Author Archives: Wendy Thomas

About Wendy Thomas

Wendy is a journalist, writer, blogger and teaches writing at Nashua Community College.

Lesson 1457 Border to Border New Hampshire Walk – Day 7 cont (A BEAR!!)

Day 7 – Whitefield to Littleton (continued)

Even with climbing a mountain our feet and legs felt pretty good. But walk enough and fatigue eventually sets in (and walk enough on asphalt and your feet are going to sizzle.) It was a good thing we had gotten the sandwiches for lunch in Whitefield, because *again* there had been no stores or restaurants for miles.

Midday, we ate our Italian subs (best sandwiches ever), indulged in the fresh oranges from the inn, and drank from our water bottles. Looking around we could see for miles. This was God’s country and we knew it. Each time we’d reach a crest, we’d be treated to another breath-taking vista. Blue shaded mountains undulated in the distance, trees covered the land like a moss-green carpet and birds sang their songs in appreciation.

“It’s gorgeous,” I’d say to Griffin pointing out anther view.  “Do you know just how lucky you are to live in this state?”

It’s one thing to appreciate the sight of mountains, but it’s a far different thing to actually walk them. We discovered that the wonderful thing about mountains is that once you go up them, the only way left is to go blessedly down. After lunch, we spent most of the afternoon walking down the other side of the mountain and when we had reached the bottom (we knew it was the bottom because we started seeing houses and side roads) we were starting to get good at reading the land we decided to rest.

Our ending point for the day wasn’t too far away, it was early afternoon, the sun had come out and we decided to take a celebratory break. The day was going well. Another mountain, another obstacle obliterated. Finding a small mowed patch of land at the end of a long driveway, we put our packs down, took off our shoes and stretched back using our packs as headrests. The leaves overhead created a mosaic against the now cleared and blue sky.

We hadn’t been there for more than a few minutes when a man in a pickup truck pulled over and started talking to us from his seat in the truck.

“Do you have any food?” he asked.

We didn’t have much, our sandwiches were gone, but I was certainly willing to share what we had left.

“I’ve got some granola bars and a banana if you want those.” I offered.

He looked at me a little confused.

“No,” he said. “I just want to know if you have stinky food. There’s a bear down the road on the railroad tracks, if you have any stinky food you should probably put it away before he comes over to check it out.”

A bear! Coming face to face with a bear had been one of my greatest fears of this trip. It was why I had carried a bear horn (until I sent it home in the equipment purge thinking we were past bear danger) it was also why Griffin and I traveled with jingle bells attached to our packs – which after a few days of not seeing any bears had lulled me into a sense of security. “If they hear you coming, they won’t bother you” I’d been told by more than one seasoned hiker.

Let’s face it, I had been lulled into a false sense of security.

And a bear on the tracks was something I wasn’t going to miss. I quickly put my shoes back on and gathered my gear.” I’m going down,” I told Griffin as he put his shoes on. “I want to see the bear.”

Here’s the thing about train tracks that I hadn’t taken into account. They are usually built near roads. Because we hadn’t seen any tracks up or down the mountain we had just walked, I assumed that they would be far away, somewhere in the distance. A very safe distance away. I thought I was going to see the bear protected by a land barrier – an animal in the zoo, behind the safety of bars.

As I started toward the bear, I saw a youngster riding his skateboard down the hill on the other side of the road. He, like many other teens, was hooked up to music and was wearing earbuds.

Something started moving in the grass on the left side of the road, it looked like a dog, a lab and then it ran into the road and I realized it was THE BEAR!

It wasn’t far away after all, it wasn’t protected, and neither were we.

By now the kid had stopped and was facing toward me, away from the bear that was passing just behind him. I did want any logical person without a bear horn would do. I screamed:

“A BEAR!!! A BEAR!!!  THERE’S A BEAR BEHIND YOU!!”And I pointed behind him.

The kids turned around, saw the bear, jumped on his skate board and got some distance.

“Thanks” he said as he passed me. ”I didn’t know it was there.”

Well I had known it was there and like an idiot I still went toward it, not away from it.

