Hike 20 of the #52hikechallenge: Mount Monadnock

Two years ago, Mt. Monadnock kicked my ass.

So, when a break in the heat was forecast, and with an office-mate eager to join, it only seemed fitting to try again.

We set out “early” from Boston, in an effort to beat what we knew would be big crowds. We only marginally succeeded, but on a nice weekend, hikers everywhere flock to Monadnock.

Monadnock means “mountain which stands alone”; it’s not part of a mountain range. What an appropriate 20th hike for a girl like me, generally adrift alone in the world. Because while it may stand alone, it also stands tall and proud and is worth every minute you spend with it. Kind of like me. 😉

Having been roundly smacked down by the Red Dot trail in my 7-ish mile hike last time, this time I decided to go with the crowd and do the White Dot to the White Cross Trail loop. This is the hike that everyone does, with good reason. For example, while the hike is pretty darn steep, it only lasts for about 2 miles. Even stopping and starting as we did, it simply can’t take all that long to get to the top of a 2-mile hike at less than 3000 feet of altitude.

Also, once you get up high, there are incredible views every 5 feet, which offers plenty of chances to “admire the view” while gasping for air.

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Monadnock does this little head-fake that crushes the souls of unprepared hikers: after slogging up some pretty serious rocks and boulders, hikers reach what “should” be the top – a nice open space just at the edge of the treeline – but instead, it gives you a view of the summit, which looks at least 5 miles away. In reality, it’s only .5 miles.

On this hike, I was prepared for that tantalizing view, and even could appreciate the dad warning his pre-teen daughter that, when they reached the open spot they would “have a discussion” about if they were going to go on. It’s worth pointing out that this little girl was hiking about twice as a fast as me, so I had no doubt she’d make it all the way to the top. We’d also been lapped by a troupe of boys and their handlers, as well as a dude who thanked us for letting him pass by proclaiming: “It’s just hard for me to stop once I get going. And I’m carrying 25 lbs of climbing gear”, thus making me want to smack his smug ass right into the woods.

But soon we reached the point in the hike that makes most folks wonder “why do I do this again?” The slab of granite stretches above, with nothing for it but to trust our shoes, enjoy the calf stretch, and get it done.

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As we were trudging up this, we ran into the leaders of the troupe of boys, on their way down, who seemed genuinely delighted to see us, which of course made me wonder if they thought we wouldn’t make it at all.

But we did, with a few dozen of our closest friends.  We reached the top of the world, with 360 degree views of NH, VT and MA, and a cold, whipping wind that felt great after the sweaty heat of walking above tree line in the sun.

I didn’t get very many photos from the top, because, to be honest, I just wanted to look at the view. At one point, I actually felt my head sag with relief, and it’s not exaggerating to say I felt all the crap of my daily life fall away with a huge sigh that took me by surprise. There is something about the view from the highest point – there is something about it that makes me feel better, no matter where I am.

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We spent some time agreeing that the payoff was worth the effort, and then it was back down those pesky rocks, which is a different kind of stress on the legs. By the end, I was longing for the sandstone of the canyons of Utah, because even if you’re going up or down out there, more often than not the stone is somewhat forgiving on your feet. In the granite mountains of NH, each step jars, and by the time you’ve done 2+ miles of clamoring down, you’re just glad you don’t have 2 more.

Hike 20, even thought it was short, was the hardest one I’ve done yet of the 52 Hike Challenge, and I hope that the rest of the year brings more such challenges. As anyone with a bit of math skills has figured out, I’m pretty behind on this challenge, and moving to the beach in a month isn’t going to make finishing any easier. But I am going to stick to it, because, well…I started, so finishing is the next thing to do.

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