The first part of my hiking road trip brought me to the most hiked mountain in the US, Mount Monadnock, the Grand Monadnock, or just Monadnock, in southern New Hampshire. Despite the crowds that Monadnock always attracts (the busiest day I’ve heard of was 10,000 people in one day, which I would find to be absolute hell), the mountain itself is a perfect mountain. It’s not much taller than 3,000 feet, but it towers above everything for dozens of miles around, and its bald, rocky top is prominently visible from every town in the region.
On Tuesday I drove to Jaffrey from where I was staying near Boston, arriving at the park headquarters just before noon. I ran into a friend of mine who works at the park, also, so by the time we finished catching up and chatting for a while, I figured I would have a short day of hiking, which was just fine. I wasn’t feeling awfully energetic anyway.
If you have a Monadnock trail map, now would be a good time to get it out and see how goofy the following day and a half of hiking were.
I chugged up the White Cross trail, making my way to a relatively uncrowded summit (which, on Monadnock, doesn’t always mean much) in good time. It was chilly and windy at the top, as usual, so I decided to make my way down without much rest. I descended the White Dot trail to Falcon Spring, where I rested for a few minutes and restocked my water supply.
At this point it was still early, so I decided to hit a few more trails, due to my new hobby of making GPS tracks of every trail I can. I then hiked up the Cascade Link and Red Spot tails to near the top (again), then down the Smith Connecting Link to the Cliff Walk, and back to the park headquarters via the Parker Trail. Along with the several side detours to GPS tiny segments of connecting trails, I ended up hiking about 8.8 miles with close to 3500′ elevation gain. By the end of the day I was so exhausted that my legs were shaking whenever I stood still. Maybe the second trip up the mountain wasn’t the best choice, but I certainly slept well that night.
On Wednesday I returned much earlier in the morning for what I figured would be a much easier day, this time starting from the Old Toll Road trailhead. It did turn out to be an easier day, but not by much. It was colder and the clouds hung lower, so my body overheated less, but my route was far more convoluted and ended in much more of a hurry.
The route, which ended up being 10.2 miles, was this: Old Halfway House trail and White Arrow to summit, Smith Summit trail to Monte Rosa, Great Pasture and Mossy Brook back to Halfway House, a quick loop of Monte Rosa and Fairy Spring trails, then up Side Foot, zig-zagging down along Cliff Walk to hit Hedgehog, Noble, Do Drop, Thoreau, Point Surprise, and Hello Rock. I finished by going down Royce and then back along Route 124. Along with the various small connecting trails, I managed to hit every trail on the south side of the mountain in one day.
The last few miles would have been a bit more relaxed, but I spent a while talking with a hiker I met at the Halfway House site who happened to have grown up in the same two small towns in Maine as me, just twenty or so years earlier. It was an interesting parallel, since I’ll probably be moving to Keene at the end of the summer. After a while of chatting, though, I realized that I would have to hurry to make it back to Fitchburg to meet my best friend for dinner. I ran the Thoreau, Surprise Point, and Hello Rock trails, bringing myself from pleasantly tired to crashing exhausted in less than twenty minutes. By the time I got back to the car, via the Royce trail and a road walk, I was pouring sweat, and my legs were like rubber.
On the upside, I got back to Fitchburg right on time, and found my hiker appetite to be in full swing. Oh, wonderful eating binges.
I’ll be back to Monadnock in a week or two for a few more dayhikes, since I figure I can GPS the remaining trails with just a few easier days of hiking. I love having tangible goals.