Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Northern Presidentials Pre-Planning and Day One

Hike: Northern Presidentials (Mt. Adams, Mt. Jefferson Loop)
Location: White Mountain National Forest
Nearby Town: Randolph, NH
Elevation (Max): 5,774'
Elevation Gained: ~4,373'
Mileage: 14.9
Difficulty: Very Strenuous
Trailhead: To do the loop, as we did, park your car at a convenience store called Lowe's Store on Rte 2 (Presidential Hwy/Gorham Hill Rd) just after passing Durand West Rd. on the left. After parking, walk W along Rte 2 for about 500 feet to the trailhead on the left for Lowe's Path. To get to Lowe's Store from the south on I-93, take Exit 35 to merge onto Rte 3 (Daniel Webster Hwy). From the north, take Exit 36, turn L on Rte 141 (Butter Hill Rd), turn L onto Rte 3. Follow Rte 3 for about 12.3 miles, then turn R onto Rte 115. Follow 115 for 9.6 miles, then turn R onto Rte 2 (Presidential Hwy/Gorham Hill Rd). Follow Rte 2 for about 5 miles, Lowe's Store will be on the left.

Another option is to do a point to point hike using two cars to shuttle between the finish and trailhead. To use this approach, park one of your cars at the Cog Railway station parking lot at the base of Mount Washington. To get there follow the above directions, but don't follow Rte 3 all the way to Rte 115. Instead, turn R on Rte 302, and follow until you reach the Bretton Woods resort area, at which point you will turn L onto Base Station Rd. Follow that road until it ends. After parking one car there, jump into the other car and retrace your steps back to the intersection of Rtes 302 and 3. Take a R onto Rte 3, and follow the above directions to Lowe's Store.
Fees: There is no fee to hike in the WMNF, but there are some fees involved in this trip. Parking at Lowe's Store is $2/night. Furthermore, the shelters maintained by the Randolph Mountain Club charge nightly fees. Our stay at the Crag Camp cost $12 per person per night. Another camp nearby is the Gray Knob cabin, which charges the same fee. If you get a later start and need to make camp for the night before getting up to the Crag or Gray Knob cabins, then you can stay at the Log Cabin for $7 per night. You must have cash on hand to pay. If you do not have cash at Crag Camp or Gray Knob Cabin, then you will be sent down to the Log Cabin and mailed a bill. A caretaker goes to each shelter nightly to collect the fees.
Websites: White Mountain National Forest, Randolph Mountain Club, Mount Washington Observatory

As I mentioned in a previous post, the signature New Hampshire hike, the Presidential Traverse, was brought to my attention while reading Michael Lanza's New England Hiking. I immediately knew I wanted to do it. I tossed around the idea for a few months with friends, only half serious. As I got more and more into hiking, though, and accumulated backpacking gear that would be necessary on such a hike, the possibility of this hike started looking more realistic. I pitched the idea of doing some sort of a hike in the Presidentials as a post-graduation trip to some of my friends and I got a very enthusiastic response so my planning began in earnest. I did a bunch of online research: reading about other people's traverses, checking historical weather patterns to identify the best time to do the hike, researching trails to take, shelters to use, supplies we would need, etc.

I decided not to go for a true Presidential Traverse, which would be 20 miles from Mount Madison in the north to Mount Pierce in the south. Instead, after reading the AMC's White Mountain trail guide, I chose a point to point route that ascended Mount Adams, turned south bagging Mount Jefferson, went onward to Mount Clay, and then descended the western side of Mount Washington. In all, we planned for a 10 mile, two day hike. Next we needed to pick a date. E and I were restricted because we were traveling to Ohio, Michigan, and Maine beginning in the middle of June. We didn't want to do the hike too early, though, because the mountains can be very wet in spring time and snow storms have occurred in every season on Mount Washington, so we figured the later, the better. To reduce the likelihood we would be crowded out of cabins, we chose to begin our hike on Monday for a June 8-9 trip. This worked out perfectly for E and I, too, because we went on to schedule a trip up to our friend's place on Lake Winnipesaukee for the preceding weekend so we would already be 2/3 of the way there.

