FORKED CURLS IN DEERING

About 320 species of flowering herbs, shrubs and trees have been recorded as occurring here in Deering the Conservation Commission.  I have seen most of those plants.

It is unusual for me to find a wildflower that I have not previously seen in town. Today was one of those unusual days!

On this day, early in August, I met a Forest Society land steward on  Clement Hill at the old town sand pit, now know as Petrecky Lands. This superficially unpromising piece of land was part of the old Ernst Johnson farm, which dates from way back in the early 20th Century. Like most of the land in Deering,  it was forest when the first settlers cleared land for farming late in the 18th and into the mid 19th Century. It was agriculturally poor land, and in the mid 19th Century the first wave of Deering’s settlers left town for, literally, fertile pastures in the west. The old Johnson farm has been parceled among the various Johnson children, and today much of it is protected by conservation easements.  The Petrecky land was owned by Ernst’s daughter Florence Johnson Petrecky, from whom the town acquired it for use as gravel pit. In 2011 the land was protected by a conservation easement, which is held by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

petrecky DSC_7380
Petrecky Land Conservation Easement, sand pit

The Petrecky Lands easement consists of at least three components. What you see from the road is the old, flat and treeless gravel  pit. Behind that to the right is an extensive wetland that was transformed from pasture by beavers. To the left is a wet forest.

Petrecky wet forest in spring

 

 

While the old gravel pit does not look all that inviting from the road, quite a lot of interesting flowering plants can be found growing there, plants that are adapted to life in poor sandy soil.

Hypericum gentianoides, orange grass
Lechea intermedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nuttalanthus canadensis, blue toadflax

Some of those plants include the natives orange grass (Hypericum gentianoides), blue toadflax (Nuttalanthus canadensis) and Lechea intermedia, a type of heath. At this time, early in August, orange grass is abundant and in full bloom.

 

 

In 1987 a group of Deering’s residents recorded all the plants that they could find on one day. It’s not a long list, but ‘forked blue curls,’ Trichostemma dichotoma, is on it. I have not previously seen this species.

 

Trichostemma dichotomum, forked blue curls
Trichostemma dichotomum, forked blue curls
Trichostemma dichotomum, blue curls

Trichostemma dichotomum is native to North America, found in Easterm Canada and the US as far west as Texas. It is a denizen of sandy, so called waste, sites. Like the Petrecky Land. It is a low growing annual plant, reproducing by seed, and one of the mints. You can see the ‘mintiness’ of the plant from the square stem and, especially, the lower ‘lip’on the flower that is a good place for pollinators — native bees — to land. The stamens, the male parts, curl over the lip in such a way that the pollinator can get a good dose of pollen.

Go out to the Petrecky Land, on Clement Hill Road. As you walk across the ‘waste’ sandy area you might be pleasantly surprised at the pretty things you will see!

 

LATE WINTER WALK ON HEDGEHOG MOUNTAIN

Yesterday – a mid March yesterday in New Hampshire – I planned to make my (semi) regular morning walk. Usually I walk along the road and back, a distance of 2 miles. but yesterday I decided to put on the spikes and tramp through the snow we’d had a few days earlier up to the Hedgehog Mountain Overlook.

The day started out cold, near 25 degrees. The surface of the snow had frozen overnight creating a shining crust and an audible crunch as I walked.Shards of crust, dislodged by my size 14’s, skittered along in front of me. While, because of the depth of the snow, snowshoes might have been the preferred footwear, the back edge of the snowshoes was likely to have caught on the crust, causing me to tip forward onto my face. If you have ever tried to right yourself after falling while wearing snowshoes you might understand that I was just as happy not to be wearing them.

 

Thick snow on rock walls.

The forest was quiet. I was alone. A perfect combination. The bright sun cast long shadows of trees and their branches on the smooth white crusty surface of the snow: intersecting black lines, crossed without any obvious design or purpose but from pure joy of a glorious day. Animal tracks, made a day or so earlier, had been dimmed by melting but the game of guessing which animal had passed that way was fun.  The display was all mine.

Footsteps through snow.
A bright sun casts long shadows. Intersecting lines on the smooth crust of the snow.

The trail to the overlook first crosses Manselville Brook which, following the recent snow, was completely hidden by snow. Just last year, during the early drought, water was barely passing along on its way to the Contoocook river to the north. Now I knew that there was a steady flow beneath the snow and, hopefully, we will have a good soaking to keep the Manselville flowing through the year.