In all actuality, the bear (a black bear, young, I’d guess about 2 years old) was not interested in bothering any of us. Bears don’t normally attack humans (unless of course, you happen to have stinky food.) There are plenty of woods in New Hampshire which means plenty of game for them to hunt. Chances are if you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone.

But tell that to my heart which was beating a mile a minute.

Encountering a bear has been one of my biggest fears on this walk. What would we do, how would we survive?

It turned out, I hadn’t needed a bear horn after all. What I had needed to face my biggest fear was my voice. A tool I already possessed. I had needed quick thinking and a mother’s sense of danger in alerting another person, a kid.

I had encountered my biggest fear and I had come out on the other side, just fine.

But still, even victorious at confronting a fear, we weren’t stupid. Griffin and I cut our break short, made sure our jingle bells were loose so they would ring with each step, and we high-tailed it out of there.

After all this was the bear’s territory, we were just guests wandering through.


That black speck on the road is the bear. It was the best I could do in very little time.

(Here’s some information on why we took this trip.)


Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at

Also, join me on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even a recipe or two.

Like what you read here? Consider subscribing to this blog so that you’ll never miss a post. And feel free to share with those who may need a little chicken love.

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Lesson 1456 Border to Border New Hampshire Walk – Day 7 (Up, Down, Up, Up, Up)

Day 7 – Whitefield to Littleton

Griffin and I got up with the now familiar beeping of our phones, there had been no fitful night, no tossing and turning for us, when our heads hit the pillows at night, we slept until our alarms awakened us the next morning. A pleasant departure from the insomnia that Lyme Disease can sometimes bring.

I opened the curtains to be rewarded with a view of woods, mountains and another overcast sky. The worst of the rain had moved and it looked like the heat did as well. Forecasts called for slow clearing with a cool, sunny afternoon.

When we were done packing (I snagged the half empty bottle of that wonderful shampoo to keep for future laundering – wasn’t going to be caught without soap again) we went to the main living area of the Inn where breakfast was served.

Bagels, cream cheese, muffins, cereal, fruit, coffee and orange juice. This time I stayed away from the coffee, but took full advantage of everything else.

One of the owners came over to us, “I have these oranges for you,” he said presenting us with two plump oranges. “I figured you’d enjoy them on your walk.” Such a touching gesture.

Indeed we would, we had discovered that it wasn’t easy finding fresh vegetables or fruit (we had a lot of sandwiches and chips the first few days.) I also took two of the bananas for the day’s journey.

A group – grandparents and their grandson sat at the next table. Continue reading

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Lesson 1455 Border to Border New Hampshire Walk – Day 6 – cont. (Walking as Medicine)

Day 6 – North Umberland to Whitefield (Continued)

Barron Brook is, from its pristine painted white exterior surrounded by flower gardens to its charmingly decorated interior, a storybook place for a respite. The living area had full couches in front of a fire place surrounded by primitive country style decorations that invited you to stop, rest, and get to know others.

Sunny and bright, it is a place that welcomes all.

When we made it to our room (down the stairs, down the hall) we found high beds, warm blankets, large windows looking onto a wooded back yard, a TV (for catching up on that day’s political news) and some of the best soaps and shampoos I had ever smelled. We took showers and I did our laundry. Our dinner of sandwiches was next and after our stomachs were content, we kicked back.

I had originally thought that we’d spend our evenings discovering the night life of each town we stayed in. I had even (although now I realize how crazy this was) had thought about packing a nice shirt and skirt to wear in the evenings. My ooh-la-la “going out” clothes.

It would have been a complete waste. Our evening attire consisted of a long lightweight tee shirt that served as a nightgown for me and a pair of shorts with a tee shirt for Griffin. Of course it had never occurred to me that in some of the places we stayed there would actually be no nightlife, but even if there was, by the evening we were pretty much tuckered out. Continue reading

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Lesson 1454 Border to Border New Hampshire Walk – Day 6 – cont. (Waving and Cookies)

Day 6 – North Umberland to Whitefield (Continued)

We were well fed and had even gotten a few cold drinks (and used the restroom) at local gas stations, life was looking pretty good. Because people had been following our walk online some of our readers had decided to support our walk by contributing money for our drinks. We made sure to post a toast to each of our supporters online to thank them. At least up in the north, there wasn’t a gas station that we didn’t stop in to buy a drink for toasting (and can I just say that when you walk for hours each day – cold  Orange juice tastes mighty fine.)