One week before our trip we met at E's house in the morning for an orientation session. We went over the plan, what gear and clothing people would need to bring, what to expect in terms of terrain and weather, and so on. And, E being the wonderful friend she is, we did all this over chocolate raspberry muffins. One of the main issues we had to deal with in this meeting was who would go on the trip. We all wanted more of our friends to come (though it was not clear any more of them would be able to), but we decided to cap the trip at the five we had--myself, E, Jump, and our friends Cycleman and Coastie--mainly because shuttling between the trailhead and finish would require two cars for the first 5 people on the trip, but adding one more person would require two more cars, which seemed like an unnecessary hassle. After I felt I had adequately warned everyone about the dangers of hiking in the Presidentials (notoriously unpredictable weather, brutal cold, rare back to back dry days, and, at the time, the highest recorded wind speed in the world), and informed them that it had snowed there the day before, the meeting was adjourned.

Over the next week we all communicated back and forth about some minor gear and logistics details. I obsessively watched the weather forecasts because we were having a stubbornly cold and wet spring in New England. Knowing that Mount Washington rarely puts two sunny days together was worrying me because I really did not want to embark on a cold, wet, zero visibility trip, but it looked like we might get an opening for the hike. On Saturday, E and I headed up to visit our friend at Lake Winnipesaukee. We had a wonderful time up there even though--surprise, surprise--it rained one of the days. We enjoyed canoeing, swimming, visiting the Squam Lakes Nature Center, exploring the small towns in the area, and each others' company. On Sunday we went to the library in town where I checked the weather forecast for our hike, scattered showers and thunderstorms. I was worried, but I felt we were prepared for passing showers. On Monday, E and I woke up, donned our hiking clothes, packed our packs, said goodbye and headed onto the road. We had arranged to meet Jump, Cycleman, and Coastie at the base of Mount Washington at the Cog Railway at 2pm. The drive through the White Mountains was beautiful, though we were socked in under an overcast. As we approached and drove through Franconia Notch State Park, the beauty of the surrounding landscape intensified, and was further enhanced by one of the most beautiful of sights we could behold at that time--patches of blue sky and sunshine!

As we pulled up to the base of Mount Washington, the overcast filled back in, and we passed by Bretton Woods, which, for an economics junkie, was kind of cool. We pulled into a dirt lot where Jump, Cycleman, and Coastie had parked the finish car, packed all our gear into my car, got in, and began the drive to the trailhead. Though Google Maps says this drive takes about 45 minutes, I don't think it took us more than half an hour. We pulled into Lowe's Store, which had several other cars parked there by hikers, and went inside to pay our $2 for using their lot. We then put what we would not need in the car, donned our packs, laced up our boots, and began the walk along Rte 2 to the trailhead.

We quickly found the trail and turned left up into the woods along Lowe's Path, which is one of the smoothest, least steep ascents of the Northern Presidentials. After having warned everyone about the possibility of shocking cold, we all had on about three or four layers, and it only took about five minutes before we all stopped and stripped off everything leaving us in our short sleeves. The trail was pretty damp, which was unsurprising given how rainy that spring had been, but it wasn't too bad, and didn't really bother us. Not long after the start of the trail, we came across one of those signs posted around the Presidentials that make you feel cool and courageous, yet possibly foolish, warning that taking on this hike is not for the weak and may lead to hypothermia, getting lost, or death. At about 3,263', after 2.5 miles, we came upon the Log Cabin, a shelter maintained by the Randolph Mountain Club. We poked around in there to check it out and took a quick break to snack and rest.

