Monday, October 18, 2010

Kimball Forest/Lockes Hill 10/17/10

"A lovely hill, a magnificent Castle" (pictures)
Well, having extra work this weekend and having to work both Saturday and Sunday, we once again decided to stay close to home. We slept in a bit and once up and ready we headed for the Belknap Range. Scott had been reading about Round Pond on Mt. Belknap and I had yet to explore these close-by mountains that I grew up next to but never knew about. Sure, I grew up skiing Gunstock but hiking wasn't really on my mind then. Anyway, the plan was to hike to the pond then ascend Belknap Mt., looping down Gunstock and back to base. To make a long story short we headed down a logging road we thought was the trail. It didn't seem right so we headed back to the lot to look for any sign of a hiking trail. There was a sign that read all hiking trails start here. And a trail name of "Acid Deposition Trail". Huh? This wasn't in any trail descriptions! There was a trail that headed up between th ski trails which I concluded was what we wanted. I ran back to inform Scott. He wasn't convinced, and didn't want to be walking up and down trails aimlessly all day. So back in the truck I picked my brain. I remembered a trail I took with the AMC group back when I was in middle school. I remembered a wooded summit with a small fire tower. I knew it was off Rt.11 and remember seeing the brown hiker sign before. I made the mistake of heading back towards Mt. Major, turning around at the quickly-filling-up parking lot then heading back up past the Gunstock turn and up past Ellacoya State Park and the spot I was looking for a mile or so further on the left.
Now the trip report starts! The parking lot for Kimball Wildlife Forest and Lockes Hill was a good size and still empty. We got started at 8am as Scott checked the trail guide mailbox, with brochures in them much to my surprise. It gives the history of the hill and a trail map. We began counter clockwise, that being Lakeview Trail. You make your way on very gentle grades passing by nature intreptive signs. After sign 2 the trail makes switch backs up steeper terrain passing some trail side rock walls and boulders. We reached the Glade at 8:30am. This is a neat area. Much like the lower ridge crest of South Baldface mountain in that people had built chairs and benches out of the granite rock. They look out to a nice view of Lake Winnipesaukee, the Sandwich Range and Mt. Washington (which was in the clouds). There is also a fairly new binocular scope "thingy" (I don't know what they're called!) and I was able to actually find Castle in the Clouds, how awesome!

Onward we arrived at the powerlines with another partial view to the lake and just caught a plane flying by at eye level! Following the lines up to the Plane beacon where the summit of Locke's Hill (1057') is marked by a small cairn. Beyond here there is a ledge with a nice view to Belknap and Gunstock Mts. and house and farm dotted hills in the close by foreground.

Back to the beacon the Quarry trail brings us back down for the loop. You pass by some nice oak trees and soon will notice Granite Quarry sites, long abandoned and overgrown. These sights were used primarlily to build Lockes Hill Castle. According to the brochure it was built in 1897-1899 and owned by Benjamin Kimball who was a successful Concord businessman and new president of the Boston and Montreal Railroad. The castle was built inspired by his trip along the Rhine River and the Castle's he saw there. After his death the castle passed to his wife, his daughter-in-law, a trust, then to the Town of Gilford and ultimately to private hands. To be continued....

We began to pass many pairs of people now as the trail descends easily and then drops down into a quarry with a small pond in the middle. The trail then follows a small river, past more quarries, past a tree damaged area from the '98 Ice Storm and ends at the parking lot. We finsihed at 9:30am. Not the mountain I was looking for, but glad we checked it out. 1 hour, 1.8 miles. Many dogs on this trail, very kid friendly and a nice leisulrely hike with a handful of nice outlooks. Should make a great winter hike for this winter!

Still puzzled as to where the castle was, I headed towards Laconia keeping an eye out to the left for a sighting, or a road or something...then I saw it, Locke Hill road. Up the road to it's end there is a long driveway up the hill with "No Tresspassing" signs. The chain that should be across the driveway was down so I figured either the public was welcome or someone lived there. Up we went anyway! And sure enough there it was to our left. At the top of the hill the driveway passes through the middle of a fallen down barn and 3 abbandond cabins. And then the castle came into full view. Empty, falling apart and just sitting up there a complete waste! How sad. A beautiful structure and a view to match. I would do almost anything to own this parcel of land. It's sad to think that whomever owns it is just letting it rot, and apparently not allowing the public to see this bit of Lakes Region History. We left with thoughts running through our heads of winning the lottery and restoring it. Something that I will probably never get off my mind. (pictures)

1 comment:

  1. More info on the castle...a simple search of Kimballs Castle reveals that the owners are tired of hearing about the disrepair of the castle. Furniture had been stolen, the castle wall gargoils stolen, windows smashed out, etc. It is for sale for $900,000. A Hotel was going to purchase it and restore it into an Inn, it was approved, then lacked the funding. I wish someone could purchase this, restore it and open it back up to the public :(