Dan and Hannah Hike Mount Monadnock with Their Grandson Owen (9) Part 3 of 3 – The President

After summiting Mount Monadnock, Owen, Molly, Tip, Hannah, and I approach the trailhead after a four mile rock climb in three and a half hours; we notice swarms of young woman and men just beginning their climb to the top. 

They look like first year students on a bonding climb as they begin university life.  Think back to starting out in college, if you were so fortunate. It can be a lonely and challenging transition from the cocoon of one’s hometown to the trials of dorm living and making friends.  Universities are now welcoming students into the college family by outdoor team building experiences.  

Could I ever have used such an experience back in the fall of 1966 when I entered the College of Wooster in Ohio!  Though I had core group of childhood friends growing up, the problem was I didn’t really know how to make friends.  My friends from Fair Lawn were just always around.  

Muddling through, I eventually made it through thanks to three relationships: the guys on the tennis team, my roommate Jim Francis, and the girl of my dreams, Hannah Kraai (pronounced CRY).

Looking to confirm my suspicion, I speak up to a gaggle of passing students, What kind of group is this?  They are students from Franklin Pierce University, not fifteen minutes away in nearby Rindge.  Upbeat and high-spirited, wave after wave of groups of ten to twenty happy kids chatter by.

As we get to the trailhead itself, we pass by the university vans that brought the students to this popular state park.  I then notice plastic-wrapped packages of 24 water bottles near a covered open air structure with four or five adults.  Buoyant from our successful climb to the top of the mountain, I shout out, Are you from Franklin Pierce?

When they reply in their affirmative, I add, looking to Owen, We have a member of the Class of 2031 for you!

Immediately, a welcoming man approaches and engages us in conversation. Guessing the man is from the campus Alumni Relations or some PR arm of the university, I nod yes when he says, Would you like to meet the president of the university?

And just like that President Kim Mooney comes over and greets Owen, Hannah, and me.

President Mooney, Dan, Hannah behind Owen

Whoa!  La presidenta.  It turns out Kim is the first female president of FPU and the first alum named president.  They navigated the Covid year successfully on campus and are here as part of 50-year tradition of FPU students climbing Mount Monadnock to start the school year.  And then we learn that upbeat man is her husband, Greg Walsh.

As we wrap up our conversation, Greg hands Owen a coin of friendship.  Walking to our picnic table for our lunch touched by their kindness, Owen poses with his first silver dollar.

Though Owen and his brother Max seem like future Sun Devils from Arizona State University – the Harvard of the West and my alma mater, who knows, maybe Owen will be a Raven from Franklin Pierce University!

PS I sent the blog to Kim this morning. She responded almost immediately.

Dear Dan,
On a morning when Greg and I have already shed tears thinking about the perfect fall weather morning  on 9/11 twenty years ago, your email filled our hearts. 
Our encounter with you, Hannah and Owen has stayed with us too. Thank you for memorializing it so vividly in your blog below. You captured the spirit of Franklin Pierce students so we’ll! 
Our best to you, Kim and Greg

Dan and Hannah Hike Mount Monadnock with Their Grandson Owen (9) Part 2 of 3 – The Bend

Descending the White Cross Trail

As we continue our descent down the White Cross Trail from the Mount Monadnock peak, Molly, Tip, Owen, Hannah, and I come upon this branch, bent at childbirth as a sapling.

Owen carrying on the Rawding Tradition of Bent Tree Climbing

A young woman on the trail mentions that this branch was purposefully bent by Native Americans.  Intrigued, I did a little research.   By that I mean, I googled “bent trees as trail guides.”  I learned the following.

It seems Native American bent trees in the direction of a frequently visited destination such as a water source, campsite, or a safe river crossing. These were called Marker Trees.

Hardwoods, oaks, maples and elms were their trees of choice.  With the sapling staked down, the undamaged tree would continue to grow and new branches, not near the ground, would shoot upwards.  

In front of Owen from left to right are Molly, Hannah, Dan, and Tip on the last Sunday in August 2021

They go by other names: Trail Trees, Crooked Trees, Prayer Trees, Thong Trees. 

To be a trail tree, first of all, it must be old enough to have been alive when Native American tribes still lived in the area. The bend is about four or five feet off the ground. The bend is a sharp right angle. The tree then runs parallel the earth for a measure, and turns sharply up again, towards the sky.

Owen and his Pop

After the picture taking, we head to the trailhead after four miles of hiking/climbing over the past three and a half hours.

I use the Strava app to record my hiking, biking, and walking

And then we see masses of young’uns, late teens/early twenties, pass us by in gaggles of fifteen or twenty.

Heading to the summit

Part 3 concludes the Mount Monadnock blog with what we learned about these young folks and the impression a prospective future member of the Class of 2031 made.