Hello, danger

The crew at the Log Cabin

It was a bit wet, that stream on the right was a trail up to the Log Cabin

We returned to the trail and continued our hike up the mountain. We soon began noticing the trees becoming shorter, and views opening up all around us. The Presidentials have alpine zones, which is uncommon for mountains of their height (~5,000-6,000'), but in this region, due to their prominence, high latitude, and horrible weather, the mountains have large alpine zones above the treeline exposed to the elements, which is part of why these mountains can be so dangerous. When we came to the junction with Quay Path, we were perched on Nowell Ridge overlooking a ravine with a view across to Israel Ridge and up to Adams 4, a shoulder of Mount Adams. We stopped to take in the view and snap some photos. Then, to get to our abode for the night, Crag Camp, we went left onto Quay Path.

The view toward Israel Ridge from Nowell Ridge

Approaching the treeline

Looking up to Adams 4

Jump and Cycleman at the junction with Quay Path

E and I on Nowell Ridge

Not long after getting into the thicker woods of the Quay Path we saw something behind some trees so we bushwhacked to get a closer look, and it turned out that something, in the second week of June, was a big pile of snow. We were impressed, and somehow I ended up getting snow down my back, pretty sure I can blame Coastie for that. We continued along the path and walked by the Gray Knob cabin, where we could have stayed, but we knew Crag Camp had the better views so we continued on. Between the two cabins we came across a spring, so we stopped to filter some water to replenish our bottles. Not long after, we came into a little opening overlooking King Ravine, and there was Crag Camp. The view was truly incredible. At this point, we had successfully climbed above the clouds so while we were enjoying the beauty of clear skies around us, we had a complete undercast below us at which to marvel.

Hello, snow

The view over King Ravine from Crag Camp

We entered the cabin, which was beautiful with three sleeping rooms and one main large room with counters for cooking, and a few large tables. We found that one of the large rooms was already full of stuff, the other large room was empty but for one sleeping bag, and the third room, which is smaller and only had four beds, was empty so we put our stuff in there, and enjoyed some sour gummy worms that Cycleman had brilliantly brought along. We cooked our rice and beans dinner, which always tastes good after a hike, and enjoyed the views out the large windowed wall overlooking the ravine. We signed into the guestbook, the caretaker arrived to collect our fees, and we repeatedly went outside to enjoy the breathtaking views of clouds moving in and out of the ravine, mountains pushing up the undercast below us, and the sun's changing light constantly making the view look new. The large group arrived, and we learned they were part of a university course on New England writers that goes around New England hiking and learning--sounds amazing. As the darkness rolled in, the guy to whom the single sleeping bag in the second big room belonged returned to the cabin. We planned on asking him if he would mind switching rooms with us, but he immediately went outside, stood on a ledge over the ravine, and began doing yoga. We passed the evening playing cards by headlamp while we waited for our friend to come back inside. When he finally did he snuck in the back door and went directly into his room, so Cycleman and I went over to his room and asked him if he would be willing to switch, and he was, though he probably had no idea what was going on since we had headlamps which surely blinded him.

Crag Camp interior, with sleeping rooms on left

Watching the clouds drift in and out of the ravine

Crag Camp exterior

Group shot outside Crag Camp

Across King Ravine to Mount Madison

Perfect undercast

Mmmmmm, arroz con frijoles

The view from Crag Camp's main room

The undercast at twilight

Two lower mountains make waves in the clouds

We moved our stuff over into the new room, which has two levels of wooden platforms for sleeping bags. Cycleman and Coastie took the bottom level while E, Jump, and I took the top. I have a horrible time sleeping in silence, I always run a fan when I sleep at home, and this was no exception. Sleeping in the mountains means sleeping in dead quiet, so every slight twitch by someone in a sleeping bag is noisy enough to keep me awake. I brought ear plugs, but that just made my breathing and heartbeat too noisy for me to sleep. At some point in the morning, my exhaustion finally won, and I got a couple hours of rest, but our alarms went off at 6am so we could get an early start on day two.

