Nice historical site at Potter Place
I rode the Winnipesaukee Rail Trail from Tilton to Franklin, then on-road through Franklin to Chance Pond Rd. to pick up the Northern Rail Trail for a ride to Potter Place in Andover, NH. It was a scramble up from Chance Pond Rd. to the Northern Rail Trail atop a railroad bridge, and I was greeted by a smooth crushed stone trail with a concrete mile marker nearby (the trail in that section has been graded and resurfaced recently, and the work is heading south to reach Concord, NH). I hopped back on my hybrid bicycle and rode northwest. Much of the trail is isolated and wooded with the occasional street crossing, but for stretches it parallels and crosses local routes, which you can sometimes see and hear. The trail's surface changed to slightly larger stone for a short while, and for some stretches it was more like an old dirt road with a variable surface, but it was still very passable on a hybrid. There are several bridges over water and several underpasses beneath roads, including one trestle that crosses very near a covered bridge. After a short while I encountered Webster Lake, where you can hop off the trail and stop for a swim if you like. Further up the trail is Highland Lake, and beyond that the trail turns rather dry in the hotter weather. There is little canopy, so have plenty of water handy--bring what you need, as there are no stores visible from the trail pretty much all the way from Franklin to Andover. I rode into Potter Place in Andover, NH, passing some short sections of track that are in place as part of this historical section of town, and one siding had a boxcar, another a caboose. I discovered that the station and the old general store were open as historical exhibits, a few hours on Saturdays and Sundays. It was great to look at the railroad station as it was years ago, the same with the caboose out back and the general store across the street. The people from the Andover Historical Society were delightful and gave me tours. Had I not been so worn out from the hot, sunny ride I would have spent more time chatting, but I opted to go lie down at the picnic table near the station and have a late lunch. Someone has created a small garden in a shady cellar hole near the picnic area behind the station, making the picnic area relaxing after your ride. As the day was wearing on, I hopped back on the bike and made my way back to Franklin and then the Winnipesaukee River Trail to where I parked the car in Tilton, a total of about 34 miles round trip.
A sweet trail
I rode on this trail while my wife shopped at Patternworks, over in Center Harbor. Only had time to ride 7 miles of the trail. The eastern end of this trail stops at the county line. The railbed continuing east is legally accessible, and is probably usable by snow machines, but still has the ballast. I've ridden on ballast before and it's no fun. They have plans to replace it with rock dust in 2010.
I rode in the direction of Grafton and had a great ride. Encountered a few walkers, and the day before (driving in) saw a few other bicyclists. Not a busy trail, but a nice trail. Plenty of interesting railroad artifacts. Took photos of all but the whistle post east of Grafton, uploaded them to Flickr: http://flickr.com/photos/russnelson/tags/northernrailtrail/
There's a nice treatment of a former at-grade crossing. They rebuilt the highway bridge over a stream just off the railbed, and left room on the side for the trail. So there's a slope down, a bit of rusty drainage, and a slope back up, but no cars.