The forecast of sunny and 62 degrees was too much to resist, so for the first time this season I was able to get an early start without having to force myself out of bed. Plus, now that I know my way to the Sunapee area, I was able to make it to the entrance of Pillsbury State Park within only a half hour, making for a very leisurely 8:30 AM start on the trail. Not a cloud in the sky, a faint cool breeze, and an easy walk into the park on the access road. Obviously, this was going to be a fine day for hiking, despite the lack of greenery in the trees.
|Pondside views on the way into Pillsbury State Park|
It’s still stick season out here in New Hampshire, with the buds on the trees just beginning to show up. The views are a little brown, but the abundance of lakes and ponds in the area added some much needed color. Since it’s still too early in the season for the State Parks to be crowded with tourists, the park was technically closed, so I had to park outside the entrance gate and walk the dirt access road to the park campground to get to the trails. No complaints here, though. The access road meandered along Butterfield and May Ponds. It was quiet and peaceful, something I haven’t had enough of in a while. Well, life is generally quiet, but it never feels quite as peaceful as it does when I’m alone in the woods.
|Whatever dropped that tree had great aim. Must have scared the crap out of someone!|
After a quick jaunt up to Balance Rock, with a pretty view of North Pond, I got down to business, walking quickly up the Bear Pond trail to the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway. This was a bit of an exploration trip for me, having been on the Greenway before, but never on the trails of Pillsbury Park. It turned out the Bear Pond trail was just a snowmobile trail that is also blazed for hiking in the summer. Snowmobile trails are usually not my favorite types of path for walking, but at least I had a decent walk past Bear Pond on this one.
|On the ridge with the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway, back in a nice conifer forest.|
Once on the Greenway, I was on the lovely footpath I remembered from my New England Trail hike three years ago. This time, it was much warmer, though, and there was no fall foliage. The views were clearer, and I was able to pick out far away mountains from a few viewpoints on Lucia’s Lookout. There was a tremendous view of Ascutney, across the river in Vermont, and Monadnock, Pack Monadnock, and several others in southern New Hampshire. After a lunch break on Lucia’s Lookout, I was actually getting a little too much sun. Time for a walk down the Five Summers Trail back to the park headquarters.
|Gossamer Gear RikSak on Lucia’s Lookout. Monadnock off in the distance.|
The Five Summers Trail was also a snowmobile trail for most of its length, so I just tuned out and turned on my cruise control, feeling pretty good about finally getting a long walk for the season. As I passed by the shore of North Pond at the bottom, I ran into a couple of guys pulling their canoe out of the water, and they pointed out a moose on the lake that I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. Even with them pointing it out, it was hard to see. For such large animals, moose can blend into the woods pretty darn well. Makes me wonder how many of them I would see while I’m hiking if I paid more attention. I see plenty of moose poop, but not so much the moose.
|Plenty of ponds for scenery in the park.|
I got back to the park headquarters and was planning to walk out on the Mad Brook trail, but it was closed off for some reason (maybe damage from Irene, or something like that), so I headed back to my car early by 2:30. When I checked my mileage, I was plenty happy to see 14 miles, which is the longest day hike I’ve been on since the fall. Damn, it feels good to be moving through the forest again. Thinking ahead to hiking the Long Trail, or even this summer at NOLS, every hike I take now makes me feel a little more confident about the coming season. I’ll just try not to think about how hot it will get. I was really enjoying the moderate temperatures the other day.