Most people think of this as simply “Mount Monadnock”, rather than “Grand”; but there is another mountain nearby called “Pack Monadnock”, so the “Grand” is an important distinction.
I actually climbed this a few weeks ago with a troop of Boy Scouts; but only took a few pictures. I liked it so much, I wanted to do it for one of our family hikes. I know it has been some time since the last hike I posted. This is mainly due to weather; but since I am now an assistant scoutmaster, that also involves some weekend work.
This mountain is in New Hampshire in a State Park. There are several trails, and every opportunity to tailor a hike to suit your fancy. If you go to the main parking lot, you will be charged $5 per person – not per vehicle. There are some trails that you can access elsewhere and not have to pay any fee; but you miss out on having a bathroom near the trailhead, and they give you a nice printed map when you pay as well. We ponied up the money.
The most common trail is called White Dot. Our original plan was to take the Pumpelly trail, far to the north and off the map. It is longer; but involves a more gradual climb to the summit. Internet research tells me that the trailhead is not marked and parking is difficult. We decided on a different path, not wanting to spend the whole morning looking for the trailhead and not being sure if we were in the right place.
We started hiking at about 6:30 AM. It is only Christy, Trevelyan and myself on this hike. Bethany has decided that she doesn’t like hiking anymore. We still try to talk her into it every time; but she would not be persuaded on this day.
This is considered to be the second most hiked mountain in the world (Mount Fuji taking the #1 slot); but our early morning hiking habit gets us here ahead of any big crowds. We did see a few people; but compared to my hike with the scouts the previous week, which started at 10AM, we were practically alone.
And speaking of ferocious creatures, this little toad, about the size of my thumb was in the trail. He tried desperately to hop away; but kept running into a steep embankment that he couldn’t get past. If I was a snake, I would have eaten him. But I’m not a snake, so I just left him there. Hopefully he goes the other direction and off the trail before someone steps on him.
Now the up begins in earnest. Most of the trail is just rock from this point on. If you squint, you might be able to make out the white dot near the tree-line that marks the direction. Hence the moniker “White-dot Trail”.
Before it starts climbing, however, there is a small area where people have stacked rocks into precariously balanced structures. These are fun, and we are careful not to bump any of them. They don’t look as impressive in the photo as in life, I guess you need three dimensions to get the whole effect.
We kept hearing distinctive bird songs, like dejected clown anthems, which are words I never thought I would ever string together, and we wondered what kind of birds made those noises. Tiny ones. We caught this fellow in the act of belting out his tune.
The summit at last! There are actually at least three of these forest-service medallions up here, and none of them are on the actual highest point. That’s okay. The view is spectacular. There were two ladies up here already when we arrived; but they left, and we had the peak all to ourselves for about three minutes before the next hikers showed up. That doesn’t sound like much; but you have to put it into perspective.
Contrast that with this photo, from my hike with the scouts, which was at around 1:30 PM, and is only a small part of the crowd that was here. A few hours makes a big difference, if you are a fan of solitude, like I am.
This is from the peak looking Northwest. Christy liked the little lake that looked like the state of Utah, only upside down. “It’s like we’re looking at Utah from Idaho, except it’s backward.” she said.
We came up on White-Dot trail. The path back involves coming partway back down the White-Dot trail, taking the White-Cross trail to the Smith Connector trail, which takes us as far as the Cliff Walk. The Cliff Walk takes us past Bald Rock over Thoreau’s Seat and continues on; but we will diverge at the Lost Farm trail, which eventually Joins the Parker trail, leading us back to the parking lot. Simple!
From Bald Rock, looking back at Monadnock. This is the closest thing we’ve seen to a real mountain since arriving on the East coast. There are higher mountains in NH; but not that you can see from the peak.
We thought that since this part of the trail is not as straight up and down as the White Dot trail, that it would be easier; but parts of it are pretty rugged. Note the white “C” marking the Cliff Walk trail.
The trail is getting less steep by now; and less interesting. It is still lovely, don’t get me wrong; but beautiful forest scenery is almost everywhere you look in these parts, so you get used to it. An actual mountain rising from the forest is a rare thing.
Monadnock is a great hiking destination. It isn’t any wonder that it is so popular. Come here if you don’t mind crowds, or else come very early in the morning. There are enough different trail options, that we may come again and ascend from a different direction.