Columbus Day this year provided a short window for a Party Van escape. After a gig at Sonny’s Tavern in Dover with Scott Keifner, Don Davis and Jared Steer…and after an expertly crafted “mingus” by Mark…we parked my car on a side street in town, hopped in the Eurovan escape pod and pointed her to Pillsbury State Park in Washington, New Hampshire. This was a Pammie find on the interwebs and looked perfect for a quick hang in the woods.
We arrived around 1AM and I wasn’t too keen on waking up the whole campground. We had scoped out the site map online and picked out site number 7 after calling ahead to find out it was vacant. It was quite dark when we pulled in so I headed down the road leading to campsite 7 but pulled into the first site that was open. This would be fine. We were only going to go right to sleep pretty much and then get up in the morning to explore. I tied Sammy out and we had a goodnight Sixpoint then brought Sammy in and hit the hay.
We both slept like logs and woke up to the sounds of nearby campers and kids playing. We got up to explore. While Pam visited the lavatorial facilities I took a walk down the access road to site number 7 and immediately headed back to move the van for breakfast hanging! The site is right on the water and it was a beautiful, clear, warm fall day!
We moved her down to site 7, opened her up and started the coffee. Pammie grabbed the wood and set about building a morning fire. We had some leftover muffins that Miss Innkeeper had baked for some visitors and some cereal and plenty of hot coffee. What a view! What a DAY! DANG! After a leisurely breakfast, we packed up and headed to the office to pay for the previous night and to see if would could stay in the park during the day to hike and hang out.
Pillsbury State Park has a day use fee but seeing as we just paid and the next day was the last day of the season, they were feeling generous so they waived the day use fee. We drove into Mill Pond to park and take a little hike. There’s a little playground in by Mill Pond and there’s a garage with a rough trail map on the side. We took a look and decided to head up the Mad Road Trail with no particular destination in mind…and no water, no snacks and sammy in tow.
I’m notorious in my immediate family for leading the clan astray and taking us into sketchy territory with a smile on my face, a spring in my step and many, “we’re almost there’s” and “it looks like we’re getting closer’s” and “this looks like the summit’s”. We decided to take a left off the Mad Road Trail and head up the Ridge Link trail. The trail started to take on a little elevation but was still pretty easy going. Before long we came to a junction with the Monadnock Sunapee Greenway Trail. We took some pics on in a little clearing to the right and then went back to the junction. The sign to the left said Bear Pond. It was early and beautiful out so, what the heck, let’s do it! I got a little bit of cellphone service for a couple seconds but wasn’t able to get the trail map to load so we decided to go for it.
This trail started go up gradually and took us over the summit of Kitteridge Hill quickly. While climbing the hill I checked my phone, I had service and was able to download the trail map so at least we weren’t going to be TOTALLY lost now! We came off the backside of Kitteridge Hill and cruised along for a while and Pammie started to get a little hungry and wishing she had some water. I was hoping the junction of the Bear Pond Trail was going to be closer but…time for a “we’re almost there” or two! We took a break as the trail climbed another hill.
Just after the break we took off a little slowly to get back in the groove. We got up over the hill and started to pick up some speed and before we knew it we were at the trail junction. My plan was to head down the Bear Pond Trail and make a loop back to the campground on the Clemac Trail that was showing on Google Maps and looked like it was going right back past May Pond. The problem I had was the Clemac Trail wasn’t showing on the map. There was a Five Summers Trail on the map so I assumed it was the same trail. Pammie’s problem was the signage at the junction indicated that Pillsbury State Park was back down the trail we just came down! Shiite!! What to do!
After signing the trail log we headed down the Bear Pond Trail hoping for a happy outcome. The trail started out nice and flat but kinda wet. That’s cool, we’ll take it! After a short period we started to descend to Bear Pond. Trail signs warned us to watch for some kind of multi-wheeled snow plow thing? Trail maintenance for snowmobiles in the winter maybe? Anyways, the trail descended pretty steeply and lo and behold BEAR POND! The pond was pretty small, kinda swampy around the edges but very pretty on this incredible, crispy, sunny, clear fall day.
There was a trail down to the pond as we came around on the north side but we had no time for side trips. We had to get back to the Eurovan for some FOOD and a cold one or two! We marched past the pond and shortly thereafter came to another junction. The trail wasn’t marked except for a few snowmobile signs but the map indicated this was the way to go so we took a left. Before long we started to hear sounds of kids playing and then we started to see some remote campsites so we were SAVED! We’d live to see another day.
Back at the camper, we attacked the bag of chips and a bottle of fizzy water while I cranked up the stove to heat up some of the pulled pork Pam brought. We chowed on the pulled pork while Sammy sat outside waiting for his scraps and barking at all the passing hikers with dogs. Sammy loves people but other dogs piss him off for some reason! After the pork feast it was time to close her up and hit the road, unfortunately.
Leaving the campground we took a right on route 31 to go explore Sunapee State Park. We were hoping there might be a campground there but it’s just the ski area so we headed home. This being Columbus Day I planned to keep off the highway at all costs. When we hit Bradford I took a right on 114 (I think) and we made our way through Contoocook and then Hopkinton. Coming down the hill outside of Concord we stopped at Dimond Hill Farm for some dinner items. I walked Sammy out on the trail behind the farm while Pam shopped. When I got back we had a nice peach pie and some cheese for dinner.
Coming down through Concord I headed for route 4 planning to hit route 9 and head back to Dover to grab my car and head home. Passing over route 93 on 293 we saw traffic pretty much stopped heading south. Traffic on 393 was picking up too but nothing like what was going on on 93! Route 4 was smooth sailing until Epsom where the traffic circle was backed up about a mile. It looked bad but things moved along smoothly and we were through the circle and on our way within 5 minutes.
Pam dropped me off in Dover to pickup my car and we both headed home to unpack the party van and prepare a nice dinner to end a trip that turned out to be less than a full day by the time we hit home! It’s amazing what you can pack into a day when you’re just wandering around enjoying the scenery!