With the reduction of pain (muscle pain from walking, the joint and foot pain left over from our Lyme Disease was ever present) we had the extra energy to joke, and laugh, and talk about whatever we wanted.  We talked about books we had read, movies we had seen, how the changing of the seasons still amazed us and who would win if Superman fought Batman.

Because we were following New Hampshire’s road system, we had to walk facing traffic – at all times. For the most part, after Day 1 when there hadn’t been any traffic, we walked in single file, Griffin ahead, with me following his pace behind. Griffin would be the first to see any cars approaching and he was the first to wave.

Once I noticed he was waving, I doubled the wave behind him. A mini Congo-line of happy travelers waving to everyone who passed by.

It started off as almost a joke, let’s wave at the cars and see how many wave back, but we soon realized that without fail not only did everyone wave back but they also smiled when doing so. It didn’t take much to encourage us and soon waving at each car became an important part of our walk.

Why not? Think of how powerful it made us feel – with the simple wave of a hand we could make people smile (which then of course, made us smile.) IN our own little way, and in our own little corner of the world, we were contributing to world happiness. Because I was using my trekking poles, I either had to wave with my pole in the air or move it to the other side so that I could wave with a free hand. Continue reading


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Lesson 1453 Border to Border New Hampshire Walk – Day 6 (Polar Fleece and Bathrooms)

Day 6 – North Umberland to Whitefield

Each night, after we’d get to our hotel and once we had reliable cell service, we’d use our phones to look at hotels in the next town we’d be stopping in and then I’d book a room with the hotel that was at most 16 miles from our starting point (we had painfully learned that 16 miles with packs on roads was pretty much our daily limit.)

The stop for day 6 was Whitefield. To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t even been aware that New Hampshire had a town called Whitefield (or a North Umberland for that matter) but it did and that’s where we were going to stay – about 15 miles away according to our calculations.

We went to sleep knowing that our next day was not only a reasonable distance to walk, but that we were assured a clean, safe bed at the end of the day. .

Our alarms, as usual, were set for 6:30 in the morning. We wanted to get going early to avoid the worst of the afternoon heat (this was of course before we drew back the curtains and saw yet another overcast sky.) Donning our freshly laundered shampoo washed shirts and underwear (side note we had gotten wrong underwear, if you want your underpants to be dry in the morning, get sports style – no matter how early I washed our clothing our underwear was always damp in the morning.) we went through our morning routine.

Griffin carefully wrapped his many blistered feet while I covered mine in HikeGoo. We put our peds on, then wool socks (which were also washed each night – and alternated between the pair that had had a full day to dry) and we went to see Oli and Gerry in order to check out.

True to their word, the owners had opened the office early and the coffee machine was ready to go. I filled a cup to the brim, wrapped my hands around for warmth and inhaled its aroma. I ignored Griffin’s glare indicating he was well aware that me having coffee meant that we’d (I’d) be taking a lot of “woods” breaks along the way.

Didn’t matter – sometimes the indulgence is worth the trouble it may bring.

I talked for a bit with our new friends and then it was time for us to begin our day. Still overcast, still drizzly, perfect walking weather.

A bit down the road we came across a Job Lots – a store that sold odd lots of things gotten from essentially fire sales. “Let’s go in,” I told Griffin, “at least I can use a real bathroom there.”

Griffin sighed.

“When you’ve had 6 kids then you can complain,” I reminded him, “until then if I need to pee, and if there’s a bathroom I’m using it.”

Griffin stayed outside with my pack while I went in. In order to get to the rest rooms, I had to walk through the men’s clothing section.  Displayed were the remainders of the summer stock as well as the beginning of the fall/winter stock. I passed by some jackets and then a rack of polar fleece shirts.

The rain that had continued for 2 days (even though it followed the record breaking heat wave) had me a little concerned. I had lived in New Hampshire long enough to know that weather could turn on a dime. Even in the summer.

