Outdoor Adventures: Nature rules at Squam Lakes Natural Science Center

  • Above: Mt. Fayal, part of the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, serves up watery views.Left: A bobcat watches from the ground at the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in Holderness. MARTY BASCH

  • Photo by Marty Basch MARTY BASCH

For the Monitor
Published: 5/8/2016 12:11:20 AM

A black bear sat up to look around after lazing about on the ground. Nearby a river otter appeared happy doing back flips over again when it reached a rocky wall. A trio of white-tailed deer scampered about under forest cover searching for something to eat.

Creatures of all kinds were active near the base of low-lying Mt. Fayal in Holderness, as the mountain and a multitude of beasts, fish and birds are all at home on the 230 acres of woods, wetlands and fields of the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center (nhnature.org).

Started in 1966, the non-profit science center is chock full of wonder to be appreciated by all kinds of outdoor lovers. Hikers, paddlers, mountain bikers, anglers and hunters all have a chance to learn about what they may see out on the trails and waterways.

And what may see them.

Celebrating its 50th year, the informative and often interactive exhibits allow close views of New Hampshire wildlife, many of the animals there because of injuries sustained in the wild. (Admission is $19 for adults, $16 for seniors and $14 for youths. New Hampshire residents pay $5 on New Hampshire Day May 14. Libraries offering the center through a museum pass program are excellent money savers, too.)

From lake cruises to educational programs, from a colorful in-season garden to nature talks, the center is a great family escape for everything that howls with laughter to four-legged creatures that just plain howl.

Plus, there’s the opportunity to hike up 1,067-foot Mt. Fayal, a nice spring jaunt to a summit perched over Squam Lake.

With trails open from May to November, there’s a paved way winding by exhibits that include coyote, fox, bobcats, mountain lions, deer, bears, hawks, bald eagles and more. Let the kids explore, especially as they discover the Playscape with its fun-filled stations.

The center will feed your head with those tasty little facts that nourish the soul.

Have you ever been out hiking and heard the call of a bird that sounds like it’s saying, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” That’s a barred owl that can even sound like a barking dog or hissing cat.

Or, not that you’ve seen a mountain lion, but get ready to hit the road if you do. Mountain lions can jump some 30 feet from a standing position. It can leap onto a ledge 12 feet away carrying a 165-pound deer in its jaws.

Black bears have a home range where they spend most of their lives. The acreage includes enough food, water and shelter to fulfill the bear’s survival needs for the year. Male black bears have a home range of between 50-100 square miles, while females use about 10 square miles.

For a gander at mink, fish, frogs and turtles, head to the new Water Matters Pavilion. Get up to the glass and see indigenous fish like brook trout, white suckers, pumpkinseeds, brown bullheads and smallmouth bass. Learn about loons that tend to have lifespans of between 20-30 years. When they nest, an egg or two is usually laid in late May to early June. Both mates incubate the eggs for about 28 days. Find out about the tracking system used to monitor osprey.

Though the live animal exhibit trail is paved, there’s a small network of dirt trails that lead over a floating bridge boardwalk and along the ecozone (forest and field) detailing trees along the way from red oak to white pine.

The easily-spotted red-blazed Mt. Fayal Trail, about a mile loop, follows an old carriage road that once led to the farm of James and Saphronia Piper. Stone walls, a cellar hole and piles of rocks were left behind from the homestead that was also home to the couple’s four children. On the 30-plus-acre farm, the family had horses, milk cows, oxen, cattle, pigs and sheep, and also grew corn, oats, wheat, beans and peas. A couple of archeological digs found artifacts like an 1809 halfpenny, bottles, glassware and tools. The homestead was occupied for about 50 years until about 1890 when the house and barn burned.

Upward from the old homestead is Fayal’s wooded summit, with a couple of benches from which to rest and gaze out upon views of Squam Lake in a land loaded with watchable wildlife.

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

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