There is a love story unfolding at Pawtuckaway State Park.It all started back in the spring when I started thinking about the park I would be spending the summer with as the Interpretive Ranger. Umbagog, Franconia, Monadnock...I could be up in the Great North Woods, the majestic Whites, or at the most climbed mountain in North America. That all sounded nice, but what about this quiet Pawtuckaway place? There was something so alluring about the name, "Paw-tuck-away." I loved the way each syllable rolled off my tongue. Intrigued, I looked a little deeper and asked questions to get to know the place. Pawtuckaway, named by the native Pennacook Confederacy, means "place of the big buck." I had visions of an eight point buck standing on the shore of the lake with the morning mist and sunrise colors swirling about, loons yodeling in the distance. Romantic. Okay Pawtuckaway, it's a date.
I packed my truck with my tent, stove, dip nets and field guides and headed to my new home at Pawtuckaway State Park. Some might say it was too early to move in together. However, I knew in my gut that things would only get better for Pawtuckaway and I.
We spent every minute together. I explored the trails up the the fire tower, hiked back to the boulder field, swam in the lake at sunset, and went for morning walks with the birds.Naturally, I was head over heels. Every relationship reaches the point when it is time to meet the family. I wanted to know the names, places, faces and stories that had made this place so lovely. While rummaging through the Nottingham Library for stories and anecdotes of the area, I stumbled upon the story of The Barefoot Farmer of Pawtuckaway (see the book here). George Goodrich was born and raised in the Pawtuckaway Mountains in the late 1800s to early 1900s. He loved this "land of sticks and stones", as the Natives called it, and when everybody abandoned their New Hampshire fields to move to the fertile midwest farmland he stayed right here. He continued to pick the stones from his fields every spring and wandered into Raymond with his simple clothes and bare feet to sell his apples and maple syrup. When he passed, he donated his land to the state to ensure preservation and public enjoyment for generations to come. He was a happy, free-spirited farmer with a genuine adoration for these mountains. Immediately, I felt akin to these mountains and people and knew Pawtuckaway was much more than just a lake and a campground. I've fallen for the trails, the blue herons, the wild turkeys, the turtles and the stories that make this place unique. Pawtuckaway feeds me blueberries and we make sweet fern/wintergreen tea together (check out the Incredible Edible Forest hike). Yes, it is true love, but I am not greedy. Pawtuckaway has plenty of love to go around. It is my hope that you take the opportunity to come discover what it is you love about Pawtuckaway this summer. If you find yourself needing advice or just want to share a good story, come find me at my programs or hanging out by Burnham's Marsh with the turtles and tadpoles.