Lempster, New Hampshire 03605Ashuelot River Headwaters Forest Official Website
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Both Silver and Bean Mountains are within eyeshot of Mounts Monadnock, Sunapee, and Kearsarge, three iconic New Hampshire summits that the Forest Society worked to conserve. However, unlike these popular neighbors, the peaks of the Ashuelot River headwaters remain comparatively undiscovered by hiking crowds.
Directly north of Sand Pond, Silver Mountain has been hiked by the area’s year-round and summer residents for more than a century. The trail up the mountain climbs, sometimes steeply, through pines and hemlocks. Approaching the top, it opens up to blueberry bushes covering the flat height of land, mixing with long grass, granite, and a handful of stunted trees.
The most dramatic views are to the west, overlooking the village of Lempster and the hills and hollows, farms and forests, and the white Meetinghouse steeple of Acworth. Across the Connecticut River Valley, the distant peaks of Mount Ascutney and Vermont’s Green Mountains rise in the distance.
With barely a structure in sight, the rolling green landscape undulates southwestward past Mounts Moosilaukee and Cardigan to the Wapack Range and Mount Monadnock in the south. On a clear day, the Berkshires in Massachusetts are also visible. A short walk across rocky outcrops brings visitors to a good vantage point of Lovewell Mountain to the east and Mount Sunapee in the north.
This comparatively short trail to the top is frequented by the locals, who appreciate Silver Mountain’s blueberries, views, and the perspective that those views afford, being about to see the world from a vantage point accessible to only a few.
Bean Mountain remains the wilder of the two tracts that make up the Ashuelot River Headwaters Forest. As the source of the Ashuelot River, it includes more than 11,000 feet of frontage along the river, which supplies drinking water to the City of Keene and other downstream communities. The river and its many tributaries flow downhill through the spruce-fir and northern hardwood forests that give the land its northern “highlands” character, setting it apart from the hemlock-beech-oak-pine forests that make up most of the Ashuelot watershed.
The topography of the landscape varies dramatically, from the summit of Bean Mountain to a high-quality emergent marsh-shrub swamp, providing important habitats for a range of wildlife that includes moose, deer, bear, songbirds, fisher, and bobcat, as well as river species such as native brook trout, mink, otter, waterfowl, and numerous reptiles and amphibians. Its rich wildlife resources have made the Ashuelot River Headwaters a conservation priority in several natural resource plans, including the bi-state Quabbin-to-Cardigan Conservation Plan, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Wildlife Action Plan, and the regional Ashuelot River Land Conservation Plan.
The land is part of a 10,000-acre block of forest that forms a critical link between two of the largest blocks of connected forest south of the White Mountains: the 25,000-acre Pillsbury-Sunapee Highlights, and the 11,000-acre Andorra Forest. The Bean Mountain Tract creates a bridge between Pillsbury State Park to the northeast and the Long Pond Town Forest to the southwest, building a large corridor of conserved, connected open space that allows individual creatures to continue to move between populations. Without this connectivity, the exchanges that ensure the long-term survival of species are choked off. Human activities, including road use and development, threaten to permanently separate animal populations.
Content from Ashuelot River Headwaters Forest Official Website