|Wachusett Meadow - December 29, 2001
Activity by Ken Leonard
Barbie, Skipper, and Ken went on the lamb and flocked over to the
Wachusett Meadow Audubon Sanctuary in Princeton, Ma-aa-aa-aa-sachusetts.
We were fleeced $3 apiece (the fee for this Mass Audubon Society area),
and I grabbed a map to ruminate about our route for the day. I
chewed on that for a while, but during that time Skipper caught her hand
on a splinter on a fence. No problem - it only grazed her.
Being my usual mutton head self, I got the traditional
There were only three of us, and I wish more of ewe were out with us
for such a nice December day.
|Oh, wait. You thought the sheep were named Barbie,
Skipper, and Ken? Sorry, didn't mean to pull the wool over your
(Jan G. (center) could've been either Midge or Skipper to hang
out with Barbie and Ken for the day, but she chose Skipper.)
Wachusett Meadow is a little tough to find, but it's not far from Rte
31/62 in Princeton, MA. There are 11 miles of trails, and we wound
up doing about 5 or so in a figure-8 loop. The day started out
cloudless and cold, but it was nice in the sun. Clouds rolled in
later on, and things cooled off a bit, but it wasn't a bad day for a hike
Our first loop took us from the Visitors' Center to the Crocker Maple
which is a huge old maple tree. Another interesting thing to take a
peek at is the Glacial Boulder, a bit further on down the trail.
From there it was to the top of Brown Hill.
Off to the north is Mt. Wachusett (top part of the picture). It was
interesting to note that the wind farm was up and running, as a few of the
turbines were spinning in the wind. In the bottom part of the photo
you can see the view to the south. If you hang around at the summit
of the hill in the warmer weather, you'll see bunnies and hummingbirds.
There's a nice bench to sit at under those birch trees.
"Otter ond" (well, that's what the sign said!) was next on our
loop. Those who visited Otter Pond previously will remember a
somewhat badly constructed trail to get to it, then a small dam.
This trail has been rerouted, and you now take a nice trail to the north
side of the pond where there's a bench and a big beaver lodge. And -
wouldn't ya know it - a beaver!
Barbie in front of a bittersweet bush
We returned back to the Visitors' Center to begin the
second loop of our journey, and it brought us through some old pastures
and alongside an old flooded forest (top part of picture).
We made it back out to the big barn near the parking lot and stopped
for a moment at the Wildlife Pond (bottom part of picture).
Wachusett Meadow is a conservation area with a variety of
habitats that teem with life all year 'round but especially in the warmer
weather. The hiking is very easy, and it's easy to put together an
enjoyable 4-5 miler for a lazy afternoon stroll.
Milkweed, one pod still with seeds
Note: Wachusett Meadow restricts the activities
in the area to foot traffic for the most part. No dogs, no X-C
|Heald Tract Walk - December 23, 2001
Activity & Pictures by Ken Leonard
Trip report by Shadow
Most of you know me as Shadow, the big
black dog who chums with Pam F. on all these hikes. My
real name cannot be pronounced by humans. Yep, that's me
in the picture with Pam.
I was on the hike with that
Webmaster guy and Pam on Sunday. Some "Heald Tract" thing
in Wilton, New Hampshire.
Ahhh, the woods. The sights,
the sounds, the smells. And more smells. The deer,
the occasional prickly porcupine or possum, the mice, the birds,
my cousins the coyotes. No, we rarely see any of them, and
my human friends have little clue as to what has passed by any
particular point. But I know who has been there.
This makes any hike a very exciting time for me!
Boy, those humans were lucky someone
local happened by at the start of the hike and offered to go get a
map for them. They couldn't even find the trailhead without
the map! I wouldn't have been lost, of course, but I can't
help it if those humans are dragging me around and are always making
me go the wrong way. We'd've been lost for sure without those
maps. The guy with the maps explained that the Heald Tract
joined up with a few other conservation areas, and all the trails
interconnected. I don't know what that means, but it sounded
good to me.
