Hikin' Herons! Part 1: Introduction & Overview
Hikin' Herons Challenge
When it comes to hiking these parts, patches are where it's at. If there's a list and you can get a patch for completing the list, people are all over it. Most folks go for big game, like hiking all the 4000-footers. You can get a patch for hiking all of the Belknap mountains, or New England's Hundred Highest, or for braving the "Terrifying 25," or for doing the 4000-footers in the winter. There are others, too.
As autumn transitioned into winter, I decided a good project for me and Wilder (our adventurous Aussie) would be the Hikin' Herons Challenge. There are numerous trail systems in Tamworth maintained by the Tamworth Conservation Commission and anyone who completes them all gets a snazzy Hikin' Herons patch. That goofy heron belongs on my bag, I say! And Wilder wants a patch too! Patches!
The six hiking areas are scattered around Tamworth – near downtown, near Chocorua village, near Sandwich, all over. What's excellent, though, is that the trails can easily be paired off and hiked in three separate trips. None of them are particularly long and only a few have any sort of climbing at all – and some of that is to the top of a fire tower. An ambitious fellow could do them all in a day or a weekend. But I figured over the course of a month was perfect.
Our timeline was from mid-November to mid-December. The Tamworth Conservation Commission has promised to award a special patch for Tamworth's 250th anniversary. Only 66 people (and dogs) have completed the challenge since its creation. This year they wanted to add 38 more people to the roster. “Why 38?” their website asks. “If that many new hikers travel the trails this year, all Hikin' Herons will have collectively hiked 250 miles!” That being said, if you want to know how long the trails are, you can do the math yourself. I prefer to get hiking!
It's a shame that only 66 hikers have officially completed the challenge so far. These trails are lovely little pockets of peace and solitude nestled right into the foothills of the White Mountains. Hopefully this series will increase awareness of some lesser travelled areas in a region that tends to feel overcrowded in just about any season.
As I think about it, I'm calling these trails lovely at an odd time – crisp with ice and crunch with snow, and boy did the wind blow! I imagine that lots of locals and plenty of tourists tramp all over these trails in the summer. But I didn't even know these trails existed until a few months ago and I've driven by many of them for years on my way to climb bigger rocks.
So maybe if you get to Mt. Chocorua for the fiftieth time and the Piper Trail parking lot is stuffed to the highway, or if you're feeling restless after sitting in traffic from Rochester to Tamworth on those particular Saturday mornings when everyone's going outlet shoppin' – consider a pullover and a good romp through one of the TCC trails. None of them need to take more than an hour – and all of them easily could.
And, hey! You can snag a patch to show off on your hiking pack. Let's get goin', shall we?
Here are (mostly PDF) links to the trails in the challenge. Look for new posts over the next month exploring each area. Throughout the series, I will include some bonus hikes that Wilder and I discovered during our adventures....