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Signs of Spring on Monadnock Rail Trail

Posted on by Lisa Wiley

On the first Saturday in April the sky in southern NH was finally blue and the temperature a balmy mid-50’s!  I wanted to explore on foot a stretch of the Monadnock Recreational Rail Trail.

BirchesMy family and I brought our Bassett, Rue, to walk a section bordering Rindge and Jaffrey, between Rt. 202 and the Contoocook River.

Rue discovered that a fox had just passed!

Rue discovered that a fox had just passed!

 The path is wide and well graveled, with gently sloping sides so snow-melt didn’t pool and puddle where we walked.

One of the nice benches along the trail to relax on.

One of the nice benches along the trail to relax on.

There was evidence of snowmobiles in the recent past with many spots of snow patches in the shadier areas.  Bikes were also in evidence, with some deep ruts attesting to the spring softness of the earth beneath the gravel.  The walk was easy, and there were a few others we met walking each way.  The path took us to Contoocook River, where the current melted the ice and water birds were beginning their nests.

Blackbird nest

Blackbird nest

We saw a pair of Great Blue Herons fishing, and a flock of Canada Geese made themselves very visible.  The ducks were less flamboyant, a quiet black duck pair hid in the marsh grass and cattails.  Mallards peaked about further on, clearly looking for nesting sites.

Heron on the Contoocook River

Fishing Heron on the Contoocook River

We walked across the Jaffrey line and turned back, just in time to witness a fox jump across the path.  We searched for its tracks, but only found deer tracks in the hardened snow.  A beautiful side trip on this stretch is a trail leading to some benches with a lovely view of the river.  Along this path we found a letterbox hidden in a tree, and made sure to leave a message in the notebook.

A Letterbox hid in a tree!

A Letterbox hid in a tree!

There were a few tree identification signs posted as an eagle scout project years before.  This little path looped back to the rail trail, circling a vernal pool which will be filled with peepers as soon as the ice melts enough.

The high school I work in happens to be across the street from another section of the Monadnock Rail Trail.  I took a group of students with their teacher, David Hunt, to take pictures and enjoy a 45 minute hike.

Welcome to Rails to Trails, hikers!

Welcome to Rails to Trails, hikers!

Some of these students have run the trail during track practice, and they helped us by pointing out where side trails led to.

A lovely place of remembrance for local, Jack Dupre

A lovely place of remembrance for local, Jack Dupre

One special trail tangent is the Children’s Woods, a gift of the Annette family as a Nature Trail for children to learn about wildflowers and trees.

Children's Woods pathway from Monadnock Rail Trail

Children’s Woods pathway from Monadnock Rail Trail

This trail is a few miles long and winds throughout the Contoocook River.  The Monadnock Rail Trail is less windy, following closely the path of Rt. 202.  Although the trip with the students was less balmy than a few days before, when I ventured with my family, leaving school midday to explore this local trail was a welcome adventure!

Reflections of trees in Contoocook River

Reflections of trees in Contoocook River

It was easy to wander over a mile, with markers every tenth mile, then turn back.

Marking the mile

Marking the mile

When I walked with my family, we saw many nests that blackbirds would soon be filling.  On the student trip a week later, we were able to listen to dozens of blackbirds getting to know each other and their territory again.

Beaver attack!

Beaver attack!

This will be a wonderful local spot to watch evolve through the season!

Small ripple in the reflecting Contoocook River

Small ripple in the reflecting Contoocook River

I remember a friend once told me she marked spring by when the Canada Geese flew back to New Hampshire.  For myself, I watch for buds on my trees to let me know winter is fading.  My sons listen for peepers and wood frogs to emerge from hibernation.

What heralds the start of spring for you, reader?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Thanks to the students of Conant High School, Jaffrey NH for many of the photos and captions: Tony DeCarolis, Devin Foster, Austin Damon, Kirkland Pyhala, Zach Pelletier, Carolyn Wiley

Some site to learn more about Monadnock Rail Trail…

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About Lisa Wiley

My name is Lisa Wiley and I am native to mid-New England, but a NH transplant once my husband and I started a family. We have five children and multiple pets, including a bassett named Rue who will be featured in many of my posts! I work in two academic libraries and recently completed a Bachelors in Education and Training through Granite State College. My husband and I are both educators and love outdoor adventures on a shoestring budget! On the side, we garden and raise chickens and angora rabbits. I enjoy spinning the angora fiber from these gentle animals into beautiful yarns. I can't wait to share the adventures of the 'Wiley Rangers' as we explore NH! View all posts by Lisa Wiley →
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3 Responses to Signs of Spring on Monadnock Rail Trail

  1. avatar Jackie says:

    Wow! Lots of wildlife sightings. I’d have never guessed.

    For me, I mark spring by the sounds of the birds and also the smell of damp earth.

    This was a pleasure to read. Thank you!

  2. avatar Perry says:

    Thank you for the post and all the great photos. I live in Nashua and look forward to visiting the many rail trails around southern NH this year. We’re off to a great year this spring with warn, sunny weather and between hiking, mountain biking, and walking/jogging, it’s going to be a great year for recreation and exercise!

  3. avatar Daniel Moore says:

    Spring in New England is never just spring, it’s SPRING!!!! Critters great and small stretch their bones, take account and move happily into the sun and it’s warmth. In this I am no different, a bond we share and in which I rejoice.


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