Grand Monadnock


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.

Off we go.  The trail is well worn and easy to find.  Later on, it becomes mostly rock; but even then the trails are well marked with cairns and paint (a white dot, on the White Dot trail).

The up begins quickly and gets steeper by the step.  This trail is the most direct path up the mountain and most of it is like a big uneven staircase in terms of steepness.

Trevelyan is nearly swallowed by a ferocious man-eating tree.

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”.

Just when you are about to collapse, and think “We must be near the top by now!” you find this cheery sign.

I’m in ur woodz, climbin ur mountanz!

After the half-way sign, more strait-up climbing.

Soon the trees part, and we are treated to our first view.

Very nice, let’s keep going.

The trail levels out after an intense climb.  It doesn’t last for very long, though.

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.

Okay, enough fooling around, back to climbing.

Here, at last, you get a glimpse of the summit, high and to the right.  The cairns mark the way to get there.  It still looks distant from here; but it isn’t, really.

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.

This is from the peak looking North.  It took us until 9:30 to get here, and nobody else is with us at this point.

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.

Rocky outcroppings abound, good places to take shelter from the wind and eat lunch.

On the top of a mountain, you can feel free to relax, eat, stand there and make silly faces, whatever makes you happy in your heart.

I tend to fall into the “stand there and make silly faces” category of people.

This is looking downslope to the South.  The bare outcropping out beyond the puddle is called “Bald Rock” and our path should take us there, if we can find it.

We started down, pausing to look back up at some interesting rock formations near the peak.

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!

The Smith Connector takes us back into the woods.  It is also well marked; but a much narrower trail.

Sometimes, trees grow weird and twisted.  They’re a lot like people that way.  This lends support to my theory, that people are made out of wood.

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.

Monadnock peak is Northwest of Bald Rock, and this view is looking Southeast, I think.

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 rough parts are punctuated by stretches of nice shady woods.

Thoreau’s Seat is simply a giant rock in the middle of the trail, that you can’t really get around – you have to climb over it.

It is a tricky thing, on both sides.  This is just the lower side.  Thoreau should have left Thoreau’s Seat in Thoreau’s House.

Here is where the Lost Farm Trail splits from the Cliff Walk.  There is a wooden sign as well; but the sign on the rock shows up better, thanks to the angle of the sun.

Even this far down, there are nice views.

This kind of spiky undergrowth is all over the place around here.  I thought it looked pretty in the sunlight.

And a hike just isn’t complete without some kind of fungus growing out of a dead tree.

Same fungus, different angle.

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.

But here’s a tree that grew between two slabs of stone.  That’s interesting.

Parker Trail at last.  This is the home stretch.

There is a reservoir here, surrounded by chain-link.

The waterfall is man-made, but still nice and mossy.

And a bridge over a stream.

Parker Trail comes out at the parking lot.  The trail-head where we started is down this trail a little way.

This is the park store, near where we parked, and where we bought a souvenir pin and drinks before heading home.

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.

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2 Responses to Grand Monadnock

  1. Eric Woodard says:

    Nice trip log you have here. As someone who grew up in the shadow of Monadnock, and climbed it at least 200 times between the ages of 5 and 35, it’s nice to see the thoughts of somebody new to our little mountain.
    It may be small, but it’s got a lot of character. It’s like a dwarf doing improv like that. And the little stories about it are pretty interesting too (like the moorings you can still find up there from where the snack shack used to sit on the summit, it, and all the trees were destroyed by fires they set decades ago to scare the wolves and coyotes away from hiking trails).
    If you’ve been back there since, you’ve probably already discovered this path, but my personal favorite trip up was always the Cascade Link, to the Spellmen, to the Pumpelly. It’s a longer hike, and with a nice mix of steep climbs and easier paths, with some of the best views on the mountain. You do have to be a little mindful once on the Pumpelly, it’s only marked with rock cairns, and local kids like to screw with people by setting fake ones off the path. They won’t get you lost, but they will lead you into a lot of dead-end paths and slow your ascent quite a bit if you follow them by accident.
    Happy hiking

    • Thanks for commenting Eric! I tend to write as though my audience has never been to any of these places, so it is nice to hear from someone who has enough experience there to call them “home”. I don’t know much of the mountain’s history – I could see evidence that they must have built something up there sometime; but I did not know about the snack shack, or the means of its demise. With a couple of years in the Northeast under my belt, I am starting to understand that Monadnock is a very special place. I am amazed by how it is visible from so many other destinations round about. It’s like an old friend that you see from afar every now and then and think to yourself that you need to make time to visit again soon.

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