Mt Monadnock pokes it’s head above the rest of southern New Hampshire. Today, the peak had snagged a sombrero of clouds. It was a chilly Thanksgiving weekend, and we could see that in the shadow of the clouds, the top third of the mountain was white from snow or ice.
This spring we summitted Mt Cardigan with 1,400′ of elevation gain. Then in the summer we climbed Mt Carrigain, a steep 4,000′ footer over 2 days. Isaac seemed ready for the local giant. But we just never found time until my parents were in town on Thanksgiving. We planned to hike the Old Toll Road to the old halfway house site and then White Arrow Trail to the top. This isn’t the shortest route, but Isaac makes much better time on a maintained road than on a rocky trail. Sunset was at 4:17 PM, so it was a short day to attempt a big mountain. Tyson had an even shorter day. He arrived late and left early so he could work on the Bearhawk with a neighbor. It was hunting season, so we all made sure to wear orange vests.
The hike up the old Toll Road is quite boring. So even though it was almost half the hike, I have little to say about it. Isaac complained the road was boring and he wanted a real hike. There was still plenty to distract him — culverts to inspect, rocks on the side of the trail to climb, hunters with rifles to puzzle at. At the Old Halfway House site, we saw our first dusting of snow. Now we were on the White Arrow Trail. It is quite eroded from heavy traffic and water. Some parts ascend steeply with large granite rocks shaped into steps. As we climbed up through the forest, the dusting of snow on the ground grew to a solid layer. Tyson caught up to us right at noon, sitting on a boulder eating lunch.
Hiking with a little kid at the edge of winter is difficult. It’s cold enough to be dangerous, but everything isn’t frozen yet. And I’m never quite prepared with the next size up warm clothes. At the start of the hike, it was above freezing. Puddles and streams riddled the trail. Isaac kept stopping to play in the water. Unfortunately, getting wet is an invitation for hypothermia or frostbite. Us adults lectured Isaac until he finally quit; though he did look kind of sad. The worst were the puddles covered in freshly fallen leaves. Isaac unintentionally stepped right into one of these. I was ready to pull out the spare shoes I carried in my pack, but he said his socks were still dry. The temperature dropped as we climbed higher. To my relief, at the tree line, all the water disappeared and there was nothing but snow and ice. Up here, it was well below freezing. Our water bladder tubes froze even though we did our best to drain them.
The highest parts of the White Arrow Trail are quite a scramble. In some places, we climbed giant slabs that the wind had scoured free of snow. In other places, the rocks had broken into steps with snow drifted around them. In a few places, however, the rock chunks were too big for Isaac. He couldn’t step up them like the adults. And he needed technical rock climbing skill to use the little cracks and crevices. We boosted him up in a few places, but I think we can still count this as an Isaac powered summit. After one desperate scramble near the top, we finally summited. A few other groups huddled in the lee of the summit rocks. The clouds now covered all of southern NH, so there was no sun to provide warmth. We quickly ate celebratory chocolate, took a photo, and retreated.
Down a hundred feet from the top, Tyson set up his new kite. It is a two line parachute style kite and it flew quite well. It is much more packable than my rigid frame kite. Isaac had a go at it too. Ten or so ravens soared and dove in the winds streaming over the ridge.
We descended much faster than we had hiked up. All the adults warmed up on the way down. Isaac thought it was grand to jump and slide down the snowy rocks. Luckily he didn’t fall too much.
Near tree line, Tyson split from the group and headed home to work on the Bearhawk. The rest of us picked our way down. As the snow grew scarcer and scarcer, Isaac spent more and more time hunting for pockets of snow to slide on. Unfortunately, as my Dad was all too keenly aware, the sun was setting. It left a red streak to the west where the clouds ended over Vermont. By the time we reached the bottom of the White Arrow Trail, the sun was long gone. The trail was drier than on the way up since the snow had stopped melting.
I delayed pulling the headlamps out until we reached the Old Toll Road. I was hoping the headlamp would be a reward for Isaac getting there, but I don’t think it worked out. At least no one fell on the washed out rocks and roots. Once on the road, it was an easy and quick hike out by headlamp. Ours was the last car in the parking lot.
Guide book distances: 4.6 miles, 1,700′ elevation.