Ranger Review: Grub Sticks at Monadnock State Park
Campground Review: It’s been a rainy, drizzly spring in New England and this weekend was no exception, but I had reservations for Gilson Pond campground at Monadnock State Park, so I headed out. I’ve hiked Mt Monadnock several times), but had never camped here before. It’s a newer campground, opened in 2010. Before I left I received a call notifying me that there was a problem with the water system, so there would be no running water during my stay. So much for a warm shower after a muddy hike up the mountain! Upon arrival they provided me with a gallon of water and a bundle of firewood to compensate.
The campsites are large and wooded; I had a better view of the campsite across the road than the ones next door. The bathrooms/showers are centrally located, but there are pit toilets distributed throughout the campground. The pit toilets are clean and, this early in the season at least, odorless, with waterless hand cleanser available. Because of the water outage, I didn’t get to see the interior of the bathrooms, but they do have a large dishwashing area with coin-operated hot water.
I had a standard site (A13) with ample space for my teardrop camper and a 12x12 canopy; I could easily have pitched a large tent as well. When choosing a site, note that the tent only sites often have small parking areas with 1-2 platforms and are not suitable for an RV/trailer. Only 7 sites are suitable for a trailer/RV, 4 of them with electric hookups (add $10 to the site rate), but none with water. There are 5 remote sites, but I only made it to 2 of them (R1 & R2). The trails were quite wet. R2 is nice, near a small waterfall.
There’s a long approach to Mt. Monadnock that leaves from the campground (Birchtoff), with shorter trails leaving from the State Park headquarters 2 miles down the road. Because of the puddles and muck I encountered when trying to find the remote sites, I decided against hiking the Birchtoff trail for my Saturday afternoon ascent and drove to the Headquarters entrance instead, where my camping pass covered the entrance fee. Pond trail run around Gilson Pond. There is a large playground for kids <12 and a wide open day use area for picnicking. It would be a great place to run around and play games.
If you want a treat after your hike, head into Jaffrey for homemade ice cream at Kimball Farm.
Grub Stick Review:
As a Ranger for the Dyrt I sometimes get to review equipment. On this trip I was testing Grub Sticks Deluxe and Intro kits. My current camping gear includes an assortment of hot dog sticks and skewers, so I was interested in checking out these sets that give you solid handles with interchangeable heads. Here’s how I used them:
1. Forks: chicken jalapeno sausage and vegetables
2. Burgcage: hamburger (I pre-mixed the ground beef with hot salsa)
a. S’waffles: I made gingerbread waffles at home for a twist on this; also tried waffles with cinnamon
b. S’mores: standard recipe
c. Silver clouds: peppermint patty and marshmallow inside crescent rolls
d. Nutella and strawberry inside crescent rolls
4. Grubtube: biscuit dough- filled with chocolate pudding; crescent rolls – rolled in cinnamon sugar before and after cooking; filled with chocolate pudding
5. Grubpocket & bacon clip – fail
The telescoping handles are sturdy and substantial, with a rubbery grip that feels comfortable in your hand. I liked being able to adjust the length and it still felt sturdy; a groove in the extension keeps them from rotating. In addition to the handles and heads, the kits include a carrying bag (drawstring for the intro kit; zippered for the deluxe) and a tool for opening the cages. The deluxe version also contained silicone trivet and fingertip protector, plus a bacon clip (more on that later).
Forks: straightforward, it’s great to have 2 spikes at the end of the stick. It enabled me to cook 2 of the sausages at once and to spike slices of vegetables across both. The sausage cooked quickly and evenly.
Burgcage: also straightforward; the cage closes securely and it’s easy to open while hot with the special tool they include.
Grubcage: Besides shape, the difference between this and the Burgcage is the depth, making it better suited to cooking something thicker/multi-layered like the s’mores and s’waffles. I tried the gingerbread s’waffles the first day and found it held everything securely in place; my biggest challenge was patiently holding it far enough from the coals that it would melt the chocolate and marshmallow and not burn the waffles. It was good! I tried the s’mores the next day and found this a little harder to manage. I used fun-sized chocolate bars, so when I flipped it, one of the bars was not held securely by marshmallows and fell against the cage. I’d love to try these with the new chocolate filled marshmallows that are out, but I couldn’t find any in time! Using a hazelnuet spread would be an alternative.
Be sure to fill the full depth of the Grubcage to make sure your pieces stay together. I tried these with slices of vegetables as well, but they have to be very large to not fall through the gaps between the wires. Some of the suggested recipes with larger vegetables wrapped in bacon, etc. might be a better choice.
