31-Surprise, Surprise! – Pawtuckaway SP

Just a few weeks ago I knew nothing about this park.  Now that I’ve experienced it, I’m amazed that it isn’t more well-known.  I was so pleased by what I found at Pawtuckaway State Park (or P-Tuck according to the bumper stickers) that I had to return for a second visit as soon as possible.  From the bark of a startled white-tailed deer as it bounded away, to the noise of a flock of geese flying just overhead, from the huge lichen-covered boulders bigger than I’ve seen just about anywhere, to the serenity of an old cemetery hidden in the woods, this park is just one happy surprise after another!I probably should have known based on the sheer size of the park that it had a lot to offer.  My first visit was to the western end of the park, featuring the three Pawtuckaway Mountains, North, Middle, and South, which, because of their volcanic origin form a roughly circular shape.

The 3 Pawtuckaway Mountains from a distance. South Mt. to the left, Middle Mt. in shadow, and North Mt. to the right.

The state’s biodiversity website lists a good description of a loop hike on North Mountain, which I modified in order to visit the featured Boulder Trail and the fire tower on South Mountain.  Didn’t know about the Boulder Trail?  Neither did I, but it’s quite popular, especially with the rockclimbing set.  It was quiet when I first visited on a Thursday but when I returned a few weeks later on a Sunday, there were lots of rockclimbers:

Climbing with ropes…

… or by hand…

…or in a way still to be determined.

The boulders are amazing, with many as big as a house.  And I soon discovered that the Boulder Trail is not the only place to find these monsters.  It seems that the glaciers stripped off big chunks from each mountain, carrying them as far as they could, (which is generally less than a mile) and leaving them all over this park.  Maybe a better name for this place would be Boulder State Park.   I found lots of great boulders on the South Ridge Trail, the Shaw Trail, and the Split Rock Trail.

How the Split Rock Trail probably got its name.

Two other features made this western end of the park enjoyable to me: the fire tower on South Mountain and all the cellar holes, cemeteries, and other traces of the settlers who tried to farm this rugged country back in the 1800’s.

The views from both North Mountain and the fire tower on South Mountain were wonderful.

The Fire Tower on South Mountain.

Views, views, views!

A neat old cemetery hidden in the woods.

The stones are still in great shape.

The eastern half of the park is just as rocky and wild, but gentler, and features what’s probably the biggest attraction, Pawtuckaway Lake.  There’s a large campground and an attractive beach with canoe/kayak rentals as well.  The campground even remains open until November, so I camped one Saturday night in October.  Despite the season, there were probably 30 other campers there so it’s certainly well-used.  It’s also the closest state park campground to the seacoast and its beaches.

The beach is wide and inviting.

One of the many enticing campsites.

It was too late in the season for the boat rentals so I’ll have to come back another time to enjoy the lake.  But I sampled some of the trails in this end of the park and they were quite enjoyable, and quite popular with mountain bikers.  The Fundy Trail is an easy old roadbed and the Woronoco Trail looked like someone had just blown all the leaves off the trail for a bike race.  Both the Split Rock Trail and the Shaw Trail were rugged and enjoyable, too.

All in all, P-Tuck was a great park and I look forward to getting back there for more exploring in the future.  Happy travels!

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