I knew we had just dropped a lot of weight from our packs, I knew that we had learned the lesson of not carrying things we didn’t need or wouldn’t use, but the mom in me was compelled to buy the fleece. When I came out of the restroom I picked up two of the lightweight polar fleece shirts and a pair of flipflops (I had ditched them with Trevor and had realized too late that it left me with nothing to wear if I took my shoes off in the hotel – bare feet on a hotel rug is not my cup of tea.)

I paid for the items and brought them out to Griffin.

Who then wrinkled his nose at my purchase “Really? More clothes?”

“Just take it,” I told him and handed over the shirt.

“You’re not my mom,” he grumbled, a little rankled at being told what to do and letting me know that this decision was bordering on an unfair advantage.

I laughed at his remark, his perfectly delivered humorous warning that I was close to crossing a line. “As a matter of fact I am. So take it.” I countered.

When Griffin felt the weight of the shirts (feather light) and realized they wouldn’t take up much room or weight in our clothing bag (a large Ziploc bag that we’d place our clothing in and then sit on to force the air out before we put it in our packs) he acquiesced. “Fine.”

We repacked our packs, got rid of any trash from our purchase (we had learned to take advantage of garbage containers when we saw them) and put our packs on our backs.

“Ready to go?” I asked.

“Wait a minute,” Griffin said as he unhooked his pack, swung it off his shoulders, and put it on the ground next to me. “I need to go.”


(Here’s some information on why we took this trip.)


Wendy Thomas writes about the lessons learned while raising children and chickens in New Hampshire. Contact her at

Also, join me on Facebook to find out more about the flock (children and chickens) and see some pretty funny chicken jokes, photos of tiny houses, and even a recipe or two.

Like what you read here? Consider subscribing to this blog so that you’ll never miss a post. And feel free to share with those who may need a little chicken love.

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Lesson 1452 Border to Border New Hampshire Walk – Day 5 (Abandoned Houses and stonewalls)

Day 5 – North Stratford to North Umberland


It is remarkable how many abandoned houses we saw on our walk and remember, we were walking on the main road, if this was representative, there must have been so many more that we just didn’t come across. These weren’t good, functional houses from which people had simply walked away – they were houses with roofs and walls crumbling in. The “good bones” of the home had long lost the fight and were well on their way to becoming insect dust, sides had given up and said “go for it” to the persistent climbing ivy, and windows – the eyes into the house’s soul were punched out and shone light no more.

My work here is done, I can’t hold back the years any longer.

Granite is abundant in New Hampshire (all you have to do is look at the stone walls everywhere) as is clay for making bricks (at least in the southern part of the state where huge mills were built along the river.) Griffin and I would look at these once majestic and now decrepit houses and we’d wonder why no one had used more substantial building materials.

Why didn’t anyone use something sturdier than wood? Wood is organic, wood eventually breaks down, wood certainly does not last the ages.

But of course the answer is that wood is available, abundant, and it’s cheap. The cost and effort to transport building materials must have been astronomical back “in the day.” Why pay for building materials to be shipped up north when you literally have what you need in your own back yard?

With wood, you build a house, it lasts for a few generations and when it starts breaking down, you build another one. It’s a cruel fate for houses, but it’s the way of tough love – you either do your job or you don’t get to keep the job.

If we are anything, we, who live in New Hampshire are a no-nonsense bunch. Continue reading


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Lesson 1451 Border to Border New Hampshire Walk – Day 5 (Superheroes and sidekicks)

Day 5 – North Stratford to North Umberland

When you are not in an uncontrolled high level of pain, your body starts to unwind from the tight coiled protective position  you had been in and it allows you to expand your boundaries. When pain decreases, you start noticing what’s going on around you. Outside of your body.

Such as it was for both of us on day 5. Being able to trust our legs and feet from not giving out on us, our heads rose and we were able to look around and really see.

What we saw was amazing.

Undergrowth that grew right to the side of the road threatening to reclaim what had once belonged to it.

A deer watching us watch it until it turned and bounded back into the woods. Continue reading

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