Lambert Ridge

A grey day but a nice outing.

For a few months I’ve been thinking of returning to Lambert Ridge, a ledgy section of the Appalachian Trail up Smarts Mountain, not far from here. The first section is steep, leading up to a series of granite ledges with broad views that belie the relatively low elevation at this point on the trail. The climb to these ledges is a worthwhile dayhike, and brings back memories. Read on!

A ledge outcrop near the trail up Lambert Ridge, Smarts Mountain, New Hampshire.
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Trout Pond

A local favorite.

Lyme is home to many hidden natural treasures. Trout Pond is one: nestled in the hills on the north side of town, at the end of a dirt road followed by a forest road and reached by a footpath, this small pond offers quiet respite from the bustling world outside its little valley. It’s not a long hike, nor a difficult climb, barely clocking in at 2 miles round-trip along a fairly level route, but it’s interesting in every season.

Today, the woods were entirely snow-free after the Christmas rainstorm, but there was a fresh dusting of powder along the exposed rocks and coating the skim of ice across the pond. A canoe and paddles, apparently left for anyone who wishes, rest on the shore where trail meets pond.

As noted by the page on TrailFinder, “The land around Trout Pond has been a working forest for some two centuries, while stone walls, foundations, and barbed wire seemingly swallowed by trees indicate that the western part of the tract had an agricultural history. By 1855, several families homesteaded in the area near the present trailhead. The Piper brothers, who ran a steam-powered sawmill near the outlet of Trout Pond, bought the timber lot in 1891. Two other sawmills on the brook also processed lumber that was probably cut in the Trout Pond Forest. A stack of hemlock bark, found on a ridge south of the pond, suggests this material was gathered for the leather tanning trade. By 1870, the Pliny Allen place had found its future as a cellar hole, and by 1946 so too the Gilbert/Smith place.”

I know little about black & white photography but decided to process these snaps of the pond in black & white because, well, this presentation seemed to fit the monochrome pond, gray sky, and dark forest. In contrast, here’s a photo of the trail along the shoreline:

Snow rollers

An extremely rare treat.

Recent snow conditions appear to have been ideal for the creation of snow rollers, an extremely cool (but uncommon) phenomenon. I’ve only seen them once before. Yesterday, Andy and I drove past a roadside hill south of Windsor, VT that was decorated with literally hundreds of small snow rollers – a most impressive collection! Unfortunately, that stretch of VT Rt.44 has no safe place to stop, so we were unable to photograph any of those rollers.

Today, I was out for a walk on a neighborhood road along a steep hillside, and came across an old snow roller. In this photo I’ve increased the contrast and texture to help see it a bit better against the snowy background.

You can see the track it made as it rolled down the hill from left to right. This roller is not particularly impressive, about 8-10″ in diameter and somewhat melted from today’s warm temperatures. Below is a tight crop:

Read more about snow rollers.

Lyme skiing

Cross-country skiing on the downtown trails in Lyme.

On Saturday and Monday (today) we went cross-country skiing, right here in Lyme. One of the wonderful things about our little town is that there are miles of beautiful skiing trails available to the public, thanks to the generosity of the landowners and the hard work of volunteers who maintain the trails in summer and groom the tracks all winter. It really is an incredible resource, especially in the covid era when activities outdoors in the fresh air are more important than ever.

I’m especially grateful to Kevin and the crew who maintain the Stone House Farm trails in downtown Lyme (where I skied today), and to Bob and the extensive network out at the Greens (where Andy skied today).

Skiing the Stone House trails in Lyme.

We went from zero snow to a solid base, in this recent storm. The conditions softened today, with temps exceeding 32ºF (gasp!), but were still a joy to ski. Sadly, the rest of the week will bring more warm temperatures and rain on Christmas Day. Let’s hope for little rain and then a new snowstorm to bring back the skiing soon!

Home woods

One of my favorite places to go when I have little time or ambition is just across the street. Between River Road and Route 10, between Hewes Brook and Grant Brook, is a sizeable block of roadless forest, with rolling hills, steep ravines, and a variety of forest regions ranging from firs to pines to maples and oaks. Most of it is managed for timber, so there is ample room to meander under the mature trees and there are skidder trails here and there that provide walkable paths – some even skiable. The hill rises steeply across from our house, giving one an immediate workout, but once up on the ridge, or down in the valley on the other side, it’s a magical place.

A hardwood forest – seen in black & white.

