Gilson Pond Campground is small— just 37 sites nestled into the woods near a swampy, but beautiful pond in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. Most people stay here because it is located in Monadnock State Park at the base of Mount Monadnock. Have you heard of it?
Mount Monadnock is 3,165 feet tall and is best known because of its cameos in writings by both Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. It’s quite a prominent peak in southern New Hampshire, and I’ve heard tell that it’s the second most hiked mountain in the world, after Mount Fuji in Japan. Mount Monadnock may not be the tallest mountain in New Hampshire, but it’s rocky and bald, and provides 365-degree views of the surrounding valley and distant mountains.
We chose Gilson Pond Campground because of its proximity to Keene State College, where we were headed for a college orientation, but we figured since we were camping near the base of a famous mountain, we might as well hike it. First tip, camp at Gilson Pond Campground the night before so you can get up early to beat the heat, if that applies, and the crowds.
This is one of the quietest and most peaceful campgrounds I’ve ever stayed at. The sites are super private, the rangers are friendly, and the mosquitoes are ferocious, but I can’t give a campground a bad review because of the mosquitoes. Just a warning to be prepared. There’s a decent bathhouse with pay showers, a small playground, and a loop trail around Gilson Pond that leads right from the campground. No matter which site you choose you’ll be happy. They’re all really nice.
A few words of caution- don’t bring a large RV- the sites are not meant for big rigs. Also, dogs aren’t allowed anywhere in Monadnock State Park, and while we were sad to leave our goodest boy at home, he would have hated the hike up the mountain anyway- too many rock scrambles.
A Quick Overview of the Hike up Mount Monadnock
The ranger at the trailhead office recommended that we hike up the White Dot Trail (2 miles) and down the White Cross Trail( 2.5 miles) so that we could do the steepest route on the way up and take it easy on the way down. This was a great suggestion.
The White Dot Trail starts off flat, but that’s very short-lived. The trail begins to climb steeply pretty early on. The second half of the trail is very steep with lots of rock scrambles. You definitely have to watch your footing most of the hike because the rocks can be wet in places and very slippery. Once you get above the treeline, follow the rock cairns across the ridge. On a nice day, you will be able to see for miles in every direction.
The White Cross Trail is not as steep, but my knees were still pretty sore after all was said and done. We started the hike at 8 am and finished up at 12 pm. We saw about 15 people in total, but when we got to the trailhead, the parking area was full and many people were starting their hike. I’m a middle-aged woman who does more walking than hiking, and I would consider this a strenuous hike that is totally worth the huffing and puffing.
Gregory Octal 55 Review
As a ranger for The Dyrt, I occasionally get to test out products and gear. For this particular trip, I received a discount on the Gregory Octal 55 Ultralight Backpacking Pack. It’s meant for short treks and can carry a maximum of 35 pounds. I used it for day hiking, and found to my surprise, that it was lighter and more comfortable than any of my day-hiking packs.
This pack has oodles of awesome features, including three external pockets, large hipbelt pockets, an Aerospan ventilated suspension system that wicks away moisture and keeps the pack off of your back, and a quick stow system for your sunglasses.
The Octal 55 is hydration bladder compatible, comes with a custom rain cover, and an ultralight aluminum frame. Oh, and I almost forgot the most important part— it’s designed specifically for a woman’s frame. Not to sound cliché or anything, but this pack was so comfy, I hardly knew it was there.
I had a small issue early on in my hike that I will mention. My water bottles, which were stowed in the two mesh side pockets, fell out on the rock scrambles. Because they weren’t held in securely, they would just slide out whenever I bent over. I realized after the fact that there are small straps that can be tightened around them within the pockets. This solved the problem after I scrambled down several rock faces after my runaway bottles.
All-in-all I’m really happy with this pack and can’t wait to take it on some longer adventures.
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.
Update 6/30/2019: After using these for about a month, on a camping trip with friends, one of the handles fell apart. There are little clips that hold the telescoping pieces together and these came out. Grub Sticks was great, offering immediate replacement that arrived swiftly. They stated they have a 1-1.5% failure rate, which seems high. The clips are definitely a weak point.
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!
Monadnock State Park is a beautiful hiking adventure for families, beginners, and anyone looking for a fun weekend trip with amazing views. There are several lookouts on the journey to the summit, and the view from the top is amazing. This was my first benchmark and the adventure inspired me to go explore and collect more!
P.S. There are no pets allowed in Monadnock State Park.
awesome remote sites just have to get up a steep hill to get to it…
This was my first time to New Hampshire so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the state parks there. I was not disappointed. I arrived after 7, so there was no one to check me in but I had reserved a campsite ahead of time so I was I went right to my site and set up. The site was big with 2 platforms, a nice picnic table and a fire pit with a grill. I was right next to the bathroom but there was a lot of woods in between my site and the facilities so it didn’t matter at all. In fact I barely noticed any of the neighboring campsites. There is quite a bit of space between each site. The bathrooms and dish washing area are new and well kept. Bring quarters for hot water. The only bad thing was the only place to buy wood for a fire was the camp store which was closed, but my fault for coming late. It was open both days I was there until 6. The hiking is incredible, both from the site and by driving to the headquarters to park. The people working there were friendly and jump started my car when the battery went dead. It was a wonderful weekend away and I will definitely be back.
This is one of (if not THE) most beautiful and well maintained state parks I have ever been to. It’s on the newer side, so that does help. The camp sites are flat, spacious, wooded, and come equipped with large fire rings/grills. The park staff was so nice and helped us find a site even while showing up last minute on a weekend. It was so cool for me to camp in the area where Thoreau wrote some of his most famous works!! This place is great, I definitely would like to come back.
This is a beautiful campground. The park ranger at the front gate was very friendly and helpful. The bathrooms are immaculate. The showers take coins but the facilities are some of the best I've seen while camping on State Park grounds. The campsites are accessible by car but nice and secluded. You can hike the path to the mountain trailhead or drive over and park for the day.
I grew up in Southern NH and Monadnock has always been my backyard hike. After over 2000 miles of long distance hiking on the AT and PCT I'm still happy to come home and see the stunning NE views. Extra stunning if you can hit it in fall!
I arrived after 8 and couldn't find anyone to check me in--my fault. I set up at a site, but had to move in the morning. The Gilson Pond facility, two miles down the road from headquarters, was a bit remote and camp store/office was closed due to fund cut backs. Otherwise a clean and relatively quiet place for your large or small group. Access to trails leading to Mount Monadnock for a healthy 3,600 foot peak, or gentle, shorter pond walks--everyone happy! There is also a very nice playground--new!