Wednesday, September 2, 2009


There were many more trails to walk and features to see, so on a spectacular late summer day - sunny and dry and crystal-clear - I made the long drive down to Monadnock State Park for the second time in a week. I see now how this fascinating mountain grabs a hold of people and makes them "Monadnophiles."

I planned a long circuit over the mountain, using many trails. I started off with a pleasant woods walk on the east side of the mountain along the Hinkley Trail.

Next up was the Harling Trail, which made a modest climb up to Cascade Link. I made a short side trip over to the White Dot Trail (by far the most heavily used route on Monadnock) to see Falcon Spring, which was named after an early fire warden.

Damage from last winter's ice storm was in evidence along Cascade Link.

There are no major waterfalls on Monadnock that I'm aware of, but there are small beauties to be found.

Spellman is reputed to be the steepest trail on Monadnock, and I was looking forward to it.

It starts off easily enough, through shady spruces.

Then, abruptly, you reach the base of the steep slope. Time to use hands as well as feet.

This was a pretty good scramble....

...leading up to the first view of the day, out to the Pack Monadnocks.

More scrambling - great trail!

Looking off to Wachusett Mountain on the horizon, just left of the tree.

Don't know if I'd want to go down this way.

At the top of the steep pitch the Spellman Trail eased off and led up to the Pumpelly Trail, which traverses the mountain's great, ledgy NE ridge. The upper Pumpelly is one of New Hampshire's best walks.

I soon passed the Sarcophagus, named for its resemblance to an ancient ceremonial coffin.

The exhilaration of sun and open rock - the summit in sight ahead.

Looking back down the ridge at Town Line Peak - near the boundary between Dublin and Jaffrey. Looks like a sibling of Mt. Jackson in the Whites.

Looking north at the lower Pumpelly Ridge and the valley of Mountain Brook.

For such a glorious day, there wasn't a lot of traffic. I saw no one on the first four miles of my hike except on the White Dot at Falcon Spring, and at the summit, in mid-afternoon, there were only about 20 people. Note the woman with the dog. Pets aren't allowed on Monadnock, and she was reminded of that fact by a passing volunteer.

On a day like this it seems all New England is laid at your feet. And there are no communications towers up here - the locals beat back a proposal in 1945, and it's doubtful anyone has tried since. If the state tried to subject Monadnock to an under-cover-of-darkness indignity such as the horrendous tower perpetrated on Kearsarge, they'd have an armed insurrection on their hands.

I made a short side jaunt down the White Arrow Trail, perhaps the oldest on the mountain, to check out the noted steep scramble at the top. A 1904 photo shows a group of well-dressed ladies and gents making their way up this pitch with the notation, "The Last Arrow."

Then I went a little ways down the Smith Summit Trail, where off to the side you can see this neat cliff.

By hopping out to an outcrop, you get a great view of a famous Monadnock feature: the Billings Fold. Named after geologists Katherine Fowler-Billings and Marland Billings, this is a classic example of folding and layering in metamorphic rock. This is the Granite State, but Monadnock, like the Presidentials, is made up of erosion-resistant quartzite and schist. That's why it is "the mountain that stands alone."

Before heading down the Marlboro Trail, I lingered to admire the views. This is looking west to southern Vermont, with Mt. Ascutney prominent on the right.

It was an exceptionally clear day. In addition to Mt. Washington, I could pick out 20 other 4000-footers. In this zoom, Mt. Kearsarge is the prominent peak on the left. Mt. Bond can be seen to its left, and the Osceolas peek over its right shoulder. Farther right are Carrigain, Washington, Sandwich Dome, Tripyramids, Sleepers, Whiteface and Passaconaway.

A small alpine pool.

Heading down the upper Dublin/Marlboro Trail, you pass by some interesting rock formations.

The Dublin/Marlboro trail split.If you didn't know the trail names, you might wonder what the heck this means.

The Marlboro Trail makes a precipitous drop into the woods.

The same pitch from below. The butt came in handy here.

Down at the junction with the Marian Trail is the Rock House, a natural shelter.

Pretty spruce forest on the Marian Trail. Monadnock is full of little trail gems like this.

I looped around to the clearing at the site of the old Half Way House hotel, with the summit in sight above. These guys were heading up to see the sunset, then they planned to descend with the help of a nearly full moon.

This spring was chiseled out by a hotel guest in the early 1900s.

I climbed up onto the south ridge via the Thoreau Trail, and got my last view of the day from a ledge at the top of the Lost Farm Trail, watching the moon ride high over the Wapack Range.

From there I descended the Lost Farm Trail and the lower Parker Trail, the last mile in near-darkness. It was a great day with eye-stretching views and a hike in which I set foot on 17 trails. Count me as a converted Monadnophile!


  1. Mr. Smith,

    Thank you for the reminder that Monadnock is indeed a worthy hike. Having grown up in Brattleboro, I'd hiked the mountain a number of times in my childhood, but returned late yesterday afternoon for the first time in over a decade. My friend and I arrived at the summit shortly before sunset on what had become a cloudless and cool summer evening and soaked in the wonder of the summit and it's views with but one other soul at the top. What a treat!

    Ascent: White Dot>Cascade Link>Spellman>Pumpelly; Descent: White Cross/White Dot.

    Thank you for the inspiration.

    Happy hiking,

    Matt K.

  2. cool trip and photos, nice!

  3. Enjoy your blog very much. Definitely a hiker's perspective vs a peakbagger's. Ran across this Monadnock hike while back reading and since I hike M several times a week just thought I'd let you know that there is a nice waterfall, Chamberlain Falls, which is 20-30 feet tall. It is quite impressive during spring runoff and after heavy rains. Very few of us know about it, but it is there. Thanks again for the great blog. I look forward to each one.

    1. Thank you for your comment - glad you enjoy the blog. And thanks for the tip on Chamberlain Falls - I'll look for it next time I go down there.