Mt Monadnock NH, Sunday 24 April 2017

2:13 p.m. on April 24, 2017 (EDT)
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Last week my snowshoeing partner and occasional hiking buddy Chad texted me "Monadnock next Sunday, you interested?" I asked the boss if I could work Saturday instead of Sunday, and after getting the OK I said I'd meet him there. 

After getting out of work Saturday I packed my gear in the Jeep and made the 3-hour drive to Monadnock State Park, where I camped overnight. Chad planned on leaving his house around 0730 Sunday and I didn't want to stay home and have to get up no later than 0600 in order to shower, eat, and drive to his house. By 1900 hours I had my camp set up, a fire started, and water to rehydrate my dinner boiling on my ~20 year old Primus stove. The Mountain House beef stroganoff with noodles was much better than one of the MREs I'd brought would have been! I'm glad I decided to stop to pick up a small cook set (and a couple freeze-dried entrées) at the Concord NH Eastern Mountain Sports. 

After dinner I sat in the camp chair by the fire and listened to the owls. From their calls I was sure they were great horned owls, and their presence is probably the reason I didn't hear any of the normal scurrying of rodents in the leaf litter. It had been grey & rainy all day but the wind had picked up since I arrived, a sure sign that the nearly perfect hiking weather that was forecast for Sunday was blowing in. In what seemed like the space between one heartbeat and the next, the clouds cleared and I was treated to a view of unbelievably bright stars between the trees. Even though the city of Keene is only 10-15 miles away, there's next to no light pollution. Which is as it should be, human beings seem to want 24 hours of daylight then complain they can't sleep at night. 

By 2200 I was ready for bed so I let the fire burn down, made sure everything on the table was secured well enough to keep the wind from blowing it away, and doused the fire. I didn't fall asleep the instant my head hit the pillow because I was thinking about the next day's hike, and also because I was still enjoying the night sounds. Even when the animals are used to the fires and sounds of a busy campground, there's a subtle but noticeable difference when the fires are put out and the human activity dies down. At best guess I'd say I lasted 15 minutes before I was out, and except for 2 nature calls during the night (I'd been drinking a lot of water that day to ensure I was hydrated) I slept through the night. 

Around 0700 I awoke, and got up about 15 minutes later. First order of business: boil water for breakfast. Once that was started I got the boots I'd be wearing for the hike out of the Jeep, by the time I got them laced up the way I wanted them the water was boiling. This morning's fare: Backpacker's Pantry chicken curry vindaloo. While that was rehydrating I opened the 2nd rainfly door for ventilation, turned the sleeping bag inside out to air out, and grabbed everything else out of the tent. I hate having to rush in the morning, so having 2 1/2 hours to break camp and get everything packed for the trip home before Chad arrived was nice. 

Chad showed up a little after 10, and has his son Richie and friend Jay with him. They spent some time adjusting clothing for the expected temps, made their necessary after-drive pit stops, guzzled pre-hike water, and by 11 we were hitting the trail. 

Mt Monadnock is the highest point in southern NH at 3165' (965m), is nearly 1000' (305m) higher than any other terrain within 30 miles (48km), and has a prominence of 2150' (660m.)


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Our trailhead was at about 1360' (415m) elevation, and horizontal distance between perpendiculars from the trailhead to the summit is only about 7000' (2135m), so a bit of arithmetic tells you this is one steep trail! The trail we took to the summit, the White Dot trail, is 2.2 miles (3.5km) long and is the steepest, most direct route to the summit.


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The White Dot trail starts out at a moderate incline but when you get to about 1800' elevation it really steepens for the next 900' of elevation gain. The few 1-200 yard/meter flatter spots between near-vertical spots are a welcome break! From 2700-2900' the trail levels out, and the last 250' starts off steep but gradually levels out near the summit. It was a difficult "trail" due to being rocks, boulders, and ledges almost the entire way. There was very little walking involved, you stepped and climbed from rock to rock, often with small puddles in depressions. Again I was thankful for the traction provided by my Asolo Fugitive GTX, with careful foot placement I never slipped regardless of whether the soles were wet or dry. 

Maybe 3/4 of the way up there's a sort of false summit with good views from the northeast to the south. If you look closely you can see the skyline of Boston, 60 miles away. 


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My friend Chad, Jay & Richie had gone ahead. IMG_1160.jpgIMG_1159.jpgAfter a short rest here (not my first!) we continued toward the summit. From here on we were on bare rock for the most part, but still with plenty of rock-hopping and scrambling. As we approached the actual summit we realized just how many people were climbing. We knew there'd be a lot because of the full parking lots and from how many we'd seen on the trail, but seeing them all in one place was different. There had to have been well over 100 people of all ages, from 8-year-old kids to people in their 60s. Singles, couples, and large groups. We found a place to rest and take pics, and when the actual summit cleared out we took a pic on it. 


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Chad again. There was a lot of great scenery on the mountain! The views of the surrounding countryside weren't so bad, either.

2:29 p.m. on April 24, 2017 (EDT)
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Chad again. There was a lot of great scenery on the mountain! The views of the surrounding countryside weren't so bad, either. :D I wish yoga pants had been this common when I was younger!


