Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A trip up Mt. Monadnock, NH.

Sunshine on the mountain
Originally uploaded by greendragon50
My dear friends, A&M are avid hikers. They decided to organize a "beginner's hike" -- my friend B and I decided to go along.

Now, I am not much of an athlete. Sure, I go out for walks on the trails at work during lunch time, but it's not what I'd call hiking. My friend B has been hiking up Mt. Wachusett on a regular basis for about a month so she had some conditioning built up. I was a little apprehensive that I wouldn't be able to keep up, but A&M were very supportive, so I set aside my fears and looked forward to the day.

The night before it rained quite hard, but the weather for the next day was supposed to be quite nice. And for a change, the weather report was totally correct. The morning was sunny and seasonal. Everyone arrived at my place on time. We packed up and headed out.

Even at the base of the mountain, the weather was already cooler than when we left home. And the parking lot was crowded. Mt. Monadnock is one of the most popular places for a day hike in the area. It's close to Boston and it's tall enough (and rocky enough!) to be a challenge.

After parking, we gathered our gear, stopped off at the pit toilets (not horribly unpleasant but not pleasant either. Unfortunately, the regular toilets were closed for the season), hoisted our packs and headed up the mountain. After a short walk, we came to the first boulder field...typical New England boulders. The hiking poles came in handy here. Once we hit the boulder fields, the "hike" consisted mostly of climbing, leaping, crawling, and clambering over rocks. An endless field of them. M kept assuring us that there were flat spots where the walking would be easier...I dunno...I don't think we came across many of those.

Our intrepid Hiking Leaders were willing to go slow, so, in general, I (the mountain snail, not mountain goat) was able to keep up. The very steep parts were a bit hard for me, but with several rest stops, I made it up without lagging behind badly.

Because of the rain, there was a bit of water on the trail. Miniature water falls and some "brooklets" trickling down. The sound of water running was enchanting. Rocks and leaves were slippery at times, but nothing that caused much of a problem. As we headed up, the views became more and more amazing. The sun was streaming down through the clouds, making the view look like something out of those Hollywood biblical period movies.

Because of the number of people on the trail, I didn't expect to see any wildlife. But, we did catch a glimpse of a red fox, as it scampered through the trees. Just a quick flash of orange-red fur and the distinct white tip of the tail. And then a lovely golden-brown chipmunk made its presence known briefly before disappearing into the brush.

As we moved above the tree line, we stopped to don warmer clothes -- hats, gloves, and windproof shells. We made it a little past the false summit and paused to eat. We debated whether we would have time to make it to the summit. A&M were eyeing it eagerly...I know they could have made it up in no time. B and I looked at each other and decided we had gone far enough. We still had to get down and the sun would be setting early. And I suspected that going down, while easier, would not be a fast trip.

After some discussion, we decided to head down and not summit. After all, the mountain isn't going anywhere and we could always come back when the days were longer.

The first stretch of rocks was quite steep and sort of terrified me. I had visions of just rolling all the way down the hill. I discovered that sliding down steep, slippery rocks on your butt wasn't as bad as I thought. In some places, it was the only way to go.

Down, down we went. It seemed like the boulder fields would never end...but still, the views were wonderful, and I was hiking with very dear friends, so what could be more wonderful? By the end, though, this little mountain snail was tired. I tried to be careful, but I was starting to slip and trip. But, the sun was setting and we had to push on.

Finally, as darkness was starting to settle in, we reached the trail head. I made it!!! I went up a mountain and back down. A good 5 miles round trip. I felt like I had used every muscle in my body and it felt good!

By the time I arrived home, I was absolutely exhausted...the kind of exhausted one feels after spending all day outside. I took a hot bath in the hope that it would reduce the soreness I was sure to develop and treated myself to a big bowl of pasta and cheese. Yum!

All in all, a fine day on the mountain. I'm hoping that by the end of the week, I'll be able to walk down the stairs without feeling the agony of sore muscles :-)

But, it was worth it.

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