How can you summarize an amazing summer in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire? Is it in the miles of trails cleared? Or the number of invasive species removed? Is it in the hours of training and getting certifications? Is it in the miles hiked and the views seen? Or maybe it is in the laughs had with my coworkers on the Lilypad, in the office, on guided excursions, and yes, at Skelley’s. Having now driven over 1,000 miles on five new tires across the Lakes Region, I can comfortably say that it is all of the above.
Summer heat has made way for cool autumn nights, and the once luscious green forests of New Hampshire have transitioned into the most vibrant mosaic of reds, yellows, oranges, and browns. I will admit I was worried with all this rain that the colors would be muted, but this fall has been nothing short of stunning. With just one week left in my service term here in the Lakes Region, I would like to reflect on some of my favorite memories and give thanks to the many volunteers who have joined Allison, Rebekah, and myself on Workday Wednesdays and participated in guided excursions throughout LRCT’s numerous properties.
Spending an extended season here in New Hampshire has amplified my love for the Lakes Region in ways I did not think were possible. Many fond memories of Lake Winnipesaukee begin in my childhood visiting my grandparents and celebrating family at our annual reunion. This year was no different, yet living and serving here has enriched my knowledge and appreciation of the natural and cultural heritage tremendously, while also giving me the confidence to share this with members of my family. This place is magnetic, and its power is effusive, inspiring, and healing.
One of my favorite projects to work on was the construction of a new hiking trail on Mount Pleasant in Tuftonboro. When I found out that our volunteer workday would be the same week as my family reunion, I got excited thinking that I could get a few of my cousins to join us. To my surprise and sincere gratification, fifteen members of my family joined us, and we were able to finish over a third of the trail in one day. As cousins, uncles, my parents, my sister, and even my grandparents piled out of their cars, I soon realized that the six family members that had confirmed with me would soon be much greater. I was beaming the whole way up to the summit.
Looking out from Mount Pleasant, one can see the Ossipees to the right, the Belknaps to the left, and Lake Winnipesaukee shining centrally in the incredible landscape that is the Lakes Region. Before starting our workday, we hiked to the summit to show our volunteers where this trail leads. We then divided up into groups to tackle various elements of trail creation. We had some people go ahead with loppers and saws to clear the canopy of our flagged route. Following them we had a group with rakes to establish our treadway. Lastly, we had some of the bigger members of my family help move and remove rocks in the trail to make it as smooth as possible. Much of this muscular work was spent digging a ditch next to the trail to add dirt to the uneven sections, relying on the tremendous strength of my 15-year-old cousin to carry the bucket. Through it all we had many laughs, though in hindsight I could have told my family that their nice white sneakers may get a little dirty…
One of my favorite places to return to this summer has been Ragged Island on Lake Winnipesaukee. With each successive visit, the island became more familiar, like visiting an old friend. The twists and turns of the trail become recognizable and the features become landmarks, such as the largest erratic on the island, located at post nine on the interpretive trail for those wondering. However, one thing that does change depending on the day is the view. Looking south from the docks you will see the mighty Belknap Range—a 200 million-year-old ring dike—looming over the southwest end of Winnipesaukee. Over the course of this summer, I have seen monsoon-like rains and scorching sun. The landscapes come alive with the variable conditions, the Belknap Range being no different. On a partly cloudy day, the Broads will reflect the shadow of the mountains, creating a dark hue that tempts you to wonder what may be lurking underneath. Yet on a cloudy day, you may not see the range at all, obscured by a thick white wall with just the summit of Belknap Mountain and the top of the slopes on Gunstock in view.
One thing that remains unchanged however is Rattlesnake Island, still in her peaceful slumber. From the Ragged docks, Rattlesnake rests like a sleeping woman with the first hill resembling her head to the southeast and her hips being the summit in the center of the island. As the outer edge of the ring dike, Rattlesnake Island–of which half the interior is owned by LRCT—possesses the highest point on Lake Winnipesaukee.
I had the fortune of camping on Ragged Island to monitor the island over the Fourth of July weekend, which coincides with my birthday. After an erratic morning figuring out what was wrong with the Lilypad (broken starter), we were able to secure a ride over to Ragged Island by midday. As evening settled into night, we became the sole inhabitants of the island, accompanied by only wind rustling the leaves and waves lapping the shore. No longer could we hear the whirring of motor boats across the water, but instead a loon making its usual call to its mate. Then the sky lit up, first one, then two, then a string of lights across the horizon. Dashing between the southern and western ends of the island, we caught glimpses of multiple fireworks displays before watching the rest of the Gilford show from the docks. It was a perfect end to a rather eventful birthday.
I like to say, “Every day on the lake is a great day.” This was no different when the usual island host for Ragged was unable to work over Labor Day weekend because I was able to spend two delightfully sunny days on the docks observing boaters and becoming more familiar with the beauty of the island. Getting shuttled over to the island on the Boston Whaler while riding through the choppy waves felt like I was on my way to see Jeff Probst welcome the new cast of Survivor. This also made up for a guided paddle to Ragged that got postponed three times for various reasons before finally happening in late September. It was bittersweet to leave Ragged one last time following our closing workday and potluck. It may be a while until I return to the Lakes Region, the place I have called home for the past six months, but when I do, it will be with a greater love and appreciation for all it has to offer.