By Eric Goldwarg, UVTA Board Member
In early February, my wife, Emily, and I drove from Lyme, NH, to Terra Alta, WV, to pick up the newest member of our family, an English setter puppy named Rode (pronounced ROW-dee, named after an Italian ski wax company and also short for Rodeo, since Emily is from a Wyoming ranch family and the pup bucked and spun like a Brahma bull). Our older dog, Birch, came from the same breeder about 10 years earlier, and is Rode’s great-uncle. Birch joined us on the road trip to reconnect with his long-lost Appalachian kinfolk, though he didn’t show any sign of recognition. We left West Virginia early on Sunday morning and arrived back in the Upper Valley late that night.
Like all puppies, Rode was a terror in the house. He peed on the hardwood floors, he pooped on the Oriental rug, he chewed antique furniture, he shredded paper in the recycling bin. He barked, he whined, he howled. Birch was not happy about sharing his home with a puppy, and in the early weeks, we had to keep them physically separated at all times; Birch only succeeded in drawing Rode’s blood twice. Emily and I were stressed and frustrated. Tears were shed (not Rode’s, as he could not have cared less about how we were feeling).
We hunt upland birds with Birch, and plan to hunt with Rode, too, so we started getting Rode out in the woods on his very first day. The snow was deep, so we stuck to well-packed trails at Pine Park in Hanover, Boston Lot in Lebanon, and around Huntley Meadow in Norwich. We quickly realized that taking the dogs out on the trails provided the respite we needed. Off leash, Birch and Rode ran around and got along beautifully. They tired themselves out. Rode came when called, could not destroy any of our property, and didn’t bother anyone with his barking.
I have always been an enthusiastic trail user (hence my position on the UVTA board), but I was becoming obsessed, often taking the dogs for off-leash trail walks three times a day. The more I walked Rode, the more I came to see the joy of raising a puppy, and the chaos in the house felt more like a minor nuisance than a cause for serious stress. In short, trails made everyone happier.
Emily and I are expecting our first child in June; Rode will be six months old when the human puppy arrives. We also just bought a new house, which backs directly onto a large Town of Hanover conservation property heavily laced with trails. We chose this house deliberately, knowing how important it is to have easy access to the outdoors.
This summer, yet another addition to our family will join us on the trails, and I have no doubt that each walk will reduce our collective stress and bring us closer as a family. We just hope the baby won’t have an appetite for gnawing antique furniture.
By Kelley Dole, Fitness Educator/Personal Trainer and UVTA Board Member
We are a month into a new year, again. What unites people today is a shared preoccupation
with aspirations for the upcoming year. Many of us want to shed and depart from
negative experiences the past year, and celebrate hopes for new, positive, progressive
experiences for the next 365 days, until anticipating yet another new year. Underlying
contemplation includes feelings of happiness, sadness, excitement, hope, and
enjoyment. We all want to enjoy life. We want to share enjoyment with loved ones,
make new friends amidst our journeys, and feel good.
Physical activity and recreation are widely recommended for positive health status,
which leads to feeling good. Obvious and redundant conversations around this topic
are obesity, heart disease, risk of stroke, high cholesterol, happy moods, and clear
Adherence to activity is a leading crux across ages five to 99. Resources for physical
education among children have been cut continuously over the past three decades.
Video games, passive hours spent in front of media screens, large and nutrient-deficient
food portions, are just a few of the obstacles children face as we try to promote activity
adherence. Forty-five percent of American adults engage in minimum recommended
levels of physical activity. The United States Department of Health and Human Services
suggests that adults should engage in at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic
physical activity per week. The number one variable that prevents adults from trying
fitness is Time. Common phrases around this topic include; “I just don’t have time.” “My
job does not allow me time to exercise.” “I don’t have a schedule that will allow me time
for exercise.” “My schedule does not work with gym hours.”