I mostly visit here in winter, on snowshoes or skis, traversing above the litter of the forest floor and pondering the many tracks animals leave behind. Deer tracks are never out of sight; mouse and squirrel tracks are common; bear and fox are an occasional treat. There were plenty of deer tracks criss-crossing my path today, as my snowshoes waded through the fresh powder laid down by that storm two days ago. I happened to look up at the right moment to see a huge owl gliding through the treetops ahead of me, totally soundless in this quiet snowscape. Someday I hope to have a chance to photograph these elusive neighbors.

Snowshoeing through an area dominated by firs and pines.

When I head into these woods I rarely have a plan or a particular goal; I follow my whims, noting landmarks familiar from two decades of wandering or exploring new directions to see what I might discover. Today I went further north than ever before, eventually popping out on the Lyme Hill – Grant Brook trail, as expected, giving me an easy exit down to River Road for the walk back home.

Christmas trees

Fresh snow makes Christmas trees all the more beautiful.

This year, just as we do every year, we make the short pilgrimage to Nichols’ Christmas Tree Farm, just on the other side of the hill, to choose and cut our own tree. I returned today, with the snow still fresh and fluffy from the snowstorm two days ago, to explore this landscape under a blue sky and a white blanket. Magical!

Christmas tree farm, Lyme NH

Enjoy the snow

The day after a snowstorm can be a wonderful thing. Today was bright and sunny, the trees were covered in snow, and the meadows glistened with fresh powder. I had a little time to explore the yard this morning, and I went out snowshoeing with the kids in late afternoon. I’ve added a few photos to the gallery, starting here. Here’s just one:

Andy and Mara snowshoe on the trail around Crossroads in Lyme.

We ended the day in the center of Lyme, outside the home of the Lyme Historians, where they had decorated an antique sleigh and invited families to stop by. It was a photo op not to be missed!

Mara and Andy in an antique sleigh in Lyme NH.

Christmas tree

An annual ritual.

Every year we visit a nearby Christmas-tree lot run by a Lyme family to choose and cut a tree for our home. So, on Sunday, we found ourselves out in a field dusted with fresh snow, searching for the perfect tree. We quickly found one we liked, and the boys cut it down even faster by using two saws at once.

John and Andy cut our Christmas tree with two saws!

When we set it up at home, we discovered a small birds-nest tucked into the higher branches.

We found a birds-nest in our Christmas tree.

Finally, we have it all decorated!

Our Christmas tree.

Fiber to the home

If last week was momentous in lighting up our home with solar power, this week felt even more momentous in lighting up our home with a fiber-optic Internet connection. We’ve finally entered the 21st century!

One of the longstanding challenges of rural living is the dearth of high-speed Internet service. I remember when we moved from our home in Lyme, NH to the middle of Bangalore, India, we were thrilled to leave behind our dial-up 28.8kbps modem and finally have “high-speed” DSL service; that was 2008. On return, we bought into a local one-man start-up company that provided fixed-wireless Internet service – a dish antenna on the side of our house, aimed at a small tower on the opposite of the river. After some upgrades, that brought us up to 1Mbps, and even 2Mbps. But when it snowed heavily, the signal would degrade. Cellular telephones barely work in our neighborhood and most of the town is a dead zone. There simply aren’t enough towers to cover this hilly terrain.

So I have been following for years, with great anticipation, the tireless efforts of a set of dedicated Lyme townspeople who have been striving to develop a town-wide fiber-optic network. The broadband market has essentially bypassed our little town – there is no cable television (let alone cable Internet), virtually no cellular telephone network, and even DSL is only available only to the handful of residences located in the center of town. No ISP has ever shown serious interest in building out the infrastructure needed to provide Internet service to every home, let alone high-speed Internet service.

Retired experts like Steve Campbell and Rich Brown, who once built and operated Dartmouth’s campus-wide network through the early days of AppleTalk and later Ethernet and Wi-Fi, and who now live in Lyme, worked through the complex state regulations, and the creation of innovative community-focused business plans that can finance a town-wide infrastructure that can serve everyone for the foreseeable future. We are indebted to their tenacity and creativity!

The result is uniquely interesting – a community-focused corporation, with its top priority being service to the community.

After years of anticipation, we were excited to see the fiber truck pulling cable along River Road, and then to install the ‘drop’ to our house.

This week, we were visited by another technician who installed another fiber-optic cable from that exterior box, through the wall and into our basement.

I helped him string the cable through my existing cable chase across the basement to our switchroom, where he terminated the fiber-optic cable at their (provided) Wi-Fi router. They even provide a UPS to keep the router powered during short power failures.

Shortly after he left, I ran a speedtest and was delighted to see, even over Wi-Fi, an impressive 300 Mbps up and down. (I could have paid for more.)

From that router, I connect into our existing home Ethernet network.

High-speed at last!

For more information about LymeFiber see their FAQ.