Fox State Forest, December 6, 2008Preview
Fox Forest has 22 miles of trails on nearly 1,500 acres, so there is plenty to explore. My plan is to do two loops of about 3-5 miles each. That way, those who want a shorter hike can drop off after the first loop. Those wanting a longer hike can continue on for a full day's outing.
The first loop will include the Black Gum Swamp. Black gum, or black tupelo, trees are quite rare in New Hampshire. They are the oldest known living hardwoods and some in New England are nearly 700 years old. The ones we will visit are only 400 years old. Nearby tree trunks often share a root system, and they expand by cloning, rather than by seeds.
The second loop will visit a different area of the forest. Both loops can be hilly and muddy. If there is snow, you may want snowshoes or stabilicers. Rain or snow cancels.
Directions: From Route 9 and 202, take the exit for Hillsborough and Fox State Forest. At the lights in the center of Hillsborough, turn right (northwest) onto Center Road (turning left would put you on Route 149). About 2 miles down Center Road, you will turn right into the parking area for the Fox State Forest Research Station.
NEXT HIKE: December 6, Fox State Forest
MEETING SPOTS: Exit 14 off of Rt. 93, LL Bean/Hannaford side, Concord at 8:30 a.m.
Fox State Forest Headquarters Trailhead at 9:30 a.m
TRAILHEAD: From Route 9 and 202, take the exit for Hillsborough and Fox State Forest. At the lights in the center of Hillsborough, turn right (northwest) onto Center Road (turning left would put you on Route 149). About 2 miles down Center Road, you will turn right into the parking area for the Fox State Forest Research Station.
HIKE LEADER: Faye Doria
Eight hikers and two dogs ventured out on a cold morning for a hike at Fox Forest in Hillsborough, NH. Most had never been there before, and I had never hiked the trails, so it was an adventure for all of us. We didn't have a real plan, so it turned into a rather serendipitous eight miles.
First we headed west towards the Black Gum Swamp. Black Gum, or tupelo, trees are uncommon in NH. And the ones in this swamp are over 500 years old. They had strong trunks, but not many upper branches, since those fall off in snow or wind. They spread by creating clones in their interconnecting root systems.
Then we circled south and back west around the Molly J Swamp before heading east again. We all agreed the woods were pretty - with easy hills mixed with flatter terrain. It would have been great snowshoeing territory, which was the original plan. We had an inch or two of icy snow about half of the time, making for some interesting walking. And the ground was iced over some places, while the faster flowing streams were racing along, but starting to have icicles hanging over them on branches.
We found a great spot for lunch on a wooden bridge over a stream. There were other logs nearby to sit on and the sun was shining weakly and we didn't notice much wind. But we also didn't linger too long since we started getting colder as we sat.
We decided to head north before going east to Mud Pond Bog. One hiker headed home (those darn holiday parties!) and the rest of us ended up on a tree identification trail. It was nice to have many different kinds of trees identified - and we were surprised to find about 10 different kind of trees in just a quarter mile.
Mud Pond Bog has peat deposits over 13 feet deep. It would have been more interesting in the spring and summer. It has a boardwalk out into the bog, so we could see more than just looking from shore.
After another loop, we headed back west to our cars. On the way, we passed an area of virgin forest with eastern hemlock trees over 200 years old. It was on a hill next to another swamp, so would have been difficult to get to for logging. And then it was uphill back to the cars.
All agreed it had been a great day - cold, but not too cold. Interesting terrain with a variety of sights. Enough distance and hills to keep it challenging. Old friends and new friends to catch up with.
There are lots of other not well known sites around the state that have hiking trails. Go to www.nhdfl.org. Click on Events & Programs, then on Visiting NH's Biodiversity, and you can download maps and brochures to lots of interesting places. You can even download sheets on rare plants and animals or a list of the 200+ state forests.
Members may see more photos in our online photo album.