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Boardwalk through Atlantic white cedars at Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve. Photo credit David Martsolf.




Into the woods
Three walks for nature lovers

05/28/15
By Angie Sykeny asykeny@hippopress.com



Manchester Cedar Swamp
Where: Countryside Boulevard, Manchester
Visit: nature.org/newhampshire
Miles: 1.8 between three loop trails
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate. A wooded trail with some hills and uneven footing, and boardwalks through the wet areas
What you’ll see as you walk: Atlantic white cedar swamps, glacial erratic boulders, various tree and plant species, birds, amphibians and other wildlife
What to bring: Hiking shoes or snowshoes in the winter, binoculars, camera, bug spray
Highlights: The rare Atlantic white cedar swamp, giant rhododendron blooms and the 450-year-old black gum tree
Three loop trails run through the Manchester Cedar Swamp Preserve. Along the Woodland Loop are common trees, large boulders, and plant life such as wintergreen, partridgeberry and bracken fern. 
The shortest trail, the Cedar Loop, takes you through the rare Atlantic white cedar swamp, one of the only habitats of its kind in New England.
“I definitely recommend people do the Cedar Loop,” Joanne Glode, Southern New Hampshire stewardship ecologist, said. “[The Atlantic White Cedar trees] have this twisted bark which is really pretty, and tight conical tops, so the trees are really distinctive.”
Walkers will also see the black gum trees which are uncommon in New Hampshire and the oldest tree species in New England. 
One black gum along the trail is one of the oldest trees in New Hampshire at 450 years old. 
The Rhododendron Loop passes by patches of rare giant rhododendron blooms, which are at their peak in the late spring and early summer. An area of standing dead trees farther along the trail is the prime spot to see birds and other wildlife.
 
Ponemah Bog Wildlife Sanctuary trail
Where: Rhodora Drive, Amherst
Visit: nhaudubon.org
Miles: 0.75
Difficulty level: Easy. A flat woodchip trail in the forest areas and boardwalks through the bog.
What you’ll see as you walk: An ancient pond, various species of plants, birds, insects and other wildlife
What to bring: camera, binoculars, footwear appropriate for wet areas, sunscreen
Highlights: Magenta rhodora blooms, close views of birds
The Ponemah Bog got its name from the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem “Hiawatha,” where “Ponemah” means “the land of the Hereafter.” The bog rests on what was once a 100-acre lake. For the last 6,000 years, the bog mat has been filling the lake, leaving the three-acre pond that is there today. A boardwalk trail brings walkers into the heart of the bog, where they can observe plant life, insects, birds and other wildlife. Observation platforms and benches are placed around the trail in places that give ideal views of the property.
“There’s a serene beauty when you’re sitting on the platform and taking it all in,” said Phil Brown, director of land management at New Hampshire Audubon. “The diversity of plants is fantastically rich, and with all the shrubs, birds have to feed low, so you can get some good looks at eye level.”
Some birds residing in the bog include towhees, warblers, bluebirds and tree swallows. The magenta rhodora flowers are a major attraction, best seen in late May when they are at their peak.
 
Merrimack River Outdoor Education and Conservation Area, Les Clark Nature Trail
Where: Portsmouth Street, Concord
Visit: forestsociety.org
Miles: 1.5 in a loop
Difficulty level: Very easy. A sandy trail with flat terrain
What you’ll see as you walk: The Merrimack River, silver maple floodplain forest, white pine plantation, meadows, beaver ponds, various species of birds
What to bring: sunscreen, bug spray, camera, binoculars, swimsuit (enter the river at your own risk)
Highlights: The variety of scenery, wildlife
The Les Clark Nature Trail runs through the Merrimack River Outdoor Education and Conservation Area, also known as the Floodplain. Just five minutes from downtown Concord, the trail is a popular destination for dog-walkers and those looking for a break from the city landscape.
“It’s amazing to have a natural area so close to downtown,” said Dave Anderson, director of education and volunteers at the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. “There are usually people walking their dogs, tossing frisbees, and on a sunny day people will bask along the river.”
On this walk, you’ll come across the Merrimack River, beaver-influenced wetlands, meadows of little bluestem grass, the New Hampshire-rare silver maple forest and the “spooky forest,” a plantation of pine trees planted in the 1960s.
The property is also home to a variety of bird species, including ducks, geese, bald eagles, ospreys, blue herons, cardinals, orioles, pileated woodpeckers and rose-breasted grosbeaks. 
 
As seen in the May 28, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

 






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