On April Fool’s Day, two fools headed up the second most hiked mountain in the world; Mount Monadnock.
Well, that sounded like a good opening line. In all honesty, there was nothing foolish about this endeavor. It was a gorgeous morning. Even if it did start with finding the van encased in a frost that almost appeared hairy on closer inspection.
After heading out from Waltham, and making record time, I arrived in good ol’ Jaffrey, NH around 9am. As I was spearheading this hike, I had suggested we hike a trail that neither of us had ever hiked before. The only issue was that I wasn’t exactly sure how to tell Mike, who didn’t have a Monadnock map on him, where to meet me. I had sent a text telling him to head to the main lot area, but to follow signs for the campground. Unfortunately, there weren’t really any signs directing you towards the campground. A few texts later, and I was able to get the right directions into his hands.
Besides, our cars, there were only two other cars in the lot. That alone was enough to tell me that his hike would be different from previous hikes up Monadnock. Often times, you end up passing more people than you can count on these trails. And, had we chosen one of the other main lots, that may have been true for this hike. But, on the way up, we only saw three other hikers, and one was a woman that caught up to us at some point.
We started up on the Birchtoft Trail, which heads up the east slope of the mountain. It is quite a gradual incline, as compared to some of the other trails I have taken. It really wasn’t until we crossed the Cascade Link trail and onto the Red Spot Trail (guess what the trail markers were!), that the real steepness kicked in (about 600 vertical feet in 1/2 mile). But, this approach still feels “easier” than that of the White Dot or White Arrow trails. About a 1/4 mile from the summit, the Red Dot Trail merges with the Pumpelly trail and meanders it’s way across the granite to the summit.
As you can tell from the photo above, the clouds had started to roll in by the time we reached the summit, but it was pleasant up top. I had hiked in only a thermal shirt the entire way up, and only needed to throw another layer of warmth and a windbreaker to remain comfortable as we rested. The temps at the summit were probably mid 30’s and the winds were very light.
On the way down, we decided to check out the Pumpelly trail a bit further. I expect that I will be hiking this trail a few more times in the future as I try to find the Pumpelly Cave. The trail itself, follows a ridge that provides some nice views to the north of the mountain. About a mile and a half from the summit, we hopped onto the Cascade Link. The Cascade Link was certainly the more technical of the trails that we hiked this day.
- Date: 4/1/12
- Elevation: 3165
- Elev Gain: 1807
- Mileage: 5+?*
- Trails: Up: Birchtoft -> Red Dot –> Pumpelly. Down: Pumpelly –> Cascade Link -> Birchtoft
*Something that drives me bonkers about the maps handed out by the Monadnock Park Staff is that it does not include any trail mileage. Yes, there is a 1/2 mile representation in the legend… but most good hiking maps have the mileage markers for each trail printed near the mid point of the trail. Given that this is the second most hiked mountain in the world, attracting tons of families, and first-time hikers annually, you think that the maps would be better. Seriously, NH Parks & Recreation, get on that!