Now that I’m back in New England I’m exploring my backyard. It’s been years since I’ve climbed Mt Monadnock. Every year I say to myself I’m going to climb it and every year I don’t. Finally with resolve on a beautiful Fall afternoon I pack my knapsack, dress in layers and head for the mountain. From experience I know the summit is barren and blustery and the weather can change quickly.
The entrance fee is $5. I don’t think the fee has changed in years. The attendant gives me a trail map and asks if I have a dog. I tell him no. Man’s best friend is not allowed on the mountain, probably because of liability. The last thing one wants is a dog running towards them when they’re gingerly making their way down the cliff.
It’s close to 2pm as I start my trek up the mountain. Nervousness creeps in as I realize how late it is. I should have started earlier. I kick myself but continue forward. The scene is starting to look familiar as I climb. Memories are coming back. Following the same trails I hiked as a child. Hiking up the switch-back trails of the Cascade Link and Red Spot trails. These are longer but the views are amazing.
I empathize now with my poor father. When we were kids we would run up the trail and rest while my father wearily followed a good distance behind. Breathing heavily I feel my father’s pain. “Sorry dad” I say to myself as I look at the steep incline ahead of me. Deep in thought I suddenly hear a branch snap and let out a squeal. Phew it’s only a person not a bear. I laugh at myself as I recite it to the stranger. We chat a bit before she passes me. I wait until she’s far ahead before continuing. I like to walk in the silence of nature.
A few people pass me coming down the trail but mostly I have the trails to myself. The smell of Fall in the air is intoxicating. The afternoon sun filters through the trees creating a golden hue against the deep blue sky. The crunching of leaves beneath my feet remind me of years gone by.
As the elevation increases the trees are smaller, gripping to the rocky outcroppings. Cairns, man-made rock pilings point the way. It’s fairly easy to wonder off the trail since the cairns are far and few between. I catch myself going the wrong way and back track. It’s harder on open face rocks to find the trail than a dirt path which winds its way through the woods.
I see the summit ahead of me. Excitement grows as I reach the treeless, rocky summit at 4 o’clock; 360 degrees of viewing pleasure. The distant mountains with a blue hue look like waves. A few people are milling around taking pictures but after a few minutes they leave and I have it all to myself. Standing on top of the world with only the ravens soaring above me.
Even though it’s sunny, its cold and blustery. The jutted rocks offer the only protection from the wind. I put on my jacket and gloves as I stand against the wind admiring the view. Happy that I hiked the 3166′ mountain alone I feel a sense of accomplishment.
The sun is starting to sink lower in the sky as I say goodbye to the summit. I choose to hike down the steep White Dot trail. I’m glad I wore jeans as I slide on my butt down the granite rocks.
I can’t fathom hiking up this trail since it is so steep. Dusk is upon me as I arrive at the end. I made it just in time. I pass a cabin with an open sign on the door. I walk in and look at the old photographs on the wall. Some of them are from the late 1800’s of people hiking up the mountain. It’s amazing to see women hiking in full skirts as though they were on a Sunday stroll.
What I found most interesting however, was the story of Henry David Thoreau’s hiking and camping experiences. I always associated him with Walden Woods but I never realized he was an avid hiker who spent many weeks exploring the mountains of New Hampshire.
As I turned to leave I heard a young man asking a few hikers if they saw an elderly couple on the mountain. The hikers say yes but and they look weary and are still far up the mountain. The man says he went ahead of his parents but didn’t realize they were still up there. I shook my head, I can”t believe he left his elderly parents up on the mountain. I speak to another person who knows the situation and ask what happens in this event. He tells me the fire fighters bring them down to safety.
Still in disbelief I leave wondering if they made it down safely.