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Mount Monadnock

After two productive days of editing my novel, I decided it was time to stretch the legs and get some exercise… by climbing a damn mountain! So. I don’t typically climb mountains. I think the highest one I’ve ever climbed is Mount Major in Alton, NH, which has an elevation 1,785’. Mount Monadnock is 3,166’. Still, hearing somewhere that Mount Monadnock is the second most-climbed mountain in the world after Mount Fuji in Japan, I thought, how hard could it be? Pretty hard, it turns out. Actually, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever physically done.

Going Up (2.5 hours)

I took the White Dot trail, which starts at a steady incline through woods, which were lovely and yellow with all their foliage. I could feel how out-of-shape I was pretty immediately, but I stopped for breaks when I needed. I caught up to a couple classes of high schoolers. One was from Cambridge, the other from Connecticut. While experienced hikers zipped ahead, and more casual wanderers trailed behind, the teens were my unintentional hiking buddies. I appreciated their comic relief and lack of filter as they openly vocalized just about everything I was thinking, like: “How am I supposed to climb that?” “I’m not going to make it.” “My feet hurt.” And the more jubilant thoughts like, “I can’t believe I made it!” and “This is the most intense thing my school has ever done!”

The mountain turns to mostly rock as it gets steeper. There was a a false peak about two-thirds the way up that provided some beautiful and vast views of the foliage, but also some disheartening views of tiny people at the top of the true summit, still so far away. Many folks were turning back around at this point, but I thought, what the hell, I’m already here… I might as well keep going.

At the Summit (30 mins)

As I was planning to go to Jaffrey, I’d imagined reaching the top of the mountain and celebrating by having a quiet, peaceful lunch overlooking the majestic view. Yeah, that didn’t happen. By the time I got to the summit, after a hard and final push through a cold wind, I was so exhausted and exhilarated and emotional and all the intense “e” words that I couldn’t even imagine being hungry. Fellow summiters cheered and slapped the gold medallion at the peak, a symbolic gesture of making it to the top.

It was so windy, I ducked behind a rock to enjoy the view. There I left I small rock I’d brought with me from Walden Pond in Concord, as my own transcendentalist gesture.

Coming Down (2 hours)

While the hike up was more challenging physically, the descent was more mentally and technically tough. I took the White Cross trail down, and a good part of the trail was wet and river-y. I crab-walked, slid, did whatever I had to do to stay low and in control. As I got into the woods, I hopped rocks through running water and mud, trying my best not to slip on wet leaves. I fell once into some water, but it was a minor spill, thankfully. I witnessed at least five other people fall — all mild tumbles (except one). I don’t know how more people don’t hurt themselves on the mountain, honestly. If I hadn’t had proper hiking boots, I would’ve been in more trouble.

I was probably about two-thirds back down the mountain, sore legs and covered in mud, when I decided I wouldn’t be hiking another mountain anytime soon.

But I had a change of heart when I finally reached the bottom, five hours later. I’d done it!

Memorable Folks

  • An old white-haired woman who reached the top, slapped the medallion and announced “THERE. I DID IT.”

  • A kid walking directly through a puddle announcing, “It’s fine, I’ve got Timbs on! I’ve got Timbs!”

  • A young girl falling down and the 10+ people who rushed to her aid

  • The boy next to me who said “well that’s encouraging” when the fallen girl started screaming

  • A barefooted man joyously running around in circles at the summit

  • A little girl with her parents shouting, “We have to make it to the top! We have to!” (they were very much near the bottom)

  • A man running up the mountain audibly listening to Third Eye Blind “I wish you would step back from that ledge my friend” in his earbuds

Earlier Event: October 9
Robert Frost Foundation Poetry Hoot
Later Event: October 13
Boston Book Festival 2018