New England did one of its 70 degrees to single digit drops this week and left about three inches of snow. I chose a flat hike on what I knew was sandy soil hoping that the melting snow would simply sink into the sand instead of creating mud (I was correct). The Jim Hill River Walk (click for map) (click here for text accompanying map) or Lehtinen Park Trail as the map is labeled is a popular place in the summer due to Daisy Beach, a sandy point on a sharp bent in the Contoocook river seen below.
I walked taking a left turn at the “shortcut” sign soon after the bridge, past Daisy beach, and up the river until the the second trail comes in on the right labeled “Runnell’s Road”
(You come up to the back of the sign) and followed the Runnell’s road trail back to the starting point. The total distance was 2.3 miles and an hour of walking time.
The top picture is of Partridge Berry and the bottom picture is Checkerberry. They both get red berries but if you break off the leaf of a Checkerberry and crush it in your fingers you will smell wintergreen. The Checkerberrys are edible, feeling waxy, and the leaves can be brewed to make a weak wintergreen tea. Partridge berry plants have a distinct yellowish stripe up the center of the leaves and to not smell of wintergreen when crushed.
They often grow side by side as seen above.
The opposite side of the river once you turn north from Daisy beach is Mast Yard State Forest, a favorite place for mountain biking if flat and easy riding is your style (like me.) This means there are no houses on the far bank of the river as you head north. The Contoocook river here is a good place to canoe and canoes can be rented at Contoocook River Canoe Company about a mile downriver from the river walk.
Another park that I would rate as one of Concord’s jewels is Winant Park (click link for map) (click here for text accompanying map) off of Fisk Road. It was a beautiful warm day (3-30-2016) and after a day of intense winds the trails were dry. The trail from the parking lot is boulder covered and again I use and recommend walking sticks. After 0.4 miles I took a left onto the Rivington Winant trail because it is a longer but less steep way to the top of what was a ski tow area for St. Paul’s School. A couple of hundred yards up the trail I saw this flower on the side of a culvert cut. It is a Coltsfoot flower and is native to Europe. They were brought to America as a medicinal plant, and are now considered invasive by Maine and Massachusetts.
The top of the hill, at about 0.8 miles from the parking lot, is capped with an old growth Oak that measures 22 feet in circumference at 4.5 feet from the ground. Be sure to find the overlook that looks down on the State Capital gold dome. Governor John Winant, for whom the park is named, has a fascinating history. I continued over the hill and followed the trail to the water tower going past a pool of noisy frogs. From the water tower I took the access road down the hill taking a right at the “Y” in the road.
Just before the road ends you will see the rock and trail pictured above. There is no trail marking, but this is where you take a right to head back to the marked trails.
You will know you are on the correct path if it is more boulders than dirt. There are several large boulders covered with lichen, which I thought was a plant but I discovered is actually its own entire ecosystem. When you get to the logging road take another right. The entire loop back to the parking lot is about 2.5 miles with 250 feet of vertical rise and takes about one hour.
Concord has many hiking trails, but one of its crown jewels is Marjory Swope Park (click link for map). Today was overcast and in the mid fifty degrees (Fahrenheit) so it was a perfect day for the year’s first hike. The snow was totally gone and the trails were not muddy. I went left out of the trail entrance to take the gradual way up Jerry Hill. I went to the western junction that goes up to Gilfillan Rock and the west side overlook. At the top of the mountain I saw the only insects of the day, one or two Mourning Cloak Butterflies. Notice the outer edge of the wings are the same color as the leaf! It seems they winter over and do not migrate. I went down the north side of the hill and back via the loop trail, about 1.9 miles total and an hour of walking if you don’t stop. There is a rise of about three hundred feet. The trails are new, so there are many small stumps, and there is still some leaf covering on the trails so you might not see them until you stumble over them. I use walking sticks and recommend them.
This rock outcrop is at the junction of the loop trail and the over the top trail on the north side of Jerry Hill. What is different is that it is Metamorphic Sedimentary rock, formed of layers of compressed material. Much of Concord is Igneous rock. or granite like Gilfillan rock at the summit of Jerry hill.
Long Pond viewed from the north side viewing area.