Last weekend, we headed out midday with plans for strawberry picking and hiking. We stopped at Ski Hearth Farm in Sugar Hill, NH for some strawberry picking. The picking wasn’t too good this year and we struggled to fill 2 half pints. This farm also has some great cross country ski trails that we’ve blogged (Valentine’s Ski) about in the past. To entice Alden into hiking, Andrew promised white rocks and ferns on our next hiking adventure. (This sounds very exciting to a three year old!)
We drove to Hobbs Fern Sanctuary in Lyman, NH. The sanctuary is owned by the New England Wildflower Society. We’d never heard of this sanctuary and we found very little information about the trails or a decent map online, but we decided to check it out anyway. We rarely have an excuse to go to Lyman, a small town of rolling hills and quiet neighbors. It is just south of Littleton in northern Grafton County.
The sanctuary is on Lyman Road and gets so few visitors that the driveway and parking area is completely covered in grass. We weren’t even sure where to park, but figured we’d just pull in off the road near the edge of the property. There is a cute cottage on the property too that we imagined gets used periodically by the New England Wildflower Society. So why is there a fern sanctuary deep in the rolling hills of northern NH under the shadows of the White Mountains? The preserve is listed as a unique biodiversity site for this region of NH and is recognized by the NH Division of Forests and Lands Natural Heritage Bureau.
There was still no map on the information board, but we found what looked like a path and a small sign tacked to a tree reading “RT 1”. We walked through the tall grass toward a woods road that looked promising.
We followed “RT 1” along a stone wall to a small opening (old log landing perhaps?) and eventually to a sign for Ridge Loop. Andrew had found another blog that described this loop to be enjoyable so we took a chance and headed into the woods.
Almost immediately we began seeing large white quartz rocks. Some were hiding under green moss and leaves, while others showed their entire white surface that we knelt down and touched: cool on this hot day. To our left the woods reached up dramatically high showing off ledges covered with ferns, ash trees, and more quartz rocks.
We found some maidenhair fern that the kiosk had promised us at the parking area and a tolerant spring peeper who showed off his suction cup feet skills by hopping from Andrew’s arm, to Lindsay’s arm, to a fern, to a green leaf and then finally down into the leaf litter.
After a short walk, the trail began to gain elevation and swing left bringing us on top of the ledge, looking back down at the trail we were just hiking on. A few spots gave us a view of Cannon Mountain to our east and before we knew it we were back on the woods road. We walked back the way we came, but the woods road continues up into the woods. This might be a great cross country ski destination.
On our way back through the opening, Andrew spotted three raccoons scrambling up a tree. We watched them quietly climb higher and higher. No sign of mama raccoon, but she must have been around there somewhere.
When we reached the cottage/parking we walked around the house down a mowed walkway toward the sound of frogs only to find a locked gate and fence around a small pond. Inside the gate was an inscription on a rock. A sign on the gate was completely faded to white, although we could probably guess what it once said. We couldn’t figure out why it was gated off, yet the mowed pathway continued behind the gate to the pond’s edge. Lindsay and Andrew didn’t want to say anything out loud, but our observant 3 year old said “Maybe someone can fit through that hole.” We may or may not have listened……
It’s amazing that we still find these great places to explore. Just when you think you’ve visited every natural area, there’s more to find just down the road. Hope you enjoyed our adventure…now go make your own!