Grubtube: Ever make doughboys as a youth camper, wrapping dough around a stick? This takes those to a new level. Wrap the dough around the tube and it slides off effortlessly when cooked. I contemplated mixing dough, but ended up using refrigerated biscuits the first time and crescent rolls the second time. The trick is to ensure the seams are sealed. Two crescent rolls are a perfect fit around the tube. One time I rolled it in cinnamon sugar before and the second time after I cooked it. Rolling it in the cinnamon sugar before cooking it makes a nice glaze. It reminded me of a treat I’d had in Romania a couple of years ago where the dough is spiraled around a larger tube and then roasted, sometimes dipped in cinnamon sugar or coconut. I opened it at the seam afterwards and spooned chocolate pudding into it, making a pudding boat. It was easier than spooning it into the tube as I did the night before with the biscuit dough. I could see filling these with taco meat, string cheeze, or pizza filling, etc.
Grubpocket: I watched the videos showing how to make a bacon pocket, but try as I might, this was a fail. First piece of advice is not to use thick bacon! The bacon clip won’t fit around it. I found the clip very hard to operate; I couldn’t open it far enough and long enough to easily slide it down over the bacon. I was thinking about this and I would have liked a nesting cage (think the two sides of the Burgcage nested) instead, so I could weave bacon in it, holding the bacon in place. I didn’t try this again with dough to form a cup. The downside of making the cups is that you either need to fill it with something cold or heat the filling separately. I think I’d rather have an extra Grubtube rather than a Grubpocket.
I’m a simple camp cook and expect I’ll use the Burgcage, Forks, and Grubtube most often. You need to upgrade to at least the Deluxe kit to get the Grubtube. These are a higher quality than your standard hot dog/marshmallow sticks, but you’ll have to decide for yourself if they’re worth the extra cost and if you’re interested in the windows they open for some more creative meal options. They fill a fun niche, but I wouldn’t call them a need.
Came here while in college at Brandeis University with my field Biology class. We explored all over the bog looking for interesting species of plants and animals and found so many amazing things. This is an amazing site to take anyone who is adventurous and loves to explore. It also doesn't hurt that it's so close to Boston. I agree with all the other reviewers and definitely suggest checking this site out.
So we went with our two dogs. there were plenty of other people there with dogs as well. there were a lot of children on bikes and playing. The restrooms were clean. We've been back twice but not to camp. The beach was clean.
This campground has showers (pay with quarters for hot water) activities for the kids, pool, arcade, snack bar? Ponds that after a busy weekend seem to be full of dump station over flow because the smell can be a little much at times.
Overall friendly people. They sell propane and firewood.
We went camping here with our SpiralScout Circle, kids aged 4-8. The group site is super close to parking and yet the terrain is rugged enough that it always felt like we were really in the woods. A recently renovated bathroom and shower facility makes clean ups easy.
The camp is also adjacent to Breakheart Reservation, which had a great shallow pond with life guard on duty as well as bike trails and a range of different hikes.
All of this right in Saugus MA, less than 30 minutes from Boston.
I can’t wait til the current renovation is done so we can go there again soon.
Ayers lake campground in New Hampshire is a well kept secret. Small and family owned and operated, this campground offers some of the greatest vistas of a small New Hampshire pond we have seen.
Amenities such as camp fire wood are available but if you really need anything, you can hop over to Rochester, NH in a heartbeat.
Few (if any) organized activities, this is a quiet, family campground which is perfect for reflection. That is why we keep going back.
We stayed here for a few nights when they celebrated Halloween 🎃. It is super easy to get around. They had tons of festive activities. They have an indoor and an outdoor pool. The restrooms are clean. I highly recommend staying here. It was a lot of fun.
Decent campground. Sites are spaced out. No really good swimming area, unless you go to the other side of the lake to the public swimming area. Bathrooms are kept pretty clean. Campsites are large and are spaced well apart. We like going here.
The White Mountains, New Hemisphere, is a must, worth the short drive especially if you can go in early October, when the leaves are changing. Boston is only 40 minutes away, and the best of Maine is also very close. If you’re not up for sightseeing, and you want a good pizza take the 7 minute walk from the campsite to Chip Shots, yum. The staff and campgrounds were both very nice.
Unkempt, potholed roads, "river" for kayaking was blocked by downed branches, and was barely a "river" by definition. Pillow, bounce pad costs extra ($8) for maybe an hour. It was only open for a couple hours a day. Some seasonal sites looked like they hadnt been touched for years…almost like a horror flick. Maybe they should turn this into a haunted destination. We rented a cabin, and it had mouse poop all throughout. It was definitely rustic, which we honestly didnt mind, but the mouse droppings, and the sinking floor next to the tub was a bit too much.
Love the facilities. Clean, well maintained, private bathrooms/showers. Store is best I have ever seen. Well stocked with everything you could need. Stayed in cabin and tented, as well. Only negative is that there transient RV sites seem crowded, and many are out in open area. I prefer trees, but this wont keep us away from trying out RV sites this year.
Love this place. The camp store offers pleanty of stuff. Activity’s for children and adults. Love the pond. The new owners are amazing! And its not glamping. Every site seems perfect. With the hidden gem ones as well. My whole family loves going here! Stayed 2x thos yr. and booked 9 days next july and some in oct. close enough to home so my husband can comuit for work as well. Halloween themed weekend was so incredibly fun. The seasonal sights go all out!
