We had an Isaac free day. I wanted to hike as far as we could. Tyson wanted to have fun exploring. And we couldn’t stray far from south-eastern New Hampshire because we had to pick Isaac back up.
The only place in south-eastern New Hampshire is Pawtuckaway (map). We’ve been rock climbing there. We’ve been kayaking there. We’ve been skiing there. But we’ve never hiked. All my route ideas were too long for Tyson’s legs, so he picked a loop following the volcanic rim dike over North Mountain and South Mountain. That way we could inspect the lower cliff rock climbing area for Isaac suitable climbs. And Tyson found mention of a “Devil’s Den” that he wanted to find.
We found lots of hickory nuts on the ground. I pocketed a few of the bigger green ones to see if they were any good. When we got home, I read up on hickories and found that they are ripe in September. And it looks like the husks are supposed to split. So I guess none of mine were ripe.
There aren’t any good views on North Mountain, but despite that, Tyson tried to stop at every one. Once over the top, he started looking for the Devil’s Den. When he found it, from the trail, I thought it was just a walkway between the main cliff and a giant boulder that had split off and slid down two yards. We walked through and found a sloping horizontal fissure. At the back of the horizontal fissure, it dropped into another vertical fissure. This one was far enough under the cliff that I couldn’t see into it without my headlamp. I followed the vertical fissure down under some rocks to where it narrowed and turned a corner. I crouched down over the moldy piles of droppings and stuck my head around the dripping corner. Both up and down on this new fissure were filled with rubble. Dead end.
We climbed back out and scrambled around the cliffs outside. There were other places where the rock had split apart and slid, but all of them had filled with rubble.
Next we entered the bouldering and climbing areas. We saw people bouldering. We heard someone yell “Rope!” on the upper cliff. But we were surprised to find no one at the lower slabs. With an eye to bringing Isaac climbing, we evaluated all the routes we could remember. It seemed a bit harder than I thought it had been.
Next up was South Mountain. I tried to pick up the pace so we could make the whole loop, but Tyson revolted. It turned out, I needn’t have worried. Now that we were no longer exploring, it was easy to make good time. The fire tower at the top of South Mountain is the best maintained fire tower I’ve seen in a long time: fresh silver paint, code compliant railings everywhere, and signs posted up top explaining the views.
We did short cut the loop a little bit for Tyson’s knees. We took Reservation Road back instead of following North Mountain Trail. But that worked out because we discovered a little cemetery on Reservation Road from the mid to late 19th century. There was no sign or explanation, but the tomb stones were well preserved. Everyone had a headstone and a footstone. Cemeteries of that era are always a reminder of what diseases used to do. Children dead in their first few years, and then couples from 40 to 75 years old.
For more hikes with caves, see our Crazy Caves list.