Doesn’t that sound like a Lord of the Rings title? Like a prequel to the Hobbit? (Book and movie reference right off the top).
My Monadnock adventure doesn’t just happen overnight. It was thought about DAYS in advance. Weeks actually. You see, recently I’ve had a few friends and colleagues who’ve shared with me their strong and persuasive recommendations of hiking this majestic New England beauty, so I began to do some research and looked up various reviews and articles that described what hiking Mount Monadnock was like. I looked at the time it took to drive there, what time of day it was heavy populated, which trails to take up and down the mountain, parking, pictures of the trails, and how prepared I would need to be in terms of water, food, and gear. Those answers were planned, but the day I decided to make the drive was just this past Friday. I began looking at the weather for Jaffrey, New Hampshire, where Mount Monadnock is located, and despite showing showers on Saturday, said Sunday would be sunny with a high of 69. Various reviews did point out that if it rains, the gigantic rocks that line the trail become rather damp and slick, making it even more difficult to hike in and reach the top. (Which they were not making up as I will go more in detail later on). But I didn’t want to wait. When I saw the weather was sunny and comfortable, I knew that was a sign that it would be my day to go. So I did. Below is a breakdown of how that day went. Buckle up and enjoy! 😝
The 4:30am wake up
Yes, you read that right. I woke up, on a Sunday which is designated time for teachers to sleep in, at 4:30 in the morning. My plan was to hit the road by 5:15, without missing any of my morning tea and meditation of course.🧘🏻♂️ (Turmeric ginger tea is my go-to). Once I finished my tea and deep breathing, I packed my bag with all of the essentials; extra pair of socks, cold-gear under armor, an extra t-shirt, my water, cliff bars, a banana, electrolyte tabs (thanks whole foods), chapstick, sunglasses, band-aids, my muscle roller (great for warming up pre hike), and my car charger. My hoody was already on and I would put that in my bag for the top of the mountain just in case. That was everything. I brushed my teeth, went to the bathroom and off I went. (Hey, I’m just being honest. Bathroom before a long drive is a must c’mon people 😂).
The morning drive
I would be lying to you if I didn’t say how much fun the morning portion of the drive was. Especially when you’re solo. Driving to your destination, on the open road with little to no traffic, to the sound of your favorite music blasting as loud as you want, is the epitome of bliss. Then, add in the sun rising in the crisp, dark September sky, providing vivid colors of orange, pink, and red blending along the horizon, and you have bliss magnified. It was amazing. The two hours and 15 minutes that it took to get there only felt like a quarter of that. Also, when I reached the state border of New Hampshire, the sun began peaking through the tall trees lined up along the sides of the road, giving me even more visual satisfaction for the remainder of my drive to Mount Monadnock. Smaller highways guided my last half hour, which led me to fully take in the beauty that New Hampshire is. (Seriously, it’s beautiful).
Okay. I have a confession. When I pulled on the road that led to the entrance of Mount Monadnock, I got a little scared. Out my driver’s side window, stood the highest point in Cheshire County, New Hampshire, or 3,165 feet to be exact. It looked MASSIVE. It even had the fog and clouds that is in every movie or tv show hovered near the top, only showing hints of the peak. However my thoughts of doubt quickly went away as the word “DOPEEEEEEE” came out of my mouth. (Dope is one of my favorite words to say and I probably say it way too much but hey, 🤷🏻♂️🤓). I was instantly excited. I pulled in, talked to one of the park attendees who was still setting up, and parked. Made it. (And beat the GPS by 10 minutes, take THAT GPS!).
