Building the Cohos

Blazing the Trail
By Charles J. Jordan
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Back home, Nilsen wrote an in-depth proposal, which he sent to the state of New Hampshire outlining the potential for creating a trail he would call the Cohos Trail, harkening back to the original Indian derivative of the county name. He soon called a public meeting in Lancaster, which attracted 55 people, where he explained his concept and showed his maps. That was in November 1996. A few months later the first meeting of the Cohos Trail Association was called and a dozen hiking enthusiasts showed up to throw their support into Nilsen's dream.

Part of Kim's pitch to the state was that the formation of the Cohos Trail, which now begins where the White Mountain trails leave off in Jefferson (making use of the Kilkenny Ridge Trail—see "Hiking the White Mountain National Forest") and would ultimately link up with a Canadian trail system above Pittsburg, will help bring together an entire trail system from one end of New Hampshire to the other."Vermont has the Long Trail going south to north," Nilsen said before trail construction got underway. "Right now, we don't have anything like it here."

His proposal to bring Coos County into line will required that some small patches of disconnected trail from Tenney Mountain and the Sandwich Notch area at the southern end of the White Mountains also to be linked. But he is sure that, with Coos County coming together, the rest of the state will link up as well—especially given the already fine systems that cross the White Mountain National Forest.

An initial meeting with state officials was met with great enthusiasm. This was important because part of the Cohos Trail crosses state property, including Nash Stream. He was sent home with the order to spell out in detail what he envisioned; that proposal has since been approved by the state. Nilsen has also worked out arrangements with the Mead Paper Company, the Balsams and others which will allow use of the land for the new trail. Now that all the approvals have been made across the first 80 miles of the trail spanning Jefferson to Coleman State Park, Nilsen and his band of believers have been busy bushwacking and putting up trail signs to mark the new Cohos Trail. The last touches are expected to be put on this section of the Cohos by the end of summer 1999, after which point it will be open for use by the public.

The remaining link to the Canadian border is now the focus of Nilsen's attention. Though the process of getting land-use approval for this section will be "convoluted," according to Nilsen, he expects that by 2001 a new 140-mile trail will be ready to enter the guide books. If and when the Cohos does finally wend its way up to Canada, Nilsen says a trail group in Quebec is eager to link up to it. The end result would be an international trail system that runs to the astronomical observatory at the top of Mont Megantic in the southern part of the province.

Nilsen admits that the hardest part is waiting for final approvals amid the myriad of property owners the trail will zigzag over. Negotiations are also currently underway with the town of Stark, New Hampshire, as well as the state, in an effort to obtain a plot of land near the middle of the trail system where Nilsen hopes to erect a small hostel and offices for the Cohos Trail Organization. Already he has received many donations toward the Cohos construction effort, as well as a federal grant, which have been used to purchase trail clearing equipment.

The Cohos Trail Association has been meeting regularly in the Lancaster area and has remained connected by a newsletter that Nilsen produces called Cohos Trekker. Those seeking more information may contact Kim Nilsen at the Cohos Trail Association, 252 Westmoreland Road, Spofford, NH 03462. The group hopes to have its own Web site shortly.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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