Saturday, July 12, 2008

Paddling Turkey Ponds

(Click on photo to see more photos on smugmug.com.)
Well, we never quite get the early morning thing right when it comes to kayaking. We got up at 5 a.m. to head to Concord and two connected ponds: Great Turkey Pond and Little Turkey Pond. The trouble is we didn't actually get out on the water until 6:45 a.m. -- a little late to catch early morning wildlife activity. Wildlife or not, these two ponds are awesome!

Based on information in the Appalachian Mountain Club book, Quiet Water: New Hampshire and Vermont, we chose to take exit 2 off I-89, head south about one mile and just past a small bridge, take the dirt road on the right. Let me say that this road would be extremely difficult without 4-wheel drive and/or a truck. There are some good-sized rocks here. An alternative might be to park on the side of the road and carry your boat in (maybe 3/10 mile?)

Well after getting the pickup truck stuck on a rock and gunning it in 4-wheel drive, we were there! These ponds offer a good amount of water (about 339 acres) and many different areas to explore. We paddled up the western shore of Great Turkey Pond and passed underneath I-89 to continue paddling to Little Turkey Pond. Heading back, we paddled more to the center with occasional stops to investigate the eastern shore.

There is barely any development at all -- we saw two houses and what looked to be an unoccupied kids' camp -- and that was it. The only distraction you have to contend with is the road noise when you're near I-89, but before long, that fades into the distance.

The Turkey Ponds are really picturesque. There's open and wooded shoreline, tree-covered islands and some interesting granite boulders. We spotted a great blue heron (okay, that counts as wildlife!) and also enjoyed the many fragrant waterlilies. I could have spent hours getting lost in the pond's beautiful reflections and all the shades of green from the shoreline alone. Take my word for it...if you can manage the rocky put-in, the Turkey Ponds are definitely worth it.

Things to Know Before You Go: Motorboats are allowed, although we only encountered a few small fishing boats with trolling motors. We also saw some water skiing channels, but no sign of skiers this early in the day. The AMC book says there's a wonderful hiking and biking path that circles the ponds. Unfortunately,we didn't have time to explore those today.

Directions: Take I-89 to exit 2; head one mile south on Clinton Street (Route 13). Shortly after crossing a small bridge over Turee Pond, look for an unmarked dirt road to the right. The AMC book describes two other access points, one off exit 3 and Stickney Hill Road (has a steep carry-in) and the other is on the north end of the pond off Routes 9/202. Consult a NH atlas for more specifics.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Kayaking Thorndike Pond

(Click on the photo to see more photos on smugmug.com)

We paddled Thorndike Pond in Jaffrey today and thank goodness we did! It's been five weeks since we've been out kayaking and I was getting a little cranky about not having my de-stressing time on the water. I guess you could say it was worth the wait.

This is a fairly large pond (about 265 acres) with lots to offer. To begin with, I'll say Thorndike is not as secluded and traffic-free as some places we've paddled. Motorboats are allowed (although we only encountered one lone powerboat on this holiday weekend) and there's a kids' summer camp, which seems low-key. At the same time, the pond is large enough so you can find plenty of quiet spots to go off on your own.

Thorndike struck me as the perfect spot for a kid to be a kid -- you know, a place to practice cannonballs off a floating dock or to splash into the pond from a tire swing. Within 15 minutes of being out on the water, I could sense my tension melting away.

We paddled to the right from the boat launch and soon discovered Whittemore Island; a sign indicates its managed by the Nature Conservancy. We didn't go ashore, but it looked like a neat place to explore or to stop for a picnic.

Judging from our NH atlas, the pond has an hourglass shape, with the upper half of the hourglass elongated. There's plenty of open water, a few smaller marshy areas, and the island I mentioned. It also has some great views of Mount Monadnock. There's some shoreline development, but nothing too intrusive. We spent a pleasant two hours on Thorndike Pond and I'd encourage anyone in the area to give it a try. I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Things to Know Before You Go: Parking on the roadside is limited and there are no facilities here. Thorndike is not far at all from one of our all-time favorites, Gilmore Pond. This means it's also near Kimball Farm Ice Cream (yum!). You can read more about both here.

Directions: Take State Route 124 to Jaffrey Center. Turn right on Thorndike Pond Road. Take a left on Gilson Road (unpaved) for 1.4 miles to a right on Dublin Road. There's a small gravel put-in on the right.