The trail/climb up
All of the reviews I had read in the previous weeks, as well as from my recommendations from my friends and colleagues was that there were A LOT of rocks on this trail, and that I had to be prepared for some challenging rock climbing once I got closer to the top. It’s not that I didn’t believe they were telling the truth, I just had never seen or hiked a trail as the one they described, and they couldn’t be more right. The trail starts off on a gradual incline, filled with many tree roots and small to medium rocks that stick out of the ground looking for weak feet and ankles to sprain. The trail is plenty wide, so much so that you don’t feel cramped or tight when several people pass by on their hike up or down the trail. As I made my way up, the tree roots tend to get less and less only to be substituted by bigger, larger rocks. As I kept climbing up, it was easy to follow the trail, as trees and rocks are painted with a large white circle, (The white dot trail is the one I took. It’s the steepest quickest route up the mountain), so it’s hard to get off course. I saw people hiking in front of me going up or down the mountain, so that helped map out the course as well as affirm that I was in fact going in the right direction. (Mount Monadnock is one of the most hiked mountains in New England, so even though I began hiking around 8 a.m., the trail was already being put to good use). Once I got past the medium size rocks I officially graduated to the large ones. And I do mean LARGE. These rocks were relatively smooth too. Oh, and in terms of the incline, yeah, it’s pretty steep. Definitely the steepest I’ve tried to hike. I tried to follow the grooves or edges on the rocks and planned where to step, especially since I didn’t have the correct footwear. I decided to hike the mountain in older training sneakers that had sturdy support but so-so grip. That was almost my biggest mistake of the trip. There were a few times my feet slipped but I was lucky and athletic enough to regain my footing and catch myself in good positions where I could keep on climbing. (Thank you functional training). Going from a trail that was damp and soggy did not help in the matter as well, but going slow, planning where to take my steps, using my hands and body, all helped me in climbing the trail. I was also lucky, (Some say luck, some say synchronicity. It’s me, I say synchronicity), that there was an older couple, a woman and man, probably around 45-50 years old, who had hiked the mountain previously come up behind me and take the lead to show me the best route to take once on the steep, smooth, and slippery large rocks. The last portion of the hike was tricky. I reached a spot where I saw this gorgeous view below that appears between two perfectly placed trees, only to realize that I still had another 20 minutes to the very top. For a first time Monadnock climber, those last 20 minutes were some of the most thrilling hiking I’ve done, because when you’re on the rocks, its just YOU and the rocks. That’s it. You look down and its more rocks, EXCEPT it’s on an incline. It kind of reminded me when I was young and you’re on a playscape, you go down the slide the correct way, then you try climbing back up? YEAH. That is how the climb up to the top during the final leg of the hike was like. Oh, and yea, you’re pretty high up, so if you don’t like heights, just keep looking at the rocks. By this time, there was a slight drop in the temperature and the wind started to pick up. I started to pass by gigantic piles of smaller rocks that lined the path up to the peak. Even though there are dots that still show on the rocks, there are many ways you can choose to climb up. (On many reviews and trail sites they call this a scramble to the top). I chose a way that had edges, crevices, or a large side of the rock sticking out to grab on too when picking the spots to climb. I also made sure that every step I took I was balanced with my arms just in case I was to slip. I’ll save you the drama. I never fell.
Inhale. Smile. Have the wind almost take my hat off. Exhale. I made it to the top. Cue the picture taking. The peak WAS amazing. There were panoramic views of what seems like the entire country. There were several other people on top of the mountain during my time at the top, which in a way actually felt amazing. Here are other people who were celebrating and enjoying their climb, taking in pictures, sitting down eating snacks, or just taking in the view. They’re doing what I was doing. Just being present. Soaking up the moment. It’s that connection we all constantly search for. I felt that this entire hike. (More on that coming up). The wind at the peak was strong and cold, but not cold enough for my hoody. You do need to be careful at the top, as the wind gusts can get to 40 mph from what I’ve read AND experienced. Once I got my pictures, (Thank you to the bro I met who so kindly took my picture!), 🎶 “imagine if I never met the broski’s” – 🎶 (drake reference 😎)
I descended 10-15 feet and sat down beside a large crevice, blocking the wind gusts and facing the sun. It was majestic. Breathtaking. Peaceful. I felt like I was on top of the world. Nothing else mattered at that very moment. I was one with the mountain.
