Pawtuckaway State Park – Woronoco Trail – A Picture Story!
Tue, 08/26/2008 - 20:17
I have been a fairly avid hiker/ outdoorsy person for years. Unfortunately, living where I do (New England Seacoast) presents challenges when it comes to getting out on the trail with any regularity. It seems like I need to drive a couple hours north before I can really get out into the fresh air, on decent terrain, away from roads and crowds of people to do some hiking. Right?
Well, not so much…
It’s obvious to me that hikes in the White Mountains are superior to anything around the seacoast area, but I’ve been saying for years that Pawtuckaway State Park is as good as gets – outside the White Mountain National Forrest – and it’s only a scant 20 mins from my driveway! I recently did a “morning” hike on Pawtuckaway’s Woronoco trail. I emphasize “morning” because I was able to do drive there, do the hike, come home and shower before lunch… that’s completely awesome.
Thus it was time for a pic story; My trip to Pawtuckaway!
I packed some water, a couple granola bars, my camera, and set off. Pawtuckway is in Nottingham NH, but the exit off 101 is in Raymond. We drove a bit, and followed the signs.
Ok, SNAFU number one; It was about 9:40am and the park opens at 10:00am. Crap, gate closed…
We went for drive up the road, looked at some huge houses that NO one can afford, and went back to the gate at like 9:50am. I wanted a picture of the person opening the gates for the pic story, but no such luck. Anyways, I didn’t care. I was about to head into the woods for the first time of the year… good stuff!
I drove up to the gate, ready to pay for admittance, but there was no one in the booth. Normally, I would have been thrilled to get into someplace for free, but truthfully, I don’t mind paying the fee to get into these parks. It’s like two bucks for ALL the trails and wildlife. That’s a good deal if you ask me! I stopped and looked into the window, expecting a person would pop up, but nope… we drove in.
At the bottom of the hill, about a tenth of mile up the road, there is a little pond. I always park here when I do either the Fire Tower or Woronoco trails. In fact, this is not an uncommon thing to do. On any decent summer day there can be many cars lined up along the road here. Not today though, it was quiet. The air was clean, the sun was out, and things were looking pretty good.
We parked and pulled out the trail map. Our goal was to do the Woronoco trail for the first time, but it’s not a loop. We decided to walk up the road to the other side off the trail and come back to the car through the woods. It’s a walk of a bit over a mile on the road, but still a nice walk. I got out of the car and put on my pack. You are HERE…
I truly believe that bugs were put on this earth to keep man out of some of the most beautiful places. Let me just tell you, the bugs where bad… really bad.. like hilariously bad. We both dowsed ourselves in “backwoods” bug spray and headed off.
Along the side of the road I saw some “lady slippers.” I don’t recall seeing these things since I was a kid. It was kinda cool, I took a picture.
We walked for a little over a mile and came to the first intersection, the beginning of the Fundy trail. This was where we needed to head into the woods.
I knew there was a causeway across a big marsh a few hundred feet up the road, so we kept going to see if we could catch any wildlife. Remember, we got into the park minutes after it opened, so I was hoping there might be some animals we could see that had not yet been driven back into the woods my motor traffic or screaming kids. We walked up and saw the marsh. Awesome… just awesome..
I noticed something moving in the road ahead of us. “It’s a turtle!” I said as I sprinted up the road.
Turtles, like ninjas can blend into their environment. In case you missed it, I wanted to point it out.
Needless to say, all of our movement caused this little guy to hide in it’s shell. Once we stopped acting like a car full of city’ers stopping for a moose in the road, he came out and moved on.
We walked around a bit and looked at the marsh. There where turtles everywhere. With the morning sun beating down, they where coming out to warm up. Turtles are cool as hell; don’t let anyone tell you differently.
We took in as much of the marsh as we could and turned around. After about a tenth of a mile we came once again to our original goal, the Fundy trailhead.
The first part of the Fundy trail looks more like a Jeep path than a walking path. I’ve hiked this one a number of times and the Woronoco trailhead is up the path about a tenth of a mile. We headed in.
The trail went on for about a third of a mile, then became a little more like I was hoping for. It ducked into the woods.
Alas! We found the trailhead we were going for – the Woronoco. I’ve never done this trail before and I was very excited to see more of the park. I can’t say it enough, I just love Pawtuckaway.
I know this trail is new, and I may not have been paying much attention before, but when did the white blazes become pieces of plastic nailed to a tree? Is it me, or does that take a little something away from the goal here? I can’t see how someone thought that pounding spikes into a tree in order to hold up plastic markers would be a good idea.
The trail was pretty good right off the bat. I was pleasantly surprised. The terrain was fairly easy, but still felt rugged.
We saw a lot of little bridges and whatnot; it added a little bit of a “domesticated” feel to the trail. That was fine with me, I didn’t think I was in the middle of the Amazon here.
Gee, I wonder why the bugs are soo bad? Perhaps because of all the muddy patches everywhere. I’m not complaining, they added a deeper wilderness feel and filled the air with that nature “mud” smell.
It should be noted that this trail was just awesome. It was not a “drivable” path, or a beaten down road, it was a great rough trail.
I’m a big geology buff. This trail was FULL of great Glacial Erratics. I stopped to check most of them out.
Once again, whenever there was a stream to cross, or a muck-puddle, there was a new looking bridge or platform. If I recall, I began saying that I need to volunteer to the AMC to help build these. I use them enough…
We came to a little break in the trees and took a picture of the opening. At this point, we’ve been in the woods for about a mile and a half.
Thirty five minutes or so into the trail, we could see an big opening in the trees beside us. After looking for ways to get to the edge of the clearing for a picture, we came upon a sign that looked promising…
I have joked for years that there is one of “those people” in every public place. Whether at the bank, or the supermarket, or anywhere, there is ALWAYS at least on person on the freekin phone. We began to climb out to the overlook and the pack I was wearing began to vibrate… It was work related and had to be taken, but come on… Bobelle was “that guy”
While she talked, I checked out a tree next to us that looked like it had been worked on by a Woodpecker for a while. Kinda cool ..
The phone call over (abruptly if I recall – with a “hey, I’m in the woods – goodbye” *click*) we climbed out and checked out the overlook… Unreal. I felt like I could sit there all day.
The next half a mile or so had some nice terrain and raised platforms.
More raised platforms as we crossed a boggy area for the next half mile or so.
After almost two hours, we reached the end of the trail. Both of us wanted it to go on further, but it was enough to get our blood pumping and give a us a decent experience hiking.
We drove through Nottingham, and Raymond and got on 101 east to head back to the seacoast.
There was one more thing to take care of, after all it was of course my day off. Now that the hike was out of the way, it was time to have a fruity drink and set up the back porch. One problem, I got nuttin for fruity drinks… I can fix that!
Mission accomplished! I made a quick post on Hiking New England and headed out into the yard.
It was not very challenging, or long, but what an AWESOME trail Worocono is. I can see adding this to my standard loops that I hike, making it:
Park at the Fire Tower Trailhead
-> Woronoco Trail
-> Fundy Trail
-> Shaw Trail
-> South Ridge Trail (over south mountain, via fire tower)
-> Down the main mountain trail (fire tower trail -> round pond)
-> Back to car, home for beers