Monadnock 2018 Road Scholar Trip

My sister and I arrived at Pilgrim Pines on Thursday June 1st. I came a couple of days early to scout hikes on Monadnock.  We checked in and my friend Fancy Free – Janet for real, Fancy is a trail name – met us. Fancy was hiking with me next day. Friday was a bit dreary, but after Deb left for Boston, Fancy and I drove over to the Pumpelly Trail to go as far as we could: we had to meet another hiking buddy later and had a bit of a time constraint. Due to the time issue and murky, mizzly weather, we did not go all the way to the summit. Too bad – I’ve wanted to check out this trail. Off to dinner in Keene once we picked up Bootless – another trail name – for a great dinner in town!

Saturday, Bootless hiked with me and we did a great loop up the Half Way House Trail, the Fairy Springs Trail and Smith Connector to the Tooth. From there, we went over the Amphitheatre Trail passed the Black Precipice. We ended on the White Arrow and finally the Toll Road. All in all, a great day – and it was cooler and sunny.

Sunday, I relaxed and waited for the group to arrive. As per last year, a watercolor program was running in conjunction with the Monadnock group. Many of the same people from a year ago were enrolled again: nice to see some familiar faces. Check-in was at 3pm, dinner at 6pm and then orientation after. I met the group, showed a hiker basics presentation, and we talked a bit to get to know each other.

Began the day with wake-up yoga. Monday was a wet, so we started out at Tippin’ Rock huddling under umbrellas and in rain gear. Ryan was terrific as always; he does a great job explaining about the land trust and the many plants along the walk. We headed back to Pilgrim Pines for lunch.

Luckily, it dried out for Gap Mountain. Rocks and trail were wet, but it had stopped raining. Gap Mountain does offer a great view of Monadnock, however, when we got to the open summit it was socked in! Oh, well. Can’t do anything about the weather except be prepared with proper gear! Some of the group had a porcupine sighting – it’s great to see any wildlife here especially when we hike with a group. Back to our base for a great dinner: they really feed us well. After dinner, I presented on Hiking Monadnock with some general facts, history, flora and fauna, and cultural references about the mountain. The idea is to offer folks an introduction to the physical, historical, cultural, and hiking history of the Monadnock magic.

Tuesday began promising with some sun peeping from behind clouds – I was hoping that the hike would be dry. We were going to Monte Rose using Marlboro, Marian and Great Pastures trails.  The route begins moderately, but then starts climbing steeply over rock steps and scrambles. By late morning, it began to mizzle – making the rocks much more difficult. The Marian Trail has some interesting short scrambles too, though the final trail is all in woods leading up to the open ledges of Monte Rosa. We stopped for lunch under the trees as it was still raining lightly. Then, a few of us went up to the top and did manage to see the weather vane, but not much view – socked in again. We all took it very carefully going down – there was some slipping and consternation on the wet rock.

At dinner, several of the group shared their opinion of the difficulty of the hike and that they felt it had been more than they bargained for. I do think rain had a lot to do with making the hike much trickier, but I realized that we had to come up with an alternate solution for the next two days. Pending Chuck’s okay, I decided to split the group into a more moderate one and the more challenging. Al Stoops, a local hiker, would be along for the next two days and I could safely have an experienced leader with each group. Chuck was fine with the idea, so it was set: Cliff Walk as planned for the challenging group and a different more moderate path for the moderate hike, though it would end up on the Cliff Walk. Ultimately. I think it worked out great: everyone was so flexible and open to “going with the flow.” And, the entire group made it out to Bald Rock! We could see the summit, South Pack, Gap Mountain, and the entire Wapack Trail ridge. Bravo Road Scholars!

Al took the guys over to the Tooth and came out at the Toll Road and I took the moderate group back down the Lost Farm Trail. We drove over to the Toll Road parking to pick the guys up.  Then we went to Jaffrey to see Willa Cather’s grave at the Meeting House cemetery. There was a funeral going on, so we had to be careful not to disturb. Then, on to base camp for showers and another fab feed.  We saw clips of the Monadnock documentary that night – can’t wait for the film to be completed and hope that Steve shows it at Pilgrim Pines.

I’d asked Al to design a more moderate hike with a naturalist theme for Thursday: he took that group to Cathedral of the Pines – a place I’d been to many times as a kid. I led three of the guys up to the summit via the Marlboro Trail. Nice day, though a bit overcast. Tough climb. I’d forgotten some of the scrambles! Everyone felt great to make it to the top – and back down!  Surprisingly, there were not many people at the summit, which was very nice and peaceful.

After dinner that night, we viewed the artists’ work – amazing some of the beautiful work done in a few short days! We also met the new “Chuck” – a woman named Tiffany. Tiffany will have a great mentor and we all wish her the best. Looking forward to working with her come fall. Chuck will finally “retire” – he’s a tough act to follow.

We did have a bit of a pow wow with the staff and suggested some amendments to the trip, for example, building in two levels from the get go. The Monadnock hikes are really quite strenuous and can be a bit of a surprise for those not schooled in hiking in the northeast and particularly, the granite state. It’s root-y, rocky, muddy and trails tend to go straight up the mountain!  Anyway, a great trip and a real learning experience for us all! Thanks to a great group of hikers for hikin’ on and rolling with the punches.

For photos, go to Photos from the menu and select Monadnock 2018.