Friday, April 5, 2013

Horse Hill Nature Preserve

It was a lovely warm day today for once.  I received a Facebook note from one of my closest friends to stop on by with the baby. I had originally planned to go for a jog on the Nashua Rail Trail but I opted to have a playdate instead.  Once her youngest woke up we decided to head to Horse Hill Nature Preserve for a small hike.  It is right around the corner from her home and we'd been there a few times together and separately.  
Horse Hill is the largest preserved open space property in Merrimack, NH.  It was purchased as conservation land in 2002.  The 550+ acre property consists of gently rolling to fairly steep terrain and two hills approximately 400' elevation.  The preserve is named after Horse Hill, one of two hills located within the property. The preserve includes a series of streams, ponds, swamps, and numerous wetlands totaling approximately 60 acres. 

The parking area is easy to find at 184 Amherst Rd with parking enough for 15 - 20 cars.  There is a posted map and trail map box at the trail head.  We followed the Loop Trail up to Lawstoka Pond.  The trail was wide and mainly clear of snow and mud but we did encounter a patch or two of winter remains.    

At the Loop Trail split we reached the pond.  There is one of the most impressive beaver dam I've encountered.  It's neatly laid and hold back the swelling pond very well.  The lodge close to the dam looked quiet.  There was a bench near by where you could take a break and quietly wait for the wildlife to emerge.  But with two babies and a preschooler we decided the animals would not be appearing.  

We continued up the Loop Trail until we reached the Loop Trail Bypass.  On the way we saw one of the largest beaver lodges that I've ever seen.  From a distance it looked as if it was 5 feet above the water.  I wondered if the beavers left the first lodge and moved to the larger lodge as more and more people used the trails.  It looked more secluded on that end of the pond.  

We followed the white blazes and encountered a few other hikers enjoying the warm weather.  The trails had been rerouted in several areas but were well marked and freshly blazed.  We stopped at the top of a hill at one point to listen to strange sounds coming from a wetland just out of view.  It sounded like geese or perhaps frogs.  

We didn't snag one of the maps at the parking lot but through a bit of guess work we managed to loop ourselves back to the pond by way of the Long Pond Bypass.  At this point the 3 year old was starting to get tired.  I was quite impressed with how well she managed to keep up with us and carry her sticks, pinecones, and twigs.  She was a true hiker.  

We made it back to the Loop Trail and kept her going with promises of the wishing well and occasionally being carried by her mom.  At the wishing well we all made wishes and pushed on towards the cars. 

The hike was an enjoyable one.  It was also the first time I carried Lil' Dude on my back instead of  in a front carry.  He did alright and seemed to enjoy himself.  Whenever I stopped he would push his hands into my shoulder blades to let me know that I should keep moving.  At one point, he liked the up and down momentum so much that when I stopped he kept bouncing as if he was riding a horse.  The fresh air was good for both of us.  He fell asleep on the drive home and I know I'm going to have a good night sleep.  

Should you want to visit Horse Hill Nature Preserve more information can be found on the Town of Merrimack website, including a trail map.  They allow hiking, biking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hunting, and snowmobile and horseback riding.
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