Personal attributes such as age, gender, income, education, psychological make-up,
biomedical status, attitudes and beliefs, all contribute to an individual’s participation in
physical activity. The most important personal attribute that predicts whether a person
will start and maintain regular exercise is Activity History. Positive exercise, sport, and
recreational experiences lead to later belief in the benefits of activity. There is a direct
correlation between a negative, childhood physical education experience and sedentary
lifestyle. This barrier is common, and in my opinion, surmountable.
Two critical things (among many others) in the fitness and medical fields that were
accomplished during 2013 are important to celebrate as we think about positive
resolutions and solutions. The first is that in June 2013 the American Medical
Association recognized obesity as a disease. Furthermore, the House of
Representatives and Senate introduced a bipartisan bill titled the Treat and Reduce
Obesity Act of 2013. Implications on this matter are brimming with support for increased
activity among children and adults.
Enjoyment has been shown to be the leading factor that keeps people coming back for
more. I truly believe that when people feel like their exercise routines are fun, they tend
to adhere long term, smile more often, perform activities of daily living with higher
energy levels, and eventually forget those old, negative, physical activity experiences.
Moreover, access to facilities, social support from family and friends, injury history,
family health history add to the list of variables that play a role in making regular activity
a lifestyle priority.
Moving on to positive solutions, I connect the Upper Valley Trails Alliance (UVTA) to
hopeful advances in public health and physical activity. Here in the Upper Valley, we
are fortunate to have close proximity-access to a myriad of outdoor trails throughout all
four seasons. This hardworking nonprofit organization has connected to area schools
by successfully creating a program called Passport to Winter Fun. The aim is to inspire
children and families to enjoy activity and time together outdoors. Additionally, UVTA
partnered with Lake Morey Resort and Hulbert Outdoor Center in Fairlee, VT to create a
four mile long ice skating trail. Throughout spring, summer and autumn, children and
adults have access to walking, hiking, dog-walking, running, school field trips, and
connecting with nature. Area bicycle paths connected to UVTA trails make commuting
without a car safer and more enjoyable. The list of UVTA 2013 accomplishments goes
on. One UVTA 2014 goal is to create a Winter Passport to Fun for adults as a means
to connecting people and promoting positive physical activity experiences.
Whether you want to enjoy more outdoor time with loved ones, create time for physical
activity, enhance an already existing fitness and health routine, conquer winter cabin
fever, or join in our stewardship for others efforts, the Upper Valley Trails Alliance is a
resource for positive New Year’s resolutions.
Living in the Upper Valley we have been given the gift of natural beauty – it is all around us, and one of the best ways to get outside and enjoy nature is by using a trail. We have an abundance of different trails to choose from. In the warmer months you can bike, walk, roller blade or run on one of the many multi-use trails including the Wilder Multi-Use Path a one mile long paved trail that connects the village of Wilder to the Dothan Brook School. Another multi-use trail system is located in the Hartford Town Forest. Here four miles of trails can be used for biking, walking, running, even horseback riding.
The winter months bring us outside to enjoy the crisp air and fresh snow on one of the many cross-country skiing or snowshoe trails located in the Upper Valley. The Chaffee Wildlife Sanctuary located in Lyme, NH or the Cross Rivendell Trail a 36-mile community trail from Orford, NH to Vershire, VT are perfect for a winter outing.
What many outdoor enthusiast don’t realize is the Upper Valley is home to one of the most unique trails in the country; the Lake Morey Skate Trail. This is a 4.5-mile ice skating trail around the perimeter of Lake Morey. As soon as the ice is thick enough to take four-wheelers, trucks and if possible a Zamboni onto the ice the Ice Crew at Lake Morey is out clearing, plowing, sweeping and flooding; everything possible to maintain the longest ice staking trail in the United States. The amount of time the Ice Crew spends on the trail varies from year to year, but Barry Larson who has been working on the Skate Trail for six years says that they average 20 hours per week.
Seasoned veterans or beginners of all ages can be found skating the trail especially on the weekends with over 200 people daily taking advantage of this Upper Valley gem. One highlight of winter skating is the Upper Valley Trails Alliance Skate-a-Thon. This is the ultimate skating party with hot chocolate, S’ mores, skate rentals and fantastic prizes. This year the Skate-a-thon will take place on Sunday, January 19.
