Happy New Year! Since I haven’t posted any reports for Moose Mountains since April 2013 I figured I would put a Year in Review out for all the great things that has happened this past year. My Partner Scott and I (Jason) have been NH Forest Society Volunteer Land Stewards for Moose Mountains Reservation in Middleton, NH since May 2012. We keep an eye on the 2300 acre forested property which contains woods roads, several mountains and hills and an old farm site and field all connected by woods roads and trails. We maintain the hiking trails and make improvements to the property for recreational use. We spent a combined 320 hours on the property this past year a lot of which was maintaining and building hiking trails. And thanks to volunteers and other Land Stewards, countless more hours were spent helping in our endeavor to make MMR a great place to hike!

At the start of the year we did plenty of snow shoeing around the Reservation. Aside from the trails we also ventured off into the woods along old skid roads and bush whacking through the forest along some of the ridge lines. February 10nth we were buried in 32″ of snow! Five days later we took advantage of the fresh snow fall and led our first group hike. Seven of us had a great day snow shoeing up to Beauty Ledge, a trail we had built the previous year. Winter is always a magical time with the snow covering the ground and the frozen brooks burbling through the forest. It is a great time to really see what animals are trekking through the forest. We spotted plenty of deer and moose tracks, as well as mice, fox, porcupine and pheasant. New to us was the Coywolf tracks. Northern Coyote are making a come-back in New England and based on the many tracks we were seeing there seem to plenty living in MMR!

In April we had the pleasure of giving Brenda, the Forest Society’s Communications Director a tour of the property for an article in their magazine “Forest Notes”. She included a column for MMR in the summer issue for Forest Society improved places to hike! Our hike that day with her two sons was great! The weather started off a little yucky and turned into a beautiful day! It was another great step in getting more positive attention for MMR and all it has to offer! In May came the usual trail work. Cleaning up sticks and blow-downs and checking everything out. We made a visit to the Heron Rookery to check out the action there and a Phoebe nest was discovered on the parking lot kiosk. Soon it had three eggs sitting in it and once hatched we watched the birds grow until they left the nest.

In July came vandalism, almost on cue. While vandalism has been greatly decreased here since we came on board, it unfortunately still occurs occasionally. The kiosk plexi-glass was damaged and trail signs and posts were stolen and damaged. We quickly got to work on repairs and had everything back as it was within the month. Since then locals and the Middleton PD have stepped up their vigilance. In August we began making improvements to some of the wet areas on the main trails. We improved the stepping stone area at the top of Burrows Field where the trail enters the woods. This area fills up with water in wet times of the year and gets real muddy. We extended the stepping area and used larger rocks that would stay in place better. We also built a banking up to keep water running through the water bar. We also put metal posts in place to keep the occasional unauthorized ATV from driving through here. A larger project we worked on was the Phoebes Nable Mt. trail head in the parking lot. This also gets wet and is subject to becoming washed out. We built steps and stepping stones and installed a trail post and new sign. It looks great and makes the trail head more visible and inviting.

We had a great hike with friends up to the un-trailed summit of Moose Mountain early September. They had been wanting to reach the summit since Scott and I attained it a year earlier. We accessed a grown in woods road (the top side of Mountain Rd.) behind the Burrows Field and followed it to an old Willy Jeep, backed up into the brush and just rusting away. It is a neat thing to see in the middle of the woods! From here it is a fairly easy bush whack up to the Moose Mountains ledge. Here there is a great view to the South and West. There are also great glacial striations in the ledge here of pot holes and chatter marks. We climbed to the second ledge that looks due South across Phoebes Nable Mt. then climbed a little ways further to the wooded summit that is capped by a rock slab. It was a great day with friends and such a wonderful hike to a secluded, rarely visited part of the Reservation.

Also in September came a very exciting time for us! Earlier in the year I was asked by the Forest Society to write a letter for a grant to build a new trail to by-pass the North section of Phoebes Nable trail that was washed out and not ideal for leisure hiking. In September, to our surprise the grant was given and soon Forest Society’s Wendy (Forester), Carrie (Land Steward Coordinator) and Nate (Trail Design & Contractor) were at the property marking the new trail! It was an all day task getting the trail set up for a gentle hike and a trail that would be sustainable. A sustainable trail is one that is designed and built in a way that it holds up for several hundred years and requires little maintenance. To my knowledge this would be the first such trail ever built on a Forest Society property!

Soon the work days began. The main focus was to educate Land Stewards on how to build a rock staircase, trail duffing and the use of trail tools. A dozen Land Stewards and volunteers worked together over the course of the project. There was a lot to learn, and even more back-breaking work to be done. Four hundred pound rocks had to be harvested from the ground and moved using rock bars. They were then secured to a grip hoist and zip-lined down to the work site. The stair site had to be dug out and prepped for the base stone. Stone had to be crushed with sledge hammers for fill. Stones were placed one-by-one, taking several hours to get just one stone placed correctly. Then stones were placed along the sides (gargoyles) to increase stability. The steps took about 10 days to complete! And boy do they look awesome!

Next we began the process of tweaking and cutting the trail corridor. This took a day to do and soon began more difficult work. Duffing the trail out is a very long, slow and difficult task. First the soft duffy layer of organic soil must be cleared from the trail. This is because it wears down easily under foot traffic and creates a gully where water collects. Secondly, in order to allow for proper water and ice flow over the trail it must maintain a 15% grade across. Fire rakes need to be used to break and remove the duffy layer and break down the bankings to the desired grade. Also along the way rocks, roots and stumps need to be removed. We got some of the steeper ledgey areas done and this Spring we will be out getting the remainder of the trail ready for foot traffic for the summer! It has been a great experience and the trail will be a wonderful hike once completed.

To close off the year we got a long requested gate for the Burrows Farm trail below the field. We installed this right away! We also installed a gate on Mountain road. These two gates will prevent any trucks from accessing the field and destroying it as was the case when we began our Stewardship in 2012. We have seen so many families hiking up here and have received such great feed back. It is so exciting and rewarding to part of something like this, to be able to put our time and energy in a Reservation like this. 2014 will bring plenty more trail work, group work days and group hikes! We can’t wait!!