While Guthook is away, Yvonne will play…and guest blog!
Ryan and I returned from Hong Kong on Monday night. Tuesday, we caught up with his grandparents to tell them stories of our adventures (and eat some proper Jewish food). We then said our good-byes for the foreseeable future, as I drove back up to Keene and he finished preparing for NOLS.
With little time to spare in our busy summer schedules but hoping to have a mini adventure, my friend Annie and I had decided to hike the Greenway. Since she is a ranger and I am a summit steward at Monadnock and we both needed to work over Memorial Day weekend, we figured we’d take a leisurely 3.5 day trip and hike our way in to work on Saturday.
Wednesday morning, still jetlagged, I woke up around 5am and, after last minute packing and car shuttling, we were on our way up Sunapee by 9:30am. The day was beautiful. The greenway has rightfully earned its name. When I left for Hong Kong, it had been cold and dry in New England and the foliage had not yet fully emerged. Now, everything was lush. From the lichens and moss to the old growth trees, there was layer upon layer of greens of infinite shade, shape, and texture. In a word, it was gorgeous.
|Look at the green!|
Covering about 13.5 miles, we made our way to the Max Israel Shelter around 5pm. We contemplated then decided against continuing another 6 miles to the General Washington Shelter. This proved to be a good decision, for after we ate dinner, I promptly passed out. The sun was still out, so I don’t even know if it was 8pm yet. I woke up at 11:30pm, and, despite being blind without contacts or glasses, still managed to see stars above. It was wonderful…until I tried to go back to sleep and couldn’t because the mosquitoes were vicious. I ended up roasting in a hooded fleece in my sleeping bag in a futile attempt at avoiding them. When I ultimately got up around 5 am, I was overheated and covered with welts on my hands and face.
Aside from that, however, it was a beautiful morning. We were on our way just after 6am. As we hiked towards Lovewell Mountain, we noticed that the cloud of mist around us was dissipating. I suggested that we pick up the pace, lest it all rise and cloud our view. We hustled a bit and found instead that it was completely undercast and we had clear views of the surrounding mountaintops while those in the valleys must have had an awful gray morning. It was nice to be reminded that we don’t need to drive several hours north and hike up thousands of feet in elevation for breathtaking views; they can be in our own backyards. Five minutes after we took it all in, the clouds rose and we were hiking in mist again. Basking in the luck of our timing, we headed down to the Washington General Store for a second breakfast of ice cream at 9am just because we could. The owners there were very friendly and accommodating. They also had the fattest dog I’ve ever seen. I think I could have ridden it.
|View from Lovewell Mountain|
Much of this ~21 mile day would be on roads. In any other location, I probably would not have liked this. However, these roads brought us through more green forests and through quaint New England towns. In addition, we walked through fields of flowers and skirted around a plethora our new wee friends, red efts. This was a quintessential New England stroll.
|Dandelion fields…they’re pretty when they’re not taking over your garden.|
|Pink Lady Slipper – a member of the orchid family, endangered in some areas. I’d say it was pretty if it weren’t for the fact that it resembles a certain part of the male anatomy.|
|Red Eft – the juvenile form of the red spotted newt, NH’s state amphibian|
Near the end of the day, we were tired and grimy. We paused at the Cascades, and, after much deliberation, finally talked each other into taking a dip. After a series of squeals and squeaks, we both dunked in and it felt glorious.
We strolled into the Crider Shelter not long after. Within ten minutes, two other girls walked in too. Childhood friends on break after their first year at college, they decided to go on their first backpacking trip to catch up. Their massive packs and youthful exuberance reminded Annie and me of our first trips many years ago as well. It was refreshing. Much luck to them on their future adventures. We went to bed soon after dinner to far fewer mosquitoes than the previous night.
The next morning, I awoke again at 5am. This time, however, it was due to a crescendo of bird choruses rather than bugs. I wish I knew my birdsongs; it was beautiful to wake up to the variety around us. We were out of the shelter by 7am, knowing that we would have yet another 20 mile day ahead of us (at this point we decided that beds, burgers, and no bugs were more appealing than the ability to boast that we had walked to work come Saturday).
It was a gray and dreary for much of the morning and afternoon, but I think this helped us with our pacing. If it had been hot, humid, and sunny, I think we would have suffered badly. It was still pretty even with the cloud of mist around us.
Finally, we began our trek up Monadnock. This was where we were especially glad to be together. At this point, we were both tired, had sore feet (I had chosen this trip to break in my new Brooks Cascadia 7’s; Annie had awful blisters, despite wearing boots that she’s been wearing since early winter), and my stomach had been rumbly and uncomfortable all day. I think we both needed the other’s support.
We made it to the summit in the longest it has ever taken either of us to get up the mountain, took a photo up top, ate the last of our chocolate, and began the weary journey down. At this point, we were especially grateful to have chosen to do this trail N-S, because we were hiking home. She and I have each lived all over the country since we graduated school in 2007, but Monadnock is what has always been home for us (in fact, we became friends when we worked for the NH Conservation Corps and she was an interpreter and I was a trail crew leader here). The last two miles were filled with familiar landmarks, memories, and stories to distract us from any feet and tummy troubles. I love this mountain. We finally made it down, exhausted and thankful that we had walked home to this beautiful place. It was a great trip to reacquaint myself with New England, and reminded me why I chose to move to southern New Hampshire.
|Happy to be home.|