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Spectacular Foliage Awaits on this Tour

Christine Randall - October 1, 2012

Judging by the frosty nights of late and the lessening hours of daylight (not to mention, of course, the calendar), autumn has arrived in the Lakes Region, which means that it is time to get out and enjoy the colorful fall foliage. Foliage always seems to be brighter and change more quickly around bodies of water, so I usually seek out routes that will include streams, rivers, lakes, bogs, or ponds.

This year, I decided to take an excursion down Perch Pond Road, a 25 mile tour off the beaten path from Campton to Holderness, which features two covered bridges, an alpaca farm, an antiques shop, a country greenhouse, a secluded mountain pond and neighboring bog, and a microbrewery.

I headed out of Ashland on Route 3 north, loosely following the Pemigewasset River into Plymouth, a bustling college town, towards Campton. At a four-way intersection, I took a right onto Blair Bridge Road, crossing the Pemigewasset River on Blair Bridge. This 292-foot two-span covered bridge was built in 1869, and is said to be the second longest covered bridge located entirely within the boundaries of the State of New Hampshire. The one-lane bridge measures about 20-feet wide with a posted weight limit of about 3 tons, and it was badly damaged when flooding, triggered by the remnants of Hurricane Irene last August, sent a large pine tree crashing through the side, impaling it and causing structural damage. The bridge was closed for several months for repairs, but has since re-opened to traffic.

After crossing the Blair Bridge, I turned left and headed north on Route 175 to Perch Pond Road, a sharp right just beyond the Chalet Antiques Shop. The Chalet Antiques Shop houses an eclectic collection of antiques and collectibles, and features an interesting museum filled with unusual historical artifacts. Hours can vary in the fall, so it is best to call ahead at 726-5335.

Driving down Perch Pond Road, I came across the Bump Covered Bridge on the left side of the road. This 68-foot Queenpost-style bridge was originally built in 1877 to span the Beebe River, but by 1972, it was determined that the bottom framing had deteriorated to the point that it had to be rebuilt. In an agreement with officials in the Town of Campton, the Bump Bridge was rebuilt for only $2,500 by Arnold Graton. It is posted for passenger cars only, with a weight limit of three tons.

At this point, Perch Pond Road turns to gravel and narrows a bit, although there is still room for about two cars to pass each other. The posted speed limit is 25 mph, which is probably a good idea, as the road can get rutted and filled with potholes after a storm. On this particular day, however, the road was in great shape–but I still went only 25 mph, just in case!

About one-half mile from the Bump Bridge, you find the Country Lady Bug Greenhouse, which recently closed for the season. I was slightly disappointed, as I thought I might pick up some colorful mums or other autumn plants, but they will re-open in May.

The road alternates between pavement and gravel, and on another gravel portion, I arrived at Perch Pond, for which the road is named. Perch Pond is a pretty, 43-acre body of water which attracts boaters and fishermen looking for brook trout, rainbow trout, smelt, and hornpout. The fishing season is restricted, running from the last week of April through mid-October.  There is also a small, unpaved area where you can launch a small boat; the foliage around the pond is very colorful.

Just after you leave the pond, the road crosses into Holderness, and there are several open fields with nice mountain views off to one side, interspersed with forested areas and the occasional house and farm. I passed a bog on the left side of the road and looked for a moose, but much to my chagrin, I didn’t spot one. There are also a few pull-off spots on private land where hikers, skiers, and snowshoers are welcome to explore, but motorized vehicles are not allowed.

At this point, the road starts to parallel Owl Brook, but the brook is pretty hidden from view for the most part. I soon came across the Owl Brook Archery Course, followed shortly thereafter by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s Owl Brook Hunter Education Center. The Owl Brook Education Center hosts outdoor education workshops, education programs, and numerous special events throughout the year. The center is open to the public Monday – Saturday from 8am until 4pm. For information about programs or events, call 536-1290.

Further along on the right, I noticed a sign for Owl Brook Alpacas. Owl Brook Alpacas is an alpaca farm that recently opened up, featuring nine alpacas on the premises, as well as a small gift shop with alpaca hats, socks, mittens, and toys made by the owners, handspun from the soft fleece of the animals. The farm is located at 257 Perch Pond Road and they are open by chance or by appointment. You can call 536-5404 for more information.

Another small business of interest on Perch Pond Road is the Squam Brewing Company, located at 118 Perch Pond Road. Squam Brewing is a microbrewery specializing in unique, handcrafted beers and ales. If you call ahead at 236-9705, owner/brewer John Glidden, Jr., will be happy to give you a tour.

Perch Pond Road becomes paved once again at this point, and about ½ mile from Squam Brewing, the road intersects with Hardhack Road. Turning left, you quickly access Route 175. At the junction of Route 175 and Hardhack Road, turning left will bring you back towards Route 3 in Holderness; turning right, you head north towards Plymouth.

I chose to take a left onto Route 175, and shortly after passing the Holderness Central School, I continued my scenic foliage tour by taking a right onto Owl Brook Road. This road is very scenic and very narrow, and it is almost all gravel. The road follows along Owl Brook from Holderness into Ashland, meandering past fields, a few homes, an old cemetery, and a working farm where you can pick up fresh chicken eggs before heading back towards Route 3 in Ashland. You can often see flocks of turkeys along this road, as well as an occasional deer and other wildlife.

This foliage tour is about 25-30 miles, and depending on your interests, you can spend anywhere between 45 minutes and a full day exploring this scenic loop. 

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