Interpretive Ranger climbing a huge boulder

Pawtuckaway Rocks!

By: Rand Michaels, Interpretive Ranger at Pawtuckaway State Park

Looking out over Round Pond with trees in background during sunset
View from the top of a boulder near Round Pond at sunset

By the time you’re reading this post I will have been living in a tent on the shore of Pawtuckaway Lake for at least a month. I’m lucky to be paid (albeit not much) to do this, when many others pay no small fee for the privilege of this beautiful camping location. By now I’ve gotten the process of cooking all of my hot meals on a camp stove, and keeping all of my food cold in a cooler, down to a science. I’ve also fallen into a solid rhythm in my programs that I planned for my fellow campers and park-goers. I’m starting to flow from my presentations on the history of the park to my talk about the science of the campfire without a hitch.

What I really intend to do in this post however, is not tell you about my work at Pawtuckaway State Park, but instead share with you one of my favorite off-time activities. This also takes place in the park, in the Northern section, well-separated from the ‘day use’ area, with the beach and campground, which draw most of the park’s visitors. I first visited this section of the park before I even knew that I would be spending my summer here, with a few other members of my Bear Brook Student Conservation Association (SCA) program. I am incredibly lucky that one of these coworkers had the necessary equipment to allow us to do this particular activity, and was willing to share. We walked probably a mile or two from our cars laden with huge pads and chalk on our way to some of the largest boulders in the Northeastern U.S.

Interpretive Ranger climbing a huge boulder
One of the first climbs I completed, called ‘Bilbo’s Revenge’

As some of you may have guessed, climbing atop big rocks, i.e. bouldering, is the activity I have been alluding to. This visit was my first time ever participating in this specific activity, although I’d climbed with ropes once before. I didn’t even have rock climbing shoes at this point- a very critical part of bouldering successfully, but I nonetheless had a fantastic time. And so a hobby was born. I bought my first pair of rock climbing shoes the week after I learned I was at Pawtuckaway for the summer, and have used them quite a few times since. Almost every time I go to the bouldering field by myself, I run into another lone climber and we end up putting pads together and taking turns climbing as we get to know each other.

One of these climbers whose story I want to highlight is Miles Galloway. I met Miles at the central bouldering area, called ‘Boulder Natural’ a couple of weeks ago. He had come from Manchester to climb for the afternoon, (I have met people from as far away as Montreal) as he has on a frequent basis for the past few years. In our time climbing together, Miles showed me many climbing routes he had established by cleaning off the moss and pine cones that gather on potential handholds. I even had the occasion to witness this when he used a combination of a long-handled brush and a tiny version of a leafblower to clear off a route that we were about to attempt. Miles shares the view held by many of the members of the climbing community at Pawtuckaway that it is our responsibility not only to enjoy the park but to take care of it and ensure it is just as beautiful for the people that come after us.

Topographical map of Pawtuckaway State Park
Trail Map of Pawtuckaway State Park

It’s amazing the different types of people that I’ve met in this Northern section of the park (the area surrounding the red trail on the map above) compared to the people I’ve met at the beach or the campground. Although both groups are friendly and fantastic, when I talk with someone at Round Pond for instance (one of the hidden jewels of Pawtuckaway in my opinion), I feel like I have been let in on a Southern New Hampshire locals’ secret, for which I am incredibly grateful. I find myself escaping the bustle of the beach more and more often to enjoy the relative peace of Round Pond on my time off from putting on programs, and would love to sometime see you there.



Discover Power of Parks SCA Interpreters

Discover the Power of Parks is presented by New Hampshire State Parks in collaboration with the Student Conservation Association and AmeriCorps and made possible by generous financial support from Eversource. The program offers a look into the natural world through hands-on programming. Interpretive programs focus on connecting participants with nature and building appreciation for New Hampshire's unmatched natural heritage. Programs include guided hikes, interpretive tours, and imaginative environmental workshops for children and families. Programs are offered free to guests with paid park admission fee. No pre-registration is required.

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