Very nice neat and clean campground. We did not like the fire rings because they had the three walls with only one opening. See photos. It was lovely to walk on the Atlantic while there and enjoy sunrise on the beach. There is a large public access parking area beside campground. Eat breakfast at Pat’s Diner just a few miles from the campground. It’s the real deal.
My family stayed at this campground for a month and a half while we finished up our obligations before we hit the road full time. The sites were spacious in wooded area near a small river. The road in is dirt but is mostly level. The majority of the campground were seasonal campers who had really settled in. We felt a little out of place. The pool and the store were nice. They had a few family events that were also fun and great for kids. The bugs, however, really prevented us from enjoying spending time outdoors. Our experience with the staff and owners was hit or miss. Sometimes they were extremely nice and friendly, other times it was like they were looking for an argument. The location was convenient to Durham and Dover, and only 25 minutes to Portsmouth. Overall, I would recommend the campground but with some hesitation.
Large sites. Clean bathroom. Good for families or couples.
Mostly an RV, family friendly campground but just enough serenity and nature to fulfill this nature-lovers soul! Rustic but clean and well maintained. Great camp hosts and owners. Tons of activities and nature galore, especially mushrooms!
Lovely wooded campground where you can swim, hike, kayak, bike, canoe, fish, boulder, geocache and explore to your heart's content. Generally large and level sites, many with water access, Make your reservation well in advance if you're planning to visit during peak season or if you want a prime waterfront site. Sites on Horse Island will cost you $5 more than those on Big Island, but many of the sites are directly on the water, making it easy to slip your boat into the lake from your site. There's a campers only boat launch on Horse Island. Much of the lake is better suited to paddle craft rather than motor boats due to it's shallow nature and rocks. The an expansive beach as well, a camp store and boat rentals.
I've had a weekend when my neighbors were playing loud music all afternoon and stumbled drunk through my campsite after dark and other weekends when it was hard to tell there was anyone around.
Driving around this past weekend I did notice that some of the sites had damp spots; site 71 was the worst with deep mud on the long approach. Site 73 is near the bath house, but it has a long approach that provides a little privacy and it's higher than the surrounding sites with water access. Sites in the 3-15 range are waterfront, but they're higher off the water. Site 43-45 are great. Those along the southern edge of Horse Island offer a more level entry. Roads are narrow and many of the site entrances are narrow with rock/tree obstructions in places that may make backing in more of a challenge to thsoe with trailers or RVs. No hookups.
The bath houses are tired, but they offer free showers. Would love to see them renovated and brightened up. Big Island also has cabins available. Phone coverage is poor (Verizon); can usually get texts out. If you want to geocache, download the info for offline use!
If you are used to camping with pets, you'll need to visit outside of peak season as they are not allowed in the campground Memorial Day to Columbus Day and never on the beach.
It has a longer season than many campgrounds in New Hampshire, running to the end of October, and you can generally get a site last minute if you're waiting on the weather and don't need/want a water site. Its proximity to Boston makes it great for a quick getaway.
The Good: Spacious campsites, some are very private and some are more suitable for a group to combine a couple together, bathrooms are cleaned a couple times a day, trails in the area are great, swimming area, close to grocery shopping if you forgot something, DOG FRIENDLY
The Not-so-good: It is about $10/night more expensive for out of staters, wood has to be purchased at the campground, the fire pits are fire boxes and can be less fun than a pit - hard to sit around because you can only see the flame out one side of box, the bathrooms get busy and sometimes run out of toilet paper on busy weekends, there has been some illegal activity there (last time I was there, about a dozen police cars rolled in), quiet hours are not enforced well sometimes.
This campground at Gilson Pond on Monadnock State park is only about 8 years old and is very well maintained. Staff is friendly and laid back. Campsites are well shaded but if you have an RV take the time to rent an RV site otherwise backing in will put you in and awkward position as the mixed use “standard” sites are oriented towards tent camping and have narrow driveways. We had to front in and 134 point turn in order to get the tow vehicle back out of the site as the edge dropped off a small ledge of boulders. There are no water hook ups on RV sites and public water faucets are not threaded for RV filling with the exception of one faucet we happened upon on the B loop, so plan accordingly if you plan on filling water tanks on site. Easy access to hiking trails to Mt Monadnock with plenty of day use parking. Bring plenty of mosquito repellent!
Being just 30min away from Boston makes it a convenient weekend trip destination, to get out and explore nature a little bit.
Camp sites are gigantic, have running water, picnic table and fireplace. There is a playground and activity field (basketball, etc.) on the campground.
Quiet, beautiful campground! Our site had big beautiful trees behind us lots of shade. Fire pit is sat on a slab of concrete or something it was amazing! Will definitely be back with the kids so the kids can have fun on the big playground.
Some waterfront sites, very near town and north shore activities. Very helpful rangers.