Sharing Winter Trails

This post first appeared on The New Hampshire Rail Trail Coalition’s website. Photo and text by Ellen Kolb.

New Hampshire’s multi-use rail trails don’t take a season off. Winter is a time for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Some rail trails are snowmobile trails as well, and this is a time to thank the snowmobile clubs whose members help maintain the trails for everyone’s benefit. 

Rockingham Recreational Trail in Auburn New Hampshire, snow-covered, with trail sign
Rockingham Recreational Trail, Auburn NH

After a generous snowfall, it’s tempting to grab snowshoes and head to the nearest trailhead. Once you get there, if you’re using one of the rail trails open to snowmobiles, you’re likely to see a sign telling you which local club handles trail grooming. Keep an eye out for the grooming machines that create a path of compacted snow along the trail – and wave to the driver!

Keep in mind a little bit of trail etiquette. Snowmobilers will stick to the rail trails marked for their use, and will be mindful of non-motorized skiers and hikers. Where cross-country ski tracks are present, snowshoers and hikers will walk next to rather than on top of them. Slower traffic always stays to the right. 

With courtesy and good humor, everyone can enjoy wintertime shared use of the rail trails. Look for one near you, and enjoy the snow.

For more about New Hampshire trails, visit Ellen’s Granite State Walker blog.

Destinations, Found and Missed

Madame Sherri Castle, Chesterfield NH

I really thought I could nail down that Forest Society patch for visiting 33 Society properties throughout New Hampshire. I’ve fallen short. Dalton and Sandwich did me in, which is to say I haven’t been able to manage a trip to Dana Forest or Eagle Cliff. I’ll settle for earning the patch via tier 2 status, AKA the easy way, which involves concentrating on one specific region and answering a few questions about the properties there. I shall send the Forest Society my entry in a New Year’s Day email.

Madame Sherri Castle, Chesterfield NH
A delightful sight in Madame Sherri Forest, a Forest Society property in Chesterfield, New Hampshire.

Don’t think for a minute that my time on the patch project has been wasted. I loved every  property I visited. Every mile driven was worth the time and effort. Sometimes, I’d go a few miles off-route on a business day just to find one of the reservations or forests on the project list. (Tip: always keep walking shoes in the car.) One gorgeous fall day, I spent hours on the Route 16 corridor plus-or-minus a few miles, discovering four Forest Society properties including High Watch Reserve. I wanted to stay up there on Green Mountain until the last leaf dropped.

Seeking inspiration for your hikes this coming year? Check out the Forest Society’s list. Make a list of state parks you want to visit. Do a web search of conservation commissions in the towns near you; you’ll find a treasury of local trail maps and descriptions.

Just get out there.

(Originally posted at Granite State Walker.)