Location: Harold Parker State Forest, North Andover, MA
Date: January 25, 2015
Distance: 2.14 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 148 feet
Our Hiking Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes roundtrip
Trail Blaze: None
Snow! We’ve looked at grass since Thanksgiving – our only snowstorm until this past weekend. With six inches of fresh powder on the ground, and beautiful blue skies, we knew we had to dust off our Tubbs snowshoes and go snowshoeing in Harold Parker State Forest. Addie hiked on her Tubbs Snowglows, while the twins rode on our backs – Kate with me in our Deuter Kid Comfort III, and Evan with Kendra in the Ergobaby carrier.
Our friends Sara and Kate, and their 4 month old daughter Ada, hiked with us! We’ve been to Harold Parker State Forest tons of times, and there is still so much left to explore! With over 35 miles of trails on 3,000+ acres, we manage to hike a different route every time.
For this trek, we parked at the DCR Headquarters and headed down Middleton Road, to Beach Road (which runs along Stearns Pond), until we reached the NA2 marker. WHERE WE SAW A HORSE! I am not sure who was the most excited! We knew people rode horses at Harold Parker, cause we often narrowly miss stepping into gigantic piles of horse poop while hiking, but we’d never actually seen someone on horseback.
We followed a small trail that was overhung with pines weighed down with fresh snow. With afternoon sun low in the sky, the light peeking through the trees was breathtaking.
Addie spent a lot of time trying to climb snow-covered boulders and then slide down them. It didn’t work out very well, but that didn’t stop her from trying again… and again… and again.
The only drawback to most of the trails at Harold Parker are the lack of blazes. It’s rare that you find a trail that’s marked other than with brown posts spaced out at either end of a trail. When we finally reached the NA4 marker, we headed right on Upper Sudden Pond Road, passing by just the edge of Sudden Pond. By then, the light was incredible as it reflected off the frozen water.
When we reached Middleton Road, we were surprised to see it was open to cars. The online map is tiny, so it was hard to see the markers for the road. Needless to say, it made for an adventure trying to snowshoe the 1/2 mile back to Beach Road. Addie was not pleased, and by this point was pretty tired. I did something I never do on hikes – played music for her on my iPhone. Somehow listening to “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” from the new Annie movie soundtrack perked her up, and she belted out song after song as we inched forward.
When we finally caught up to everyone else, Addie was full of energy and snowshoed the fastest she had all afternoon. It wasn’t long before we reached where we’d stashed our sled. This is a trick I learned from fellow Tubbs Snowshoes Ambassador, John Soltys. Just knowing she was going to get a ride in the sled helped keep her motivated throughout the hike. The only thing I would have done differently was take the sled with us for the entirety of the hike so she could have slid down some of the hills.
And we discovered the best part of brining a sled – we can use it to tote all our gear to the trailhead. And by we, I mean Addie, who pleaded to be the sled puller.
It was an awesome hike – and one much needed after a winter of no snow!
Directions to Harold Parker Headquarters:
Though there are several entrances to Harold Parker State Forest, we used the entrance off of Rt. 114 in Andover, MA.
From I-93: Take exit 41, follow 125 north (toward Andover), for about 4 miles to the State Police Barracks (on right). Turn right on Harold Parker Rd to Jenkins Rd. Turn left on Jenkins Rd then right onto Salem Rd. Headquarters is about 1-1 ½ miles on the left.
From 495N: Take exit 42A, travel east on Rt. 114 for 6 miles. Take a right at the Harold Parker State Forest sign, follow to the end of the road, then take a left to the headquarters.