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Fifty Sense: Common Sense Ideas for Thriving after 50
Fifty Sense: Common Sense Ideas for Thriving after 50

Monadnock to Sunapee Greenway Trail in Southwest NH:

I just finished a four-day hike with some friends on the Monadnock to Sunapee Greenway Trail. It was great!

Starting at the spectacularly bald summit of Mt. Monadnock (great views on clear days) just east of NH Rt. 124 between Marlborough and Jaffrey. Continuing 50 miles north across NH Rts 101, 123, 9 and 31 and ending at the summit of Mt. Sunapee. With more great views, just south of NH 103 and within a few miles of I-89.

The only on-trail resupply point is in the town of Washington, NH on NH Rt. 31, less than ten miles south of the northern end. There are several dirt roads between the main road crossings, so spotting cars, water, etc. is very possible, although it involves quite a bit of driving.

My friend Andrew from VT met me Thursday and, after spotting a car about twenty miles north, we started up Monadnock from the west on the 2.6 mile long Marlboro trail. Haze limited visibility to about five miles but it was very comfortable hiking weather. After descending to the north on the Greenway, we met up with friends Kim and Scott, also from VT. After the first eight miles up and down Monadnock with thirty pounds up, I started remembering a few of the old aches and pains. Nothing a couple of Vitamin I Thursday night couldn't handle though and it got easier from there on out.

The terrain to Monadnock's north is not only pretty but pretty forgiving too, at least for a couple of days. The trail north of Rt. 101 is a mixture of easy woods trails and dirt roadwalks through very rural, gently rolling southwestern NH. That first section also includes the dramatic Eliza Adams Gorge, with its unrunnable white water, chained-in-place footbridge and fragrant conifers. After eleven miles or so, we camped Thursday night near Child's Bog, which is really a nice pond.

Friday we continued north on what was again a mix of single-track woods trails and old woods roads that were very picturesque, with tall hardwoods in full fall dress arching over a path already covered in the reds and golds of fallen leaves. There was only a half mile of blacktop south of Rt. 9, which we crossed beneath in a large square culvert containing a concrete walkway alongside a fish-ladder type of concrete streambed. Nice and cool on a very humid day, with water droplets hanging from the ceiling over the stream. I went first and waved my hiking poles to clear the few small cobwebs. The forecast was for gnarly weather Friday night, so we stopped early after about nine miles at Crider Forest shelter and spent a dry if somewhat clammy night while the storm raged around us.

The rain had stopped by Saurday morning but it was still partly cloudy and very humid. We roadwalked north a bit on dirt roads and then entered the Faulkner family's Andorra Forest, home to some huge old white pines and Robinson Brook, a small stream with many pretty cataracts that we walked beside as we climbed up to the blueberry pastures and Rt. 123 just south of Pitcher Mt.

Andrew had to leave us there se we spent a few hours retreiving and respotting cars and then continued north from the Washington-Bradford Rd, 17 miles to the north. The trail from there up to Sunapee is quite different from the southern portion. After leaving the road, the trail is all single track, narrower than the southern woods paths and more reminiscent of the AT. It's only 'Two R' instead of three, though. Plenty of rocks and roots but not as much 'rosion as its more heavily used Appalachian cousin. It winds up and down, crossing numerous small crests and saddles on its way up to Sunapee ridge. We spent Saturday night up high near Moose Lookout campsight and the wind was incredible.

A strong cold front continued to push through on Saturday night and as the stars came out the temp dropped into the 40's. I was finally snug and comfortable where I'd been clammy and sweaty the previous two nights. Had to get up after moonset and take down the fly over my hammock to stop its incessant flapping. The hammock bounced gently throughout the night as the wind swayed 'my' trees. It would've been very restful had it not been accompanied by about as much noise as a passing freight train.

Sunapee ridge on Sunday was drop-dead gorgeous, with cool temps, clear blue skies, rich fall colors and spectacular views from all along the ridge, with its many great ledges and viewpoints. The wind had stripped away some of the foliage compared to the day before, but the views were still fabulous. All in all, a wonderful hike.

I'm psyched that we have such a gem of a trail right here in NH! The guidebook and maps were great; the trail was well-blazed and mostly very well maintained and lightly used. From what I saw, I think the Greenway Trail club and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests are doing a wonderful job and deserve our apprectiation and patronage to help ensure their continued health. I'm going to have to join the Greenway trail club and help maintain it!

Happy Trails!


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