We hiked a long and beautiful section of the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway descending the ridge line from Mt Sunapee.
We signed ourselves up for an adventure by starting later than we should have for such a long hike. Getting out of the house with a kid is tough. First we had to position the second car at the end of the hike in Pillsbury State Park. Then we started hiking up Mt Sunapee. There are a bunch of trails up Mt Sunapee. We chose the most gradual trail on the west side — the Goshen trail. The trail was fairly nondescript since it used to be an access road, but it was doable while carrying Isaac.
At the top, we were greeted by crowds of people and performed the obligatory “I have a map, let me direct you down even though I have never hiked here before” service. We enjoyed lunch on the deck of the ski area lodge overlooking Vermont and western NH, the mountains fading into anonymity in the hazy air. By this time, there was no doubt we would finish the hike late if we continued, but I had been so adamant that morning about going for a long hike that we continued on.
After lunch we followed the Monadnock Sunapee Greenway proper. This section of trail was gorgeous and wild. It reminded me of the White Mountains — below the treeline, but high mountain vegetation, occasional rocky promontories, mountain lakes and bogs. We passed but one person at the Lake Solitude overlook. A heavily patched and punctured canoe rested on the shore of the lake. We paused a moment to admire the view and a large frog.
Then we were off as fast as we could ramble up and down the ridge line; sometimes scampering over clean gray granite in the soft afternoon sun, other times following a narrow channel through the deep moss. Isaac helped some too, but we urged him to hurry up so many times that he started warning us it was going to get dark.
Every time we checked the map, we seemed to have made barely any progress compared to the miles remaining. Finally we reached Lucia’s Lookout. Several years ago, we hiked there from Pillsbury State Park, so we now had some reference for the trails. At this point, the ridge line dropped down into lowland forests. We quickly arrived at the our turn off to Five Summers Trail. While we stopped for a rest, we discussed our options. The Five Summers Trail was definitely the more direct route to the car, but both of us remembered it as poorly maintained, choked with brambles, and flooded by nearby swamps. Both of us decided we would rather hike the longer route than try to navigate such a questionable trail in the dark.
Onward we trudged. No views now, just tired bodies and sore shoulders from carrying Isaac. The sun disappeared behind the ridge and then reappeared briefly when we crossed the ridge, only to finally set. At the turn off to Bear Pond Trail we paused again to rest though almost all the food and water were gone. Isaac declared he wanted to hike. Bear Pond Trail is maintained for snowmobiling so all the stream crossings were bridged, and the grade was steady downhill, but not steep. Initially there was enough twilight to see by, but eventually we pulled out headlamps for all of us. Almost down to Mill Pond, we discovered a real treat, a swamp field full of fireflies.
Isaac hiked most of 2 miles back to the trailhead and then requested a lift down the road to the parking lot. We finally arrived back at the car at 9:30 at night.
I would like to hike this trail again slower to enjoy it better, though we can skip the summit and instead hike up the Lake Solitude trail.