Oops. This trip report was supposed to go up a few weeks ago. Just before I started my Long Trail Side-To-Side trip, I was out at Mount Monadnock in southern New Hampshire to explore the trails. Here’s the last day’s trip report from there. The LT Side-To-Side reports will start coming soon.
The day after Earlylite’s presentation in Boston, I headed back to Monadnock to hit some of the last trails I needed to mark on my GPS. After the previous week of crap weather, I was overjoyed to see a completely sunny sky as I drove west across Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who realized it was nice out. Even though it was the middle of the week, there were plenty of people already at the trailhead parking in the state park. No surprise there. They don’t call it the most-hiked mountain in the US for nothing.
I didn’t hit the trail until just before noon, so I was in a bit of a hurry to get those last few trails, which included a lot of backtracking over trails I’d already GPSed over the past few weeks. The nice thing about that, though, was that by going up the Lost Farm Trail to the Cliff Walk, I completely avoided the crowds that I knew would be all over the White Dot and White Cross. The picture above was taken from Bald Rock, where I sat down for a forty-minute lunch break without seeing a single person. All the while I could see tiny figures milling about on the summit, and faint shouts came over the breeze. The mountain was crowded, alright, but my little corner was just fine. And the views from Monadnock’s secondary summits are just as good as those from the top. I had a clear view to Stratton Mountain, Greylock, Pack Monadnock, and others.
I crossed the White Dot and White Cross on my way to the other side of the mountain, tagging the Pumpelly Trail and doing a little loop with it and the Spellman and Cascade Link trails. Maybe I should have taken the loop in the other direction, because my route had me go down the Spellman trail twice, which resembled down-climbing a technical route for half a mile. Not easy on the knees! I finished off the day by running away from the black flies and mosquitoes on the Harling and Hinkley Trails, sweating like crazy from the humidity and 80 degree air. I guess if it’s not raining and cold, it has to be uncomfortable in the other extreme.
The next day I returned much earlier in the day to finish off the trails. All I had to do was the lower half of the Pumpelly Trail, the entire Dublin Trail, and the entire Marlborough Trail, and I would have all the GPS tracks for the park. I hit the trail at 8:30 from the Dublin Trailhead, and started strong up the trail (partly due to running from the black flies). The massive humidity slowed me down after the first mile, but I made it to the summit before 10. The next step was to hike down the Marlborough Trail, then turn around and hike right back up, then retrace the Dublin Trail back to my car. By the time I got back to the summit a second time, I was sweating so hard I couldn’t even hang onto my hiking poles.
The humidity! It was a nice day, to be sure, but it was over eighty degrees, and so humid that the haze in the air cut yesterday’s visibility in half. On Wednesday I could see almost to the White Mountains, but Thursday I could barely see past Crotched Mountain, forget Ascutney or Stratton. The pollen in the air combined with the moisture to make my lungs ache with every breath. I was a little exhausted already as I started down the Dublin Trail, and I slipped on a rock, scraping a good bit of skin from my leg. Lots of blood, lots of bruise.
I got back to my car and immediately headed to the Pumpelly Trail, still pouring sweat even as I drove down the road with windows wide open. In just the few hours I’d been parked, a thin yellow film of pollen had collected on the hood of the car. No wonder I was having so much trouble breathing.
The Pumpelly Trail probably would have been a piece of cake, since I only had to make it to the junction of the Cascade Link to finish it up, but I was sucking wind the entire way up. Again, I dropped my poles several times, my hands slick with sweat. My shin stung and brought tears to my eyes as I walked past a pricker bush without thinking. Whoops. Sweat in the eyes and sunburns on my face (despite sunscreen and wide brimmed hat) didn’t help, either.
Still, I got back down by 4:30, just in time to head back to Fitchburg for dinner with friends. My lungs ached, my leg stung, my whole body was sore. But I’d finished my goal of making the GPS tracks of all the trails on the mountain (as far as I can tell). Hopefully I’ll have a page with the map on this blog by the end of June. Keep an eye out.
At the end of the evening, I felt like I’d been hit by a wrecking ball, but oh, did I sleep well! Next stop for hiking, Vermont! And the forecast now looks like more of the same– sun and humidity. I guess I can handle that for a while.