Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway’s Oak Hill, Washington, NH
by Amy Patenaude Outdoor/Ski Writer
Washington, New Hampshire was first settled in 1768 and was incorporated and named in honor of General George Washington in December of 1776. As you probably know, there are many towns and cities named “Washington” in our country but this small farming community was one of the first to be named in his honor.
Washington Center is an iconic New England town and is especially beautiful perched high on a hill with the large white clapboard Congregational Church, school house and Town Hall standing tall together on the common. I can recall my first visit here with my grandfather when I was an elementary school child—I was disappointed, I thought he was taking me to Washington, DC!
But before I drove though the Center this time I took a hard left and headed down Faxon Hill Road. I wasn’t in town to admire historic buildings but to do a quick hike on a part of the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway to the top of Oak Hill. Oak Hill just makes the New Hampshire Highest 500 list somewhere among the last fifteen peaks listed.
The Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway is a 50 mile long hiking trail that links Mount Monadnock with Mount Sunapee. The trail was first laid out way back in 1921 by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. Since 1994, the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail Club has taken over the bulk of the work to maintain and improve the trail. From general trail maintenance to landowner relations they get the job done and done well. They deserve many thanks for the fabulous guidebook and map they publish and keep up to date. Their website address is msgtc.org.
The M-S Greenway intersects Faxon Hill Road 1.7 miles south from Route 31. The trail enters on the left behind a wood gate and the trail is blazed with white blazes. Yes, it will remind you of the Appalachian Trail blazes. Room to park here is pretty slim on the road’s shoulder. Out of respect for the neighbors, there are two better choices for parking that are both just half a mile away: back up the road at the Morgan Town Forest Trailhead (a one mile nature loop in the woods and on the shore of Millen Lake) or down the road further at the historic Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
The gate opened easily and I walked down the path slightly through a field. Out jumped a big deer and it was nice to watch it bound through the high grass and out of sight. The path turned left and entered the woods. I followed the white blazes and the route led up hill and past a rather large boulder.
Soon after I began climbing I entered an open area that was cut not too long ago. Views of the surrounding mountains began to become grander. The footing was good. Near the top, the path crossed a couple ledgy scrambles but nothing too steep or scary. The total distance to the summit is 8/10th of a mile and climbs just 400 vertical feet. A big bang for a small effort!
A new sign, “Oak Hill, Elev. 1950 FT,” is bolted on a six inch diameter Oak tree and a good sized rock cairn mark the summit.
Showers were in the area and the air was hazy but I could see the waters of distance ponds and lakes and many mountain summits. Lovewell’s big round mound boldly stood out and it is the next major peak, northbound, M-S Greenway hikers will climb—about 6 miles away. The wind turbines on Bean Hill and Kennedy Hill were spinning. I picked out a few more peaks I have visited via bushwhacks: Ames, Silver and Huntley.
From the top of Oak Hill, southbound hikers would be traveling about 8 miles over Jackson and Hubbard Hills on their way to Pitcher Mountain.
Oh, oh, standing there on the pretty summit wet my appetite to plan a thru-hike on the M-S Greenway.
My new guidebook and map arrived in the mail a couple days ago. I have everything I need to make a plan. Day hike or should I backpack and stay on the trail until I am finished?