy President's Day weekend, I decided to do some "crowd avoidance" by staying away from the popular hiking trails. It seemed like a good opportunity to explore some alternative destinations by going for a ramble on a few of the public properties that have been established under the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust (ACT). Details about the mission of ACT, as well as several photos are contained at their website http://www.aconservationtrust.org/.
The properties I chose for this outing were: Herbert G. Whipple Conservation Area; Foss Forest; McCornack-Evelyn Forest, which are circled in red on the map below. These are all located in the Sugar Hill, NH area.
The Whipple Conservation Area:
My first stop of the day was at the Whipple Conservation Area. It consists of 20 acres that are located on Route 117 just up the hill from Polly’s Pancake Parlor. The general public is welcome to enjoy the land for walking, skiing, snowshoeing. The land was cleared about 200 years ago and much of it has been maintained as field ever since. The property also abuts a large beaver pond and marsh, much of which is part of the conservancy land.
Although the land hasn't been actively farmed for many years, it has been mowed to provide habitat for field nesting birds and other wildlife. Its native grasses also attracts an unusual variety of butterflies and moths. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the property, except for mowing and other maintenance.
Unfortunately, there is no designated parking area for this property. I happened to catch a member of the Whipple family at his lovely stone bungalow across the street and just a bit west of the entrance to the property. Permission was granted to park in his driveway. During the season when Polly's Pancake House is open, another parking option might be to ask permission to park in their lot. The signboard at the entrance to this property is located on the north side of Route 117, and is shown in the photo below.
I chose to use my XC skis to tour this property, but it could have just as easily been done on snowshoes. There are a lot of pastoral scenes such as shown in the photo below.
Considering the Sugar Hill location of this property, it's no surprise that there are several nice vistas of the Franconia Range. Yes, many of these vistas also include a house as part of the scene (as shown in the two photos below). However, the houses themselves are quite handsome. At least for me, they didn't detract from the overall viewing experience.
Besides the high peaks in the Franconia Range, there are also views toward the Presidential Range. The slightly zoomed photo below shows such a view.
While I was there, I took the full tour by including a very enjoyable ski down to the beaver pond. At this time of year, it had a somewhat limited appeal, but possibly in warm-weather months it has more robust beauty and charm. Below is a snapshot of the beaver pond.
Foss Forest (and McCornack-Evelyn Forest):
My next stop for the day was the 85-acre Foss Forest which lies in an area between Pearl Lake Road and Post Road in Sugar Hill, NH. This forested area has trails on old logging roads and other trails built by ACT volunteers and neighbors. Some of the trails lead into the MacCornack- Evelyn Forest and also onto the Bronson Hill Conservation Area. All told, ACT has over 300 acres of permanently conserved land in the Pearl Lake/Post Road vicinity for all to enjoy.
There are no signs to let you know when you've crossed from the Foss Forest to the MacCornack- Evelyn Forest. I think that some of the snapshots I took of the Franconia Range were from the MacCornack- Evelyn Forest, but I'm really not certain exactly which of the two forest properties I was on at the time.
For the Foss Forest, there is a small parking lot that is located on Pearl Lake Road about 0.5 mile from the intersection of Post Road. This lot was plowed on the day of my visit. There is what appears to possibly be another parking area to access this property from the end of Post Road, but from my explorations thus far, I think the parking situation on Pearl Lake Road is the better of the two options.
Just a short distance from the lot on Pearl Lake Road, you come to the sign shown in the photo below.
Carl Schaller of Littleton, N.H. is one of the North Country’s most beloved and tireless leaders in conservation and environmental issues. Among Carl’s numerous contributions are starting the Littleton Conservation Commission and launching the area's first Earth Day celebration. Carl is an Episcopal priest. He was rector of All Saints in Littleton for 27 years and has served other local congregations since his retirement from full time ministry. In January 2011, ACT honored Carl by naming a trail after him which he helped build.
The Carl Schaller Trail appears to be a multi-use trail for XC-skiing, and for hiking/snowshoeing. The XC parts are marked with green diamonds as shown in the photo below. And, judging from the well-laid snowshoe track (and lack of XC tracks) it appears that those portions of the trail for snowshoe use are marked with funky purple/pink streamers. I suspect that maybe this trail is still a work in-progress. Maybe there will be more permanent blazes in the future.
I skied for a bit on the portion of the trail marked with green diamonds, but skied back to my car once the terrain became too challenging for my current skill-level. Upon returning to the car, I strapped on my snowshoes and headed uphill following the well-trodden snowshoe track. I ventured off the track at one point near the height of land to follow an old snowshoe track that looked like it would lead to a view. My hunch was right! Unfortunately, it was late in the day and so the snapshots below probably don't do justice to the vista from the open field where I stood to take the photos.
Overall, I was pleased with my ramblings on the ACT properties. I'll be eager to explore some of their other properties, and equally eager to pay a visit to these properties in other seasons of the year.