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.
The path is wide and well graveled, with gently sloping sides so snow-melt didn’t pool and puddle where we walked.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some of these students have run the trail during track practice, and they helped us by pointing out where side trails led to.
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.
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!
It was easy to wander over a mile, with markers every tenth mile, then turn back.
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.
This will be a wonderful local spot to watch evolve through the season!
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…