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    Riding by a Rocket

    It's easy to find this trailhead. Image by Marty Basch.

    It's easy to find this trailhead. Image by Marty Basch.

    In the relative cool of a sleepy Sunday morning before the heat and humidity got out of bed, the deer bounded across the dirt.

    The white-tailed wonder leaped into the protection of the forest, found the spot it deemed safe and turned with curious outstretched ears perhaps wondering what that was rolling down the trail.

    The trail was more like a dirt road, albeit a Class IV one at times, with a pleasant  canopy, a refreshing spring and sections of sharp mossy ledgy walls that provided welcome shade.

    The old adage about not judging a book by its’ cover schools those taking to the Warren Recreational Trail off Route 25. The rail trail has arguably the most recognizable trailhead in the state of New Hampshire. It’s the only one graced by an eight ton Redstone rocket, the missile a part of the Warren skyline since 1971.

    More than once I’ve stopped by the village green with its church, town offices and historical society to gauge the trail but was dismayed to see the sandy start packed down by ATV tire marks.

    Make no mistake, the old Boston, Concord and Montreal Railroad line is a multi-use pathway in the shadows of Mount Moosilauke situated in Off Road Nation, easily a turn off for many mountain bikers. However, early risers with open minds will find the trail a surprising delight along what has got to be the flattest way through a mountain pass—Olivarian Notch—in the White Mountains.

    Forgot a paved rail trail. The six miles between the rocket and near the Warren/Benton town line is a collection of surfaces with sand, fine hardpack and wet mucky potholes while passing by horses, old homes, homes under construction and bogs including the 170-ace Black Brook Bog National Area. Pass by a number of trail signs, including those for a Poker Run stop by the Mount Moosilauke ATV Club and an odd, lone bench by Black Brook Bog.

    Another surprise, perhaps, is that as the trail comes closer to Route 25, it crosses the Appalachian Trail, marked by a sign for the Wachipauka Pond Trail, the AT. As the trail parallels Route 25 there are signs urging users to stay on the trail. Eventually, the pathway nearly kisses the Route 25 pavement by a quick steep uphill and a sign announcing a snow groomer—a good place to turn around.

    Aside from the deer, the only other trail user that morning was operating an ATV. He slowed down and waved when we crossed paths. Both ways on the trail, it was fairly easy to pick up speed and do the trail rather quickly. One fascinating sight was returning to the village green and seeing both the rocket and church steeple above the trees, something that had never registered with me before.

    The Redstone rocket’s an unusual landmark, but that’s not the only place for a mountain biker to feel its’ local influence.

    About five miles away from the missile on Route 118 are the McVetty Recreational Trails in the Warren Town Forest. There are some four miles of pathways for hikers, mountains bikers, snowshoers and skiers. Built by Hermit Woods Trail Builders of Norwich, Vt., the small 120-acre network is less than a year old.

    The handsome non-motorized network has an impressive stone entrance, kiosk, parking, picnic tables and loads of trail signs. The map in the kiosk shows there are color-coded trails for hikers and  those for mountain bikers. On a bike, stick to the red and the 2 1/4  miles of pathways on the Redstone Rocket Loop, Boundary Loop, Perched Rock Trail, Meadow Trail, Bent BIrch Trail and Sawyer’s Cutoff. Basically, go round and round.

    There are some nice bridges, both wooden and bog, and sturdy stonework. The trails are definitely home to moose as there appeared to be more moose prints than bike tracks on the pathways through the ferns and such.

    Bikers will find some nice winding single track and lots of roller coaster like dips. But there are also blowdowns and pesky wet and wide grassy sections. Perhaps with more use and some volunteer polish, the trails will take off.

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