Southern New Hampshire Life

Southern New Hampshire Blog by Steve Russo, Realtor

Southern New Hampshire Life - Southern New Hampshire Blog by Steve Russo, Realtor

The 2013 Lilac Festival in Portsmouth

The 2013 Lilac Festival at the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion will be on Saturday May 25th from 10AM to 3PM.  New Hampshire author Tracy Kane will enchant young children with tales of fairy houses at 11.  There will also be craft activities and other events for children. Activities for adults include lectures by lilac experts, a silent auction, tours of the Mansion, and sales of many lilac varieties, including some plants descended from the Mansion’s own 250 year old lilacs.  Admission to the Lilac Festival is free.

Benning Wentworth, who built what is now called the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion, was the first governor of New Hampshire.  He was a wealthy merchant, and was the first to import lilacs to North America from Europe around 1750.

The Mansion, a state historic site, is located at 375 Little Harbor Road in Portsmouth.  It is a rambling 40-room house overlooking Portsmouth’s Little Harbor, and is considered an outstanding example of a colonial-era home.  This historic home will be open to the public a few days per week from May 21st through October 8th this year; for more information about the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion and admission times, see the Mansion’s website and the NH State Park’s site.

Miller State Park

This is a great time of year to visit Miller State Park in Peterborough.  The park encompasses much of Pack Monadnock.  A paved road winds up to its 2,290 foot summit, which is topped by a no longer used fire tower that can be climbed for far-reaching views.  On a clear day from the top you can see as far as Boston, Mount Washington, and the Green Mountains of Vermont.  It’s a great way to see the panoply of colors of a New Hampshire autumn.  In addition to riding to the summit, one may hike through the park’s 533 acres; three main trails are marked.  Picnicking is also popular. 

The park is named after General James Miller, a Peterborough native and hero of the War of 1812. It was the first state park to be established in New Hampshire, in 1891. The park is a carry-in, carry-out park. Miller State Park usually opens on weekends starting Memorial Day weekend, expanding its open times to seven days a week during the peak of foliage season, mid-September through the end of October.  It is open from 9AM to sunset; there is a small admission fee.  (2012 dates are: open weekends starting May 25; daily beginning September 17 and ending October 31, when the park closes for the year.)

Miller State Park is located on State Route 101 in Peterborough, to the east of the junction with State Route 202.  To check the park’s schedule, call 603-924-3672.  For more information and photos of the park, see the Miller State Park website.  Looking towards Boston from Summit of Pack Monadnock

Rhododendron State Park

Located in Fitzwilliam, Rhododendron State Park encompasses over 2,700 acres of native plants, with a 16-acre stand of native rhododendrons (Rhododendron maximum), the largest grouping in northern New England.  The grove was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1982.  The park is also home to wild mountain laurels, heathers, mayflowers, wintergreens, blueberries, and cranberries, all growing under the shade of densely-packed deciduous and evergreen trees.  There are several short hiking trails; the main trail is wheelchair accessible; one trail leads to the top of Little Monadnock Mountain, which is within the park.  Click here for trail maps. 

The wild rhododendrons are usually at their peak in mid-July; check the state park’s bloom report by clicking here.  Please do not expect to see masses of flowers, the way you might see them in a man-made garden; these plants are wild, and receive no fertilizer, cultivation, etc., so blooms may be scarce even in their peak season.  But you will be seeing plants as the first settlers might have found them hundreds of years ago, surrounded by native flora and fauna. Click here for some tips on the best way to experience the park.

For a short video showing the park in bloom, click here.

The area was originally given to the Appalachian Mountain Club in 1903 as an area to be preserved in its natural state; it was turned into a state park in 1946.  A short history of the park is available online.  The park is easily accessible from Rhododendron Road off State Route 119 between Fitzwilliam and Richmond.