Last weekend, Andrew found a fun place for all of us to hike that he remembered reading about on 1 Happy Hiker’s blog: Lackie Lone Oak Trail. This private property is under conservation easement with the Upper Valley Land Trust in Bath, NH. There is parking for 1-2 cars off Abbott Ave (which is off of 135) next to the confluence of the Ammonoosuc and Connecticut Rivers, just outside of bustling downtown Woodsville. A map of the trails can be found here.
Andrew thought this would be a good hike for early spring since it is south-west facing and would likely be snow-free and dry. He was right, the woods were dry with white oaks and white pine, the forest floor blanketed with orange and brown leaves, and the occasional hepatica with a small pinch of purple.
The trail starts off steeply up-hill along an old woods road, behind the Lackie’s family farmstead, but then continues across the slope for easy walking with one small stream crossing. According to the map we found online, the trail takes a sharp turn uphill just after another stream crossing, but in reality the turn happens 75 feet before the stream. We checked out the water first and made a quick salamander search, but came up empty-handed.
The trail continues up the southern ridge of Gardner Mountain dramatically with rock steps, hugging a rock outcropping. This little hemlock knoll provided the only shade in the mostly deciduous forest – lacking their spring leaves this time of year. We also found a few cedar trees along this trail. Lindsay predicted a snake sighting in these dry woods, especially since it was the warmest day of spring so far.
As the trail continued upward in elevation we ran into another hiker and her excited dog. The trail swings close to a drop off with pine trees ringing the edge of the cliff. The strong wind at this point along with the steep drop-offs made both the boys to be a little scared, but Lindsay urged them onward. Andrew was especially nervous since the forest floor and trail were covered in a layer of extra-slippery oak leaves and pine needles, and Alden was eager to hike ahead and explore; they worked it out that Alden would hold Andrew’s hand so daddy wouldn’t be so scared. We stopped just before the last push to the top for a quick snack break.
The final steepest push up the trail started with rock steps and dramatic long switchbacks, in between oak trees and red pines that eventually levels out onto the ridgeline. At the top there is an impressive multi-trunked oak, but the old lone oak stands at a viewpoint toward Haverhill (and Vermont). We enjoyed the view down toward the Ammooscuc River and Connecticut River. Behind us on the horizon through the trees, you could make out some of the White Mountains to the east.
We put Alden in the backpack carrier for the walk back down the steep and slippery section (slippery because of all the leaves) of the trail, imagining multiple crashes and slips. We let Alden down again at the hemlock knoll and just as we started down the rock steps, we spotted a garter snake on the trail. He was an especially brave garter snake, standing his ground as we tried to walk around him.
Instead of heading back down the trail right away we played in the stream again. Flipping rocks and searching for life in the water. Then we headed back down the trail. Happy early spring!