A Study in Contrasts – Hoyt Wildlife Sanctuary & Mt. Teneriffe Preserve

I recently had the pleasure to visit two small preserves on the same day, and the impressions they left on me couldn’t have been more different.  The first was the 135-acre Hoyt Wildlife Sanctuary on Purity Lake in the towns of East Madison and Eaton, NH.  It is owned by NH Audubon, an organization approaching its 100th birthday in 2014.  The second was the 170-acre Mt Teneriffe Preserve in Milton NH, owned by The Nature Conservancy.

The sign for the Hoyt Sanctuary is mostly hidden.

The sign for the Hoyt Sanctuary is mostly hidden.

So far what I’ve seen of Audubon sanctuaries is that they seem rather run down and in need of TLC.   I haven’t written all of them up yet, but it seemed true of the Popple Island, Paradise Point, Stoney Brook, and Dahl sanctuaries, and is true of Hoyt, too.  You’ll want to get your trail map online because the inside of the little mailbox that would normally contain some looked like it hadn’t seen the light of day in years.  In fact, from the outside it would appear that this sanctuary was actively trying to hide itself, as even the sign was nearly obscured by a rhododendron.

No Bottom Pond - a kettlehole pond in the Hoyt Sanctuary

No Bottom Pond – a kettlehole pond in the Hoyt Sanctuary viewed from the Esker Trail

But parts of the sanctuary are seeing use, I suppose mainly from visitors to the Purity Spring Resort, which lies just across the road.  There are two main trails through the sanctuary, the Esker and Heath View Trails, and I recommend the Esker Trail.  It’s a loop that’s less than a mile long that circles tiny No Bottom Pond.  Traversing a low esker, the trail affords nice views of Purity Lake and the resort.

Towards the Purity Spring Resort from the Esker Trail

Towards the Purity Spring Resort from the Esker Trail

The Heath View was less interesting but might be nicer in spring or fall.  There are some remnants of the past on this trail including an old cellar hole and this rusting vehicle:

A ghost from the past on the Heath View Trail.

A ghost from the past on the Heath View Trail.

On the other hand, I have never been disappointed when visiting preserves run by the Nature Conservancy.

Mt Teneriffe Preserve

Mt Teneriffe Preserve

The Mt. Teneriffe Preserve was established to protect one of the rarest orchids in the eastern US, the small whorled pogonia.  The parking is well signed and the kiosk at the entrance was stocked with more information about the preserve and about the orchid, also containing a rough trail map that I haven’t yet found online.  Based on this information it is apparent that the trail will not lead you to the orchids, as they are sheltered elsewhere.  But that is probably for the best, as this spot is considered one of the five most significant pogonia sites worldwide.  So I’m willing to just let them be – besides, being August, they would not have been blossoming anyway.

On the trail at Mt. Teneriffe Preserve

On the trail at Mt. Teneriffe Preserve

The rockiness of the northeast slope may have been what has preserved the orchid's habitat

The rockiness of the northeast slope may have been what has preserved the orchid’s habitat

But the trails were nice nonetheless and looked like they get their share of use.  After a small side loop overlooking the hillside (maybe some orchids are visible there?) the trail circles left towards the northwest through what looks to have once been cultivated fields, long since returned to forest.  I noticed one thing there that I’ve read about but rarely see: a stone wall about as wide as a one-lane road.

This massive stone "wall" is probably due to the overwhelming number of stones removed from the fields

This massive stone “wall” is probably due to the overwhelming number of stones removed from the fields

They say these came about when a farmer runs out of use for all the rocks being cleared from his fields.  It’s clear that someone worked hard to clear all these.  Small wonder that so many NH farmers gave up and moved west!

So even if you don’t see the orchids, a visit to this preserve is a rewarding hour’s walk in the woods.  Happy travels!

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