Temple Mountain’s northern face is scared with old ski runs from a downhill ski area that ran from 1937 to 2001. Normally I avoid it because there is no open view at the top and I dislike the gray microbiom and thickets of birch. Today I was searching for another early succession plant — blueberries. Tyson wanted to find remnants of the T-bar he had skied as a kid. A switchback or two up the access road, Tyson spotted a foot path heading northwest.
The trail crossed the side hill up to a rise. There we found a single standing pipe and two ribons of birch trees plunging through the mature white pine forest. Clearly these were old ski trails. Tyson wasn’t sure how it matched the map of the ski area he remembered. I compared the Lost Ski Areas Temple Mountain maps with current aerial photography. I think we were at the top of the T-bar. The trail proceeded and so did we.
From the knoll, the trail descended a thousand yards beside the west ski trail and then turned left into the mature woods. The trail was well maintained and clearly went somewhere. So we followed it.
Initially it rambled up and down, mostly contouring around the mountain. We saw no more evidence of the ski area, or blueberries for that matter. Instead we found mushrooms. Then, about 20 minutes into the woods, the trail began a series of steep drops down the hill. Isaac was elated to run downhill until we explained to him we would have to hike back up the hill.
The pleasant trail turned into an old roadbed. Then the road crossed a causeway bordered by rocks walls, and then sharp right at a thinner patch of woods. A fire pit marked the corner. The changes made me look around. I found an L shaped cellar hole, some rusty metal bits, and a well with water at the bottom. The rock lining of the well was plumb. The outer cellar wall was mostly intact, but the dirt inside the L had slid, tipping the inner wall. Any other remnants of the homestead were hidden under dense hay-scented ferns. We continued down the road. It was heading towards a gap on the map between Mountain road in Temple and Condy Rd in Peterborough.
The road had been used for logging. Parts of it looked older. On one steep hill, I spotted an odd trench paralleling the road on the right. Tyson thought it looked man made. Isaac wanted to turn around. He said it was a long way back up to the car. We convinced him to explore a little further. Just about where we expected it, we intersected a tidy woods road.
Ahead, our road continued with a sign baring motorized vehicles. Tyson walked to the left to record a GPS track of the road. Isaac rested in my lap. Centuries ago, someone built stone walls along both sides of the roads. Approaching the intersection, the stone wall builder had constructed a sturdy roadbed that lasted a century. Up ahead, the stone walls turned precise 90 degree angles and headed downhill. It all seemed too well built to be an arbitrary meeting of farm roads. So I coaxed Isaac up with “Let’s go look for another cellar hole.”
We found two cellar holes. One was an L-shape with what looked like an above ground addition making a U shaped house. On the other side of the road we found a simple rectangle cellar hole and various short rock walls. I presume that was the barn and animal pens. This homestead’s well was deeper than the last. All of the rock work was better preserved. We found more unidentified metal pieces.
After the hike, I looked online for more information about the two cellar holes and the old roads. Farther north, near Town Line Brook, there are some other trails. But they don’t connect to the road we hiked.
The first settlers arrived in 1738. 180 people lived in town by 1777. A hand drawn map of Sharon from 1892 does not show any houses on Mountain Road or another road heading up toward the mountain. The 1900 topo map shows Mountain Rd intact. By 1953, the section with the lower house site was a class 6 road. Neither map shows a building along Mountain Road or up in the hills above it. After all that research, I still know more about the homesteads from looking at their foundations.
One family kept their animals close to home. They built an addition for the second generation. Over time, they built a complex but orderly site. The other family, moved up into the mountains. From their perch on the mountain spur they had a sweeping view of southern New Hampshire. They didn’t build lots of structures. They had no sheep. Any animals they had roamed free on the hills. The family probably only stayed one generation. And when they left, they left their bedframe behind in the stream.