Stay tuned for the next post on day two, which includes summitting Mount Adams and Jefferson, negotiating rocky, ankle-threatening trails, and making a terrible realization causing a major change of plans leading to a scramble down 50 foot boulders, a grueling struggle through what just might be the most horrible trail in New Hampshire, and a knee/shin busting descent. Furthermore, the next post will include the map of our GPS-generated route and elevation profile.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Chatfield Hollow

Hike: Chatfield Hollow
Location: Chatfield Hollow State Park
Nearby Town: Killingworth, CT
Elevation (Max): 350'
Elevation Gained: 200'
Mileage: 2.6
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: From the north on Route 9: take Exit 9, head south on Rte. 81, turn R on Rte. 80, park will be on the R. From the east or south on Route 9: take Exit 5, head west on Rte. 80, park will be on right shortly after intersection with Rte. 81. From I-95, take Exit 63, follow Rte. 81 north, turn L on Rte. 80.
Fees: The website says it is $14/$20 for residents and non-residents respectively on weekends/holidays. On weekdays it's $10/$14. However, when E and I did the hike, we paid no entry fee because we parked at the lot right off the road, which is outside the gate.

E received a beautiful antique table from a store in Chester, CT as a graduation present, and I helped pick it up and load it into her family's van. E and I had decided to do another training hike while we were out in a different part of the state so I looked up state parks in the area beforehand and settled on Chatfield Hollow. This also would serve as a good final GPS training outing before our big Presidentials adventure. By the way, I own a Garmin eTrex Legend H, which was a most generous graduation present I received. I intend to do a post on my gear in the future, probably when I catch up with my backlog of hikes, so stay tuned. It was a very hot day in late May, and on our way to Chatfield Hollow, the clouds started thickening and rising, an ominous sign of afternoon thunderstorms, but we figured we had some time before the weather arrived where we were, so we set off on our hike anyways. If worst came to worst, we wouldn't be exposed, and we were planning a short hike, so hopefully we would be able to hightail it back to the car before being soaked or getting into dangerous weather.

We found two parking lots directly off the road at the entrance to Chatfield Hollow, so we parked in there, with a lot of other people enjoying this late spring day. We sprayed ourselves with bug spray, gathered our water, fired up the GPS, and set off down the entry road to the park. To our happy surprise, we passed a gatehouse on the way, where we would have had to pay an entry fee, but thanks to our willingness to walk, we avoided that expense. I would highly advise this approach to anyone going to this park to hike, since your purpose is to walk anyways. It is only worth it to pay that fee if you are planning on having a picnic, of which we saw many--some very large. It was about a third of a mile walking along the road before we got to the trail we intended to hike. Along the way, we passed by what appeared to be a very large Italian family reunion, which smelled delicious, and the pond at the center of the park where kids were swimming and running around. We couldn't help but be in a good mood in this park.

The trail we took was the Ridge Trail (red on the park map), which hikes up and along the ridge on the east side of the hollow. It ascended pretty quickly, but then is generally flat with small ups and downs. It is a pretty rocky hike, though, which can make footing tricky in parts. While we were hiking along the ridge, the sky darkened and we began to hear thunder rumbling in the distance, so we picked up the pace, and quickly completed the Ridge Trail. After hiking the 1.28 mile Ridge Trail we hooked up with the Covered Bridge Trail (purple on the park map). Before turning left back to the parking lot, though, we went right on the Covered Bridge Trail a little bit to see the covered bridge which crosses the Chatfield Hollow Brook that flows through Chatfield Hollow into the man-made Schreeder Pond. We didn't dawdle, though, with the thunderstorms coming, and E's mother's propensity to worry, we knew we should get back to the car as soon as possible.

We followed the Covered Bridge Trail for a quarter mile until it first joins the main, paved road, when we left the trail and did the rest of our walk on the road. At the fork, we went right to walk along the far side of the pond (yes, we were sort of rushing, but the thunder's approach seemed less imminent). The walk was pretty nice, and we went by a handful of picnics along the pond--this place really seemed like picnic central. Take the left that goes across the dam of Schreeder Pond, and then take a right to return to the car. Just as we approached the car, the rain finally started falling, and we escaped unscathed. All in all, the hike was pretty uneventful. Chatfield Hollow is a pleasant place of which families certainly make good use, and the hiking is enjoyable, but nothing extraordinary--no views, no remarkable geologic features. Below is a map I loaded onto from my GPS of the hike. Also, I am sad to say I, once again, did not bring my camera on the hike, so I have no pictures (but don't worry, the next couple of posts about the Presidentials will include dozens of photos). So, below the map are some photos from Flickr that I found of Chatfield Hollow.

