Saturday, October 28, 2017

A tale of one city, and three towns: Berlin (#147), Alstead (#148), Langdon (#149), and Unity (#150) — plus a rare supernova over Acworth, N.H.

In the past two weeks, I've added four more communities to the quest to run at least 5K in every New Hampshire municipality. (And unincorporated places, too!)

Here's a round-up of latest adventures.

• Friday, Oct. 20: a swing through the state's northern reaches and really mild weather for October provided a chance to bag Berlin (#147), so I took it.

Hoped to combine it with the adjacent town of Milan, but time didn't allow. So I measured off 1.6 miles from the Berlin/Gorham line, which put my start right in the middle of Berlin's modest downtown.

Out and back under the bright sun, windy conditions. Elapsed time: 37 minutes.

Never been to Berlin but know the story: ex-paper mill town that's now reinventing itself as an outdoor recreation hub.

The city's most lasting claim to fame? It's the birthplace in 1907 of Earl Silas Tupper, inventor of Tupperware.

Running through the streets in late October, even on a warm day, you get the unmistakable vibe of a city hunkering down for the long winter ahead.

Trivia: Berlin is one of New Hampshire's 13 cities, which are different from the state's 221 towns due to the way their municipal government is organized.

I just checked, and I still have one more city to go: Laconia, look out!

• Saturday, Oct. 21: silent film show in Vermont took me through western New Hampshire, so made use of another warm afternoon to claim Alstead (#148) and Langdon (#149).

Parked at shuttered Mascoma Bank branch (drive-thru now occupied by wasps) conveniently located on Alstead/Langdon border.

Once covered this area for local papers, the Claremont Eagle-Times and the Keene Sentinel, so the roads of these small and quiet and remote towns are still familiar.

First into Alstead, past modest homes built in an era of expectations that the town would grow much larger (but never did), then over the bridge across the Cold River, past the library and the store, and then up Route 123 past the Vilas School to turn-around point, just past the junction of Route 123A to Acworth.

Trivia: the town is not pronounced "Awl"-stead. It's "Al" stead. Even so, it's still obvious you're from away.

Upon reaching the bank, checking time at 44 minutes. Slow!

Hey: not only two towns, but two counties! Alstead is in Cheshire County, Langdon is in Sullivan County.

Now the other way, into Langdon, a rural upland town that's home to Fall Mountain Regional High School but still one of the smallest communities in these parts.

I wrote a lengthy profile of Langdon back in 1990 for the Sentinel, and at the time the town still hadn't recovered from depopulation that began in the 19th century and affected many upland towns.

Consider: the town's population peaked in 1830 at 676. Then people started leaving Langdon, and didn't stop until a century later, in 1930, when the census bottomed out at 267.

Things have been recovering since then, and by 1990 had reached 580—nice, but still below the Langdon's 1830 heyday.

Well, here's an update. I'm pleased to report that the U.S. Census of 2010 reported 688 residents. So, 180 years later, Langdon is back in growth mode.

That still didn't make for crowded roads. I jogged down Route 123, then up Cheshire Turnpike Road, encountering few vehicles and no people.

Due to Route 123 sliding across the border into Walpole for a stretch, I had to account for 2/10th of a mile that wasn't technically in Langdon.

But this put me further up Cheshire Turnpike Road, which was one long include up a ridge overlooking the rural valley below Fall Mountain.

With sun lighting up the countryside—stone walls and foliage and open fields laid out below rich blue skies—it was one of those days you're glad to be outside, and you remember.

Back at the car, time was another 44 minutes. So much for speed.

• Friday, Oct. 27: silent film show in Canaan, N.H. and another warm afternoon allowed me to bag Unity, N.H. (#150), another rural town in the state's western reaches.

Wanted to get adjacent Acworth as well, but alas, lack of time (and leaving my wallet at the office in Manchester) limited the day's activities.

However, coming through Acworth, I couldn't help but stop to photograph the town's immense hilltop 1821 meetinghouse, lit up by the afternoon sun.

In doing so, I accidentally activated my cell phone's "selfie" lens, which I haven't been using because images are blurred by an air bubble in the phone's protective covering.

But all of that, including triggering the camera directly into the sun, produced this remarkable image of a supernova over Acworth, N.H.:

The run along North Shore Road in Unity was marred by the realization that I'd left my wallet back in my office in Manchester, which would complicate the rest of the day.

But off I went, with part of the route on a dirt road. Another quiet afternoon in rural New Hampshire, slightly cooler than previous runs but still nice.

Out and back, through the rolling countryside, total 43 minutes.

And that makes it 150 towns, which I was the short-term goal for this year. Yay!

A few nice weekends might allow me to push past that. We'll see.

For now, the immediate challenge is an upcoming chance to add not one but two states to the trophy case in my quest to run at least 10K in all 50 states. Stay tuned!

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