Years ago we had made the drive west across the state to hike Mount Monadnock. When we reached the parking area at the State Park Headquarters we discovered that our dog Emma was not welcome to hike the mountain with us. We left, disgruntled. I told the park employee, "This dog, this hee- yuh dog, why she has hiked all the four thousand footers in NH. I don't see why she shouldn't be allowed hee-yuh." He told me, " 'cause this hee-yuh mountain ain't no fo- thousand footer." Well that was that. We went and hiked Pack Monadnock instead, where Emma was welcome. We had never returned, and never hiked this mountain together, though Judy had done it with her sister when they were in their twenties.
At least ten years after that day we left disgruntled we were here again, this time to hike with our friend Mark. Geez, I hope they let him in! We met at the Headquarters. We had driven out in Judy's Tacoma which sports a combined Conservation Heritage/State Park Moose Plate, this gets us free admission to all the state parks in NH and donates part of the cost of the plate towards at the state's Conservation Heritage Fund. Pretty good deal for $85, or, you can just get the State Park Plate for $40. We were soon on our way up the White Dot Trail. We hiked this as far as Falcon Spring then turned off on the Cascade Link. It was all new territory for Judy and I, though Mark had done it many times.
We passed blossoming Hobblebush and came upon the first Painted Trillium of the year. After crossing an unnamed brook the trail became steeper and required a good deal of scrambling among boulders. We passed green mossy wet spots where water oozed and trickled down the mossy rock faces. The Clintonia, or Blue Bead Lily as it is often referred to, was in abundance, buy not yet blossoming out. In a week or so the trail will be lousy with them. Not a bad thing! We continued to rise through the now mostly coniferous forest, breaking out to surrounding views on rocky ledges, then ducking back into the woods to do some more boulder picking and scrambling. My leg felt OK, but the day was getting hot! Blackflies were present, but not really biting or all that annoying, yet! That will change soon. I got through the day without using any repellant, which is always my preferred method.
We stopped on a steep ledge along the Spellman Trail and had a drink and a bite. I looked around and tried to name what I saw. Mount Sunapee to the north, North and Pack Monadnock to the east, and Temple across the shallow col from Pack. I climbed above the others seeking some shade. When they climbed up to me I was able to get some pictures which for once I thought actually gave an idea of the steepness and exposure on the way up. We had soon hiked up to where the Spellman connected with the Pumpelly Trail. From this point the terrain became much more open, often tree-less, with a much gentler incline, though there was still a scramble or two on the way to the summit. The actual summit itself was invisible to us at this point of the hike, and we crossed several bumps as we continued in a westerly direction.
There were several people on the summit, but Mark said it was the fewest he had ever seen there. There was no doubt in our minds this was true, as we were quite aware that this attainable little gem of a mountain had a reputation as the second most hiked mountain in the world. We were happy it was pretty sparsely attended on a Monday morning. The sun was now quite hot and there was no shade, but clouds were moving in from the west and made for some interesting skies, as well as eventually casting their shadows to provide some relief from the sun. We sat and ate and enjoyed the warm, stiff breeze that kept the flies away and allowed us a good, long enjoyable lunch and stretch before we had to get up and begin our descent. I set Emma's collar on the summit and took a picture. "No dogs allowed" indeed! Little did they know, she was with us all the time!
The clouds moved in as we began our descent, finding our way led by Mark through a myriad of trails on the summit until we found the White Arrow Trail and began to descend. I was glad for the shade and relief from the sun the clouds were now providing for as soon as we began to drop down the east side of the mountain the southwesterly wind was blocked and the air was hot. After a long, "Real" New England winter, and a long cold, wet spring, the warmth felt good, but not too much too soon please! It was an interesting downward scramble to our connection with the Amphitheater Trail, then more downward scrambling. We were soon down to the Smith Connecting Link where things leveled out a bit and we actually began to climb up a bit to reach Bald Rock.
Along the trail we found Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) eggs in a wet spot and later discovered an old camp coffee pot hanging in a tree. It was interesting to note that although the map calls the bump "Bald Rock" there is a large boulder with the name "Kiasticuticus Peak" carved on one of its facets. After another short break we began another scrambling descent past a spot called "Thoreau's Seat" and down again into a deciduous forest where the terrain became less steep and we connected with the Lost Farm Trail. Here in the hardwoods which had not yet leafed out we began to find many wildflowers, most of whom were just awakening. Blue Bead Lily, Painted Trillium, Red-stemmed Violet, Hobblebush and Indian Cucumber to name a few.
My pace slowed as my leg had begun to stiffen. Mark and Judy went on ahead and left me to my musings and I stopped often to listen to and photograph what I saw as I hiked out. As the trail led past the dam for Poole reservoir it was awfully tempting to break some rules and cool off, but I managed to refrain. It had been a great hike and we all earned an ice cream reward when it was over.