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The Wonder of Mines Fall

I’ve walked in Mines Fall a million times in my life, but last week I took a walk that was just one of those visits that leaves you awe…

Where: Mines Fall Park

Website: this is the Nashua website, but I think this Merrimack River site is better. And here is a link to a trail map.

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Mines Fall has seven different entrances, but I like to start at Lincoln Park, the one on Exit 6 behind Hannaford at the end of Coliseum Ave. It gives you the most options for the paths you’d like to start your walk/run. (Most of which are not on the official trail guide. If you see an opening, just follow it!) I love to switch it up, but usually walk up over the bridge to Nashua High South, take a right, and follow that trail for a hillier workout. Some other quick facts about the park:

  • the park is 325 acres
  • it was purchased in 1969 federal Land and Water Conservation money
  • in 1987 the Nashua River Canal was placed on the National Register of Historic Places
  • the canal was dug with shovels and mules by workers in the 1800’s and is 3 miles long
  • since 1992 the trails have been apart of the New Hampshire Heritage Trail

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to the right over the footbridge takes you to the high school, straight to an underpass of the highway, left to the Lincoln Park entrance on Coleseum Ave.

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I often forget that Mines Fall is actually a central spot that connects many different parts of the city. When I was a kid my Dad and I used to ride our bikes from Exit 6 to the library.

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The boat loading dock and Stellos entrance

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My walks are always peaceful, and I’m a person who revels in the solitude, but if you pay attention you might just find some great stories all around you. I laughed watching a young woman reel in a huge fish while her boyfriend’s mouth fell open in shock, leaving him to sheepishly tug at his own line. I saw a family of four riding their bicycles in matching red t-shirts and black helmets, and I imagined for a moment how matchy, and nerdy, their Christmas cards must be. I thought two teenage girls were laughing at me last week as they sprinted by, but then I heard actual howling as a pack of teenage boys ran past in their pursuit. (They were in some kind of running club. I realize that story could be read creepier than I intended.) And I love when friendly kayak and canoers wave from the water.

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I went down this trail for the first time the other day. It’s hard to spot, but there’s a path at the foot of this bridge. Follow it along the water and it empties you out near the dam.

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If you keep your eyes open you’ll also probably see the turtles lounging in the canal on sunny days. Early one morning I spotted a big, fat, beaver just floating down the river. And there was one time recently I saw a turtle in the water that was so huge I swear it could have been a dinosaur or from some prehistoric age. Unfortunately, it’s been years seen I’ve seen the swans that used to hang out by the Stellos Stadium entrance, but I did find some ducks around there the other day. And I think I saw a mink once on the banks…

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And then there are moments like I the one experienced last week when I stopped at the sight of a tall brownish bird, with stick skinny legs and a long bill. I stopped to take a picture and figure out what kind of bird it might be. It wasn’t a particularly beautiful bird, or so I thought. He caught me staring, and with a dramatic push off, flew into the air with a wingspan that stretched the width of the canal and wing tips brushed blue as the water.  I was in awe as glided down the canal, and then felt bad that it was essentially running away from me…

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I do have one gripe about Mines Fall, and it’s not the place or the people who manage it, it’s the dog walkers who leave their filled plastic baggies on the ground. There are signs at every entrance that THERE IS NO POOP FAIRY. It’s also basic nature etiquette that you take out of the park what you carry in. I tried to think of a solution, like maybe trash cans on the trail, but why should the view and serenity of the park be tarnished with trash cans for the selfish, rude people who leave dog poop in plastic bags everywhere? But on a positive note, I’ve noticed over the years that tagging (the spray paint variety) has been diminished.

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Add Mines Fall to the places I didn’t fully appreciate until I lived in other cities. I had a friend in LA who loved to just walk around this boring but somehow popular reservoir surrounded by a busy street, and when I joined her I couldn’t help but long for the shade from Mines Fall trees, and the dirt paths, and the abundance of water. (Coming from a place in a severe drought, that just dropped millions of black “shade” balls into it’s reservoirs to keep them from drying out, the sight of the canals and Nashua River fill me with joy and relief.) They drained that reservoir this summer, and I thought, her walks must not be very pretty now. How glad I am to have a place to retreat to like Mines Fall, and on a visit like my Great Blue Heron sighting, how amazing there are still days in it that leave me in wonder.

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