The early summer gave way to more normal conditions, with nearly warm days and definitely cold nights. I hadn’t seen Moss in a while, so we decided to go for a dayhike together on a sunny, cool day last week. She’s still working at Cardigan Lodge, finishing up her stint there while also finishing her preparations for a Pacific Crest Trail through-hike this summer, and I’m finishing my work on my iPhone apps while living the city life in Keene. Happily, halfway between Cardigan and Keene is a spot I’ve been hoping to hike ever since I passed by on the New England Trail: Mount Sunapee.
|Bly Hill and Newbury Harbor from Eagle’s Nest on Mt Sunapee.|
Getting started was a little rough. Moss’s alarm didn’t go off, and then she started driving in the opposite direction of Sunapee for about ten minutes before realizing she needed to turn around. Then, after we left her car at the ski resort’s parking lot and drove my car to Newbury to start hiking, she realized she’d left her sneakers in her car, so a quick drive back and forth again took a few more minutes. No worries– we still had an early enough start, and it was a frigid, windy morning anyway.
|Looking out over Lake Sunapee.|
It was a nice, relaxing hike, although not quiet. The two of us had a lot to talk about, with each of us heading off on adventures this summer, and both of us on barely shoestring budgets. Moss has been stressing out about going broke while on the PCT just as much as I’ve been stressing out about NOLS and the rest of my summer. In case you hadn’t noticed, Moss and I are very high-strung individuals. It’s probably a good thing we don’t spend too much time together, or else we’d both be nervous wrecks.
|From White Ledges, we watched the wind play over Lake Solitude.|
Once we found our way to the Newbury Trail and got into the sun a little bit, the hiking conditions were just what I needed. All the snow had melted in the past few weeks, but the mud was frozen solid this morning, so walking was easy as pie. The sky was totally free of clouds, and the trees were still bare, so our views stretched far into the distance. Monadnock and Cardigan were clearly visible from the crags and clearings on Sunapee, and we even had a few views of snow-capped mountains in the Whites.
|The only snow left was man-made at the ski trails. Mount Kearsarge on the right was prominently on display.|
For lunch, we stopped at White Ledges, a high cliff on one of Sunapee’s sub-peaks. The cliff rises a hundred or so feet over Lake Solitude, an elevated lake on the backside of Mount Sunapee, and probably the most gorgeous part of the mountain. We sat at the edge of the cliff, warming in the sun while we watched the blustery wind draw patterns across the lake surface below. For a minute there, we stopped worrying about the coming summer. It was a fine day on a mountain in New England.
|Monadnock, off in the distance, is hard to miss.|
From White Ledge to the summit of Sunapee isn’t far, but for the final few hundred feet to the summit we had to walk on alpine ski trails and up to the ski lifts. The ski resort must have had a hell of a time making snow this year, since there was so little natural snow. Moss and I had to climb onto a two or three foot base of snow once we hit the ski trails, snow that was quickly melting, but had already outlasted all the natural stuff. Up top, we wandered around on the outdoor decks of the summit hut to get views to Vermont, as well as Monadnock to the south and Cardigan to the north.
|Something’s not right here…|
I doubt there would be a view from the summit without the ski trails– I know there are a lot of views on the Long Trail in Vermont that wouldn’t be there without the ski trails– but I still can’t get used to looking down a clearcut in order to get a view from a mountain. Even in a large hiker shelter, or in a fire tower, I still feel like a guest in nature. With the ski lifts and huge summit huts, it feels like a visit to a conquered land, sterilized and turned into an amusement park. There’s more joy from a view that comes naturally, without the help of heavy machinery and at the expense of the mountain itself. I’ll probably stick to the other parts of the mountain in the future.
|Ascutney, just across the Connecticut River, and other mountains in Vermont.|
The Summit Trail down from the peak to the ski resort parking lot was pleasant but less interesting than the Newbury Trail, so it made for a good descent. Moss realized on the way down that she’d left her car keys in my car (at the Newbury Trail parking), so our genius plan to spot cars was foiled. After her scatterbrained morning, the latest oops-moment just made me laugh a little more (after the initial exasperation). We were able to get a hitch to my car in Newbury once at the bottom, and I even made it home with plenty of time to spare before dinner.
Now I’m back to working on my preparations for the summer, and Moss is back to hoarding food for mail drops to the Pacific Crest Trail. Everything’s back to normal, but it was nice to get out on the trail for some relaxation.