by Katie Salvatore
Located on Route 11 in Sunapee, right next to Dewey Field, Sawyer Trail provides an excellent sample of all the greatness of the forest while being welcoming to all skill levels. For his senior project Sawyer Webb, for whom the trail is named, made this interpretive trail with twelve points of interest called stations. They vary from the history of the location and the ongoing preservation, to maintenance of the woods and interesting sights and objects. There is also a GeoCache located on it for those who are interested.
The trail maintains the feeling that it was cut through nature and is a part of it rather than being a sterile, over-groomed environment. Other trails I have walked were created with too heavy a human hand which always takes part of the fun out of the experience for me. There were so many organic and magical surprises, though, on Sawyer’s Trail, and Sawyer helps point out many of them; in his creation, he perfectly balanced safety and accessibility with the spirit of the wilderness, which is what we really want to experience.
We went on a perfect July day: warm, but not smothering. Beneath the towering trees along the trail it proved perfectly comfortable as we walked. If there is one piece of advice I could bestow upon someone walking this trail it would be to drench yourself in bug spray or wear some sort of bug guard.
I made the mistake of forgetting mine and probably fed half of the state’s mosquitoes and black flies. They weren’t terrible while we were moving but, as soon as I stopped to take a sip of water or to photograph something (which I did often as the trail was full of beautiful surprises), I made lots of new friends.
Because of my photographing pit stops, the trip took us about an hour and a half. A normal walk through would probably be just under an hour. The trail takes the shape of a large crinkled loop with a branch down to the wetland and a connecting trail to Jobs Creek Road.
The trail is a mile of ups and downs, twists and turns, flats and rivers. As a casual hiker, I found it do-able but challenging enough to be enjoyable. The terrain was normally smooth but sometimes rocks or roots would mar the path. It is all well marked and easy to follow. Whenever we got a little concerned about where to go next, a red or yellow square with a black arrow pointed the way. The trail was well maintained, too. We were concerned that some plants might be poison ivy but the wide, clear trail made it easy to avoid them.
There were two small rivers to cross, one of which had several small logs as a bridge and the other had flat rocks that could be used to traverse it. The second river is Station 6 and, as Sawyer explains, is a tributary to Lake Sunapee.
Only temporary crossings are allowed over it, and even those require permits, hence the rocks. His stations explain the deeper meaning of the surroundings, or point out things one would normally miss, making the journey more enriching. Be sure to print out the brochure from the Sunapee town website before going, as there were none available at the trail head.
Personally, I love trees and I was in heaven on this trail. There were so many towering giants blossoming into thousands of layered leaves through which the sun played like the stained glass roof of a great cathedral. Elsewhere there were gnarled old figures that now give life to nests and woodpeckers.
The woods I normally trek are populated by pines and other conifers making it a wonderful surprise to find such a varying display of trees as there are here. At Station 8 there is a particularly large black cherry tree that I originally mistook as an old pine, since it stretched up high and mixed branches with the other trees so that I couldn’t distinguish which leaves or needles belonged to it.
By far though, my favorite part was a little out of the way: Station Seven, the wetland and Beaver Dam. It is located on the branch of the trail which you can skip but is well worth the extra walk.
As we neared the edge of the woods, we found the characteristic logs gnawed into points just before the trees stop and the cattails take over. To the right appeared to be the abandoned home of the busy beavers who cut down the trees a few years ago.
As we turned to walk back, I spotted a giant dragon fly perched on a tree just a foot from where I had been standing! It is experiences like that which make journeys into the forest so special and Sawyer Trail was absolutely full of them.
The Sawyer Trail trailhead is located
at the north end of Dewy Park in Sunapee