Ice Skate Rentals:
November is my favorite month for getting out on the trails. I can just imagine the look on your face as you read that sentence. Really? November? Is that a typo? No, it’s no typo. November really is my favorite.
Late fall can easily be overlooked as a time to get outside on the trails. From June to August, it is warm and (hopefully) sunny. Swimming, boating, and hiking seem so easy, so natural. Then in September and October, the days become crisp. The fleeces, sweaters, and wool socks that felt so itchy last May suddenly feel warm and inviting. We bundle up a little, even though it isn’t really cold yet, grab our cameras, and head out to take fall foliage shots.
Once the leaves have fallen and the pumpkins have been carved, store windows start to fill with Christmas decorations and the radio and internet are full of reminders to get our lift tickets now before the prices go up. The problem, of course, is that snow may not fall for a couple of months. The big ski hills might start to make snow earlier, but it just isn’t quite the same, and the woods are still empty of powder. I used to spend much of November and December on the couch turning my head between The Weather Channel and the window—Is it going to snow? Is it snowing?
Then a couple of years ago I got a dog. A very active dog. She was not going to sit with me and wait for snow, so we headed outside, and I realized what I had been missing. Late fall is actually a great time—maybe even the best time of the year—to get out on the trails.
In November the landscape shifts, or at least peaks through. Sure, the fall leaves are beautiful, but they also block the views behind them. Once the trees are bare, the peak-a-boo views become panoramas. And once you have a better view, you also get a much better feel for where you are in relation to natural landmarks. You start navigating using topography instead of just maps. The bare trees allow more sunshine on your back, keeping you warm on chilly days. In late fall the trails are also in great condition. The leaves can be a little slick, but they make a wonderful crunching with each step and you don’t have to contend with the snow melt, thaw, and rain that muck up the trails in spring and early summer.
On a recent chilly day, my dog and I headed to Lyme to hike the section of the Appalachian Trail from the Dartmouth Skiway to Route 25A, just east of Orford, crossing Smarts Mountain and Mount Cube. For me, it was a little hard to get started with temperature hovering around 33 degrees, but once I got moving I immediately warmed up. It felt good to hike for hours without overheating or feeling dehydrated. And my dog was in heaven. In the summer months, she wants badly to play, but she melts quickly when the thermometer hits 80. In this weather, she comes alive, bounding through the woods (in her orange UVTA bandana of course).
I’ve done this same hike before in other months, but this time it was different. The views were more frequent. I could see the ridgeline I would climb next. On the way down Mount Cube, a section of trail usually lacking in views, I could see Mount Moosilauke rising up to the north. A whole new world had opened up. And the best part of all? A hot chocolate after the hike felt just right. You can’t say that in the summer!
Not sure where to go? Head to the UVTA Trail Finder to find your next late fall adventure.
Emily Wynes is an outdoor enthusiast from Lebanon, NH, who shares UVTA’s commitment to connecting people with trails. Emily is a co-founder of FarNorthEndurance.com, an online magazine devoted to trail running and other endurance adventures in the Northeast, and a volunteer with the UVTA. When she isn’t typing furiously on her computer, you can find Emily exploring the trails of the Upper Valley with her dog, Otter, and teaching yoga at Bikram Yoga Upper Valley.
Back in July, Jonathan Frishtick wrote about a couple of his favorite web sites, both oriented around mapping. This month, I’ll be furthering the conversation about how trails cross with technology by discussing trail oriented smart phone apps, which are practically like having a GPS unit on steroids.
The Upper Valley’s complex stitch-work of paths, wood-roads, and trails provides a huge number of opportunities for outdoors enthusiasts to explore their communities. Trail users enjoy these travelways for many reasons – for healthy exercise, athletics, outdoor education, the healing qualities and solace that nature brings, commuting to school or work, visiting shops and various neighborhoods, and to benefit from social attributes afforded by conversing with neighbors and friends. There are a great many reasons to be out on trails.
