Hikin' Herons! Part 4: Jackman Pond Wildlife Area
Wilder and I found ourselves just south of North Sandwich at the Jackman Pond Wildlife Area's North Shore Trail. Two trails create an easy loop around the snug pond. Rte. 113 is a quiet road but often driven by large, fast vehicles so we dipped into the trees quickly.
Wilder was more of an ox than a dog today and pulled the entire way, just pent up with energy from sitting in the car. He definitely had his sniff on and was well aware that someone had been through here not long ago – a puppy friend, perhaps. The trail around Jackman Pond seems like a perfect loop for a local's morning stroll. A few laps might make a good trail run, too.
The woods here are gorgeous, well-maintained. It feels like a mountain trail without the climbing, though there were some bobbling ups and downs, here and there. One stretch felt like a perilous ridge, a thin path weaving through young trees, the pond's marsh just beneath us. The marsh was big and brown and asleep for the season. Scraps of tree barely curtained the still-rising sun and the day just about felt ready to explode upon us.
Wilder and I came to a footbridge crossing Meadow Brook and as usual, he didn't want to cross it, but jump into the water. I shortened his leash and applauded his bravery on the other side, satisfied with a non-soaked dog.
We wandered into a lovely stand of young pines, a gateway to exploration. It was great fun to slip through. The waterfront was just on the other side. There are only a few access points to Jackman Pond because the marsh is so thick around it, and one such boatman's path appeared to our right, so we went down for a break. Wilder pawed the thin ice and we heard it crack and twang and poing and whatever other sounds ice makes. Yikes! They were crazy sounds, like some sort of Dr. Seuss contraption about to explode, so we got outta there. But I made sure to admire the Ossipee mountains beyond, still dark below the rising sun.
At the end of North Shore Trail, we saw marsh again and then the dirt road. We hiked along Bunker Hill Road past the pond to the South Shore Trail. We didn't see a soul on this winding backroad, though we passed a beautiful old colonial home nestled on the corner. It was as silent as can be.
Back on the trail, we were immediately rewarded with pristine views of Mt. Whiteface and Mt. Passaconaway. Wilder was more interested in following scents than admiring views, however. We hurried along. One last boat launch area provided a place to wave farewell to the frozen pond and the Sandwich Range mountains. The trail narrowed and ran along the back of some private property – we could see some kind of automobile scrapyard through the trees, so we moved along in case there were unfriendly dogs lurking.
The trail spit us out on 113 just south of my car. We just had to cross a bridge over the sprawling marsh – Jackman Pond was tiny compared to the marsh attached to it. Wilder splayed out on some marsh grass and began to eat it. He will eat anything.
Bonus Hike: Alice Bemis Thompson Wildlife Sanctuary
We drove two minutes up the street into the flats of North Sandwich and stopped at a parking area with a sign proclaiming it the New Hampshire Audubon Alice Bemis Thompson Wildlife Sanctuary. Long name, tiny trail. There was a sign, a gate, a short gravel path through tamaracks and birches, then a boardwalk out over the huge marshlands with a bench and signs pointing out all the sites – primarily killer views of the Ossipee and Sandwich Range mountains.
I loved the tamaracks. I learned that they drop their needles every winter, lending their preferred environment – bogs and swamps – an ominous aura.
Wilder wanted to skip the boardwalk, frosty and a little slick in the morning shade. But the nasty smell of anaerobic, frozen fermentation in the swampy area below had us practicing our bridge walking yet again. All that practice added up to the big challenge: the boardwalk extended out over the water. From afar it looks like a marsh, but it's actually a flooded brook. Beavers live nearby and maintain the property in its current state, which is lovely, because now it is a wildlife sanctuary.
We reached the viewing platform and . . . wow. One lonely tamarack sprouted nearby, but around us there was nothing but water and grassy cover. I felt like I was down on the seacoast, but instead of salt I got cold, fresh mountain air. I imagine this place is more active in the summer – both with foot traffic and wing traffic – but today it was sunny silence. Not even any movement in the farmhouses on the far shores of the brook, hundreds of yards away.
Wilder started voicing his disdain for being on the platform and I figured it wasn't fair to make him stay any longer than we had to, so I asked him if he'd like to run back to the car. We made it in about forty-five seconds. We signed a little guestbook in a mailbox at the gate and then I read through it. Turns out lots of people have discovered this place just like we did: “Saw this place, stopped, loved it!”
It's great little spots like this that makes me want to live up here.