Further along, the trail crosses a small, unnamed stream that also flows to the  Contoocook. The little stream was running quite happily, and I could imagine that even now, with the cold, ‘things’ were happening in the soil through which the stream flows.

An unnamed stream. Things cooking in there, getting ready for Spring!

The trail to the Overlook is not very long, but it is, in part, steep and follows through a stream bed. When there is no snow, going is slowed a bit because of the need to pick one’s way over the rocks in the steam bed. But, yesterday all this was filled in with snow, and I could follow in the old footsteps without worrying about tripping over boulders.

A hole in the snow. Is anybody down there?

I have walked on this trail many times over the past several years. It is a part of my ‘backyard,’ so close is it to home. This year, though, I have slowed. It is no longer as easy to climb up there as a few years ago. Could I be ageing? What I do know is that now while hiking, I set goals: that tree, a trail marker, something 20 or 30 yards uphill. Just get to that point, and maybe a little beyond, and I can take a breather. Lean on my stick and take stock of where I am. I hope this is transient, this weakness, this being out of breath-ness. What I do know is that even though I know that the climb will be taxing, the payoff of being on the summit, at the outlook, makes all the puffing and associated butt-dragging worthwhile.

I love to sit on the rocks at the overlook and – – look over. It is peaceful there.

 

The view is grand.

Cars beetle along Rt 9, across the Contoocook River, and along airport road. Sometimes one can see a small plane taking off or landing at our airport. Whatever their goal or task, or business it is not mine. Whether the drivers are crabby or grim, it is not my worry. I am on my own time and that is time under the sun, sitting on a rock and being perfectly happy.

Just below the summit is the McAlister conservation easesment. A large block of land set aside for conservation — perpetual protection — by the McAlister family several years ago. A large part of the easement comprises a working farm bounded by the Contoocook River, where beef cattle graze. I know the farmer a bit and I respect him and his farming. No cows grazing now. The pasture is covered by snow and as the season advances, the snow melts and the river rises, part of the farm will become a lake. Part of the cycle. It comforts me to know that this working farm is preserved and I am thankful for those folks who made the conservation of this, and other lands in our town, possible.

Further, to the southwest, stands Mt Monadnock — our own monadnock, the original monadnock that gave its name to those isolated mountains that so strongly influences local weather, wherever they might be. Mt Monadnock dominates our southwestern sky line, a sign of home.

By the  time I began my descent, the day had progressed. It was nearly eleven and the temperature had climbed. Still skittles of icy crust raced before me as I moved down the trail, but snow had softened. It was clumping on the spikes making my feet heavy, each step more difficult. Footing was more difficult and at times I walked with my legs spread widely, a drunken sailor dance – – or the lurch of the subway rider. Might have made an amusing show from behind.  But, there was nobody to record it.

The trail dropped below in front of me. Carefully, step by step downward. Through – or over – the stream bed.  Still my tracks the only recent ones but leading me home. I suppose this will be the last snow hike of the season. I hope so. Soon the evergreen ferns will emerge from the snow, then tree buds. And then the full-on craziness of Spring.

I’m ready.

AGALINIS TENUIFOLIA: A PRETTY PARASITE!

The Burke Family Wildlife  Preserve is a 59 ac parcel  in Deering on Pleasant Pond Rd, on Old Francestown Rd., just off  Rt 149.  The parcel, which is owned by the Piscataquog Land  Conservancy, consists of open forest and marshlands. An informal trail (marked with blue diaonds) makes a short loop through the dry, forested part of the property.  Dominated by hemlock and oak, this is a great trail for mushrooming! However, the largest part of the Burke Preserve is an extensive wetland with open water.

Entrance to Burke Family Wildlife Preserve. Photo by Gary Bono

The Eversource power right of way that crosses Deering passes through the middle of the Burke Preserve.  In 2016 Eversource undertook to replace the power poles in Deering. In order for them to cross the many wetlands in Deering between the Weare town line and Deering center they had to place a boardwalk across the wetlands that would support heavy vehicles. It was actually fun to walk across the wetland on the boardwalk, which gave good access to the otherwise inaccessible middle of the wetland in the Burke Preserve.

Eversource boardwalk through the Burke Preserve in November, 2016

Eversource has since removed the boardwalk and vegetation has returned. At least to my untrained eye the wetland is unaffected.

