I don’t consider myself to be a serious outdoorsman, but I am familiar with hiking, cycling and camping. I am relatively physically fit and I enjoy being outside. Still, when my daughter asked me if I wanted to go on a hike with her this summer, I was a little bit worried. As I moved from my 30s (where she is) to my 60s, hikes gave way to day hikes, and camping gave way to hotels. I’ve continued to ride a bike that I bought in 1978, but I ride it less each year.
When I asked my physical therapist about the pain I get in my shoulder when I ride my bike, he pointed out that when riding a bike, your neck is bend forward much of the time. He added:
“…although I would never discourage someone of your advanced years from getting physical exercise, cycling is one of the worst things for your neck.”
I think he is 24. For the record, I don’t consider 60 to be “advanced years” – just saying, sonny.
Anyway, Faith assured me that she would “save an easy hike” for me. I wanted to be a little upset with her when she said that, but she’s been to the top of a bunch of places in New England that I’ve only seen from a scenic overlook, so I tempered my reaction accordingly.
The hike she was “saving” for me was Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire. Mt. Monadnock is a very popular place to hike. In fact, it’s one of the most frequently climbed mountains in the world.
Anytime someone points out that something is “one of the most popular…” I get a little nervous. That’s ‘cuz the Volkswagen Beetle and the Ford Escort are among the Top-10 best-selling cars in American history. Vanilla is the most popular ice cream flavor and Bud Light leads the Top-5 list of best-selling beers in America today.
So, a few weeks ago, on a less-hot-than-normal-for-August Sunday, we set out for New Hampshire. I always forget that part of New Hampshire is “over there” from here, but part of it is “up there.” If you’re not familiar with New England geography, New Hampshire is the Foam Finger between Vermont and Maine. Anyway, I programmed the parking lot’s address into Greta and off we went.
We stopped at the “almost there” point to gaze upon our destination. “That doesn’t look so bad” of course I was
thinking hoping that we would be driving up to the plateau to the right of the hump shown in that picture at the top.
No such luck.
The scene at the parking lot gave testimony to the popularity of this climb. We parked in Overflow Lot B and we joined a throng of others heading for the last restroom we would see for 4-5 hours. Boots on, water bottles filled, trekking poles adjusted and backpack strapped over, under and across – we were ready.
I was a little worried that the trekking poles were overkill. I’d never hiked with them, but they seemed like a good idea. My main reason for using them is so that my right arm doesn’t just hang at my side. That aggravates the shoulder issue that I have. In any case, they turned out to be a very good idea.
The hike started out like any other, on a root-infested path through the woods. Then the path got steeper. Then the path turned to rock. Then the rocks got steeper. Then we redefined “steeper” – several times. Then the steep rocks were replaced by one huge rock with a very steep side. Then we saw the steepest, biggest rock ever – up there – in front of us.
All the way up, Faith was paying me back for every time in her childhood I told her something awful would “build character.” At one point, the rocks were kinda step-like. “Ooh, steps, steps are easy.” Then the steps gave way to random rubble that results from gravity pulling on things for EVER. “I’m pretty sure we’re more than half way there.” Though she never identified where “there” was. “I think this is the last steep section, we’ll be hiking along the ridge soon.” Did she think I forgot that picture I took two hours ago?
Finally No, not quite finally, we arrived at what should have been the top a beautiful mountain vista, looking out over a verdant forest and a small lake. Unfortunately, when we looked the other way, we saw the huge bald hunk of granite looming ahead and above our position. Significantly more above than ahead.
Below are a few random observations that I put into list form to keep this under 1,000 words:
- Little kids can climb big rocks because their center of gravity is very low.
- Chaperones of youth groups should stay with their group, tend to tired and injured members of their group and remind the members of their group that they aren’t the only people on the planet.
- Chaperones should not hold group pep-talks in the narrow part of the path.
- People with loud music playing from inside their backpack should have to stay in the car and not touch anything.
- You take way more pictures going up than you do coming down.
- Chipmunks laugh at humans all the time.
We made it to the top.
It felt good to sit there, munch some snacks and take in the marvelous view. As is often the case, going down was harder. That has to do with the way human feet and knees bend and don’t bend. I am glad Faith invited me to make this hike, but I felt better after she told me that it was among the more difficult hikes she took this summer. A recent AP Article confirms that Mt. Monadnock is a tougher climb than it looks.