Published Date Written by Ed ParsonsJust because you live locally and don't need a campground, is no reason not to go to Moose Brook State Park in Gorham. Ask any New Hampshire State Park employee about the place, and they will tell you it is a gem developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, and a great place to explore.
This Monday, my friend and I were looking for a mellow hike, and decided to go there. We found a great 2.5 mile loop hike and much more.
Originally the site of two farms — the Berry Farm and Perkins Farm, the land was purchased in the early 1930's and became a major CCC encampment, with barracks, dining hall, and equipment buildings
A base for work in the region, it was most convenient to work right there, which they did. The National Park Service directed them to build a campground there. At the junction of Moose Brook (which drains out of Ice Gulch) and Perkins Brook, a two pond system was created with dams. The upper pool was a warming pool, and the lower one a deeper swimming pool, with an attractive lawn and bath house. The banks of connecting streams were carefully lined with boulders. Also created was an open picnic area, and a quiet campground located across adjacent Jimtown Road.
In the nearby forest, a trail system was carefully created along Perkins Brook. Today, historical trails there include the Perkins Path, the CCC Link, the CCC Perimeter Trail and the Berry Farm Road.
In 1934, the 87 acre park and the surrounding 668 acres of forest were purchased by the state of New Hampshire. Today, according to Andrew Zdoray, regional state parks manager, NH state park people hold dear the work done by the CCC in the 1930's, and are excited about its future legacy.
Seeing the work they accomplished at Moose Brook first hand, you understand why. There is a certain basic goodness about stone work and landscaping when it respects and accents the land. Of course, the fact that it has had more than 80 years to blend into the landscape helps.
We drove north through Pinkham Notch, turned left in Gorham on Route 2, and at the other end of town turned left again at the lights. In 1.2 miles, we turned right on Jimtown Road, and continued down it to the park entrance on the right.
The park headquarters building remains from the 1930s, and is on the site of the original Perkins Farm. Inside, we were given a nice color handout map of the trail system.
We headed out in the increasing heat of midday, and appreciated the shade of the forest as we crossed the bridge over Perkins Brook and soon took a left on the CCC Link. It followed an attractive old road that was mostly returned to forest, yet well traveled. At a few small stream crossings, we passed over old stone bridges that were carefully built without culverts by the CCC.
Soon, we connected with the CCC Perimeter Trail. It climbed steadily through a very rugged area of esker-like interconnecting rises and dips, yet the CCC had somehow laid out the trail so it was a pleasant gradual rise. Here and there we passed small groups of old hemlocks that were well over 100 years old.
The trail traversed over to the Berry Farm Road. Although considered a trail, it is more maintained, and was used recently for logging. It was also a snowmobile trail in the winter.
To our right, the road wound back to park headquarters, but a trail sign indicated a beaver bog in the other direction, and we walked a quarter mile to it. After the forest, it was good to be out in the open. It was a small bog, with an abandoned beaver lodge. Mink, raccoon and moose tracks were on the muddy shore. The bugs had kept us moving in the woods, but we soon realized that the direct sun kept them away from the shore of the bog. It was a good spot for lunch. While we ate, dragonflies with black stripped wings dipped the tips of their long abdomens in the muddy water, releasing eggs. A white throated sparrow gave one melodic call, and was gone. A kingfisher flew down over the bog.
Enamored with the spell of the silence there, we reluctantly left, heading back down the grassy Berry Pond Road. The old Berry homestead had been located about half way down the road, but we didn't see sign of it. However, there was an old logging clearing or park, and the view above it to the east of rocky Mount Madison and Adams in the northern Presidentials was gratifying. The big peaks were a pastel blue on the hot sultry day.
Further down the road, my friend was walking in front, when she saw a big owl fly up from the ground ahead. It perched in a tree next to the road. I reached her and turned around to look up, when she saw another fly up behind me. So, we had two mature barred owls perched on either side of the road only 30 feet up, checking us out. We lingered and admired them.
Then we continued down, to the call of cicadas. We noticed a number of well used mountain bike trails crossing or entering the road. The local Cohos Cycling Club maintain trails there, and are working on a map.
Later back at the park headquarters, we decided to walk across the lawn past the warming pool to the tree lined swimming pond. Being a weekday, we were the only ones there. Next to the bathhouse, the stonework down to the water was attractive.
We took a quick dip in the cold water, most of which had descended the mountain in Moose Brook from Ice Gulch. However, if the water hadn't lingered in the warming pool first, located a hundred yards upstream, it would have been a lot colder. Such was the planning of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
For a "Vintage film clip of Moose Brook State Park," go to the New Hampshire State Parks Facebook page. Just below the top press "videos," then scroll about halfway down.