Eversource right-of-way in the Burke Preserve in August

While monitoring the  Burke Preserve late in August  I found Agalinis tenuifolia — slender leaved false foxglove — for the first time in Deering. It was growing in a dry, exposed part of the Eversource right-of-way.

The plants stood out for their pink flowers on plants that stood no more than a foot high.

Agalinis tenuifolia is a native of North America and is widespread over eastern half of the USA and  Canada. It is a member of the plant family Orobanchaceae, the broom-rape family.  All members of this family, which includes nearly 150 genera and 3,311 species, are parasitic on other plants either entirely or, like A. tenuifolia, they have chlorophyll and can produce their own food at the same time that they parasitize nearby plants.

Two other members of the Orobanchaceae are common in Deering. Melampyrum lineare, cow wheat, is a small, inconspicuous herb that has small white flowers. This species has chlorophyll but is parasitic on roots of pine trees. Another common, and conspicuous member of the Orobanchaceae is beech drops, Epifagus virginia, which can be found in Deering’s forests where it parasitizes roots of beech trees.   Agalinis tenuifolia is not specialized as to host.

BUTTON-BUSH IN SMITH BROOK

Smith Brook is one of my favorite water courses. It rises from Black Fox Pond, in Deering’s Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary, and flows for about a mile-and-a-half through conserved forest and wetland before entering a big wetland in North Deering. Water from that wetland feeds Dudley Brook and eventually the Piscataquog River.

Part of Smith Brook’s course is through forest. There the banks of the brook are sharply defined, the channel narrow. Trees line either bank and cool the waters. These places invite me on one summer’s day to sit down, back against a tree, and dream.   In other places the brook’s channel is not so clear, a wetland; there is no forest here, just some scattered red maples and other shrubs growing among tussocks of grass and sedges. This time of  year pickerel weed is in abundance and and in full bloom along the banks and in pools. These are sunny places, rich in life, but they do not invite me to get more than my feet wet. No protracted dreaming as I plot where to place my foot next.

Pickerel weed blooming in Smith Brook in the Garland Conservation Easement.

The Garland Conservation Easement – – named for Bob Garland, a longtime Deering resident who loved our forested town – – on North Road is in large part a wetland that is formed by Smith Brook. Two narrow arms of the easement form a ‘U,’in the middle of which sits a private residence. But, most of the easement is behind the house in the wetland. Much of the Garland easement abuts land that has been conserved by the Audubon Society and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

Garland Conservation Easement on North Road. Smith Brook forms an extensive wetland.

While monitoring the Garland easement early in August I found plants that I’d not seen before. The first was a shrub that I was sure was SOME sumac, not thinking that it was the dreaded POISON SUMAC until I got back home and pulled out of my sack the small branch that had berries and leaves. The rash and itching has largely subsided now, a few days later!

Another, far more interesting plant was BUTTON-BUSH, Cephalanthus occidentalis. Button-bush was recorded for Deering by a group of plant explorers in 1987, but I had not seen it until a few days ago. Button-bush is a shrub that grows in wet places and can reach several feet in height. It flowers late in the spring, the ‘flowers’ are  white and are actually compound heads, each about an inch in diameter and comprising many tiny flowers. The pistils extend beyond the surface of the ball giving the appearance of pin cushions.

Button-bush with a monarch butterfly

The flowers of button-bush are fragrant and attract various pollinators, including humming  birds and butterflies. The reddish-brown fruit persist through the winter and seeds are consumed by water-fowl.

 

 

Button-bush ‘flower’ with protruding pistils, each arising from a tiny flower.

Button-bush  is native to eastern North America, but it is wide-spread throughout North America.  Commercial cultivars are available for this attractive plant.

ALLEGHENY MONKEY FLOWER

One of the most fun responsibilities of members of Deering’s  Conservation Commission is the annual job of making sure that there have not been  transgressions on any of the fifteen or conservation easements (out of a total of around 130 conserved lots, a bit over 7000 acres) located in town.

Annual ‘walking’ the easements, basically walking around the perimeter or – – at least — walking along those boundaries that are most likely to be impacted by people, takes conservation commission members into those conserved lots that most people never see.  None of the conserved lots in town are very far from traveled roads, but – -as the saying goes – – 90% of the people never venture further than 20 yards from the road. The lots are mostly forested and few have marked trails. Once inside a 60 acre easement it is easy to forget that you are not in some isolated place despite the proximity of The World. Trying to determine the boundaries of an easement without using a GPS enabled device can be a challenge, although that is the way things were done until recently.

