SOUTHERN NEW HAMPSHIRE has a subtle beauty of rolling hills and sparkling lakes that draws tourists from around the world. Visitors to the area have been seeking the heights of peaks like Monadnock or the cool breezes of Lake Winnipesauke and the Isles of Shoals since the 1850s. Today adventure seekers come to southern New Hampshire for its superb mountain biking, its huge variety of paddling opportunities, and its network of hiking trails that manage to offer great views while winding their way through a diverse forest that has reclaimed the land from nineteenth-century sheep and dairy farms. Close to Boston, and home to New Hampshire's biggest cities, the southern part of the state has a surprisingly large number of wild places that provide homes for moose, otters, bald eagles, loons, and bears. Unfortunately, southern New Hampshire is one of the most sprawl-threatened parts of New England, but as you will find while embarking on your various trips, there are still large stretches of forests and river corridors that provide important habitat links between all parts of the state and the rest of New England.
Southern New Hampshire has typical northern New England weather with five seasons: mud, black fly, summer, fall, and winter. On a more serious note, spring is generally wet and cool, with daytime highs in the low forties through the low sixties and lows in the twenties, thirties, and forties. Trails are generally too muddy for bikes before June, but spring is the best time for paddling southern New Hampshire's rivers- spring rain and snowmelt add up to create excellent conditions. Biting black flies are at their worst in May and early June, which is when we typically stay near the coast and its sea breezes. Summer highs range from the low seventies into the nineties, while lows are generally in the fifties and sixties. While summer in New Hampshire sees a little more rain than spring, the rain is more likely to come in the form of afternoon showers and thunderstorms as opposed to day-long bouts of drizzle. Fall is cool and crisp with temperatures similar to those in spring. Precipitation can vary widely and change quickly-it is hurricane season-so check the forecast before heading out for a long day. Winter is of course cold and snowy, with the immediate coast prone to bouts of freezing rain and southwestern New Hampshire prone to huge snowfalls of two feet or more. Daytime highs are usually in the twenties or thirties, with lows in the teens. Current weather forecasts can be obtained by calling the National Weather Service at 603-225-519 1. Many websites also carry up-to-date weather information.
Nature has been unusually kind to New Hampshire, endowing it with inordinate beauty and few inherent dangers that prevent its enjoyment. Specters of grizzly bears do not haunt our trails, and experienced naturalists are hard pressed to find any poisonous snakes that may remain. I suppose it is this lack of notorious concerns that allows many people to blithely venture forth with little understanding of the more commonplace hazards of backcountry travel.
In truth, the greatest danger on New Hampshire trails is the lack of preparation, judgment, and old-fashioned common sense that we humans bring with us. This failing may result from the unique parameters of the natural world we encounter- especially in the White Mountains. Our senses simply resist the notion that hypothermia may await on a friendly looking peak that we observe from below in the warm sun and cool breeze of a mellow summer day.