It started out very sunny, but that's
sometimes annoying because it's too hot on my black fur! The
sky did get a little hazy later on. It wasn't very cold, there
were next to no breezes, and there was a little snow on the ground.
The snow was crunchy---I like crunchy snow! It tickles my
Pam forced me to wear that silly pack.
She makes me carry my own water and food. Fun. So I just
spend most of the day trying to lose the pack...heh heh!
Anyway, we took off down the trail (once those two finally found the
trailhead, thanks to the map guy) and on to our five mile mostly
There are a number of ponds in the Heald
Tract. I'm a Black Lab, and, of course, swimming is my game!
Think Pam would let me swim? No way. "I don't want a
stinky, wet dog in my car." Well ex-cuuuuse me. So all I
could do was look at the ponds. There was ice pretty much all
the way across on all of them, but there were open areas near the
shore here and there. Pam wouldn't even let me put a big toe
in. No fair!
...so I made sure I put my
paws in every little stream and swampy area along the way. Heh
We came across a nice brook
where Pam gave me some kibble. (Pam and Ken had chocolate chip
cookies that Pam made. Think I got any of that? No way.
Ken wanted to give me some, but Pam said no. And Pam wonders
why I whine all the time when we go hiking.)
All my doggy friends know
that humans are every easily amused. Pam and Ken spent a while
just gawking at some view from an old orchard.
I smelled everything there was to smell around there, and I wanted
to get going. What was the point in hanging around?
Those guys could see the Uncanoonucs, so they opted to stop and
stare. Yeah, big deal, been there, smelled that, let's go
I had to laugh...My human
friends just loved rocks, too. Rocks? What's the point?
A little rock wall, a collection of boulders someone else called
"The Rocks" on the map. I'll show ya what I do to stone walls!
And that Webmaster guy got
pictures of all these rock things. Life, please. Get
||No, the life of a dog isn't easy.
Just ask any canine.
"Come here boy, can I scratch your
ears?" What's all this with the ears? Just give me
a snack, and that's all.
And there are the endless photos.
"Let's put this bow on the dog and take a picture--he'll look
cute." And here I'm stuck sitting next to that Webmaster
guy for a picture. "Look over here, Shadow!" Heck,
it was hard enough to sit right next to that stinky hiker---I
didn't want to have to look at him or at the camera or at
anything. Besides, I think with that beard he just wants
to look more just like me. Can you blame him?
Anyway, I want to say hi to my friends
Butch, Dingles, Bruiser, and Chow-Chow---apparently you guys had
been through the Heald Tract earlier. Yeah, it's not a bad
hike, and I'll probably wind up there again. Pam and Ken like
those easy 5 milers.
I just wish I could go by myself!
With a bag of chocolate chip cookies, of course.
|Kidder Mt. Hike / Pasta & Games Night - December 8, 2001
Activities by Ken Leonard, Pam Fortier
Unlike the days
earlier in the week, Saturday was cloudy with a chill in the air. It
felt like snow was going to move in, and it did later on at night, giving
much of New England its first good coating of snow for the winter '01-'02
season. Can cross-country skiing be far behind?
Snow or not, we planned on having a nice hike up Kidder Mt., which is
an 1814' hill in Temple, NH. The trailhead is at the intersection of
Nashua Rd. and Temple Rd. (take West Rd. from the center of Temple, and
you'll get there). The hike is about 5 miles total with a rather
gradual ascent of 600'. For relatively little effort, though, you
get a wonderful view that includes Mt. Monadnock to the west and Boston to
Shadow, Your Webmaster, Jen, Pam, Badri, Donna,
||We arrived at the trailhead around 10. The trail is mostly
an old road, making it a really easy hike for about half of the way.
