Somewhere In Ashuelot

Posted September 26, 2019 – Narrated by Carmen
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State and National Parks are our favorite locations, but the occasional well-managed private campground with full-hookups is a real treat.

Here in New England good private campgrounds are a rare find.

Our usual vetting system couldn’t turn up a desirable place on the New Hampshire coastline. So, turning inland on the map, Jim hunted for a place with rail trails, hiking, kayaking, breweries, seafood, and bam! the Ashuelot River area near Swanzey, New Hampshire gained Google ascension.

New Hampshire

These travel snafus – when we’re thrown off our preferred direction – usually result in delight and surprise.

Our seven day stay at the Ashuelot River Campground was one of those memorable LIB experiences.

Ashuelot River Campground
Our campsite with full hook-ups and our quick set-up Clam shelter.

Had things gone our way we’d have missed out.

The cancellation policy was fair, so we reserved by phone five weeks in advance for this independently owned, family-run campground.

The Bridges

The proprietor kindly warned us to turn off our GPS and follow their detailed map so we’d miss the covered bridges with low clearance which span the winding Ashuelot River.

We paid careful attention because a few weeks earlier in Catawissa, Pennsylvania we had a GPS directed surprise encounter.

The neighbors immediately came to our rescue and directed us to a place where we could turn around that was no less than five miles up the road.

Learning to navigate around the old covered bridges is part of living with history. Residents are the naturally appointed curators.

Replacing these colonial structures with modern technology is unthinkable.

Bridges are my favorite form of architecture because even the name is functional, describing utility in action. Everything can be bridged.

Bridges facilitate travelers, but a bridge can also be a method to transport currency, or a unique way to communicate an idea from here to there. But to fulfill the contract, one must surrender. There is always risk.

Thompson Bridge

And old covered bridges have a peculiar dynamic. As they move you forward to a different place, they also take you back in time.

Whether it’s an accident of art, physics, or nostalgic reverie brought on by those vintage Americana horse and wagon images, old covered bridges are a romantic portal for the imagination.

Ghosts from the past seem to make the journey across the river with you.

Thompson Bridge
Thompson Bridge

The dreamy, meandering Ashuelot River contributes to the surreal effect as Nancy Priest wrote in her poem, Over The River, published in 1883.

When we arrived, our camp host gave us a map with all the tourist information necessary to view the covered bridges and other places to visit, such as historic buildings and shops.

The map also includes hiking and cycling trails and boat launches.

The Trails

We say bike or cycling trails, but they’re called Rec Trails or Rail Trails in New England, because snowfall facilitates snowmobiles, cross country skiing and even dog sleds.

Ashuelot River Trail
Many trails are breathtakingly beautiful

Most Rec Trails built along abandoned railways are a work in progress. North of Keene, the Cheshire Trail got a bit rough, but our folding bikes with speciality off-roading tires plowed over the rocks, roots and loose sand.

These are easy forest trails with natural hedges of black berries, blueberries and wild flowers. The six mile ride into Keene for coffee and shopping was a delight.

The Breweries

The local craft brewery scene in Cheshire County is experiencing a boom. Pico loved the dog-friendly beer garden at Granite Roots.

For us, breweries aren’t just about beer and a few rounds of corn hole. We get the best info about festivals and music events while sharing pints with the locals.

On our first night we stopped at Elm City Brewing Company for dinner.

Elm City Brewing Company

… and our wonderful server gave us the scoop about a seafood and pig roast at Branch & Blade Brewing.

Immediately, we bought tickets online and, Score!

The Hog and Seafood Roast

The Community

Keene is a small university town steeped in New England charm and flourishing with natural beauty that retirees find attractive.

Some say Keene is the town that trees built and in nearby Swanzey, local lore has it that the poet Joyce Kilmer was inspired by a tree while on vacation.

Ashuelot River Campground
This amazing tree was only steps from our campsite.

The River

The late summer Ashuelot River was low with a gossamer glimmer as the sunlight played on the gold flakes in the sand.

Ashuelot River Campground

With nothing else to do on a warm and sassy New Hampshire day, we put-in at our campsite and paddled the couple of miles or so to Sawyer’s Crossing Covered Bridge – built in 1859 to replace the 1771 bridge.