Titcomb easement outlined in red. My monitoring track in blue. Wetland crossing at the lower boundary.

The Titcomb easement is such a lot. The Titcomb easement, comprising 60 acres (average size of a conservation easement in Deering), was once the Harold Titcomb farm. In the 1920’s and 30’s the Titcomb Farm was noted as a commercial poultry farm, one of the few commercial operations in town. This easement is situated within the triangle formed by three Deering roads: on the west Deering Center Rd, on the north Clement Hill Rd, and on the east Dicky Hill rd.

North end of pond, the heart of the Titcomb Easement, in the fall of a normally wet year.

Traveling along those roads one would not imagine the beautiful wetland that lies just beyond the road and that makes up a large part of the easement. I got to experience the ‘wet’ part of the Titcomb wetland last week when I set out to walk the perimeter after heavy rain the previous day. Crashing through sensitive ferns is a wet job!. The southern boundary of the Titcomb Easement passes the edge of a large pond that is the heart of the wetland. For me and my monitoring it was at roughly the half way point. When I got to it I had to decide whether to avoid the wetland and pond by retracing my path, going way out of my way onto non conserved land to get around most of the wetland, or take advantage of this being a dry year and hope I could negotiate a thin beaver dam and step from grass tussock to tussock to get to the other side. That’s what I decided!

Crossing a beaver dam at the southern end of the big pond in the Titcomb Easement.
Looking back at the wetland I’d crossed at the southern end of the Titcomb Easement.

With my walking stick probing the way forward I was able to get half way across, on the berm of a  beaver dam when I started seeing pretty blue  flowers on low growing herbs. This beaver dam was a rickety sort of thing where a wet foot or leg – – or more — was a distinct possibility. At one point, though, there was enough room to settle  bit. Condense my stringy frame into a small sort of dry spot with the berm of the dam to my back and the open pond in front of me.

I love times like this. Especially so when the day is sunny, which this day was not.  It’s quiet there and the feeling of being – – alone, the ‘first,’ remote – – is exhilarating.  Dragon flies and water striders. Pond lilies and still water. Cat tails just now in flower and yellow swamp candles all about. I won’t say soporific (my foot was getting wet), but damned comforting to rest in that spot.  I’ve felt this way when I worked in tropical rain forests. Romantic stuff. Hear the cycle of nature. To sit quietly in a forest, alone: itt beats any sermon  I’ve ever heard.

But, back to those pretty blue flowers that seemed to be growing all around me in the Titcomn Easement . . .

These were Allegheny Monkey Flower, Mimulus ringens. Its blue flowers kind of look like snap dragons but are the two are not related.

The Latin name of Allegheny Monkey Flower, Mimulus  ringens, translates to buffoon (mimulus) that gapes (ringens). I guess this name was chosen because when the flowers are squeezed  they look like monkey faces or at least they must have to the great botanist Carolus Linnaeus, who described the species in the middle of the 18th Century.

This native species grows in full sun in wetlands over most of North America. It is a perennial plant that can get to 3 ft tall and has a square stem. The flowers are pollinated by bumble bees, but if the invasive purple loosestrife is growing nearby – – the two occupy the same habitat – –  Monkey Flower flowers might not get pollinated because the bumble bees choose the flowers of the invader.  Native Americans and early settlers are said to have used the  plant as greens.

Allegheny Monkey Flower is commercially available from several sources. It can make a lovely addition to your wetland garden.

Here are some pictures of Allegheny Monkey Flower.

TOM RUSH FOREST: GREGG HILL RD AND TUBBS RD

The 300-odd-acre Tom Rush Forest in the center of Deering offers great opportunities for walking. There are eminently walkable Class VI roads in the forest and, for the more intrepid, lots of forest to bushwhack through.