The covered bridge (via flickr)

The dam (via flickr)

Schreeder Pond (via flickr)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Hike: Chauncey Peak & Lamentation Mountain
Location: Giuffrida Park/Lamentation Mountain State Park
Nearby Town: Meriden, CT
Elevation (Max): 688'
Elevation Gained: 772'
Mileage: 5.5
Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: From the north, Take Exit 20 off I-91, turn L at Middle St., turn R on Country Club Rd., Country Club Rd. becomes Westfield Rd as you pass a quarry, parking in Giuffrida Park is ahead on the R. From the south, take Exit 20 off I-91, turn L on Country Club Rd, and the rest is the same as above.

Sometime around February 2009, while perusing Michael Lanza's New England Hiking, my favorite hiking guide, I came across his guide to doing a Presidential Traverse, a 20 mile hike from end to end of the Presidential Range (Mt. Washington and its surrounding peaks) in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The idea of hiking along the ridgeline of New England's most impressive mountains including the legendary Mt. Washington instantly captured my imagination. I pitched the idea of doing a post-graduation traverse to some friends, and, with surprisingly little persuasion, I got a group of 5 (including me) together. We scheduled the hike for the beginning of June, so in the time between graduation and the hike, E and I were desperate to do some training because we knew the Presidentials would be tough. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a challenge finding hikes in southeastern Connecticut that are strenuous enough to train for the Presidentials. However, E and I found a couple enjoyable hikes to do in CT before heading to New Hampshire.

Chauncey Peak/Lamentation Mountain are two, rather steep, hills in central Connecticut along the Metacomet Ridge which essentially runs from Long Island Sound up to the New Hampshire/Vermont border. I don't think I ever really noticed the hilliness of the Meriden area before, but there are some really impressive old peaks in the area. E and I headed out on a hot and sunny late May day with my sister, M. After parking in Giuffrida park, we walked along the end of a reservoir tucked in between Lamentation Mountain and Chauncey Peak called Crescent Lake. It was a really pretty view, and reminded me of somewhere in the Adirondacks perhaps, not the middle of the Connecticut River Valley.

Crescent Lake with Chauncey Peak on the right

We started up Chauncey Peak, which starts as a gradual path but quickly turns into a precariously steep ascent. To make matters worse, the trail is composed of loose traprock making climbing a slow and challenging process. On our way up, we were startled by a loud, deep boom followed by the ground shaking beneath our feet. For a moment, we were frightened by this, and we felt a bit like characters in a fairy tale climbing a mountain to confront a dragon, but I soon remembered that a quarry is on the opposite side of Chauncey Peak, and the tremor was surely the result of blasting. After scrambling over a few boulders, we reached the summit of Chauncey Peak. The view was quite impressive, especially for a 688' peak, and the surrounding area looked surprisingly pastoral. After taking in the view, we walked around to the quarry side of the mountain to try to see another blast, but after waiting about fifteen minutes in the hot sun we gave up and continued on our hike. From there, the trail follows the cliffs above Crescent Lake providing ample views.

