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Downtown Temple,NH

Monday, February 9, 2009

Horse Hill 7k Snowshoe Race Course Preview

Next up in the Granite State Snowshoe Series will be race #5, the Horse Hill 7k in Merrimack, NH. Since this is my home course and I snowshoe in the Horse Hill Nature Preserve 2-3 times a week, I thought I'd be a nice guy and give everyone a course preview.
Michael A. has a version of a course map linked on the race website above, which essentially is a copy of the trail map for HHNP. I decided to put together a more detailed map and describe some of the key features/obstacles you'll find along the way. You can either click on the picture for a larger view of the map or you can download a PDF version here.

Course Description:

The trails have not been gone over with a snowmobile yet and the footing can be a little hard on the ankles. The snow is VERY firm and packed (unlike anything we saw this past weekend). I've gone over the course twice in the last couple of days and my shoes don't even leave a mark. If the trails were smoother, the conditions would be lightening fast. I still think they'll be fast as long as you're careful with your footing. I'm still hoping to get a snowmobile to drive over about 1/2 of the course before Saturday.
  • The start/finish is right next to the Amherst Rd parking lot for HHNP.
  • The first 300m is generally flat and wide (about as wide as a dirt road) and should be packed down pretty well.
  • At about 300m you'll take a sharp LEFT onto the Blodgett Hill Summit Trail. This trail is mostly single track but sections might be as wide as a snowmobile trail. You'll cross a small, open brook (jump!) and then will have a short (100m), moderately steep climb. This is HILL #1 on the map. I think most will be able to run it or at least power-hike it. One exposed rock right in the middle of the hill, you can't miss it. The trail continues to climb gently until it levels off near the summit of Blodgett Hill (423ft). When you see the green 4x4 post, you've reached the summit. Continue STRAIGHT.
  • After about 30m you'll take a sharp LEFT, go another 10m and then take a sharp RIGHT onto the Ledges Trail. The Ledges Trail is a snowshoe-only trail. Unfortunately there's been a few lazy-ass snowshoers out there and they've cut a few of the corners so you'll have to watch out for the spur paths. Hopefully we'll mark it well and it won't be an issue.
  • The Ledges Trail is a nice downhill single track that switchbacks down the back side of Blodgett Hill and should be very fast and fun. The back and forth switchback will allow you to see runners in front and behind you on some sections. The 1k marker is roughly at the bottom of the first down slope, right before you start to switchback.
  • Shortly after crossing a small bridge, the Ledges Trail ends and intersects with the Loop Trail (one of the main trails in HHNP). NOTE: you will run this entire section BACKWARDS on the way back to the finish later on. This is HILL #3 on the map.
  • Take a LEFT onto the Loop Trail and follow for about 250m. The wide trail descends slowly to the next trail junction. You'll want to go STRAIGHT or SLIGHTLY RIGHT. The trail crosses another small brook that may or may not be open water (depending on how much melting takes place). The brook is frozen over, no problems crossing. The main trail turns right after the brook but you want to go straight where it looks like no one else has gone. Just go as straight as possible through here, as the trail changes to the Rocky Trail. FYI, all trail junctions are marked with green 4x4 signposts which are numbered and labeled with the appropriate trail name. Chances are you won't have time to read the posts so just watch out for the RD's course signs instead. A copy of the Trail map can be found here.
  • Stay on the single track trail that follows the Rocky Trail. It's not called the Rocky Trail for nothing. Although some of the rocks are visible in the middle of the trail, the snowshoe trail stays to the side and is fine. Up until now the snow depth has been good and no rocks have been exposed. The recent warm weather might change this. The snowshoe trail tends to stay to the side of the main trail so it should be ok.
  • Right at the 2k marker you'll take a sharp RIGHT onto the steepest trail in HHNP. The East Slope Trail climbs approximately 300m to the summit of Horse Hill (388ft). Most will have to walk part of this trail, it is steep. As of today, there are only 2 sets of tracks on this section of trail and the snow is very crusty. Tough footing on this section. The good thing is you'll be going slow anyways so it won't slow you down much. This is HILL #2 on the map.
  • Near the summit (and at the next sign post) you'll take a sharp LEFT onto Horse Hill Summit Trail. The trail climbs just a bit more but then starts to descend all the way down to the power lines.
  • Once you hit the power lines you'll turn LEFT and head down the power lines for about 150m and then turn RIGHT and head back into the woods. There's a few side trails through here so be sure to look for the course signs.
  • You're back on the Loop Trail, which will be mostly single track for the next 500m. This section is rolling terrain, crosses a nice brook (on a bridge this time) and may run into a wet section around the 3k mark (depending on how much snow melts). Make sure you cross on the first bridge (newest). The wet sections are all snow covered so no problems through here.
  • The trail climbs back up to the power lines but this time you'll cross right over and get back onto the Loop Trail all the way until the Ledges Trail. This section of trail is very wide and most likely will be packed down by snowmobile traffic. The early section is mostly downhill, the later section is mostly uphill. It can have some wet sections about midway (just prior to the 4k mark). This section of trail is wide and fairly packed down. There's some ice in one of the wet sections but mostly the trail is fine. It climbs a little near the end of this section right after the 4k mark but then drops pretty quick down to the next bridge.
  • It crosses another decent stream around 4.5k (on another bridge) and then starts to climb slowly, all the way back to the Ledges Trail (see above). There are a couple of turns along the way but the course stays on the Loop Trail all the way to the Ledges Trail. Just follow the signs and you'll be fine. The Loop Trail will continue past the 5k mark and will intersect with another major trail. Turn RIGHT and head up the small hill. You're still on the Loop Trail. This will bring you back to the entrance to the Ledges Trail.
  • When you get back to the Ledges Trail you'll take a sharp RIGHT. The rest of the way is a reverse of the first 1.5k of the start. You'll climb the Ledges Trail to the summit of Blodgett Hill (roughly the 6k mark). Most of this trail will be an easy climb, but be careful because the trail is really narrow and close to trees. The last section is a little steep but runable. When you get to the top you'll take a sharp LEFT and then a sharp RIGHT and you'll be back on the Blodgett Hill Summit Trail.
  • It's less than 1k and ALL downhill to the finish from here. This section will be FAST but be careful on the short but steep downhill section: there's a big rock right in the middle of the trail. At the bottom you'll cross the brook again (jump), climb a tiny bit and then flat until the Loop Trail.
  • This section is mostly single track until you take the final RIGHT onto the Loop Trail. You'll have about 300m on this wide section until the finish.


