Monday, July 14, 2014

Bear Island - Meredith NH

Bear Island Fire Tower

I’m working on the list of all fire towers in New Hampshire. This includes not only all the standing towers but also the site of former towers. For the most part former sites have very little to show the history of the location. If you are lucky you might find the concrete footings from the tower. This weekend I headed (with Dan) to the Bear Island tower site which is now an active church.

Bear Island is a mostly privately owned island on Lake Winnipesaukee in Meredith NH. The island has a large section of forest that is owned by the NH society of forest preservation and more importantly the church site is active in the summer months and visitors are allowed to use the church dock. The church was built around the fire tower which now makes up the steeple of this very scenic island. I got information from the church website that showed which weekends we could legally visit and this weekend worked into the schedule. The questions of the day were, could we find parking in Meredith and how long would it take us to paddle to the island?

Dan picked me up at 7am and we got the boats in the water by 9am. That gave us 30 minutes to cross the mile of water to the church dock and then make our way up to the top of the hill. The crossing was uneventful, despite this being only about the third time I’d ever been in a kayak. It was still pretty early in the day so we only had a few yahoos going 100 mph and giving us a good wake to ride. The view was pretty incredible with the Belknap range in the distance and the island and some very fancy homes up close.

The 5 minute walk to the church was over a very clearly designated trail. We got to the top as a couple of other groups also reached the church. I met a friendly dog and his owner happened to be the person opening up the church. We chatted a bit as she showed us around. I asked about visiting the tower (which was marked as closed) and she was concerned about "liability". An old timer from the island took up the conversation mentioning how he’d been in the tower as a kid and would really like to go up. She relented and we all got to climb up to the top. There wasn’t a view as the trees were too high now but it was a great bonus to get to climb up anyway. We were both surprised that lightning had not struck while we were in church!

We made a short side trip over to the entrance to the forest which was right next to the church and then headed back down for the paddle back. On the way back to the Cattle road landing we detoured a bit and went around Dolly Island and Penny Island on the western side of Bear Island. There were some beautiful houses and a few interesting rocks to navigate around. In all the round trip took us less than 1.5 hours which was nearly half the time it took us to drive there and back. I for one thought it was well worth it for this unusual adventure.

Info on the chapel:

Our GPS track:

The Fire tower list:




1 comment:

Greg said...

DD, that sounds like a really cool and unique trip! I'm glad you're still adventuring and having fun while recovering from your injury.