Hiking | History

In Search of a Border Marker

In 1622 Captain John Mason was granted the land between the Kennebec River and the Merrimack River and the territory was named New Hampshire. The border with Massachusetts wasn’t the middle of the river, but a distance three miles north of the river’s shore. This made for an interesting, zig-zagging border that meanders along as the Merrimack River has from long before settlement by the English. That’s 398 years of continuous service as the official border between two similar yet completely different states. Barring wholesale changes in the borders that virtual sharp point should remain forever.

Today, instead of eating lunch like a normal person I drove over to find the sharpest point on the border between Massachusetts and New Hampshire at a spot that on a map looked to be accessible in two directions. Using Google I zoomed in on the satellite image and decided the easiest possible way to get to this point was to walk the maintenance “road” that ran under the power lines adjacent to Route 213 in Methuen, Massachusetts. This worked out well until I reached the place where I needed to head north to the border point and scanned a swampy mess overgrown with cattails and impenetrable brush. This hike turned into a dead end but a good education on the lay of the land.

Next option was to drive to the town transfer station, which was the next closest public land, to see if I could get to the woods that the border ran through that way. I had a great conversation with the woman weighing trucks in at the entrance, and she was politely curious about the quest that I was on, but received a no-go from the decision-makers on the other end of the radio. Not to be on this day. And that leaves me two options. Find another way in, potentially across private land, or to simply wait for the heart of winter when the ground is frozen solid to attempt the power line route again. I suppose there’s a third option of just dropping this pursuit of a border marker that may not even be there, but tell me, what’s the fun in that?

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