The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is having work days on Mt. Monadnock’s trails tomorrow through Tuesday, July 12-16, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. each day. I don’t know if I can get there one of those days, but I’m going to try. Monadnock State Park is hugely popular, as anyone who has been there on a summer weekend knows, and the trails can get badly chewed up in the course of a year. I’ll bet you have your own Monadnock stories; feel free to share in the comment box below. Here’s a poster with more information about the project:
Haven’t been to Monadnock? Really?! It’s worth a trip to Jaffrey or Dublin or Troy to find a trailhead. There’s a summit with outstanding views, and the mountain is laced with trails of many different lengths and degrees of difficulty. I am not a fan of big crowds, so I try to time my visits accordingly. One Columbus Day weekend, I counted 140 other people on the summit with me. A couple of months later, in a nearly snow-free December with a 4:15 p.m. sunset, I was one of four people who made it to the top one afternoon to enjoy crystalline views in a biting wind. I preferred the December trip.
My favorite spot on the mountain isn’t the summit. It’s Bald Rock, from which I can sit in solitude and watch the crowds on the summit. Views to the east and southeast from there are wonderful, dominated by the Wapack Range. Bald Rock is named for this distinctive boulder, with the word “Kiasticuticus” carved into it; no one has been able to tell me who did the carving or what it means. I took this photo years ago, and I take full responsibility for failing to compensate for the harsh lighting.
The White Dot trail from park headquarters in Jaffrey is the most popular and my least favorite. It’s not the crowds that bother me so much as the steepness. I am not a mountain climber. (The Halfway House trail, from the parking lot on Rt. 124, is much more my speed.) My story of defying death on New Hampshire’s most popular mountain: I was coming down from the aforementioned December hike in a hurry (mistake #1), alone (mistake #2), after starting too late in the day (mistake #3) on the White Dot trail (mistake #4). I wanted to get to my car before sundown. I slipped twice. Once, I simply scrambled back to my feet and kept zipping along, having learned nothing from that first spill. About two minutes later, I slipped again. This time, I was on a kind of polished granite chute. My walking stick snapped as I fell, and I had no way to break or slow my fall. I wound up sliding down on my back, head-first. Those few seconds seemed to last forever. I knew I’d keep going until I hit something hard, and the results were not likely to be pretty. I shortly did indeed slam into a rock – and my backpack took the hit. I did not deserve that luck. I haven’t tried anything quite as dumb since then.
So avoid that kind of idiocy, and get out on the trails!