Monadnock: It's Never Lonely at the Top
The White Arrow Trail on the south side is perhaps the mountain’s oldest trail (set in 1706). It is wide and well worn, though rocky, and climbs steeply at times through yellow birch and spruce woods. You’ll pass over wide stone steps laid by the U.S. Geodetic Survey crews in 1861. “Emerson used to stroll up the south side dressed as though he were walking up Beacon Street,” a local writer noted. Several turn-of-the-century photographs show ladies in long dresses picnicking under parasols on the summit, but you may find your hike less of an elegant occasion. Be prepared to sweat.
If you’d like to see what you and the mountain are made of, the steepest section of trail — 700 feet in half a mile — lies on the Spellman Trail. Despite the steep ascent, it’s not a difficult climb, the guidebook assures you. The spectacular views to the east may make it worth the workout. The Spellman Trail joins the Cascade Link to the Pumpelly Trail, making it a 2.9-mile hike in all from park headquarters to the summit.
“They who simply climb to the peak of Monadnock have seen but little of the mountain,” Thoreau wrote in his journal. “I came not to look off from it, but to look at it. The view of the pinnacle itself from the plateau below surpasses any view which you get from the summit.” One of the best places to admire the view is at the aptly named Inspiration Rock. (Since no official trail exists to get you there, it would be wise to ask for specific “bushwhacking” instructions from the park staff.) At 2,660 feet, just south of the White Cross Trail, you’ll see a remarkable silhouette of the summit and marvelous views to the east down Mead’s Brook ravine.
If you’re not determined to get to the summit or if you have children along, there are other options. You can camp at the base, where 21 family sites are available year-round (half on a first-come, first-served basis; the other half reservable), and explore the Monadnock Garden Club’s trail within a short walk of park headquarters. There you’ll find some 400 species of wildflowers — turtleheads, arrowheads, asters and 50 fern varieties.
Those who settled the area saw immediately how distracting the mountain’s beauty could be and took the necessary precautions. “Our ancestors who cleared the farms were an austere, pious breed,” Tolman wrote. “They took no chances. Wherever a house had a fine outlook, invariably a huge barn was built squarely in front of it. Plainly, the builders figured the going would be hard enough in this stony wilderness without their womenfolk getting starry-eyed from gazing at Monadnock.”
It is summer, the season of dog days and lemonade afternoons, and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. You are standing at the head of a gentle green hill before countless rows of blueberry bushes heavy with ripe fruit. Behind these, Mount Monadnock rises in the distance. Bucket in hand, you enjoy a morning of premier picking, and find raspberries, blueberry plants, cold drinks, local produce, baked goods, and goats for petting, too. There’s even a sandbox for young pickers who run out of steam. Though wild blueberries sing like no other fruit, the varieties cultivated here are the tastiest we’ve found. Fingertips and tongues may be blue, but your spirit will be just the opposite. Monadnock Berries, 545 West Hill Rd., Troy. 603-242-6417.