Paddling to Those Special Places
By Mike Boisvert.
To me, a sure sound of spring comes from the roar of the rushing waters of the Mad River caused by the melting of the snow.
And it comes from the gentle calls of the songbirds, returning from a winter in warmer climes.
And it's looking for places for paddle.
A return to the flat water of New Hampshire’s lakes and ponds means another season of loon spotting, moose watching and sought quiet. On those perfect days, the boat makes its own gentle wake on a glass surface reflecting a ring of forested mountains. On those not so perfect days, the wind blows hard against the whitecaps and the wakes caused by inconsiderate motor boaters nearly capsize you.
But you can also be your own boating bonehead. According to the American Canoe Association, some 90 percent of all capsizes happen during the put-in. The ACA says when launching from a steep bank or dock, place your boat in the water alongside and parallel to the shoreline, and hold on. Squat down next to your boat and carefully shift your weight over the centerline while holding the top sides of your boat. For kayaks, it's best to sit on the stern deck and then slide into the cockpit with legs straight. For canoes, you want to step on the centerline and quickly kneel down. Canoeists and kayakers alike can add stability by holding their paddle perpendicular across the top of the boat and leaning on the blade resting on the shore or dock. Tandem paddlers should board one at a time and stabilize the boat for each other.
Then it’s time to enjoy some of the state’s flat water spots.
Northern New Hampshire’s waterways are prime destinations for both moose watching and encounters with splendid isolation. Pittsburg’s Lake Francis, at over 2,000 acres, is one of those bodies of water where even a gentle wind can make waves. If the wind blows hard from the west, think about going elsewhere. If not, paddle on and don’t forget the rod. The River Road put-in by Lake Francis State Park is a good spot to launch.
One doesn’t have to drive all the way to Pittsburg for a chance moose sighting. A highlight of a quiet paddle on Long Pond in Benton is using the binoculars to view a moose munching on the aquatic vegetation in the southern tip of the small 124-acre pond. In the western section of the White Mountain National Forest, Long Pond has a friendly launch off North and South Road. It’s in a good neighborhood too, with Mount Moosilauke to the east.
A number of ponds in Washington’s Pillsbury State Park are open for exploration. Campers on the shores of deep May Pond don’t have far to go while a rocky strait provides passageway to Butterfield Pond. Fishermen take note as beginner anglers are able to snag a few pickerel easily in May Pond. The intrepid can portage their canoes and kayaks to North Pond where a picnic area waits on the northeast shore.
Coves are plentiful in Grafton Pond. With the exception of the western shore, much of the land around the Grafton waterway is protected by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. The lake seems larger than it is, maybe because of the islands, marshy sections and hidden coves. Mount Cardigan can be spotted in the distance.
Squam Lake also has its share of coves. Much of the shoreline is protected from development. Hear the haunting calls of Loons and observe them dive bombing in the water. The islands are fun to explore and for sunbathing. Perfect launching pads for swimming adventures. Mount Chocorua can be spotted in the distance.
Lakes Armington and Tarleton, in Piermont and Warren, are bodies of water hikers should love. The Appalachian Trail traverses over the peaks seen from the water. The imagination can just wander about that woods walk as the paddle slices through the water. Off Route 25C between Warren and Piermont, Armington is the smaller of the pair and is devoid of personal watercraft. Tarleton is bigger, with some development, and is on the western front of the White Mountain National Forest.
Great spots to dream of hiking the AT.