With Global Warming in full force on Sunday, the pull of the mountains was too great to resist. It had been five months since Janelle and I had hit the trails and to say we were eager for some views would be an understatement.
So eager in fact, that even a prior commitment on Sunday afternoon could not keep us away from Mt. Monadnock. We awoke that morning at 4:30 a.m. in order to give us enough time to climb this lovely and popular mountain.
You’d think that waking up a nine-year-old at 4:30 a.m. would be a Herculean effort, but so excited was Janelle to do this climb that she slept in most of her hiking clothes and gulped down her morning Cheerios standing up so she could get on the road.
It was the earliest she had ever woke up (which to a kid is really like staying up late so I get her excitement).
Another bonus of such an early day, we had Monadnock nearly to ourselves all the way up, through morning mist, low-lying clouds and even a sunrise. As those familiar with Monadnock know, climbing this mountain can sometimes feel like being in a city bus station – pretty much everybody and anybody in every level of readiness attempts to haul themselves up Monadnock. Indeed, on the way down, we came across all level of hikers.
But the way up was glorious. High spirits. Beautiful warm day. A variety of terrain – rock, mud, ice, snow. The girl was in her element with so much rock, bombing over the ledges, practically bursting with energy at the rock scrambling opportunities.
It occurred to me that I’m behind the curve here. I will only be able to keep pace with her for a while longer if she continues like this. I don’t have much time left to teach her, soon I’ll be the student.
She surprised me in two ways on this climb. First, as we sat, nearly alone at the summit after a casual three-hour hike up, she mentioned that sitting at the summit sipping raspberry tea had become her favorite part of our hikes. It pleased me to know she was developing her own rituals; to me, crucial way-marks on any hike.
Second, I believe I witnessed the birth of a peakpagger. Monadnock was our first hike up a mountain that involved more than one trail. In other words we took the White Dot to the White Cross. On the Uncs, Kearsarge and Welsh-Dickey one trail led to each of the summits. Here, Janelle spent a lot of time asking me odd questions like “Where does the mountain start” and “Why is there more than one trail” before it occurred to me that in her experience EVERY trail led to a summit.
“Can’t we just take the trail that goes to the top?” she asked. A learning moment, and the birth, I think, of the peakbagger in my climbing partner.
The way down was more eventful, with a series of brush burns and bruises to accompany what by then was one tired little hiker. But we stopped to rest and eat often, and celebrated those bings and bumps like the badges of honor they were. I also took some weight out of her pack and before long she was literally skipping back to the car.
It was the first time in five months that I was back on the trails, and the first time ever that Janelle had attained 3,000 feet. Every hike for us now is a learning experience of one sort or another, and we continue our path to getting her up a 4,000-footer.
And then, I’m afraid, the real peak-bagging will begin!
Here’s a link to all our photos from the day: Monadnock Days
If you go: Monadnock is what it is. If you are looking for solitude, skip it. If you’d like a challenging 4.5 mile hike appropriate for the family (weather permitting) and don’t care about sharing your day with others, nothing can beat this state park. And, with more than 40 miles of trails, I’d bet if you ask around, you could find some great uncrowded trails.
The trails only have a little patchy snow and ice here and there, no traction was needed. No blowdowns on the White Dot or White Cross to report. Some mud down low, but no more than usual.
It’s a state park so there is a fee: $5 bucks for an adult and $2 for a kid, but given the wonderful condition of the park and the trails (not to mention a visitors’ center and exhibits) $7 seems like a deal. Please check the website though, before you go, for winter vs. summer hours and events: Monadnock State Park