January 9, 2016: Waukewan Highlands

Just as Lockes Hill was my go-to hike this past summer, Waukewan Highlands has been my go-to place for snowshoeing in winter. That’s where I went today (but wearing microspikes instead of snowshoes).

Click any photo to view the gallery and read captions.

Details:
Located on the western side of Parade Road (Route 106) in Meredith, NH, Waukewan Highlands Community Park has three miles of trails, including interpretive markers which identify certain natural features. At its center is Hart’s Pond, which once served as Meredith’s reservoir (I usually just refer to the pond, and the park in general, as “The Reservoir”). There’s a PDF brochure available on the Meredith, NH town website. If you’re heading south on Parade Road (coming from the Meredith traffic circle), the park entrance will be on your right, just past Ballard House B&B and a large field; if you’re heading north, the park entrance will be on your left, at the top of the hill past Forestview Manor. The entrance is directly across the street from Winton Road, and is marked with a small, brown wooden “Park Entrance” sign.

The blue trail is the most difficult, but still pretty easy. This one ascends the hill to the “view” (which is not much of a view these days – more on that below), then back down again to below the pond. The red trail branches off near the beginning of the blue trail and takes a lower-lying route to the pond. The yellow trail meanders through the woods and an open field on the other side of the gated access road by the pond. The white trail (also called “Jan Pond Way”) is the shortest and most frequently used by anyone whose primary destination is the pond, usually for fishing. Additionally, there is an orange-blazed trail that follows along part of the yellow trail, then continues on outside of the park grounds to Reservoir Road.

Impressions:
This is an easy, scenic hike, no matter what the season. However, I prefer hiking and snowshoeing here in the fall and winter. (I discovered this summer that the grass around the pond grows very tall, causing me some tick concerns.)

When I arrived, there were just three cars in the parking lot, and by one of them was a man with a border collie-ish looking dog. They had started part way up the blue trail, then turned back to head down the red trail. I caught up with them at this point, and the dog laid down in the snow and looked at me very intently, letting out a few short barks. The man said, “She’s fascinated by your jacket.”

Oh-kaaaay. Ha! My blaze orange fleece jacket is, um, highly visible. I bought it this past fall for hiking during hunting season. For some reason, several people I’ve met on the trail have commented on it. “I should really get an orange jacket like that,” a woman commented to me this fall at Lockes Hill. “That’s a great jacket,” a guy said to me at Lockes Hill just last week. And today, the “fascinated” comment. Also possibly worthy of note, anyone who has ever commented on my fleece was hiking with a dog.

Anyway… I began as I typically do, with the blue trail. Near the end of the blue trail is a connector blazed in red and blue that branches off to the right. I took this connector over to the red trail, then turned left onto the red trail to head down to the pond.

As I emerged from the woods into the open area by the pond, I wondered how thick the ice was. Not two seconds later, I noticed a man with a fishing rod walking on the ice, toward another man who was already set up and ice fishing. They didn’t fall through, so it appears it was thick enough.

I continued back into the woods to the yellow trail on the other side of the pond. The yellow trail follows along a small stream for a bit, shared with the orange trail. Where the orange trail continues straight ahead to Reservoir Road, the yellow trail takes a turn to the right and heads uphill through the woods to an open field. Having passed through the woods, I reached the field and followed the meandering path through an old stone wall, across the field and turned right onto the gated access road that heads back down to the pond. A short distance before the pond, the white trail breaks off to the left, leading back to the parking lot.

About that “view”…
At the high point of the blue trail is a small area off the trail that’s supposed to be a view to the northeast. Two years ago, there actually was a little bit of a view here, where you could see out toward Red Hill and the Ossipee Mountains. Now, not so much. There’s a stand of white birch just below the viewpoint that has now grown tall enough to obscure the view with branches in winter, and block the view entirely in the summer. In the photo below, the upper photo is from one of my first snowshoe outings here nearly two years ago on February 9, 2014. The lower photo is from today.

view_beforeafter

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