The Tom Rush Forest western half with Gregg Hill and Tubbs Hill roads and high hills. The track I followed along Gregg Hill and Tubbs Hill roads and through the forest is marked in purple

The three  Class VI roads are Gregg Hill Rd, Old Rangeway Rd (not shown on the map) and Tubbs Hill Rd. The width of the forest is crossed by Gregg Hill Rd. Old Rangeway Rd. runs east from the Town  Common, across the Tom Rush Forest, to a brook that feeds Central Rangeway Pond. Tubbs Hill Rd. forms the northern boundary of the Tom Rush Foreset.  Tubbs Hill Rd is Class VI and is not town-maintained over most of its distance, including the forest boundary. It runs from Dickey Hill at the western end, to Driscoll Hill Rd., at the eastern end.  Gregg Hill Rd. is about one mile in length. The first roughly quarter mile that runs uphill from Deering Center to the Lachance home is maintained year round. The rest of Gregg Hill Rd is a dirt track through the forest, ending in  Tubbs Hill Rd. Old Rangeway Rd is closed by a  locked gate at the western, town center end; it becomes Driscoll Hill Rd. at the eastern end. None of Old Rangeway Rd is maintained by the town.

All of these roads pass through forest and provide excellent opportunities for walking.

In the 18th and 19th Centuries several families lived along Gregg Hill Rd and Tubbs Hill Rd. There  is a large cellar hole at the point where Gregg Hill meets Tubbs Hill Rd. This might be the remains of the home of Dudley K. Chase, whose name appears on a map from 1858. Tom Copadis (in the 1977 book Welcome home to Deering, New Hampshire) described this cellar hole, the blocks made entirely of granite, as a ‘marvel to behold.’ The house, which was was torn down in 1908, must have been elegant. The  Chase family must have had a notable garden because the Chase garden at this point is noted in the deed for that lot. The map from 1858 shows that two Greggs lived on Gregg Hill Rd., ‘A.’ and ‘C.’ Gregg. These might have been sons of the original Alexander Gregg, Alexander and Christie. Gregg Sr. operated a sawmill near ‘Gregg’s Pond,’ known today as Deering Reservoir. Both Christie and Alexander served in town administration. Alexander was a member of the select board for several terms and was a state representative. Christie was town clerk for several terms.  Alexander did not marry. Christie did marry and possibly had at least one son because a map from 1892 shows that a Mrs. W.A. Gregg lived in the same location as ‘C.’ Gregg.

Much of the western half of the Tom Rush Forest includes two of the highest hills in Deering with an about 80 foot drop separating them. The hill closest to Gregg Hill Rd, and very near the site of the C. Gregg house, is Gregg Hill. The elevation of Gregg Hill and its apparently unnamed sister hill is about 1320 ft, and the land falls sharply away to the east from these hills.

I walked along Gregg Hill Rd from just beyond the Lachance house to Tubbs Hill road, then westwardly along Tubbs Hill to a high point where there is a telecommunications facility. Just east of that high point the familiar three blotches of red paint on a tree indicate a corner of the  Tom Rush Forest. On this walk I followed the boundary as best as I could (although this was not always easy). My objective was to walk over the highest hills while stopping at the overlook at the top of the ‘Library Lot.’

The track of my walk is shown in purple on the accompanying map. Although I tried to remain within the bounds of the Tom Rush Forest, you can see that I was not completely successful! The hills are completely forested, so there are no views. The forest itself is fairly open and is attractive. The dip between Gregg Hill and its sister might not look like much on the map, but on the ground the climb is steep.

HOW TO GET THERE: Gregg Hill Road runs north from Deering Center past the Deering Community Church. There is  private residence at the end of the town-maintained part of the road. The owner has requested that visitors not park in the bays there, or block the road. PLEASE RESPECT THE PRIVATE PROPERTY. You can park on the Class Vi part of Gregg Hill  Rd just beyond the residence by pulling off the road. Please do not block Gregg Hill Rd at any point.

Parking on Class VI Gregg HIll Road beyond the private residence.

The walk up Gregg Hill Rd from parking is a bit steep  but then the road is level or descends slightly to Tubbs Hill Rd. From the Chase house to the Tubbs Hill high point the way is very obvious, first gently descending and then more steeply climbing to the high point.

Here are some pictures from the walk. It is worth the half or three-quarters mile walk along Gregg Hill just to see the magnificent cellar hole of the Chase house.

