Exploring the David Dana Forest for Gold

Happy Earth Day!

Last week on Earth Day we took an adventure to Dalton, NH with the SPNHF property: David Dana Forest as our destination. The property is easily located minutes from downtown Whitefield. We combined this into two small hikes, the first along a snowmachine trail corridor that borders the David Dana Forest on one side, and the Johns River on the other side. The second hike was along the Main Trail in the David Dana Forest to the Gold Mine.

We parked at a gate off Faraway Road, and not finding any No Trespassing signs on the gate for the snowmachine trail, we walked north. Below and east of this old railroad grade is a dirt pit and looks to be somewhat of an ATV playground. We wondered if they would come up onto this trail, but Andrew knew that the trails are technically closed right now for mud season.

John’s River

The bright sun warmed us from this cold early spring weather we’d been experiencing. The Johns River is a meandering waterway along floodplain fields and alders, promising some wildlife interaction. We immediately noticed the evidence of beaver and Alden collected several feathers along the path. On our left, was the boundary of the David Dana Forest. We tried to note where a trail comes down out of the forest onto the snowmachine trail, but we never found it.

We crossed over the Johns River on an impressive bridge and walked to an open wetland where we heard quacking wood frogs. Finding a nice spot at the water’s edge to spy on the frogs, we sat down and had a snack.

Across the wetland and through the alders we heard another ATV group firing up their machines and we decided to start heading back. Unfortunately, our quiet day was interrupted for the majority of the walk back by two dirt bikes passing us and returning back. Alden was very concerned the machines might run us over, so insisted on hiking off the edge of the trail.

White-capped Mount Washington in the distance.

When we got back to the car, we decided to head over to the Main Trailhead within the David Dana Forest off of Ridge Road. The hiking trail started in a lovely dense evergreen forest with moss below our feet. Just minutes after Lindsay mentioned the butterflies we should keep an eye out for, an eastern comma fluttered into our path. We hiked along quickly passing a trail to the west and then turned northwest at the Lower Ox Team Road trail. The next intersection was for the Gold Mine Trail.

Eastern comma butterfly warming in the sunshine.

The Gold Mine Trail skirts the western flank of a wooded oak hillside. With careful eyesight we could even see the ATVs down in the Johns River floodplain. Looking up we could make out snow covered mountain tops. Soon the leaves will grow and both of these views will be gone until late fall. The mountain views are particularly impressive through the trees and it’s no wonder that this tract was slated to be developed into housing lots before the SPNHF stepped in.

We hiked along and could just make out a rock formation in the woods ahead of us. We crossed a small ravine and found ourselves at the mouth of a water filled gold mine. An empty bird nest hung on the yellow/orange stained wall. Sunlight twinkled in the gray water and danced on the mine wall. We tossed a couple of rocks in the water to see if we could hear how deep the water was. Deep enough for everyone to stay out of it!

Birds nest on a shelf. Do you think a bird really nested here or someone placed it there?

Stairs next to the gold mine invited us to hike a little further on but we turned around after we were on the cliff above the gold mine because we were heading toward private land. Andrew had read that there was a picnic table somewhere along this trail, but we didn’t follow it that far.

After another look in the gold mine and a quick search of actual gold (of course we came up empty handed) we started to make our way back. We watched a chipmunk in the ravine and let Alden navigate us back to the car using his own copy of the trail map.

The boys check out fast moving stream water flowing through a culvert under the trail.

We hope you all had a great weekend and got outside too!

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