North Pack Not Really

The alternate title of this post is “Making the Best of a Mistake.” Yen picked out North Pack Monadnock as a good hike for us many weeks ago, but life kept coming up, and we didn’t have a chance to tackle it. Today, we decided, should finally be the day. I looked up directions, and they seemed simple enough that I didn’t write them down. Besides (I reasoned), I’d actually hiked NPM once before, but on a different trail than the one Yen wanted to take (Ted’s). So we drove, stopping off for banh mi as usual, and arrived at the turn to Mountain Road after about an hour.

Mountain Road turned out to be a very narrow gravel lane with a big gate and a sign warning all that the road is closed December to May. That didn’t really ring a bell, but we turned onto it and drove anyway.

The directions are clear that you will come to Wapack Trail first, and then a mile farther down the road, you should come to Ted’s Trail. The consensus is that Ted’s is the nicer trail, following a brook and turning toward several waterfalls. We saw a sign for Wapack Trail, but after driving until the road become nothing more than a little deer path, we never saw Ted’s trail. With no cell signal, we figured… What the heck? We turned back to Wapack and started up.

I got grumpy immediately. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s a trail that heads uphill immediately, instead of offering a level preamble to get you started. Between heading straight uphill immediately and a curious problem with my boots that I’ve never experienced before (“My feet are choking!” I kept whining), I wasn’t a very happy hiker. What was really strange was when we emerged from trees after barely five minutes and found ourselves on the side of a steep slope covered in wildflowers. Turning back, we saw good ol’ Monadnock (not to be confused with NPM) mocking us in the distance.

Did I mention what an unbelievably beautiful day it was?


Here you go: a photo of me trudging uphill, cursing all New England trails, which don’t seem to understand the concept of switchbacks. Everyone who ever designed a trail seemed to have thought to himself, “If I do this quickly, I can get home, have a coffee milk and a lobstah roll, and catch the end of the Sox game.” What jerks.


Yay! Nearing the top! Nearing. At this point I announced that I was done whining. Yen said sweetly, “Maybe it’s just an off day.” He’s so eternally kind to me.


He let me go on ahead and I prepared here to plunge into the woods.





Lately I’ve been stealing the camera and taking extremely close-up shots of my sweet honey badger. You can see here the dubious look beneath the smile.

Just before this photo was taken, we came to a T on the trail, and an older couple carrying a book that said, simply, “Hiking.” The woman was using her finger as a bookmark, as if they were going to make their way through it over the course of the day, and she didn’t want to waste time actually closing it when she’d refer again so quickly to it. “Is this Ted’s trail?” Yen asked her. “Well, I think it’s Burton Peak. The sign down there said something about Cabot Skyline.” I told her that we thought we were hiking North Pack Monadnock. “Oh,” she said without consulting the book. “That’s not in here.”

Yen and I let them go ahead, snapped these photos, and decided to make the best of the day. We turned and headed uphill toward Burton Peak.


And almost immediately found it. About the time this photo was taken, Yen dropped his hat. We didn’t realize that for quite a while, and spent our entire return trip hunting for it. When it never appeared, I suggested that we drive over to the other trail head to look for it. Sure enough, someone had picked it up and left it hanging on a post there. Good samaritan!

By the way, I asked Yen what the heck was up with his jaunty pose. “It’s my Kate pose,” he said. I explained that a proper Kate pose involves both hands on hips, not one grasping a tree. He promised to work on it.


Much of the trail skirts an old stone wall, which you can see Yen admired tremendously. It really was beautiful.






After trekking along the skyline trail with its fun little saddles (up, down; up, down), I finally found this little outcropping and settled in for a picnic.  After lunch we sat a long time just enjoying the day, the view, the company. We even got a terrific lesson in insect behavior watching a thread-waisted wasp drag a stunned caterpillar into a hole so she could lay eggs in it. She was extremely diligent about covering the hole up when she was finished. It felt like watching a private screening of Nature.


Here’s one of the saddles I mentioned before. Way down, then way up. They were fun. The tiny speck at the top of the second photo is me, being scale as usual.







Ah! Here’s the sign that cleared up the mystery of where we really were. You see, we actually were on the Wapack trail. We were just on the wrong part of it. It turns out that we should have been 12 miles north of where we actually were.


I made Yen photograph this little guy. He was very patient and held still the entire time.



Another extreme closeup. Here he’s just openly laughing at me.


And there I go, headed down the side of the mountain meadow. Call me Heidi.





And just before we go to the car, one last look back up at the very blue sky. It was a small walk and not at all where we intended, but a terrific afternoon just the same.