Remember to stay on the trail, as it veers off the old road about
three times. The 2nd of those three times will bring you to a
spot where a big tree was destroyed by lightning---keep an eye out
for that interesting sight (although it was much more evident when I
ran across it a few years back about a day or two after it
happened...nowadays Nature is just blending it in with everything
After you pass the private pond, stay straight (don't follow the
road as it curves to the right).
And don't forget to turn left immediately after the power lines!
Then follow the trail as it turns left again and into the woods.
Once in the woods, you begin your ascent. That part is over
pretty quickly, and you come out to an area of amazing devastation.
What happened here?
A few years ago there was a very bad ice storm in the area, and many of
the trees near the top of Kidder Mt. were destroyed. The heartbroken
land owner had loggers come in and salvage anything they could, and now
the forest is growing back. Very few trees were left standing,
unfortunately, as the ice was incredibly bad. But given enough time,
Nature will come back, and the many baby evergreens and other trees in the
area will attest to that.
|While I snapped a photo or two, Jen took a minute to have a seat
on a rock just the right size for her.
Shortly after that, we were
at the top, where we had a bit of lunch and took in the view.
The wind isn't too bad up there (if you know where to sit), but it
wasn't all that warm because the sun was hidden behind milky gray
Fortunately the clouds were high enough up that we
got miles of views, including Boston and...
Our trip down came all too soon. Donna and Diane ran on ahead,
reached the cars, and started back up the trail to meet us slower folks.
(Your Webmaster isn't one of those battery-powered bunnies these days!
:-) ) Eventually we made it back to the cars and sped off in search
Then most of us went over to Pam's house for an evening of pasta and
Shadow can balance a doggy bone on his nose,
flip it into the air, and catch the yummy treat in his mouth.
Well, most of the time anyway. Sue looks on as Shadow gets
ready to chow down.
|Pam F. posted a Pasta and Games Night
activity, and most of the Kidder Mt. folks went along, including Pam
and Shadow (of course), Your Webmaster, Diane, Badri, and Jen.
We were joined by Sue.
Dinner was great---pasta with a nice sauce
and meatballs, salad, and bread. Latte and cheesecake rounded
out the dinner (and rounded out Your Webmaster as well).
We invented our own rules for TriBond and had a good game.
We played that in addition to playing Keep Away with Shadow and a
Badri had no luck getting Shadow over his fear of the tile floor,
despite a valiant effort. Better luck next time, Badri!
Knowing that snow was due, we departed from Goffstown just as the
snow had started to leave a coating on the ground.
|Mt. Uncanoonuc Moonlight Hike - December 1, 2001
by Ken Leonard
||As far as any one of us was concerned, there was no way that it
could have been December 1st. Well, maybe if you were in
Australia or something. The day's high topped out over 70
degrees, and what should have been a hike in cold, blustery December
weather turned into a wonderful evening saunter to the top of Mt.
Uncanoonuc in Goffstown, NH.
Jen, Pam, Diane, Jan, and Your Webmaster
The hike up Mt. Uncanoonuc is only about 1/2 hour, and
it's a steady, easy grade (with only one or two slightly steeper spots).
The trail is wide and easy to follow, making it ideal for an easy sunset
We enjoyed some apple cider and kept an eye out for the
moon to come up, due just after 5pm. And come up it did!
|An eerie red sliver appeared on the horizon to the north of
Manchester. We watched as the moon made its daily struggle up
into the sky, first a large red disc, then more orange, and finally
Flashlights and headlamps ready!
The lights of Manchester are in the background.
Thankful for the treat of the warm weather, a nice sunset,
and a spectacular moonrise, we broke out the headlamps and flashlights and
made our way back down the trail. By the time we reached the car,
the moon was high in the sky and a stark white, lending its light to the
forest. Nature gave us a fine show.
To top off the evening, we went out for some Chinese food,
then back to Pam's place to play with Shadow and get some yummy chocolate
Night hiking in December doesn't get any better.