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Outdoor Adventures: Sampling slices of Pondicherry pie

Last modified: 9/3/2015 12:32:06 AM
Giddy? Not this gaggle of geese.

Standing tall and silent in the tall grass of Cedar Marsh under the stoic gazes of Cherry Mountain, the Presidentials, Owl’s Head and the Pliny and Pilot ranges, they didn’t move as the pair of mountain bikers moved slowly along the wide, wet path.

But there must have been some wildlife wand that was tripped, and in what appeared like one magical motion, the gaggle left the tall grass for the protection of the marsh away from the bikers.

The North Country’s vast and beautiful Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge is a place to always revisit for there is always something new to find, from a trail to a vantage point.

Located in Jefferson, Whitefield and Carroll, the 6,500-acre wildlife haven is a spot to slow down, look, listen and multi-task in a natural way.

Just remember to bring the bug spray.

Of interest to mountain

bikers is the nearly four miles of riding along the Presidential Rail Trail, once part of the White Mountains Railroad.

The entire trail is some 23 miles long, running between Berlin and Whitefield. There certainly are highlights along the way, like looks at the Androscoggin River, the Moose River, Israel River and the Presidential Range.

And, of course, there is the splendid piece of trail that goes by Cherry Pond and wetlands – Pondicherry.

Part of the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge, there are several ways in to the sanctuary, but knobby-tired cyclists will find the Whitefield way in to their liking, provided they can find it.

Between Whitefield and Jefferson on Route 115, turn onto Hazen Road and follow it to the trailhead on the right, about 1.5 miles. But before making the trip, be sure you’re wearing shoes you feel good hiking in, because there are wonderful, rather easy pathways to explore.

Also take along binoculars for a look at winged wonders and perhaps something larger ambling down the trail.

At the small trailhead is a kiosk with a map highlighting the refuge. Be aware that no water or toilets are available.

The trail isn’t paved. It’s a collection of various surfaces from cinders to high grass. There’s dirt, single track, double track, mud and wooden bridges along the way.

And stunning views.

The first 1.5 miles on the way in is fairly straight-forward, with songbirds singing and shadows dancing making trailside trees and shrubs seem more menacing than they are.

The trail veers by Waumbeck Junction to an absolute highlight after that first stretch – an observation platform. There the stunning landscape unfolds before Cherry Pond. Get the glasses for a look around high atop trees for nests and long off to the horizon to see Mounts Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Clay, Washington and Monroe. Much time can be spent there, moving about for shade as the sun grows higher.

The beauty is, you’ll be back.

The rail trail took my wife, Jan, and I through some of the most spectacular scenery in the North Country with easy access for mountain biking. Old wooden telephone lines leaned from years in the same place. Moorhen Marsh and Cedar Marsh provided sustenance for the geese. The wooden spans also appeared to be places said geese enjoyed relieving themselves, too.

After the great open expanses, the trail goes into the cloister of the forest. We reached the end of the Pondicherry section as it crosses Route 115A. We went on for another mile or so, passing a residential area.

In winter, snowmobilers ride the way, a warming hut, grooming machine and trail offshoots part of the scenery.

To see Cherry Pond from another perspective, we rode back to the observation deck on the pond’s south shore first for another look and then cycled to the junction, ditched the bikes in the woods and walked the easy Shore Path along the western edge of the nearly 90-acre pond.

With the bugs acting up against our invisible spray, we opted to forgo the short trek to Little Cherry Pond and its bog bridges, a sweet spot we had visited before.

Instead we created our own wind against the North Country Air Force and returned to the kiosk.

One last look at that map had me planning the next trip to multi-task with road bikes. Along Routes 115 and 116 are some short bog rambles we need to see for more slices of tasty Pondicherry pie.

(Marty Basch can be reached through onetankaway.com.)


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