As far as big mountain goes, Mount Monadnock in the southwestern corner of New Hampshire is relatively close to Boston. Despite its proximity, we’ve never set foot on it. So we set out on a beautiful Saturday morning to redress this omission.
Monadnock’s claim to fame is its status as most hiked mountain in the US. Not so surprisingly, as soon as we arrived, the park ranger informed us that the parking lot was filled so that we’d have to park in the camping area. Later on, we’d encounter people of all ages, shapes and sizes on the trail.
One of Kate’s friend, who had hiked here before, wryly observed that the people who designed this trail had no idea what a switchback was. True enough, the White Dot trail which begins at the nearby Visitor’s Center is a straight shot to the summit. But luckily there are also other trails which offer more gradual albeit circuitous ascent.
The plan was to take the White Dot trail up and White Cross trail down. Ascending involves clambering on all fours several times. Near the start of the trail, a guy passed us going up, walking at an extremely fast pace. About half-way up, he passed us on the way down. Granted, we did stop frequently to enjoy the scenery, but we were no newbie hikers either. Two-thirds of the way up, he passed us again going up, albeit more slowly this time. I chatted briefly with him. Turns out he routinely climbs this “short” mountain twice per visit, having practiced enough that it takes only 30 minutes per leg. But even more impressive is his friend, who can do the same thing at the age of 54 and who has a resting heart rate of something like 40. Anything lower than that and one wouldn’t be breathing. Needless to say, having heard all this, we re-doubled our efforts! As we neared the peak, as expected we ran into our friend again practically running downhill.
The view at the top was spectacular. We were lucky to get a beautiful and relatively clear day. We could see the majestic ridges of the White Mountains to the north and the very faint, barely perceptible in the haze, outline of the twin towers of the Boston skyline in the southeast horizon.
The trail systems here were partly created by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1931-1933 during the Great Depression. We’ve seen their work in many of the places we’ve visited. One can only hope that after this Great Recession we’ll have left something as worthwhile to posterity.