The view from the summit of Chauncey Peak

The cliffs over Crescent Lake

The trail then reenters the woods and descends Chauncey Peak. At this point the trails and trail markers started to conflict with what my guide said. We made our best guess at how to get to Lamentation Mountain, but we first wound up walking in a circle and then entered a marshland--we were certainly lamenting. We passed by another hiker a couple times and asked him how to get to Lamentation, but he too was lost because the trails had been rerouted. To make matters a bit worse, E and M were starting to complain about the heat and being lost and I started to suffer from seasonal allergies. This unhappy group eventually stumbled upon the trail to Lamentation Mountain, summitted it, took in the view (which really was very nice--it overlooks a horse pasture), and turned around to return to the car. The return trip was pretty rough with the combination of heat, exhaustion, shortage of water, and my constant sneezing. To return, just retrace your steps back down Lamentation, across the stream that feeds Crescent Lake, ascend Chauncey Peak, walk along the cliffs, and descend the way you came. The only thing more tricky than hiking up loose traprock is hiking down. You really must be careful on this part of the hike because losing your footing is more likely than not, so take it slow. We stopped in a Subway on our drive back, and didn't really realize how sweaty we were until we entered the air-conditioned shop and began shivering. Despite the challenges of the hike, though, the views were impressive, it's always fun to hike with E and M, and challenging is exactly what we needed if we wanted to successfully hike the Presidentials.

The view of the horse pasture from Lamentation Mountain

Crescent Lake from Chauncey Peak looking SSW to Sleeping Giant State Park

P.S. My apologies for the poor photo quality. I forgot to bring a camera so I had to make do with a cell phone camera.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Mount Monadnock

Hike: Mount Monadnock
Location: Monadnock State Park
Nearby Town: Jaffrey, NH
Elevation (Max): 3,165'
Elevation Gained: 1,750'
Mileage: 3.5
Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous
Trailhead: There are no interstates near Mount Monadnock, so directions will be different for everyone depending upon your point of origin. So, to make this as helpful as possible, get yourself to Jaffrey, NH. From there you can probably follow signs, but just to be safe, head west on Rte. 124, turn R on Dublin Rd, turn L on Poole Rd, and drive to the parking lot at the end of the road. The trail heads north from the end of Poole Rd.
Fees: $4 for day use. There is a gate house, but it was not in use when we visited. We paid in the park store next to the parking lot.

Mount Monadnock is supposedly the second most climbed mountain in the world behind Mount Fuji in Japan. This is simply a guess, though it would not be surprising if it turned out to be true because Monadnock, which, by the way, is a geological term for any stand-alone mountain, is a sort of Goldilocks mountain. It's tall, 3,165', but not too tall. It has a challenging feel to it (the final quarter mile of trail at the summit is over exposed bare rock) without being too dangerous or beyond the ability of children. Perhaps most importantly, though, it is within easy driving distance of Springfield (1h 45m), Boston (1h 45m), and Hartford (2h).

Be careful

E and I did this hike with a good friend of ours, let's call her Jump, during our senior week at college. The first thing I did after getting dressed was check the weather for Monadnock, which wasn't entirely reassuring with a line of thunderstorms on track to hit in the afternoon. After packing up our gear, we met in the dining hall for a good, early breakfast, and then we hit the road New Hampshire bound. The drive seemed shorter than we expected, but as we got near the mountain we realized we were all hungry, and few things in life are more pleasant than eating a grinder on top of a mountain. Thus began our search through northern Massachusetts/ southern New Hampshire (I think we went back and forth across the state line a good 4 times) for a sandwich shop. After turning ourselves around multiple times, we finally found a strange little convenience store/sandwich shop at a fork in the road in the middle of the woods. I have no idea how this place stays in business given its location, but they made us some great grinders (though, honestly, is it possible for a grinder to be anything but great on a hike?).

Once we arrived at the park, we pulled past the empty gatehouse, parked the car, and went inside the park store to check in, pay our fees, pick up a trail map, and get a warning from the rangers that thunderstorms would strike around 3pm. After determining exactly what layers would be necessary on this hike, we set off, heading out behind the park store to the north where we soon left the campground and joined up with the Cascade Link Trail.

Most of this trail is made of terraced steps, which, of course, are awkwardly sized and spaced making hiking more difficult. Occasionally we had to stop to let E catch up because she was hiking with a cold--what a trooper. When the trail split, we went left on the White Cross Trail, which goes to the summit. Along the way, the sun occasionally peaked through the clouds, and we found some really nice lookouts to enjoy. Monadnock is one of those mountains that allows you an occasional view ahead, and many times we thought we saw the summit ahead only to discover we were looking at a false summit. After this occurred a couple times, we finally came into a clearing that afforded us a view of the true summit and we were pretty shocked with how far and high we still had to go.