Standing beneath that marvelous structure, we paid homage to its beautiful old bones and the craftsmen who built it.

Then, momentarily, we surrendered our thoughts to the ghosts of people, animals and vehicles that have crossed those boards throughout the decades … The doctor or midwife races on horseback to deliver a baby … A fugitive slave waits in the darkness of night for his ride to approach … A weary WW1 soldier returns home … And, yes a family in a carriage totes home a freshly harvested tree just like on the vintage Christmas cards.

The current was mild, the water warm, the breeze, gentle. We pulled the boats across the dry places and swam them across the deep places, but one way and another the golden-sanded Ashuelot carried us home.

Ashuelot River Campground

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

17 thoughts on “Somewhere In Ashuelot

    1. We’re so fortunate to be alive and in good health so we can LIB! Jim’s celebrating his Medicare birthday this week and we are grateful.

      Thank you for being with us!

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      xoxo,

      LIB

      1. So happy to hear you got to meet Chuck and Laura at Ashuelot River Campground. They are great people. We lived in Keene for decades before taking to the road full-time in December 2014 and when we return to Keene to visit family, Ashuelot River is our go-to place. Hope to meet up with you sometime in your travels. Where are you now? We are in New Mexico.

        1. Liz,

          We did indeed enjoy the hospitality of Chuck and Laura at Ashuelot River Campground. What a delightful location. We loved riding the trail to downtown Keene and spending time drinking coffee, beer, experiencing great food and fun shops. That area is a place we want to return some day.

          Wow! You have been traveling full-time 18 months longer than us! We thought we had been having this fun a long time.

          As I type this we are in the Adirondack Mountains experiencing the fall foliage extravaganza.

          Thanks for following Living In Beauty and we do hope our paths cross someday. You can always see where we are (usually within a few days) by watching the Living In Beauty Travel map at https://livinginbeauty.net/lib-store/ .

          Safe travels!

          Carmen and Jim

  1. We stayed there in July! It was amazing…one of our favorite places so far. Loved everything about the campground, Keene, and the whole area.

    1. Wow! We just missed you, Tamara! Yes, it’s a lovely campground and well managed. I’m sure the color on the river is flat-out gorgeous right now. I’d like to paddle the river when it’s a bit higher, so our next visit will be in Spring. Keene is my kinda town. I could easily stay in Ashuelot for an entire season.

      If you have any good leads on other campgrounds feel free to email us and let’s meet up sometime!

      Safe and Happy Travels, Tamara!

      LIB

    1. Hey Glen! So happy to have met you in Ashuelot. It would be great to meet up again. We move very slowly, so email us if you think we’re in your area.

      Safe and Happy Travels,

      Carmen & Jim

  2. Hi Guys,
    We met you in Lee Creek, B.C. Canada last year. You thought it was a bit cold here. Looks like you found a great spot. We’re camping in the Yukon waiting for the snow to pass so we can head home. Wish I was there. Gord and Deb

    1. Gord and Deb! Wonderful to hear from you! Wow. We heard about the snowfall there. I suppose by now you are on your way out of the Yukon? Wow. Hope all is well and you are on your way.

      Yes, B.C. was cold (for me mostly. Jim is okay with cold weather) especially in Shuswap Lake for Jim’s birthday … Whoa! That was exactly a year ago! We’re celebrating this year in Montreal – but cold weather set in yesterday. It will be in the 30’s tonight. Gotta bring in the mobile herb garden for the night!

      We should make plans to meet up sometime. Maybe we’ll be in Alaska next Spring. Thinking about it.

      Safe and Happy Travels!

      Carmen & Jim

  3. Well done Jim & Carmen. Enjoy all the colors while in the Northeast. A beautiful thing to admire. We love your posts. Keep them coming 😃.
    We met you guys in Marathon, TX just before you left for Big Bend National Park.
    Michael & Jeanne

    1. Jeanne!!! So good to hear from you! Thank you for being with us and we hope to meet up with you again sometime. Feel free to email us if you think we might be passing through your area.

      Safe and Happy Travels,

      Carmen & Jim

      1. By the way, Jeanne, the colors are coming late this year – at least the intense and brightest colors are just not coming out yet. They say it’s due to the warm weather which ended yesterday. So, we’re toughing it out waiting for the best and brightest leaves.

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