TOM RUSH FOREST: MEADOW WALK

The Tom Rush Forest, in central Deering, was formed in 2002 when the popular singer Tom Rush sold several lots to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. Tom Rush Forest is the largest conservation easement in Deering, comprising 300 acres of forest and meadows. Abutting the Rush Forest the SPNHF holds the conservation easement on 40 forested acres that are privately owned and called the Rush Farm Tract. Abutting the Rush Farm Tract, on the Deering Center Road, is the ‘Gregg Hill Lot,’ also known as ‘the library lot.’ This town-owned lot is, in part, the steep meadow that can be seen from Deering Center Road, to the left of the Carew House and essentially opposite the town garage. There are many possibilities for recreation, walking and winter sports. in the Tom Rush  Forest and land that surrounds it.

tom rush forest

Early in the 19th Century several families lived around what is now the Tom Rush Forest, on Gregg Hill Road, Tubbs Hill Road, and Old Rangeway Road and today’s forest was all meadow – –  known in part as ‘East Meadow,’ and ‘Berry field.’  Large meadows inside the Tom Rush Forest have been maintained along the east side of Gregg Hill Road, and those meadows feature in a walk (shown in red on the map)  of about 1/2 mile from the Town Common, on Deering Center Rd, to the Lachance residence at the top Gregg Hill Road. We call that walk the Tom Rush Meadow Walk.

tom rush gate at gregg hill rd P1000471
Gate across Old Rangeway Rd at Gregg Hill Road, near the Town Common

Beginning at the gate across Old Rangeway Road, near the Town Common and the Deering, follow Old Rangeway Road uphill  for a little less than 1/4 mile. From the top of the hill the trail leads left and immediately enters the first meadow. The way through the meadows is mown irregularly to make a more or less clear path for about 1/4 mile to return to Gregg Hill Rd. The last third of the walk passes through open forest.

The slope from the gate at Gregg Hill Road to the top of the hill is moderately steep and follows along a rutted dirt road. From the top of the hill the path through the meadows back to Gregg Hill Road is level easily traversed – – even with a perambulator. There are no vistas from the meadows.

tom rush meadow path at top of hill P1000468
Lookiing down Old Rangeway Road toward Deering Center
tom rush meadow path 1P1000467
Mown path through a meadow in the Tom Rush Forest
tom rush meadow path 2 P1000480
Path through open forest.
tom rush meadow path entry at lachance house P1000485
Entrance to the Tom Rush Meadow path from a private residence at the top of Gregg Hill Road.

The meadows harbor a nice diversity of flowers. When I walked it in early June a stunningly blue introduced Veronica, V. austriaca saw-leaved speed-well, was in bloom. There were a lot of blackberries and dewberry, a close relative of blackberry that scrambles along the ground. Dewberry fruits before blackberry. Its fruit look like fruit of blackberry and can be just as sweet. The dewberry plant is thorny/hairy, so the biggest challenge might to be in collecting the fruit without getting scratched. There were also pale violet fleabanes forming large colonies in the grass. Milkweed plants were conspicuous and I saw a monarch butterfly, which feeds exclusively on milkweed. I was very happy to see a lot of ash seedlings but not so happy to see a large colony of the invasive black swallow-wort (Cynanchium louisiae). I am sure there will be a succession of flowers through the season. At the edge of one of the meadows there is an impressive wonderfully branched red oak tree.

 

 

Parking on Class VI Gregg HIll Road beyond the private residence

It is possible to park at the top of Gregg Hill Road but please remember that there is a private residence there. The owner has requested that people not park in the bays. Gregg Hill Road is a Class VI road and there is room to park on the side of the road beyond the residence. Please do not block Gregg Hill Road.

The Tom Rush Meadow Walk would make for a good trail for families. It is short, only 1/2 mile each direction, and you could post a car at each end. The trail is easy to follow; it is open and there is a diversity of things to see.  With some effort you could push a perambulator along. It would be fun for winter’s snowshoeing or cross country skiing at least at the level top through the meadows.

 

 

Margaret Wood Memorial/Pinnacle Trail

 

The Margaret Wood Memorial is a 20 acre conservation easement in East Deering, at the top of Peter Wood Hill Rd.  The land is privately owned but the conservation easement on the Margaret Wood Memorial has been held by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests since 1970.

Margaret Wood was the wife of Peter Wood. In 1917 the Woods purchased a large farm on what is now Peter  Wood Hill where they raised cattle and grew potatoes. Part of this farm is now the Margaret Wood Memorial.

Margaret Wood was a founding member of the Deering Community Club. The members of Deering Community Club were originally all women. Among other good deeds, the women of the Club were responsible for arranging running water in Deering Town Hall in the mid 1920’s. Many men in town contributed their labor to this project. The men impressed the ladies of the Deering Community Club so much that in 1927 men were admitted to membership in the club.  Soon thereafter town hall was extended to what we know today.

