What a splendid weekend for mountain laurel. At Beaver Brook in Hollis, NH, it's in full bloom. I went there this morning to join a team that's preparing a new trail, and we spent three hours cutting back laurel & oak & birch along an already-flagged path that might be ready for public use in a couple of years along the northern edge of the property. I won't give details on its location, since it's not quite ready for its public premiere. There are plenty of other Beaver Brook trails to enjoy, and I recommend that you make your way to Hollis to discover them if you haven't already. You can get more information including directions and trail maps at www.beaverbrook.org.
I like to help maintain trails now & then, since I get so much enjoyment out of them all the time. I'm not skilled enough to be an asset on my own, but signing up for an organized trail day like this one lets me work with a team that can get quite a bit done in just a few hours. Keep an eye out for volunteer opportunities in your favorite park. Youth and strength are optional. And if you're lucky, as I was today, there's pizza afterward.
I was wielding a pair of loppers instead of a real camera on this hike, so I had only my phone's low-resolution camera to capture a couple of shots. The tiny photo of mountain laurel gives you the barest hint of the profusion of flowers all over the trail. I saw the swallowtail butterfly when I stopped for a drink of water. It spent five leisurely minutes going from blossom to blossom on a single laurel shrub, apparently unconcerned that I was sitting two feet away.
This is unfortunately a great year for ticks, and I had to brush some off of myself despite using DEET. Anyone in this region who's spent time outdoors this spring knows the drill. We have to put up with them to get near things like stands of mountain laurel.
Beaver Brook is unique in this area in that it's a private holding, not a public park. The Beaver Brook Association is a nonprofit educational organization that owns about 2100 acres of open space, most of it in Hollis, with about 35 miles of trails. The association offers numerous educational programs and guided hikes. Its trails are open to the public every day from sunrise to sunset. Donations to the association are what keep it going, so bear that in mind as you enjoy the trails.
There are several trailheads: a couple on Rt. 130 (which bisects the property), one on Rocky Pond Road, several on Ridge Road, and a couple on the south side near the Massachusetts state line. Take your pick of trails: flat or hilly, ponds or dry woods, lots of company or lots of privacy. The area north of Rt. 130, which includes the area I was in today, is much quieter than the southern side.
Don't let the fact that there are houses nearby keep you from carrying a trail map. Print one out in advance from the web site, or you can purchase one at the association's headquarters on Ridge Road. There are signs but no maps posted at trail junctions. Cell service in the area has improved in recent years, as I discovered to my amazement this morning when one of my companions made a phone call from the trail. I wouldn't count on that to be possible on other Beaver Brook trails, though.
I was part of a good crew this morning, and the weather was fine. I'll look forward to the "grand opening" of this new trail, with its brook & pleasant overlooks. If I'm still blogging when it's unveiled, I'll mention it.