Hiking the Evelyn H. & Albert D. Morse, Sr. Preserve
by Amy Patenaude Outdoor/Ski Writer
Early Saturday morning, while the Mount Major parking lot was overflowing out onto Route 11, we were headed to another nearby quieter and smaller Belknap peak. Charlie and I easily pulled into the Mike Burke, Alton Town Forest parking area on Avery Hill Road in Alton. There is room for about a dozen cars here.
I had printed the Pine Mountain Trail map from the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (SPNHF) website, www.forestsociety.org . I had learned about Pine Mountain because its trails are included in the 60+ miles of trails that must be hiked to earn the Belknap Range Redline Patch offered by the Belknap Range Trail Tenders (BRATTS.org).
The BRATTS are a volunteer group that perform great work maintaining and improving the hiking trails in the Belknap Range. The goal of the redline challenge is for people to have fun exploring the Belknap Range and to inspire new BRATT membership to help maintain these trails.
We gathered our packs, walked across the road and walked a short distance south to reach the Arlene Frances Morse Trail and Robert A. Greenwood, Sr. Loop Trailhead. Just behind the gate there is an information kiosk that includes a map of the trials. We learned that Mary Jane Morse Greenwood donated the land to SPNHF in 2008 and that the Morse family had farmed here for many years.
The trail is blazed yellow and follows an old road and through pasture land as it climbs to the ledgy open blueberry barrens. The trail is nice and moderate, there is a few short steep sections but it is a nice hike for people of all sizes and ages.
When we reached the top we were wowed by the view! The Belknap Range can be seen in almost its entirety and below beamed the blue waters of Lake Winnipesaukee’s Alton Bay.
I bet we picked the best day because our feet were surrounded by blueberry bushes just covered with ripe berries! They tasted yummy. A half dozen other people weren’t admiring the view but they were all picking blueberries.
We continued on the trail and passed by a woods road on our left that is the Mary Jane Morse Trail, we did not notice a sign. The yellow blazes led us into the woods and along a stone wall and just when the trail began to loop back we found even more blueberries.
The loop trail needs some brushing, it is getting a bit tight but still easy and fun to follow back to the main trail. Instead of heading back to the car we decided to go back up and then down and back up the other trail. The Mary Jane Morse Trail is an old farm road that goes down to Alton Mountain Road and a gate (there is no parking here). We were delighted again with the open views and we watched a hawk soaring right above our heads.
Back at the parking lot we met a couple coming off the Alton Town Forest Trail and they told us they were disappointed because they heard there were wonderful views and they found none. They had confused this trail with the Morse Preserve Trails. We pointed them to where we had just come and they happily went off to find the fine vista!
We decided to hike the Alton Town Forest Trail too. This lightly used loop trail is just over a mile and is well blazed and it is pleasant walk through the forest.
The Society of the Protection of New Hampshire Forests has built a new parking lot on Reed Road and has opened a new one mile long trail that intersects with the Dave Roberts Quarry Trail between West and East Quarry Mountains.
I had saved the Pine Mountain-Morose Preserve Trails to finish my Belknap Range Redline but I didn’t feel like I was finished. The new Belknap Range map came out last week and the Reed Road Trail is on it. I decided I didn’t need to wait for it to be officially added to the list. Charlie was up for giving it a go and for visiting West Quarry Mountain too.
The new Reed Road Trail is nice and we met two groups on their way back down. They too had just heard about the new trail and were checking it out. We found lots more blueberries and enjoyed the mountain and lake vista.
Yes, Mount Major is nice but the Belknap Range has much more to offer!
Amy Patenaude is an avid skier/outdoor enthusiast from Henniker, N.H. Readers are welcome to send comments or suggestions to her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.