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MILTON — It’s not often that the town of Milton has a grand opening event and the one held on a Saturday morning in mid-May wasn’t your typical store or restaurant opening but was titled ‘Grand Opening of Plummers Ridge Forest and Farms Hiking Trails’. The event was extremely popular, with over 80 attendees packing the yard of the NH Farm Museum, which offered a staging area for celebratory remarks and complimentary food. After tasting cider donuts from McKenzie’s Farm, participants headed out on some of the newly-blazed trails, starting at the new Branch Hill Farm trailhead kiosk just across the road (White Mountain Highway / Route 125), then returned for a hearty chili lunch
Almost seven miles of trails meander through 400 managed acres of forests and fields and along the Branch River, connecting the adjacent Plummers Ridge lands of Branch Hill Farm, McKenzie’s Farm and the New Hampshire Farm Museum. To keep the hiking parties of manageable size, Cynthia Wyatt and Kari Lygren of Branch Hill Farm each guided a subset of participants along a different trail loop, Mark Foynes of the NH Farm Museum took a group on a tour of Farm Museum trails, and forester Charlie Moreno of Moreno Forestry Associates led the largest group. He showed hikers the new scenic overlooks on a trail following the Branch River, while stopping en route to talk about forestry practices recently implemented at Branch Hill Farm to improve the forest quality and wildlife habitat.
One of Moreno’s first stops was at the ‘Tree Cookies’ sign, on which are affixed several thin slices, resembling cookies, cut from trunks of different tree species. By counting the visible tree rings and examining their spacing, much can be learned about the conditions in which the tree grew. Tightly spaced rings indicate slow tree growth that may be characteristic of the species or else caused by detrimental conditions such as drought or over-crowding and lack of sunlight. As pointed out by Moreno, a forest of trees needs to be thinned to promote their best growth, just like any garden.
Milton Mills resident Rachel Towne was enthusiastic about the event and the new trails. “I really like to see this kind of collaboration and the Grand Opening event to celebrate and inform people about the trails was a wonderful idea,” she said.
The public is welcome to walk, snowshoe or ski these trails connecting the three privately owned farms, but asked to please stay on the trails, which have been carefully routed to protect sensitive areas such as wetlands and stream banks that could erode. Visitors are also requested to leash and clean up after pets. Multiple trail loops offering options for distance, scenery and destination are shown on a detailed map with color-coded trails and marked points of interest, including the ‘Tree Cookie’ sign, the scenic overlooks, the old Jones and Plummer Family Cemeteries, and some cellar holes. Printed maps are available at McKenzie’s Farm, the NH Farm Museum, and at the trailhead kiosk across the road from the Museum.
The event was co-sponsored by regional land trust Moose Mountains Regional Greenways. The Farms thank Eagle Scout Stephen Steer and Milton Boy Scout Troop #155 for constructing and installing trail signs and a kiosk.