Blazing snowmobile trails across the area, the Weare Winter Wanderers work hard so that they can play hard when the snow flies. On Saturday, the club honored a man who helped open up southern New Hampshire to riders and their sleds.
In a big red barn on Charlie Brown's dairy farm, Wanderers' President Wayne Hood heads out across the fields and into the woods on a Bearcat, a snowmobile that's made to do hard labor. Crossing a field that looks like it was taken straight from a Currier and Ives print, Hood cruises over the terrain looking for trouble.
Tracks that diverge from the well-marked trail are a sign that someone isn't following the rules, Hood said, which can mean trouble for the club.
"We depend a lot on private landowners to let us ride on their land," said Hood. "But they don't like to have people out just buzzing around. A certain few make it bad for the whole."
As Hood heads into the woods, a bobcat darts across the trail and disappears into a thicket of hemlock.
"That's the first bobcat I've seen out here," said Hood, who grew up snowmobiling in central Maine.
Over steep inclines, around sharp bends, and through smooth straightaways Hood guides the machine, stopping here and there to clear large branches and rocks from the trail, and to render a verdict on how well he did grooming the day before. Hood and several of the club's members go out on the trails regularly. Using one of the club's three tractors with drags pulled behind them, they cut up the snow, tumble it around a bit, and place it back on the ground.
"Grooming makes the trails good and smooth," said Hood. But sometimes, grooming causes unexpected damage. On one of the many bridges built by the club over wet areas, railings had been broken.
"Looks like it got hit by a groomer," Hood said. "We'll have to fix that."
Hood also checks to ensure that the signs that lead riders through the woods are in good shape. Because the riders are expected to follow the traditional rules of the road — including staying to the right and stopping at intersecting trails, the signs look like miniatures of those found on roadways. There are also signs that give riders a sense of where they are — 10 miles south of Henniker, or .9 miles to Dimitri's Pizza, which caters to the riders with a trail right up to the restaurant parking lot.
"They give the exact GPS coordinates in case someone gets lost, or more importantly if someone gets injured," said Hood. "It's hard to tell an emergency responder where you are if you don't know."
On Saturday, members of the Winter Wanderers and other local clubs gathered to honor Clifford Russell, a man who helped make possible snowmobile trailblazing in southern New Hampshire. A monument to him will be put on the trail this spring.
"Cliff was the Hillsborough County director of the New Hampshire Snowmobile Association for 20 years," said Hood. "He did a lot for snowmobilers in this part of the state."
Russell, who passed away last February, also blazed trails that helped connect the trail systems across the area, and was working with a club in Hillsborough to extend the trails toward Deering and Weare when he died.
"People who don't participate in the sport have a hard time understanding why we do it," said Hood. "But once you try it, you understand." .
For more information visit www.wearewinterwandererssc.org.