3-14-2020 Parsons-The Swift River

The Swift River from the Albany Town Forest. (ED PARSONS PHOTO)

Interesting times we live in. The national news is geared primarily for urbanites. What do you do when and if a pandemic worsens? Stay home to reduce the risk of your being infected. Up here in the mountains, why not get out in nature as well? You may need it.

Here are a few suggestions of walks and hikes in the area. I won’t take into consideration the varying snow conditions. In a month, the snow will be gone.

The Albany Town Forest is accessed from two places. One is to drive into the tar loop at the Saco District Ranger station, located on the right a hundred-feet down the Kancamagus Highway in Conway.

Drive most of the way around the loop and park, or drive in the dirt road on the right a hundred feet and park. Walk out to the fields and bear left into the Albany Forest, starting at a kiosk with map.

Another way to access is a half mile down the Kanc on the right. Turn into a dirt parking area on the right, continue walking out past a kiosk to trails. This area has a beautiful trail along the Swift River.

I have never been to the Marshall Conservation Area. I hear good things about it. People walk there year-round. In the winter, it is also used for cross-country skiing and fat-tire biking; in the summer there are many bike trails. To get there from Conway Village, take West Side Road for two miles and look for the sign and parking on the left.

Also I have never been to East Bear Paw, and that needs to change. It is a 500-acre section of an easement with the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust. There are 6 miles of trails there for beginner mountain biking, hiking and trail running.

It is located at a sign on the right side of Route 302, just before crossing the border into Maine. Coming from the other direction, is also one of those places conveniently placed if you need a stroll in the woods after returning from Maine.

Up for an easy hike with a pleasant drive to it? Lost Pond in Pinkham Notch is a place where you can feel like you have successfully left the modern world and entered a natural one. It is a 1-mile hike in.

To get there, drive up Route 16 to the notch and park at the AMC Pinkham Notch Camp. Going into the trading post is optional. Walk across the highway bearing right to the Lost Pond Trail. Most every step to the pond has its rewards.

First, you cross a footbridge over a beaver dammed wetland. Then the trail enters the woods. The trail goes up and down and reaches the Ellis River, its rippling water just off of Mount Washington. You walk alongside it.

Soon, the trail bears left away from the river. You reach a brief ascent and climb it to the northern end of Lost Pond. As you follow the trail around the left side of the pond, you get a better view of it.

Keep going until you reach a large flat boulder that juts a little out into the pond. That is your destination. Depending on the weather and season, stay as long as you want. Across the pond and above, the bare escarpment of Huntington Ravine on Mount Washington completes the scene.

Back in the Mount Washington Valley, if you are a nature enthusiast and have never been to the Dahl Sanctuary you should go. It is a 60-acre property owned by New Hampshire Audubon. To get there, all you do is park at the L.L. Bean store in North Conway. At the further end of the parking lot is a trail entrance and sign.

You bear right and follow an old dirt road downhill, in the 1800s the access to fertile farmland below. Follow the trail on the edge of the field to woods near the Saco River and bear left on it. This continues out to a round stone beach on a bend in the river. This is the same section of river that is looked down on at the lookout on Route 16 between Conway and North Conway.

Because of the steep, wooded drop off from Route 16 above, the Dahl Sanctuary is a sanctuary from noise and civilization.

I could keep going on and on with suggested walks. One of these might please you. But the point is, remember that a path in the woods is awaiting you.

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