Jump and I heading up the White Cross Trail

Looking east at what we mistakenly assumed was the summit--it's just a shoulder

Luckily, that final approach is mostly above the tree line, so there are plenty of views to be enjoyed. The last quarter mile, as I mentioned before, is a scramble over exposed rock that really gets the thighs burning. To make things a bit more difficult, we occasionally had trouble getting traction on the rocks, but we were amply rewarded for our efforts when we finally reached the summit. The Monadnock State Park website says that from the summit one can see points in all 6 New England states. I can't vouch for that, and the weather was a bit cloudy so our visibility was cut down a bit, but I can tell you the view is a very impressive 360 degree panorama of the lakes and hills of southern New Hampshire, and in the very far distance to the north we could see the shadowy outlines of mountains, which we assume were the southern peaks of the White Mountains.

The view south to Massachusetts from the summit

Those hills look a lot smaller from up here

The view north (if you look closely you can see people on the highest rock)

Walk on, E

Group on the summit complete with Amazing Race pants (fyi, we refer to those black stretchy pants E and Jump are wearing as Amazing Race pants since that is what all the female contestants on that show wear)

The downside of an exposed rock summit, though, is the wind and cold go on the attack. We were forced to eat our delicious grinders in the protection of the lee of a rock. One of the subtler things about hiking that really contributes to its psychological benefits, in my opinion, is the complete lack of noise pollution. Monadnock is one of those hikes where the only sounds are you, wildlife, and the wind. After posing for some pictures, the sky started spitting on us so we decided we ought to begin our descent before a storm crept up.

Our shelter from the chilly wind

The hike down the exposed rock is no easier than the hike up. Instead of burning thighs, the pain is in the knees, and instead of occasionally using hands, butt-sliding becomes a necessary technique. We decided to take a different trail to descend, the White Dot Trail which essentially parallels the White Cross Trail but is a bit more difficult (and longer). Unfortunately, the trail was a little difficult to find above the tree line where blazes are not the most obvious, and we wound up doing a little bit of bushwhacking before we finally found the White Dot. Compared to the White Cross, the White Dot was much more difficult--it is steeper, much rockier, and has much larger steps, some of which require jumps. On our way down, we passed a group from Franklin Pierce College who were attempting to carry their friend down who had sprained an ankle. It was hard enough for us to get ourselves down the tricky footing of the White Dot, and I can barely imagine how difficult it would be to carry someone down. After completing about half of the knee-busting descent to an adequate distance below the tree line, we encountered the worst part of the trip--evil, horribly persistent black flies.

A rocky summit indeed

Looking back toward the summit (those tiny specks on the top are people, and this view should be familiar--it is this blog's header!)

I took the mind over matter approach to dealing with the flies by paying them no attention--no swatting, no scratching. However, there is a limit to how much I can endure and toward the end of the hike, I just about lost my mind and started double timing it to the base where we recalled there being no bugs. We knew that New Hampshire is known for its black flies, so we applied bug spray with DEET before the hike, but apparently black flies have never heard of DEET. By the way, when the White Dot Trail meets up with the Cascade Link Trail, take a right heading south on the Cascade Link back to the parking lot. When we got near the parking lot we saw a ranger heading quickly up the mountain, we assume to help with the injured hiker, and as he passed us we were overcome by the smell of what seemed to be a walking citronella candle. Apparently the rangers understand what it takes to defeat the black flies.

Once back in the park store, we bought some drinks for the ride home, and as we were checking out, my knees began shaking uncontrollably from the beating they just took descending the White Dot Trail. All in all, though, it was a wonderful hike with great people, and as it is one of those classic New England hikes, it felt good to get it under the belt. Below is, as far as I can tell, this exact same hike posted on