Trip Report: Bear Brook isn’t a mountain. Is that enough? 

Bear Brook State Park. Allenstown, NH. 2023-03-26 (Sunday.)

Via Bear Brook Upper & Lower trails, One Mile, Wildcat, Alp d’Huez, Porcupine, and Little Bear trails. 4.5 miles round-trip; about two hours. 

Temps in the mid-40s. Winds were mostly negligible, but felt a tad raw and biting on the few occasions where I was traversing a length of forest road. Mostly cloudy with rare sunny breaks. 

Low and slow. Does that count as hiking? 

Keeping things low and slow has been a pleasant game changer for me recently. This afternoon, I was reflecting on the pressure and even performance anxiety that I’ve been feeling as of late. On the one hand, the spreadsheet of doom is keeping things straight, in terms of managing to track where I’ve been, and where I still need to go, both for the grid, and for the redline. But on the other hand, I see the blank spaces and feel compelled to only go there. Aaaaannnd then I need to stop what I’m doing, and go do other things for a bit. Which as of late, has worked wonders. Again. I think I’m at the point where I’ll be thinking about high stuff once more. Stay tuned. 

As far as the park? It’s magnificent. It keeps with the theme of “staying close to home” and “family friendly.” If your kids are the two legged variety, or “two plus two” furry mammals, they’re going to have a blast here. The park is the largest “improved” state park in New Hampshire. What does it mean that it’s “improved”? It’s got campsites, an archery range, groomed trails for snow machines, and so on. Unlike the Whites, you may have to dodge horse poop on the trail, instead of moose exhaust. The acreage occupies a huge chunk of the town of Allenstown, which is roughly equidistant from both Concord and Manchester; the three points make a (roughly) 90 degree triangle, with route 93 making the “hippopota-neuse.” Don’t expect wild solitude. This is suburban ground, not wilderness.

All’s fun and games until you put boots on the ground. 

When I got there, the parking area was moist. Outright wet mud (as in puddles) in areas, and in others, it was dry enough that you didn’t think leaving your car for ten minutes would get you hopelessly stuck. It’s the time of year when these thoughts sit front and center. I had to walk through some really yucky mud puddles to and from the trailhead, but at least my car didn’t get stuck. Little victories. 

Most of the trails I trod on were icy, or crummy spring “mashed potatoes” snow. It’s the time of year when you won’t feel the magic of the trees that have been freshly anointed with snow. Nor is it that time when the buds are finally emerging with the promise of warm spring months. And it’s certainly not the carefree days of summertime, nor the wild explosion of fall color. It’s that drab wedge of time in the cycle of seasons, where you just trudge through the last dregs of winter, dreaming of the time when spring finally expresses itself in its true majesty. In short, micro spikes are great. 

When you see with your own eyes, you realize. 

This was my first time in the park, and so not knowing more about it, I decided to keep things low key. When I first looked at the map, planning things out, it felt a bit confusing. Knowing the state parks aren’t always blazed in the most clarifying way possible, (and while I did see occasional blazes, they were all yellow, regardless of where I was) I just wanted a short “lay of the land” excursion. And not for nothing, re-read my opening thoughts about the burden of goals. 

But now that I’ve been there, and seen how the park presents itself, I’m itching to go back. There are places I’ve been and I want to go back. Within that, there’s a short list of places I want to go back and visit with more urgency. This is on that list. Not the least, but there’s a system of trails that’s quite expansive. I’m not sure I want to be there at the height of summer. On my list for this year is another Pemi Loop (yes, they’re addictive) and a couple other things. But in autumn, this is going to be a nice place to do a short, quick outing on an idle Thursday or something. There’s lots more to explore. 

As always, stay safe out there.

Nuts and Bolts: From Nashua/Manchester, take 93 north. From there, you could get off at Exit 9N, and follow Route 28 into Allenstown. When you see the big brown sign that says “Bear Brook State Park —>” make the obvious right turn onto Deerfield Road. From there, go about three miles until you take a turn onto Podunk Road. Parking should be obvious at that point. 

You can trim some time off of that drive by getting off 93 at Hackett Hill road, and then going up 3A, crossing over to 28 by way of College Park Drive. But I submit that route does require a strong working knowledge of the area. 

Trailhead will be at the “Hiker and Biker” parking lot. Blazes are yellow, sparse, and mostly useless. The trails are self evident. Most junctions have signs that will point the way. A map is highly useful, and a compass wouldn’t hurt. Bear Brook is mainly to the north of the trail I took, and the route itself is a “mostly” east-west route. If push comes to shove, keep the sun at your back and you ought to get back to your car. Aside from that, Deerfield Road isn’t more than half a mile to the north, so you could just bushwhack a solid northerly course, and end up on the road. 

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