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You know one really cool thing about being self-employed? You never sigh and complain about it being Monday.
Monday is just … a day. A day to work or to play.
(Insert gratitude statement here: I’m grateful for the flexibility to choose which days I work, and to live during a time when there are unprecedented opportunities to make money in creative ways.)
So I jest a little when I used “playing hooky” in the headline. I might have taken a day off from selling on Amazon and from writing, but it was designed that way. My hiking partner, self-employed but in a 9-5 setup, technically had to play hooky but was able to pull it off. Viva la Monday!
The plan was to hike Mt. Monadnock in southern New Hampshire, a challenging hike that offers great views and can be done in about three or four hours. This was perfect, as I wanted a day trip, a workout, scenery that varied from the Connecticut shore, and I’ve been nostalgic for New Hampshire.
Mt. Monadnock is a 3,165-foot mountain in southern New Hampshire and one of the most-climbed peaks in the world. According to the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation, the word Monadnock comes from the Abnacki Native American word for “mountain that stands alone” and is now a standard geological term for any singular mountain that rises above the surrounding plain.
There are a number of trails available to reach the rocky, barren summit. Remembering how badly I got my ass kicked on my first visit to Monadnock several years ago, I searched for an easier route this time and settled upon the Dublin Trail from the north.
This one claimed to start out with gentle climbs before becoming steeper as you neared the summit in 2.4 miles and 1,700 feet in elevation. Fair enough, I thought.
Enjoy the Journey
I also recalled how varied and beautiful the trail and the mountain both were, and I’m backed up in that opinion by none other than Henry David Thoreau, who reportedly considered it his favorite.
According to the Monadnock Review, Thoreau wrote of Monadnock: “that New Hampshire bluff, that promontory of a state … will longest haunt our dreams.”
And among his journal excerpts, Thoreau noted that, in their haste to reach the summit, most people miss the beauty of the mountain itself.
“Those who climb to the peak of Monadnock have seen but little of the mountain. I came not to look off from it, but to look at it. The view of the pinnacle itself from the plateau below surpasses any view which you get from the summit. It is indispensible to see the top itself and the sierra of its outline from one side…. It is remarkable what haste the visitors make to get to the top of the mountain and then look away from it.”
I always love a good metaphor. And doesn’t this have a familiar ring akin to the “enjoy the journey” mantra? Full disclosure: I think “enjoy the journey” is a little full of shit and a lot overused.
However, I do believe in the importance of expressing gratitude wherever we are in our life’s path. It’s the key to being happy and to contentment. And it simply makes life a helluva lot better when we find things to be grateful for.
And that part about the haste of visitors who reach the top and then look away? That, too, is a familiar tale – always searching for something else, never enjoying where we are. The Paradox of Choice describes this quite well, how we have so many choices that we wind up unhappy with whatever it is we do decide upon.
Also, Thoreau’s totally right. The mountain IS a lot prettier as you hike it than it is at the top, and the looming summit as you peer up at it from the trail below is impressive. Certainly, the view at the top is great if you’ve got a clear day. But the trails are also interesting and fun, and there are tons of cool vistas and shrubbery on the way up. So party on, Henry!
In that vein, here’s a not-from-the-summit view:
It’s true: the Dublin Trail starts out rather gently.
It’s quite easy to carry on a conversation as you stroll through the woods, which I observed to be quieter than any found in Connecticut. There, it’s difficult to escape even a remote hum of highway or machinery. On Monadnock, it was beautifully silent.
At its start, you cross a footbridge on which someone has playfully inscribed “10 minutes to the summit!” in one of the boards. I made the mistake of not snapping a photo at the beginning, and was too tired to find it on the return. But this was the mood early on:
Soon enough, the climbs start getting steeper. And then about halfway up, the dominant terrain is ledge and the hike turns into a series of rock scrambles. I took a number of breaks and started sipping on my water (yay, CamelBak!) regularly. Oh, and on this unseasonably warm October day, I was dripping sweat in a most unsexy way, which didn’t serve me well at the blustery summit.
There’s a ton of info about points of interest, vegetation, history and trails on sites like monadnocktrails.com. The Dublin Trail is one of the oldest paths on the mountain, according to the site, and was formerly known as the Farmers Trail. We followed white blazes nailed to trees and the letter “D” painted on ledge in places.
About a quarter mile below the summit, we joined with the Marlboro Trail and continued on exposed ledge.
The wind had started whipping by now and a low cloud cover gave the summit an eery look. Lower, it had been partly cloudy with patches of sun, but now, fog enveloped the top and it felt about 15 degrees cooler.
Here’s what the final ascent looks like:
This is what it felt like:
Here is what I looked like:
And this is how I celebrated:
(Yep, that CamelBak is perfect for stowing a beer and an opener!)
They say the return trip takes about half as long as the hike up. And I think that was true. But our quads and my right knee were screaming too loudly to think clearly. If you hike Monadnock, it would be nice to have a hiking pole for the trek down.
One day I plan to tackle Mount Washington and perhaps the 4,000-footers. Those will entail more training and planning, however, and are their own goals.
For now, I’m now in search of the next hike – any suggestions? What day trips or cool hikes have you taken lately?
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