Margaret and Peter Wood were grandparents of several generations of current and former Deering Residents including Tom Coppadis, the owner of  the land on which the Margaret Wood Memorial is found.

How to get there: Please contact me if you would like to download the Pinnacle Trail map. From the Hillsborough end of Deering Center Rd. (NH Rt 149) turn on to Clement Hill Rd. Follow Clement Hill until it turns sharply right (about 1.5 mi). North Rd continues straight at this point. Follow North Rd to a T at Pond Rd (about 1 1/4 mi). North Rd continues to the right. Follow North Rd, turning sharply left at Clement Hill Rd to become Peter Wood Hill (approx. 1 1/4 mi). Continue a short distance to a small parking area on the left (approx. 300 yds). The trail head is about 20 yds downhill from the parking, on the left.   From points to the east pass through Weare on NH rt. 149 to Cross Rd., at the Wilds. Follow Cross Rd to a T at E. Deering Rd. (about 3/4 mi). Turn Right on East Deering Rd. and follow, turning sharply left at Gove Rd. (about 3/4 mi) and following to a T (approx. 1 mi) at Peter Wood Hill Rd. Turn left on Peter Wood Hill Rd and continue approx. 0.6 mi, passing Glen Rd. on the left and where the road becomes dirt, to the parking area on the right at the crest of the hill.

The Pinnacle trail is a loop that begins and ends on Peter Wood Hill. The lower end is opposite the point where Glen Rd meets Peter Wood Hill and the upper part is about 500 ft further uphill. There is a pull off large enough for 1 or 2 vehicles at the upper end, where Peter Wood Hill turns left. The entrance to the trail is slightly downhill on Peter Wood Hill from that point and is marked by a sign.

What’s the trail like?  The Pinnacle Trail loop is about 1 mile in length. The trail is reasonably well marked with white blazes on trees (but the blazes could use renewal as I write this in 2017). The trail has been well trodden over the years and is easy to follow. The trail is even underfoot, so walking is easy. For the most part the trail is level with little gain or loss in elevation however at the Glen Rd end there is a slightly steepish slope over maybe 50 yards. An option to returning to parking from Glen Rd is simply to walk through the woods, parallel to the road. Near the midpoint and the picnic table there is a side trail to ledge with an overlook however I did not see blazes on this overlook trail. Nonetheless, it would not be possible to miss the overlook or to become lost as the loop is very short and the edge of the ledge with overlook obvious. A log bench has been placed at a view-worthy spot near the picnic area, and vegetation has been kept at bay to allow for the view.

What’s the payoff? The forest in the Margaret Wood Memorial is a mixture of pine, oak and maple. The forest is very open, with little undergrowth. This makes the Pinnacle Trail a pleasant ramble through non-threatening woods. The two views are to the north and northeast, and this includes a good view of Dudley Brook and the hills beyond Henniker. There is a rustic picnic table at the highest point in the Memorial providing a great place for picnicking while taking in the views. The open forest gives lots of room for kids to run around. In early days Peter Wood Hill was known for winter sports. Today the Pinnacle Trail is a good place for snowshoeing or cross country skiing.

 

Smith Brook Trail

Please contact me if you would like a downloadable map of Smith Brook Trail to.

To Get There. The Audubon Preserve is located in Deering on Clement Hill Rd. From Deering Center Rd (NH Rt. 149) follow Clement Hill Rd., turning sharply right where North Rd goes straight (approx. 1.5 mi) and past the first marked parking area, on the right, then downhill past two private homes and down a steep dirt road to the bottom of the hill (approx. 09 mi), opposite Tree Frog Pond on the left. There is  parking area on the right.  You can reach Black Fox Pond from this parking area.

Smith Brook drains Black Fox Pond to the Piscatquog River through Dudley Brook. Pick up Smith Brook Trail directly opposite the parking area, across Clement Hill Rd. The trail is marked with yellow blazes and the entire loop is  a little over 1 mile. The trail passes through a mixture of forest types, pine at first and the mixed hardwood. The trail is level, with no gain or loss in elevation, and smooth with the exception of one short stretch that crosses the drainage of a small pond. It is an easy trail.

