Monadnock Region Sampler

A summer Saturday, great weather, and no schedule to keep: this is as good as July gets.

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The blossoms that give Rhododendron State Park its name.

I’ve never managed to get to Rhododendron State Park in Fitzwilliam, NH during peak bloom time, which is supposed to be mid-July, give-or-take. Even so, I’ve never had a disappointing trip there. The rhododendron grove is shady and cool, with or without blooms.

I skipped the trail leading from the grove to Little Monadnock Mountain. Instead, after  a walk around the grove, I left the park via Rockwood Road to connect with the Cheshire Rail Trail at Rockwood Pond a little over a mile away.

Rockwood Road

Where the Rhododendron State Park sign points left, Rockwood Road goes right.

Rockwood Road is unpaved but well-maintained, at least in midsummer. I walked the first half-mile with only a barred owl and a few tiger swallowtails for company, which suited me. Beyond that, as I approached the pond, I passed a few houses and was passed by a few very polite drivers.

Last time I saw Rockwood Pond was on a foggy autumn weekday without another soul in sight. This time, there were picnickers at the shore and canoeists on the water. Not much traffic on the rail trail, though. In fact, the only other pedestrians I saw were in the grove at the park. Grove, road, and trail together made a great walking route for me. Bug repellent was useful.

 

Rockwood Pond

Rockwood Pond, Fitzwilliam, NH

A map of the area suggests to me a longer loop hike for some other day: from the trailhead in Rhododendron State Park, go uphill to Little Monadnock; follow the Metacomet-Monadnock trail northward into Troy; turn south on the Cheshire Rail Trail; then turn right (south-southwest) on Rockwood Road to return to the park.

But no long hike for me today. Instead, after my walk I drove to discover a couple of places that were new to me (even though they’re apparently very well known by the rest of the world).

  • I am now a very big fan of Monadnock Berries in Troy, where I picked about three pounds of scrumptious blueberries while enjoying a prime view of Mount Monadnock.
  • The Kimball Farm ice cream stand in Jaffrey was crowded, and I could have done without the smell of fried seafood being served a few windows over. But those are just quibbles. My ice cream cone, allegedly a “mini” portion (but don’t you believe it), was perfect.
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Monadnock and blueberries: a great combination. Photos by Ellen Kolb.

 

Little Monadnock

So few free weekends this summer! This was a mountaintop day, though, with clear dry air that guaranteed good views. I dropped everything and drove to Fitzwilliam to visit New Hampshire’s Rhododendron State Park and its trail to Little Monadnock.

In early July, Rhododendron State Park's famous blooms are still a couple of weeks away.

In early July, Rhododendron State Park’s famous blooms are still a couple of weeks away.

Alas, the rhododendron grove is still a week or two from being in bloom. The loop trail makes for a pleasant shady walk nonetheless. That’s a short walk, and the well-prepared visitor will bring bug repellent (and for once, I remembered to pack it). Then I headed uphill, following the yellow blazes over rocks and roots to the summit ridge of Little Monadnock. Once I reached the ridge, I turned east-northeast and followed the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail a short distance to get a fine view of Grand Monadnock.

The trailhead at the state park's parking area leads to a junction with the Little Monadnock trail.

The trailhead at the state park’s parking area leads to a junction with the Little Monadnock trail.

Mt. Monadnock, seen from Little Monadnock's summit ridge.

Mt. Monadnock, seen from Little Monadnock’s summit ridge.

The sign at the summit ridge could use a little attention, but it gets its job done.

The sign at the summit ridge could use a little attention, but it gets its job done.