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You can see snow-covered Mt Washington here, 70 miles away. 
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For the descent we decided to take the White Cross trail when it branched off from White Dot, due to it being less steep. The descent was actually harder on me, due to a 2 1/2 year old right knee injury that starts to act up with the pounding as that foot steps down onto a rock and the stress of having my weight on that knee when stepping down with the left foot. I put as much weight as possible on my left trekking pole (the trusty Black Diamond Synclines!) Richie & Jay had gone on ahead, Chad was a little downhill of me because it's really difficult to descend at a slower pace than what feels natural for you, and I was plugging away and moving aside to let faster hikers go by when they came along. Finally we got below all the rocks & boulders and were on hardpacked dirt with roots & smaller rocks sticking out - just ankle-twisters instead of leg-breakers. At around this point Richie, who'd gotten to the trailhead already, came back up to check on his elders. Ah, to be 21 again! 

Shortly we rejoined the White Dot trail, and had only about 0.6 mile to reach the trailhead. At this point my knee felt just about normal and I was able to walk at the same pace as my partners. We met up with Jay who was waiting by the vehicles, walked a bit to cool down, then went in search of some much-needed and well-deserved food. A few miles away we found the Jaffrey Pizza Barn, pigged out on burgers, grinders, and calzones, then headed our separate ways. 

I really stiffened up on my 3 hour drive home, and the 14 steps up to my apartment looked like Denali to me! Some ibuprofen, heat, and not remaining sitting for any length of time helped a lot, but my quads & calves were murdered and my knees did their share of protesting as well. This morning there was pain from the lack of movement while I slept, but a little walking around took care of that and I feel almost normal now. Set up the tent and hang the sleeping bag to air out, get the stuff out of my Jeep that I was in no shape to make a second trip down & up the stairs for last night, and take care of the home chores that pile up whether you're there or not. I'm looking forward to the next hike! Though if it's Monadnock we're taking an easier route!






2:35 p.m. on April 24, 2017 (EDT)
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That looks like good fun Phil. No snow down there I see so the rocks are good for keeping out of the mud. I've been getting my feet used to the Limmers and will be headed to NH soon myself I hope. Maybe see you there :)

Thanks for posting this, it is good inspiration.

10:36 a.m. on April 25, 2017 (EDT)
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This is a famous place on the Earth's surface among geomorphologists. A monodnack is actually a technical term for a residual outlier on a peneplain, an old level erosional surface. William Morris Davis was the first to recognize the concept.  Only on really old surfaces without disturbance is there a chance for this happen. Here's to Mt Monadnock.

1:10 p.m. on May 3, 2017 (EDT)
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Great shots Phil..I figured I be seeing snow in these...Surprised...Looks like it was alot of fun..Thanks for sharing...

10:27 p.m. on May 3, 2017 (EDT)
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It was a lot of fun, I'm in bad enough shape that climbs like that are really exhausting but who wants easy? I worked for those views! I do need to start working on that, though. The parking garage at work has 5 levels, I can always do the stairs after I get out of work. Doing it in my heavy steel toes may be a good idea. Plus I want to find some power lines that run across a valley so I can go up & down, back & forth for a couple hours one or three times a week. 

5:49 p.m. on May 4, 2017 (EDT)
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Phil:

Use ICE after physical trauma, not heat.  Ice will hasten the reduction of swelling.  Day Two after such events you may consider using heat but follow that up, always finishing with ice.  I have a knee with four surgeries on it, so the discomfort you relate is old news for me.  My sports background taught when to use ice and heat. I actually have a medium tall plastic kitchen trash container specifically to ice my knee.  I fill it half way with ice, fill to 3/4 with water, and with my leg submerged the fluid tops just under the rim.  Adding water has two benefits: it precludes accidentally incurring frost damage to your skin; and the water provides a more efficient medium between you and the ice than air provides.  Pretty uncomfortable for the first two or three minutes, but then numbness begins to replace that.  A fifteen minute soak yields a measureable relief.  This can and should be repeated if the discomfort later warrants.

As far as doing stairs - you will get a higher quality workout going with footwear that is more not less flexible.  Stiff boots minimize working the muscles and joints involved with flexing your feet.  You don't want that.  Go up at whatever speed you desire, but always descend slow with a hand on the rail, as there is little potential benefit to rushing the descent, but a big downside if you stumble and fall.  And even just walking you will eventually misstep given the time you'll spend on this activity, so do hold onto that rail!  I avail to a local five story parking structure on a regular basis.  Determine the vertical gain of your chosen stair (steps are typically set at six inches).  Since I climb and hike mountains with large elevation differentials - often 2000' - 3000' + per day, I try to achieve the equivalent on my stair torture.  Takes me about 90 minutes when in shape.  Where is my ice!

Ed

8:39 a.m. on May 5, 2017 (EDT)
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Great photos and story. Something that really interested me is all the exposed rock-many smaller mtns in the Adirondacks were like that when I first started hiking there and now they are very tree covered and some old photos prove it. Nature does reclaim what man sometimes changes.

3:14 p.m. on May 5, 2017 (EDT)
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Ed, 

The heat was mainly for my screaming quads, my knee was actually in very good shape when I got home, with comparatively little swelling. Most likely because I took my time and avoided overstressing it. 
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I'll most likely be looking at a knee replacement as soon as I lose enough weight to make the orthopedist happy, you'd think they could just go in and glue the same plastic they use as "cartilage" in artificial joints onto the places where my cartilage is gone and everything would be better. 

I'd much rather practice on actual hills but the closest ones worth climbing are around 30 minutes from here. I can get a lot of stairs done in an hour, and save the actual hiking for weekends and days off. And I suppose I'll have to go buy myself a pair of running shoes or lightweight hiking shoes, my Keen Voyageurs are more flexible than my Fugitives but still pretty rigid. 

December 9, 2019
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