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After two days in the car, we were all ready to get out into nature and hike! Mount Monadnock, with its advertised 360-degree view from a granite-capped summit and world’s second most-hiked peak claim (behind Japan’s Mount Fuji), sounded challenging yet perfect. At 3,165 feet, Mount Monadnock is not even the highest mountain in the state, but as a solitary peak, it affords incredible views of the surrounding landscape.
The ascent of over 1,700 feet would be more than twice the boys’ existing record and the total four mile round trip, made slower with over half the trail requiring rock scrambling, is slightly over their usual daily limit. But we reserved the entire day for this hike and planned to take it easy, resting as often as necessary, and bringing plenty of food and water with us.
Following the short half-hour drive from our hotel in Keene, we parked at the Mount Monadnock State Park Headquarters and geared up for the hike. Nearby, black squirrels and chipmunks chased and chattered away. Seeing varied local wildlife is one of the little, unexpected things I love so much about road tripping. We absolutely need more chipmunks in North Carolina!
As recommended, we would hike the White Dot trail to the summit and take the slightly longer, but less steep White Cross trail back down. We were on the trail by 9:00 and I quickly began to doubt if our entire party could make it to the top. Jasper isn’t partial to the relatively straight and flat forest paths that this trail’s first half mile follows. However, as soon as we reached the boulders and required rock scrambling, the complains immediately ceased and he was racing upward!
We stopped for too many rest breaks to count along the trail up the mountainside. The rock scrambling was fun but tiring. Still, the boys were troopers until the final quarter mile or so when the summit seemed to be just around every boulder, but still so far away. After a lot of coaxing during that final stretch, we finally made it!
And the view was … gray? Unsurprisingly after reviewing the weather forecast that morning, visibility was zero at the top. I had hoped that clouds passing over the peak would occasionally break for a glimpse at the sea of oranges and reds below, but we had no such luck. Still, the experience at the granite peak was incredible and being up in the clouds as they moved so swiftly by was mesmerizing.
The temperature at the highest 200 feet also dropped significantly. Combined with the wind, it was rather chilly! Still, it was lunchtime and we were all hungry, so we stuck with our plan to eat at the summit, finding a sheltered space between boulders to shield us from the harshest, bone-chilling winds.
Refueled, we began our descent, quickly dropping below cloud level (and at least ten degrees in temperature!) and enjoying some of those magnificent, long-distance views along the climb down until we reached the treeline again. By 3:00, we were back at headquarters.
Never before have we felt such a sense of accomplishment following a hike and I am so proud of my boys for tackling this challenging trail. As the boys have grown, it’s safe to say three miles is no longer their daily limit and elevation changes of over 1,000 feet can be the norm!
For the next hour, we traveled country roads towards our pit stop for the night. We crossed the Hancock-Greenfield covered bridge, stopped for photos of more white-steepled churches surrounded by blazing trees in the towns of Greenfield and Francestown, and checked into our hotel in Manchester.
I couldn’t resist the Friendly’s restaurant one block away for dinner. One of my fondest childhood food memories is eating chicken fingers at Friendly’s and getting a cone head sundae for dessert. Jasper got the chicken finger plate instead on this visit, but I still ordered a cone head from the kid’s dessert menu! Sadly, Friendly’s no longer fills the bottom of the dish with Reese’s Pieces, but I was just happy to see my favorite ice cream treat still on the menu after 30 years!
After a tiring day, we were back in our hotel room earlier than usual, plenty of time to rest up for the next leg of our adventure through a new state in the morning.