The climb down
The descent wasn’t as strenuous as the way up, but it was still challenging. Descending from the peak and traveling down the rocks on such a decline, I took my time in the placement of my steps and continued to brace my core and use my arms for balance. As I continued down the mountain foot placement becomes the theme as those same rocks I hiked on the way up are back in full force ready to chop away at my ankles if I wasn’t careful. I took the white dot trail back down the mountain, which was not recommended in reviews. The white cross trail is the less steeper of the two and is often the one that hikers take on the descent. But upon my descent, that couple who helped me trace my path up the peak, told me the white dot trail is prettier and more fun than the white cross, and that’s all it took to persuade me. More fun you say? Psss heck yeah, lets do it!! They were right. It WAS more fun on the way down. But not for the reason that most would expect. What I liked most about the way down was all of the connections I made. Remember how I said earlier that Mount Monadnock was the most heavily hiked trail in New England? Well, on my way down, I didn’t go 2 minutes without passing hikers on their way up. So, what did I do? I made sure that I greeted EVERY single person or group with a smile, greeting, and small talk. Not everyone gave back the same energy or enthusiasm that I did, but that’s OK! Some people did! And it was awesome! I even got a high five from a toddler that couldn’t be more than 2 or 3 year’s old that was on her dad’s shoulders in one of those piggy back seats. (Kudos to dad of the year right there). Those connections are what makes hiking so special. Everyone out there is hiking to enjoy nature, to get away from life, to be with family, to move, and to live! And I wanted to soak in that experience during Mount Monadnock, and soak it in I did.
The small town straight out the movies
Once I got back in my car, the first thing I did was search for food. I knew what I wanted. Breakfast. And a lot of it. I found a diner in a little town called Peterborough, about 15 minutes away, and set off. This town literally looked like it was right out of a movie. A small downtown equipped with old buildings and rusting paint, little restaurants and shops, and of course, the diner. When I walked in the diner, I didn’t know if it was just me or if everyone suddenly stopped what they were doing and stared, but it definitely felt like that. All of the booths that lined the diner (maybe 8 total) were full so I grabbed an empty chair at the bar. An older waitress came up to me right away and gave me the old “Ready to order hunny what would ya like?”. I knew without even having to look at the menu. “Two eggs over easy with a side of hash browns, no toast, full stack of blueberry pancakes, extra blueberries, and the real maple syrup please”. With a grin wider than the trail I had just hiked, the waitress responded, “You gonna eat all that hunny?”. I loved the hospitality. I smiled and said “Oh yeah”. What I didn’t realize is this brief interaction opened up a line of communication with what seemed to be every waitress in the place. They all started talking to me. I was flattered. I honestly felt like a celebrity. At one point in the conversation, a waitress, older than me, said “You aint from round here huh sweetie”. I said, “No maam, what makes you say that?”. (I really did say ma’am). And she goes, “Oh nothing, we just don’t see fellas like you come in”, giggling. I laughed myself. I probably was blushing too. BUT WHO SAYS THAT? Honestly. I thought that only happens in movies!! Nevertheless, breakfast was a lot of fun. It was delicious too. I thanked them for all of the compliments and love and headed back to my car. Time to drive home.
The drive back
The drive back home is never as fun as the one getting to your destination, but I was on so many endorphins from my post hike and breakfast that I knew I would still enjoy it. Traffic was heavier during this time, but it didn’t dampen my mood. I blasted my music on the way back, this time changing it to my country playlist, and sang like I was the headline act at the Xfinity theater in Hartford. (Can you imagine? Hey you guys going to see Zak Brown band tonight? D-Rob is headlining. 😂 maybe in an alternate universe). Anyways, I couldn’t be any happier to how my entire trip went. My drive home allowed me to reflect on what a tremendous day I had. I was grateful for all of the people I met. The sights, the sounds, the views, everything went better than I could have expected.
And that’s where I’m finally getting too.
To find what we’re looking for, sometimes we have to leave our expectations behind.
I’m so glad I was finally able to hike Mount Monadnock,
because life is an adventure, and it’s meant to be explored.
Go out and explore yours. 🤙🙌⛰
Peace, love and good vibes, ✌️❤️
and like always, thank you for reading. I know this was a long one.