North Pack Monadnock (Really)

Remember a few weeks ago when we tried to hike North Pack Monadnock and failed because of my poor direction-writing-down skills? Well, today we succeeded. And it was worth the extra effort to return to the area and find the right trail. We tackled Ted’s Trail on the way up, and Carolyn’s Trail on the way down. We loved it. Ted’s Trail in particular is a really nice walk. You’ll see later that Carolyn’s starts pretty rough, but it ends nicely. The entire trip was about six miles. A nice walk for a Saturday afternoon in the early Fall.

Given our love of boardwalks, check out the good omen that greeted us when we set out.

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Here I am checking out the map. As usual, Yen photographed it in case we needed it later. It turned out that there was no need, both because there aren’t a lot of other trails to confuse you on this route, but also because there were other trails and nice clear signs all along the way. There’s something to be said for hiking in a national wildlife refuge.

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All day we noticed signs of Fall. It’s not in full swing yet, but it’s definitely on the way. Probably two weeks from now it’ll peak. Tomorrow we’re heading a little farther north to check conditions up there.

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Here I am in front of the sign where the trail crosses into the refuge. Say what you will about federal spending, but each time we’ve hiked either a refuge or a national park, we’ve found them extremely well marked and nicely cleared trails.

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Ted’s trail is nice because it meanders through woods, taking its time and following a little stream. It’s not until almost a mile in that it starts to climb, and even then it’s a gentle climb most of the way up. These boulders are effectively the gateway to the uphill portion of the trail.

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At about this point, I took off. I wanted to get some decent exercise, and Yen was taking a lot of photos, so I picked up the pace a little bit.

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Here’s the first real view of the day. It was sunny the entire time, and in the low 70s. No wind at all. We ran into a couple with two dogs when we first set out, then we saw another couple off and on the rest of the way up. Other than that, we really had the place to ourselves.

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As you get to the top, there are lots of cairns. The trail is well marked (as I keep saying over and over), but it is nice to be able to look ahead and see where you’re going.

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Here’s the little bit of Fall color you’ve been waiting for. It only really looks this way on the south side of the mountain (so far).

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Here I am resting and about to eat an apple.

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When I climbed down to pose for this shot, I could hear the woman from the aforementioned couple quietly suggesting to her husband what he’d do to her if she climbed out onto a cliff like that. I’m so bold.

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The area you can see in these photos turned out to be nicer than the summit. If you tackle this trail, keep in mind to follow the spur out to South Cliff. It’s worth the extra 300 feet. When you’re done, follow the blue blazes (tee hee!) up to the top. We didn’t realize you could do that, and retraced our steps all the way around and ended up meeting up with the blue trail again. Could’ve saved 10 minutes.

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Someone placed this little jack o’lantern up at the top. He’s a nice surprise when you arrive.

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Not pictured: The part where I scarfed down banh mi and relaxed. I really didn’t want to get up again.

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But we headed back down, this time following Carolyn’s trail. It’s much steeper and a little more direct. Having done both now, I don’t think Carolyn’s trail shaves off enough total length to be worth the extra angle of descent. Next time I think I’d probably go back down Ted’s Trail. The other issue with Carolyn’s trail is that it’s not quite as tidy. There are roots everywhere, and if you’re as prone to turning an ankle as I am, that’s something you worry about.

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We’ve been looking for photos to print for our walls here at home. I think Yen had that in mind when he took the next two photos. I think they’re candidates!

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The trail includes this long, narrow boardwalk, which is extremely necessary. You’re walking right above standing water when you’re on this.

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And that’s it. We made it back to the car and drove the hour home. My legs are very sore even though it was just six miles. It’s probably the three miles we ran last night before dinner. Sunday’s supposed to be a day of rest, right? We’ll see…