One of the few blossoms remaining

Mount Monadnock from Little Monadnock




I spent yesterday morning at the Rhododendron State Park in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire.

The park gets its name from a 16-acre stand of rhododendrons which, when they are at their blossoming peak, can be spectacular. I had the good fortune some years ago to see them at their peak. The blossoms were so large and white it looked like there had been a mid-summer snowfall.

Not so this year. Usually the rhododendrons up there bloom mid- to late-July, but they were two weeks early this year. Except for a few late-bloomers, the others were done and gone.

The day was hardly a waste. The morning was sunny and bright, the humidity of the past several days was gone – a perfect day. From the parking area I took the Little Monadnock Trail which leads to the summit of Little Monadnock, where it connects to the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, and offers a fine view of Mount Monadnock.

There is an old cottage on the property, built by one of the region’s original settlers, dating back 200 years, which at one time had belonged to the Appalachian Mountain Club. It had served as a hostel for hikers of the M-M trail. In 1946 the AMC deeded the property to the state of New Hampshire. The park is now designated as that state’s only “botanical park.”

I also took the short, pleasant, half-mile Rhododendron Loop which quite literally tunnels through the large overhanging Rhododendrons.  The winding trail through the spindly twisting branches give the walk an other-worldly feel.

This time around there was another interesting feature along the Little Monadnock Trail. As part of a forest management program, there were several small areas where there had been logging carried out. It opens up parts of the forest to allow selected trees to grow and new growth to establish itself. It also provides new habitat for a wider variety of species. From what I could see, this kind of limited controlled clear-cutting did not impact at all on the visual pleasure of the hike.

Massachusetts has experimented with this on state-owned land. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been properly supervised and there have been several instances where loggers have “inadvertently” logged many more acres than they were permitted, or “accidentally” logged in areas where they weren’t supposed to be logging at all.