Sometimes adventure doesn’t even require getting in the car. When I used to live in Manchester, New Hampshire, I would sometimes take long walks of six hours or more, cutting behind businesses and through patches of woods encircling the city. These are a couple of the places I visited:
Heritage Trail – July 11 (2009)
On July 4th my mother and I discovered Heritage trail in Bedford, New Hampshire. We walked most of it that day, but not all. The trail is mostly open and follows the power lines to a substation. Several lesser trail loops branch off from it into the woods on either side. Bridges along the trail are used to cross deep gullies. Scattered picnic tables and benches line the trail also. It was sunny and hot. She kept stopping me so she could look at birds. I knew I had to return by myself.
Highlights: I saw a bright orange beetle with gray wing covers. It kept “wagging” its abdomen. When I got home, I saw an iridescent green beetle with “toes”.
This time I walked to Heritage Trail, reaching it by crossing the railroad bridge over the Merrimack River near my house. The day I went it was sunny and just breezy enough. I took a side trail with a sign telling of bald eagle winter nesting sites. At the far end of the loop, I left the trail and entered the parking lot of an assisted living facility. It was one of several in a large development including gated communities, an animal hospital, and a church. I followed the road to the main route and reentered by a different entrance. Finding the first facility, I left the opposite side of the parking lot I entered from to rejoin the Heritage Trail further down. I followed it all the way past the substation to a tiny parking lot. Here I took a tiny side trail into the woods to the edge of a raging brook feeding into the Merrimack.
This is where things got interesting. Following the Merrimack to the north, I found piles of boulders with spaces between and under them forming caves similar to many I have crawled through near the ocean. I decided against exploring these for the time being. Moving further north, I found small, but still very nice, sandy beaches. I sat on a boulder for a while to rest and watch the river. Nobody was around. Trees overhang the beaches offering shelter and privacy. It was almost cozy. Turning south, I took off my shoes and crossed the brook to explore the other side. Here were more, nice, sandy beaches with overhanging trees interspersed with patches of soft moss. Running uphill-downhill through these beaches were streaks of purple sand (a mixture of pink and black grains).
It was around the brook-beach area that I discovered three logs with signs of a helical growth pattern. One of them must have made at least six full rotations during its lifetime. I also found a crazy-shaped piece of water-worn driftwood. I took it home as a piece of abstract art.
Leaving the parking lot, I discovered a paved road and a dirt road. I took the dirt road under the I-293 Bridge to another parking lot with a fence on the far side. The fence was open, so I followed the wide, mowed, grassy trail through the woods for a ways until I reached a sandbar. Then I turned around and came back. Walking up the paved road this time, I found myself reentering the same development from before near the church. This time, I went back the way I came, but first finishing the Bald Eagle Trail Loop. Then I went home by way of the railroad bridge.
Highlights: I saw metallic green beetles, a beetle with a crazy yellow-brown-red-green design, bright blue-green damselflies with pitch-black wings, tiny red wasps, and many harvestmen (daddy-long-legs) on the beach. In a mud puddle, I tried to step around umpteen small, muddy frogs jumping all around.
Old Perimeter Road – July 15 (2009)
There is a quarter-mile stretch of the old perimeter road that runs through the woods unattached on either end to the modern perimeter road. Large parts of it have been washed away and overgrown. Next to it runs a large brook, the sides of which are mostly hard, compacted clay. Finding a dry way across the brook is impossible, but walking barefoot is hard because the brook is full of rocks. The banks are almost non-navigable, being steep and choked with both living and dead vegetation. Still, I found a place and decided that as long as I was getting my feet wet, I might as well take a dip for five minutes. After dressing, I walked under the power lines on the opposite side of the brook until I found the ruins of an old dam upstream. Here there was so much sweet fern that the air was thick with the smell of it.
Along the power lines on the side opposite from the brook runs a ridge covered in thick, tall vegetation. Finding a thin spot further upstream, I tried to break through. I realized too late the thorns that ripped my shirt and scratched my legs. I found myself in a wide field. As I crossed it, I saw a deer traveling in the opposite direction far away. On the other side of the field were thousands and thousands and thousands of blackberries all along the edge. After eating and exploring, I found a thin spot to enter the woods. I discovered a steep downward slope, at the bottom of which was a marshy area with a tiny brook running through it. I had to pick my way very carefully to keep my shoes relatively dry.
After ascending another steep slope, I found another field, this one crisscrossed by dirt roads and dotted by hills and patches of forest. I entered one patch of forest where there was a trail that eventually led to a metal fence. On the other side was where the new road was being laid down. I wandered through the woods for a while and came across a ladder leaning against a tree. Eventually, I came to a dirt road. I followed it away from the fence. Along this road I saw a snake. It was about nine inches long, black, and had a gray design. It shrunk and stiffened when I got close. I tried to touch it with a stick, but it kept lunging at the stick. I decided it was too temperamental to play with.
Finally, I came to where Perimeter Road loops back. In the field nearby were piles of large stones. Stopping to rest on one, I watched a dragonfly and caught it in the act of swallowing another fly several feet directly above me. That was the first time I had ever seen that happen. Afterwards, I took the main road back to the other end of the old ruined road, where I followed it back to where I started and then went home.
Highlights: I saw strange, blue, sharp-edged spots on a leaf.
Warnings: Mosquitoes, deerflies, and ticks. I got all three.
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.