DoubleJ said...

Steve, this is awesome. This is probably the best writeup of a course I've ever seen :)... I'll still manage to screw this up somehow though I'm sure.

Dan said...

Great job, thanks for the write-up! Sounds like an awesome course. Should be lots of fun. Let's hope the rest of the week is cold. I had enough mush at Frosty's.

Steve W said...

Checked out the course tonight. No problems. In fact the snow is TOO hard and my snowshoes couldn't pack down some of the rough, bumpy sections. Snow is very firm, unlike anything we saw this past weekend.

DoubleJ said...

This is VERY good news...I was concerned after Frosty's that this course was going to be more of the same... thanks again Steve...very helpful indeed!

Scotty "PHAT" Graham said...


I read all you directions and I'm lost!! I guess I'll just have to follow who ever is in front of me.

Trail Pixie said...

Steve, thanks for this write up. It's detailed and just enough to maybe scare me off from my first snow shoe race. Maybe I'm crazy to try a 7k SS race for my first one! What the heck---I'm a thorough "sweep."
TRail Pixie

Tami said...

our local paper add a great picture of the starting line from the Sandwich race, not sure what number you were but if you are in this picture, it would be a keeper for your collection

Steve W said...

What's your local paper?
Someone from the Meredith News (I think) interviewed me prior to the race. Oddly enough, we don't get the Meredith News in Merrimack :-)

Tami said...
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