Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mt Monadnock - September 12, 2010

I was looking for something closer to home and a bit easier than the 4000 footers we have done recently so I chose Monadnock, although it certainly is no slouch of a mountain either.  I have done Monadnock a few times before and with the exception of a couple winter hikes, it is so crowded that personally I find it not very enjoyable.  So I picked a different side of the mountain that I had not hiked before and hoped the trails were also less traveled.  The weather also called for afternoon showers so between the two we might just make it up without 5,000 other people.

We headed up the Old Halfway House trail which parallels a dirt road that leads to a private residence.  We heard many people walking up the road but only saw one other person on the trail.  To me, if I am going hiking I would rather be on a trail in the woods than on a dirt road but to each their own, glad I was the minority.  This section is only about a mile long and an easy gentle grade to the site of the old Halfway House.
At the trail head
Entire trail was pretty much just like this
Alex getting a hold of the camera
We thought this was an interesting tree, so we took a picture of it
Another multi trunk tree that Alex could go right inside of
Very large tree that had a split trunk you could see right through
Other side of same tree
Autumn is here (a bit early isn't it?)
Alex was not so sure if he wanted to go on the hike when we started driving but I said lets just get there and then decide.  When we saw the mountain completely covered in clouds he wanted to go up inside the clouds and quickly changed his mind.  Along the hike we were debating what the clouds felt like.  Alex thought they would feel like cotton balls but I was betting on sandpaper.  Alex was sure he was right.  Since I had not been on this side of the mountain before I was not sure in what locations I should have been able to see it or not.  But when we reached the HalfWay house site I figured that would have been a good place, we were getting very close to the bottom of the clouds now.  We stopped here for a little while and explored the area before heading of Fairy Spring Trail to Mt Rosa.    We saw a few people here, but not many, not many at all for Monadnock.

It was getting cold and misty so we were going to decide to continue on or turn back once we got to Rosa.  Along the way it looked like it was really going to rain and we were getting hungry when we came across this cave/rock overhang which was large enough for both of us to fit in so in we crawled and had our lunch.  While eating the sky opened up and it rained, the clouds also came through and we saw all the mist blow past us.  After the rain died down a little we headed back out with rain gear on.  We got to the summit of Rosa w/o issue but still could not see Monadnock as we were just about in the clouds at that point.  We both felt good so we headed up the Smith Summit Trail.

Is Monadnock in that?
View from Halfway House
Not sure what this is, but it looked like a good place to sit down.  Looked like a plaque of some sort use to be there.
I had to sit in it as well..
Fasset's Mountain Home - just a cellar foundation now but I guess an old hermit use to live up here
Fairy Spring.  Saw no faries nor any water
Our cool and DRY place to eat lunch!
Weatervane at Mt Rosa
Near Mt Rosa
Almost into clouds, cotton balls or sandpaper?
Our destination is up in that mess somewhere...
As we went up Smith Summit Trail the weather started to clear and we started to get a little warm so the rain gear went back into the packs.  We even started to get a glimpse of the summit and people scrambling around on the rocks.  The trail got much more interesting at this point climbing up over rocks and above the tree level.  I had Alex lead the whole way having him practice finding which way the trail went by spotting the cairns or the white trail blazes painted on the rocks.  A couple times he couldn't see the next cairn, but that was mostly because he was too short to see up over some other rocks.  Did a good job navigating up!

We reached the summit and then we saw all the people.  Probably 15 or so, but up until this point was a pretty quiet hike.  It was also extremely windy which Alex got a kick out of.  And very chilly, we didn't have winter hats or gloves but would have worn them if we had.  Couldn't have been too cold as when we were up there some man in at least his 50s came running, yes running, up the mountain wearing nothing but a pair of shorts and some sneakers.  Stopped at the summit and put the shirt on he had tied around the waist.  30 seconds later off he went running back down.  Crazy guy if you ask me!  But I hope I am in that good of shape when I am his age - I am not in that good of shape now and I am probably at least 20 years younger.  We explored the summit but the wind was very intense so we found a sheltered area to rest and had our snack before descending down the White Arrow Trail.
See rock, climb rock
Heading up towards summit, started to get warm and a couple layers back in the pack
Clouds moved out, and once we got near the summit we could see it
Climbing up
West into VT
Near Summit (not so warm anymore)
looking east
Almost there
We made it! At the very windy summit!
From summit, Noth Pack Monadnock (L) and Pack Monadnock (R)
From summit (north it think)
From summit (west)
At our snack spot - out of the wind
I tried to avoid the popular trails, but at the summit - there are no light hiked trails!  So we headed down the White Arrow trail and were passed by many people heading down and many people heading up.  Pretty steep and lots of climbing down rocks.  I usually always have Alex in front of me so he can set his own pace and so I can keep an eye on him.  But when it gets steep like it was here and we are descending I go first and have him wait while I go a little ways so I can catch him if he slips. And it paid off on this trip!  Down he went and I caught him just before (well maybe just after) he landed face first on some rocks.  Got his hands out in front of him and didn't hit too hard but I'm sure all the people that passed us and then some could hear the cries.  No cuts, scrapes or bruises I think the tears were from shock more than anything else.  Alex got over it pretty quickly but wanted to take a long break right there so we did.  Just prior to the fall he, as always, was talking up a storm non stop.  I kept telling him to stop talking until we got to a flat spot as the talking distracts him from climbing down the steep parts.  It wasn't 2 seconds after I said this that he fell (while talking talking talking).  Well after that, he quiet until we got to a flat section.  So it was probably good that he fell as he didn't get hurt and it taught a little lesson to keep quiet when Dad asks!  He has falled a few other times and scrapped a knee and needed/wanted a bandaid but always gets back up and keeps on hiking!

As soon as we could I wanted off the White Arrow trail to escape the people so we took the Side Foot Trail down to Halfway house instead.  Which was a nice trail I thought, we saw nobody but we could hear the crashing of people over on White Arrow for a while until the trails diverged enough.  From the condition of the trail it was very evident fewer people hike it, but that is how I like it.   The sun actually came out while we were hiking down so all the extra layers found their way back into my pack.  This hike certainly was an example of how the weather can vary from hour to hour and base to elevation and is why you always need to bring extra gear even if you dont think you'll need it.  Only thing we didnt have was the hat and gloves, but the'll be in my pack for any future hikes we take this fall.

We got to the Halfway House w/o further incident and I let Alex decide if we were to take the trail back or the road back.  He chose the road which I was fine with.  Even thought this was only about a 5 mile hike with the trip to Rosa, it was a long day, we were tired, getting hungry for dinner and the road would be an easier walk down.  Now, at the top of this road is a private residence and their driveway is essentially 1.1 miles after the State Park gate.  On one hand I think it would be awesome to live 1.1 miles away from a paved road in the middle of 100s of acres of state park protected forest on the side of a mountain.  But on the other hand, Monadnock is the 2nd most hiked mountain in the world (according to the internet and everything on the internet is true) and I couldn't handle all the people going past my house 365 days a year.  And you can see their house from where the trail meets the end of the road.

On the way down the road it was silly time and Alex pretty much laughed the entire way down as we were telling lots of jokes to eachother.  And then guessing how many more turns it was before we got back to the gate.  I dont know who was closer, dont think either of us were.  We made it down OK, jumped in the truck, got home and had a nice spaghetti and meatball dinner waiting for us on the stove (was good timing!)

Below Summit
On White Arrow
See cave, climb into cave
Coming out of SideFoot Trail to HalfWay house area