13-Ah Nature! – Pillsbury SP

The website has a good introduction:

Pillsbury State Park is one of the more primitive and lesser known gems of the New Hampshire State Park system.  Heavily wooded and sprinkled with several ponds and wetlands, its diversity of habitats makes it home to a great variety of wildlife, including moose and loons.  Crossed by a network of hiking and mountain bike trails, the park is an important link in the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway, a 51-mile hiking trail that connects Mount Monadnock with Mount Sunapee to the north.  History buffs enjoy exploring the park’s long-abandoned and overgrown cellar holes, remnants of early farm settlement and lumbering of the late 1700s and early 1800s when the area was called Cherry Valley.

I arrived the first day of the Memorial Day weekend so I expected there would be plenty of people here.  Surprisingly, even though the campground was nearly full, I still felt like I had the park nearly to myself.  This park is big enough to do that.  However I still had lots of company!  I parked in the little lot by Mill Pond and there, in the circle formed by the turnaround, was a huge, old, snapping turtle sunning himself in the grass.

A very old snapping turtle sunning himself by the parking lot

I took a wonderful 5-mile loop hike with a side-hike (2 miles) to Balance Rock and back.  The loop started on the Bear Pond Trail to the Greenway Trail, then followed the Greenway south, and returning on the Ridge Link and Mad Road Trails.  I only met 5 other hikers the whole time but the flora and fauna were great:

Tiger Swallowtail

A very small red eft

A pink Lady’s Slipper

The tiger swallowtails were out in force!

Lots of these in blossom, too

The Lady’s Slippers were quite a surprise, as I discovered a large patch of 20-30 plants.  I hadn’t seen them in years.  I’d pass on Balance Rock next time.

Back at Mill Pond I could see the remnants of a mill in the very pretty stream just below the dam.  One of the campsites, I think it was 33, even had the remains of an old cellar hole in it.  I would really have liked to learn more about the settlements that the website describes but I didn’t see any information about it.

Mill Pond

Back at May Pond, I walked to The Narrows and got some great views in both directions.  There were lots of blueberry bushes here too.  Too bad it’s too early but that’s a good reason to return in late July!

A May Pond view from the Narrows

Yes, the campground was primitive.  There are a few remote sites that I’d bet would be a lot of fun to stay in, especially the two across the lake that are only accessible by boat.  Sites 24, 26, and 40 also looked like nice locations.  Anyway, there’s lots of reasons to come back here.  After Father’s Day (when the bugs are fewer) it would be a real treat!  Happy travels!



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