The first part of Smith Brook Trail, the western edge, follows Tree Frog Pond. This is a nesting site for wood ducks and wood duck nesting boxes have been placed on the pond. Great blue heron also nest on the pond. Both of these species are sensitive to noise, so if you want to see them you should go quietly.  On June nights you will hear the tree frogs singing. Some interesting plants along the trail are the orchids slender ladies’ tresses (Spiranthes lacera) and checkered rattlesnake plantain (Goodyeara pubescens),  and pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata) and a Pyrola species for which I have not yet seen flowers. The Spiranthes and Pyrola should flower in July or August. In September 2017 I found a beautiful, but deadly destroying angel mushroom (Amanita virosa) at the bridge across Smith Brook.

The trail follows along Smith Brook to a bridge and then follows the brook back past a beaver marsh, returning to Clement Hill  Rd at Smith Brook, where you turn right along the road for about ¼ mile to return to the parking area.

HIGH FIVE/WILSON HILL

Please contact me if you would like to download a map of the High Five Trail.

The High Five trail is rather short. We made the return hike in about an hour, allowing some time at the summit to take in the view but otherwise steady walking.

Wilson Hill, also known as High Five, is the southernmost high point of a ridge that extends over Hogden Pasture, Hedgehog Mt to Little Hedgehog Mt in the north. This long ridge separates West Deering from the rest of the town and there is no direct route from central Deering to West Deering. The ridge also forms the western boundary of a long wetland that drains to the north into the Contoocook River by Manselville Brook and to the south into the Reservoir and from there into the north branch of the Piscataquog River. The eastern bound of this wetland is dominated by Clark Summit.

Wilson Hill, at 1400 ft,  is the second highest point in Deering, behind Clark Summit. But, the panoramic views of Mt Monadnock in the southwest to Mt Lovewell in the north are delightfully accessible by a fairly easy walk of about 1/3 mile from  Sky Farm Rd, or a somewhat more strenuous ramble from Falls Rd. Wilson Hill is really an open pasture with a few trees. Apart from  the ticks, that are found everywhere here, it provides an excellent setting for a picnic (remember though, NO FIRES). The summit is an excellent place for star gazing!

There is limited space for parking at both ends of the High Five trail, but especially so at the Falls Rd. end. Sky Farm road is wide and relatively little traveled, thus offering reasonable space for on-road parking.

Sky Farm Rd is located at the southern end of Old County, opposite the point where Reservoir Rd meets Old County Rd. The entrance to the ‘High Five Reservation’ is about 3/4 mi from Old County/Reservoir Rds on Sky Farm Rd. It is marked by a Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests sign; the wide trail is blocked by a metal gate. Access to Wilson Hill is over a gently sloping dirt road which first passes through forest and then breaks into the open at the summit.

A maple tree at the summit indicates the opening for the Hedgehog Ridge Trail, which leads from Wilson Hill down to Falls Rd and then back up onto Hedgehog Ridge and, ultimately, Hedgehog Mt. Rd in the north. The trail to Falls Rd from the summit is well marked with yellow blazes and thus is easily followed.  The climb down from the summit is a little sharp over 100 yards or so, but once it enters the forest the slope becomes gradual until reaching a brook. After a short climb from the brook, the trail is level to Falls Rd. The Hedgehog Ridge trail continues immediately across Falls Rd.

The return hike from Falls Rd to Wilson Hill is an easy, not too strenuous afternoon’s walk. There are lots of mushrooms in season, ferns, and clubmosses growing along the trail.

Sites of interest along the trail include rock walls and some impressively large trees. There are two small tupelo trees on the north side of the brook, alongside the trail. About mid way between Falls Rd and the brook there is some quarried granite that are worth a stop. The land was purchased by Beatrice Trum Humter and Stephen Hunter from the Gingras Brothers late in the 1940’s. The Gingras brothers operated a mica mine, which can be seen off the trail south of the brook. The mine is not very impressive although there are pieces of mica, along with remnants of the mining operation (visible from the trail). The  brook flows south toward the Contoocook River. It is fun to follow for the small ponds and one largish beaver dam. Along the brook, not far from where the trail crosses, interesting flowering plants grow in the wetland. In short, the brook gives a great opportunity for ‘naturalizing.’

The trees along the trail are worth contemplating. Many started out as seedlings growing from rocks or fallen trees. Today the rock is gone, the old tree  rotted away, leaving the large roots as props for the grown-up tree. In other cases large old oaks can be seen to have grown up from stump sprouts many years ago, their bases conjoined; they are like old  brothers at the county fair. One youngish hardwood I saw yesterday had become bowed, forming an arc, the branches on the outside of the arc are now growing straight up. In time they too will appear as old siblings!