I’ve always had mixed feelings about Mt. Monadnock. It’s fairly close to home, so it’s a good spot for a decent day hike when we can’t drive all the way to the White Mountains. The views from the top are spectacular, and the New Hampshire state park folks take great care of the trails.
But man, is it crowded. Monadnock is thought to be among the three most-climbed mountains in the world (Mt. Fuji in Japan and Mt. Tai in China being the other two) and last Sunday it seemed as if everyone was trying to summit at once. If you take either of the two main trails up the mountain — White Dot or White Cross — you are never out of sight of other hikers. Ever. It’s about as soothing and restful as the line at the Registry of Motor Vehicles during lunch hour. And in all fairness, it was a holiday weekend, so we weren’t expecting to have the place to ourselves.
If you avoid the main trails, however, you can piece together a pretty decent hike, and one that’s more challenging than the trade route. That’s what the boy and I tried to do, heading down Cascade Link to the short but very steep Spellman Trail. The Spellman is the closest thing Monadnock has to the precipitous slide trails in the White Mountains. It also has the advantage of being virtually unused in comparison to the main trails. There’s some straight up, hand-over-hand stuff, and it was a lot of fun. From Spellman it was an exposed ridge walk along the Pumpelly Trail to the summit.
The summit wasn’t quite as fun. There were fantastic views, to be sure. We could even see the smoky haze from the Canadian wildfires rolling over the White Mountains to the north. But man, were there a lot of people. It was as crowded and noisy as a mall food court, with little kids running around screaming, food wrappers blowing everywhere… I’m not antisocial (OK, maybe I am) but still, we didn’t hang out for long.
Instead of heading straight down, we decided to make a wide loop around the other side of the mountain, using the Dublin, Marlboro, Marian, Great Pasture (which is back uphill and doesn’t seem to lead to a pasture), Fairy Spring and Parker trails, as well as the Old Toll Road. That added a LOT of time and distance to the day. Once we got below the summit and on the Marian and Great Pasture trails, however, we saw very few people.
All in all, a great day and a good chance to shake out the trail legs before heading north for some summer hiking in the White Mountains.
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