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May 31. 2014 7:32PM

Thunderstorms, turkeys, and an ATV learning curve


 

THURSDAY FEATURED turkeys and thunderstorms. There have been several turkeys in the vicinity gobbling for mates. One gobbled several times when I went out to feed the outdoor furnace.

New Hampshire's restoration of its formerly extirpated wild turkey population is a nationally renowned success story. Because of warmer winters, turkeys have occupied the upper reaches of Pittsburg's Hall's Stream, Indian Stream and Perry Stream for a decade or more. Even on the hike into my high-country camp, I'm stepping on turkey droppings, the birds there perhaps to take advantage of beechnuts.

As for thunderstorms, we siblings as kids were taught by our mother not to cower but to enjoy the greatest show on earth, in part because it's free. And Thursday's show featured pea-sized hailstones to boot.

Millie, perhaps the territory's most spoiled dog, was not impressed. She instead was terrified, and cowered as close to my feet as she could get.

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Speaking of dogs, I continue to be amazed at the number of hotels and motels that are not pet-friendly. The demographics (of us, not the dogs) alone should prompt a change in thinking.

I'm a baby boomer, born in 1947, and for millions upon millions of us whose kids having long since flown the nest, we often substitute with a dog, which we cannot and will not leave behind. We have (in theory) disposable income, and time to travel. And we tend to be responsible for and about our pets, cleaning up any room accidents.

The typical refrain from non-pet-friendly managers is that dogs make messes. As a guy whose teenage job at a hunting and fishing establishment included cleaning cabins, I can attest that humans can be far more disgusting and damaging than dogs.

I just can't understand hotels and motels dealing themselves out of such a huge demographic.

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Two years ago, voters at northern New Hampshire town meetings supported opening their downtowns to ATVs, and opening various country roads as vital links to trail systems in order to create a circular system offering days-long travel and stupendous mountain scenery. There is nothing like it east of the Mississippi. My hope for its success moved me to become a founding member of the Colebrook-area Metallak ATV Club, even though I do not particularly like ATVs as a mode of travel and own one primarily for farm use.

In only its second season, the circular trail system has become a resounding economic success, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars in business in its key towns of Stratford, Gorham, Berlin, Errol, Pittsburg, Stewartstown and Colebrook. And it has drawn precisely the demographic envisioned - retired couples and young couples and families who pass by countryside homes at measured speeds with a wave, their front and racks adorned with duffle, signifying their plans for overnight stays.

Unfortunately, the system is also drawing some who come north to rent a room or cabin and then let loose on the trails in a Wild West, lawless mindset, endangering other road travelers, annoying residents who, in many cases, support the venture. They sometimes cause accidents and near-misses as they roar around blind corners on the trails.

Snowmobiling underwent this exact same thing almost half a century ago, when its backers realized that without willing voters and landowners its niche in outdoor recreation was doomed. The ATV community is going to have to get a handle on the minority of dangerous, scofflaw, rogue riders to become the success story it hopes to be.

John Harrigan's address is Box 39, Colebrook 03576, or email him at campguyhooligan@gmail.com.


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