The Upper Valley trail network is located on an intertwined mix of private, not-for-profit, town, state and federal landownership. There are a few key steps that you should consider to ensure the network of Upper Valley trails remain intact.
- Stay on trails approved for public access. If unsure, confirm permission with a private landowner
- Know what trail uses are allowed on a particular trail and respect landowners’ preferences
- Volunteer for your local trail organization to help maintain trails or improve the trail network
- Keep your local trail advocacy organizations strong by becoming a member and contribute ($) to their valuable work
While you may come across many trails on your travels, not all of them are available for public use. Some landowners’ trails are truly public and available to area residents and visitors alike while others are considered more localized connectors between particular neighborhoods, yet others are access paths for a particular landowners’ use (farm field access, logging road, private hiking path, link to their friend’s house, etc). Knowing which trails you are welcome on will result in continued positive trail experiences for you and users sharing the trail, minimize trail maintenance needs, and reduce the potential for unwanted activities on a private landowner’s property (sometimes resulting in a trail closure). If you are unsure if a particular trail is open to you or for a particular use, it is always best to speak to the landowner.
The Upper Valley Trails Alliance contacted many landowners and trail managers as we worked over the past five years to develop Trail Finder. This on-line trail database has helped many trail users locate trails that are available for public use in the Upper Valley. FYI: The City of Lebanon, Towns, and the Upper Valley Land Trust have some additional public trail information on their websites. We continue to work with trail managers to add to the Trail Finder resource.
Currently some websites that provide trail maps have not necessarily checked to see if a trail is publicly accessible. If a trail user chooses to explore a trail, collect the “path” data with GPS technology, and toss it into a website without confirming with landowners that they are comfortable with public use of their trails, we may start to see more No Trespassing signs cropping up. UVTA is hopeful that we can all do our part to maintain friendly relationships with area “trail” landowners by respecting their property, abiding by trail use decisions, and pitching in to care for these community assets.
Note: If you need help finding out if a particular trail is available for you to explore, start by checking the Trail Finder map, contacting your local Conservation Commission, or speaking directly to a landowner (Towns have property ownership information on file that will help you with landowner contact). If you plan to create or care for a trail, please be sure that the landowner and trail manager is informed of your interests and condones your efforts.
Windsor isn’t the first place one tends to think of when discussing trails in the Upper Valley. But in and near are two of the nicer trail systems in the area, Paradise Park and Mt. Ascutney State Park.
Paradise Park, in the center of town, isn’t really so much a place to hike as it is a place for a long, pleasant walk. You can take a saunter around Lake Runnemede, or a longer walk through the woods, or combine a woods walk with a walk through town. The park is a fun place to explore, and most trails are either loops, or pop out on a road somewhere in town. It’s the perfect place to bring children and dogs.
My favorite walk, almost always accompanied by my faithful Corgi, begins on Route 5 just north of the downtown. Simply pull over to the right shoulder when you see the sign for Back Forty on your left. There are normally a number of cars parked here. The North Dike and Main Dike Trails begin on the left a short walk down the unpaved Eddie’s Place.
Once on the trail, I usually turn to the left and follow it around the field to the gazebo by the lake. Lake Runnemede, also known as Everts Pond, is roughly horseshoe shaped. The trail follows the inside of the horseshoe. This area is popular with bird watchers. You can also see deer, beaver, muskrat and a variety of amphibians. If you happen to be in the field at the right time on a summer evening, you’re likely spot a few of Vermont’s now sadly rare Little Brown Bats making a feast of the mosquito population.
Once back to the North Dike trail, I turn left down a short incline and across the dike. This is a short, but unique section of trail that skirts the shallow end of the lake on one side and giant cattails on the other.
At the end of dike, the Windsor Town Forest begins and here I turn left once again and follow the woods road. In the past, I’ve turned after a short distance to follow the trail along the lake shore. However, with this summer’s heavy rains this trail has been boggy at best and occasionally impassable. So I stick to the road which leads up hill and ends in a large picnic area with an open-front shelter. From the shelter, I turn left yet again, although there are other trails which begin here and head back into the woods.
At the edge of the picnic area, my route takes me down a steep trail to a small, gated road. Turning right this time, I follow the road up hill and through a neighborhood of older homes to State St. Turning left here, I follow State St. to left on Main St. and a walk through the center of Windsor back to my car. This is truly a place that creates and connects a community through the use of trails.
For the years when my kids were growing up, we thought of Ascutney as our “home mountain.” It was our first hike of the spring and one of our last of the fall.
Ascutney is an ancient volcano. A big chunk of rock worn down by the receding glacier; it stands alone beside the Connecticut River. A look at Google Maps satellite view clearly shows the outline of a crater. At about 3,100 feet, it’s by no definition a giant. Nevertheless, the trails are steep and challenging, the views are excellent, if marred in one direction by an antenna farm, and the mountain is rich in history.
On my last trip, with my daughter just a few weeks ago, we traveled up the Brownsville Trail and returned via the Windsor Trail. Neither of these are the most popular Ascutney hikes. The Weathersfield Trail, at the end of High Meadow Road off Route 131, with its cascades and lookouts wins that contest. The Futures Trail, which begins in the campground at Mount Ascutney State Park, is also very well-traveled. Although a very nice hike, it comes in close proximity to the toll road.
From the center of Windsor, simply follow Route 5 (Main St.) to the lights at Union St. and turn right. Union St. becomes Route 44. Stay on 44 (Ascutney St.) out of town for a few miles to the junction with Route 44A (Back Mountain Rd.) From here, you can turn left on 44A and the parking area for the Windsor Trail is a hundred yards or so to on the right or you can continue on 44 a little less than a mile to the Brownsville Trailhead on the left.
The Brownsville trail begins with a steep climb to an old narrow gauge railway, or “steam donkey” grade. A short time on this easy climb brings you to the remains of the Norcross Quarry and a very nice overlook. From here, the real climb begins.
Leaving the quarry site, the trail takes you nearly straight up a steep, wooded ridge. About three-quarters of a mile from Norcross is Knee Lookout, with a nice, but limited view. From here, the Brownsville trail continues its steep ascent to its junction with the Windsor Trail. I should note that both the Brownsville and the Windsor are blazed white, which can be a little confusing when arriving at this intersection.
Once on the Windsor Trail, the uphill march continues via one of two routes, the short, steep older route, or the longer, but somewhat easier newer. My daughter and I choose the longer route, both to spare my battered knees, and to enjoy the view from the Hang Glider’s overlook. This route brings the hiker over the west peak and from there to the viewing platform—the remnants of an old fire tower—on the South Peak. The views from the top are as good as any in the region.
The trip down begins by doubling back to the junction of the Brownsville and Windsor Trails. Once there, we continued down the only slightly less steep Windsor Trail, past a short side trail to a log shelter. There is a section of the Windsor Trail, below Blood Rock, that transverses a large granite sheet that usually has water running over it. Although there is a heavy rope strung between trees to use as a hand hold, this area is slippery and can be dangerous. I fell here several years ago while hiking alone, resulting in the aforementioned battering of one of those knees. On this latest trip, this section was as wet—and as treacherous–as I’ve ever seen it at any time of year. An example of how the increase in rain is affecting the land. One can only speculate what several season of this may result in.
Our final stop on the way down was Gerry’s falls. This is a favorite, though now unusually buggy, spot to sit and enjoy the sound of the river. Again it’s running hard for this time of year, so be cautious. The falls are not high, and there are a number of places to take off your boots and soak your feet in the ice cold river.
From the falls, it’s a moderately steep and very straight mile to the trail head on Route 44A. Taking a left out of the parking area, it’s about a mile of road walk to complete the loop back to the Brownsville parking area.
Moving at a slow to moderate pace (knees again) and stopping to enjoy the views and the falls, the loop takes us between four and five hours, sometimes a little longer. It makes for a great day.
I hope to see you out there sometime, with mud on our boots.
Windsor Resident and UVTA Board Member
Details information about these and other trails can be found at www.uvtrails.org. Click on the Trail Finder link.