Dan and Hannah Hike Mount Monadnock with Their Grandson Owen (9) Part 1 of 3 – The Climb

When our grandson Owen was seven, he hiked Mount Major in central New Hampshire with us.  (Click here for that blog. You’ll love the last two pictures of Owen.)  Almost immediately thereafter, we made plans for us all to climb the monster, Mount Monadnock in southwestern New Hampshire near his ninth birthday. A steady two mile climb of rocks, Mount Monadnock at 3,165′ is nearly 1,000′ higher than any other peak within 30 miles.

Meeting Owen and his parents, our daughter Molly and her hubby Tip, at the Monadnock Country Café in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, we witness Owen chowing down with the meat eaters omelet and gigantic blueberry pancakes that he shares with his dad.

Ready to dig in!

Suitably fueled, at 820A we pull into the gate at the Monadnock State Park to hear the attendant ask if we have a reservation. What!  We have no idea we need a reservation.  We hiked here two years ago and didn’t need a reservation; we just had to arrive early enough to get a parking spot. Driving two hours, then breakfasting for an hour to be turned away at the last minute would be heartbreaking, cruel beyond belief.  Well, that might be a little hyperbole. We are told that so many people hike this mountain that hikers forge new paths into the woods to circumvent slower hikers. Fortunately, he said today there was room for hikers without reservations.  Phew.  Lesson learned! Check our hikes online first.

The trail begins
A steady Freddy climb

On an overcast morning at 60F at the trailhead, we opt for the steeper White Dot Trail to the summit and will return via the longer but less precipitous White Cross Trail.  Immediately we are steadily climbing over the stone-filled trail with cross-wise logs and later granite blocks laid into the mountain-side that make for an easier assent.

Keeping up with the adults with his usual sunny disposition, Owen scampers over and around rocks; we all take the stone slopes switchback-style to take the steep out of our climb.  Alternatingly, we take off our long sleeve shirts, then add them back on when the clouds come in and the temperature drops.

It seems like a clear morning, but…

Within a 500 yards of the top, clouds envelop us such that we can’t see the peak.  The trail of white dots clearly painted on the stones makes us confident we are on the way to the summit.

Once atop Mount Monadnock with limited visibility and stronger winds, we huddle behind a rock wall for granola bars, salted almonds, raisins, and water.  Our time in the chilly, cloud-covered summit is short as Molly soon leads us down the less steep and more meandering White Cross Trail.

As we make our way to the trailhead, three college kids are passing us on their way to the summit.  Hopefully reading their buoyant nature correctly, with a wide smile I say, “Well somebody slept in this morning,” as they see us with Owen.   I ask you, what percentage of people would take my good-natured, light-hearted ribbing in the fun-loving spirit that it was intended and how many would react defensively and swat back with sarcasm, head-shaking or pissiness? 

Well, not these three guys!  They smiled and said you got us.  Funny, some 45 minutes later the same three guys, absolutely cruising, pass us after being to the summit.  Still smiling, they add to the positive vibe of the many other folks on the trail knowing how lucky we all are to be here today. 

And then we see the bend in the trail.  Part two describes this unusual bend. 

For more information on the trails of Mount Monadnock State Park, see the map below.

The White Dot Trail is to the right and the White Cross Trail to the left. I use the Strava app to document my hikes. (Thank you, Will Rothermel)

Dan and Hannah Hike Mount Major with their Grandson, Max

Continuing a Rothermel Family Tradition of hiking Mount Major with our grandchildren when they turn seven, Hannah and I take Max with his nearly nine year old brother Owen and his parents, Molly and Tip, to the White Mountains of New Hampshire in mid-June 2021.  Click here for Owen’s hike at seven up Mount Major.

5A departure from home for Max and family

Meeting up with Molly’s family at the Liquor Store in Portsmouth, NH at 6A on Juneteenth 2021 of Father’s Day Weekend, we drive 35 minutes to the Farmer’s Kitchen in Farmington, NH on Route 11 for what can only be described as mouth-watering breakfast with huge portions and excellent service.

Arriving early at 640 AM
Huge portions and excellent service. Max orders the meat lovers omelet and Owen chocolate pancakes which he shares with me!

Fully fueled, we arrive at the trailhead by 8A for our roughly two plus mile climb to the top.  Taking the Blue Trail, we ascend on a rock-strewn path that soon turns into a Bill Bryson Walk in the Woods of level, tree-lined dirt.  Owen and Max come up with Hiking Game #1 where two people run ahead on the trail and hide behind trees and boulders.   We all take turns and make our hike kids-centered, when usually Hannah and I would just motor straight to the top.

Owen with his Omi hiking the Blue Trail
The rocks of the Blue

Within 0.7 of a mile, we turn left for the summit.  With protruding stones and rocks crossed by roots, the trail gives an opportunity for Max and Owen to come up with Hiking game #2.  Starting with the youngest, we each in turn name animals alphabetically.  Throughout the game, Owen lays back with me, and verbally checks in from time to time to see how I am doing.  If you know Owen, you are not surprised.

The rocky climb to the top

After an hour and a quarter we summit. 

Molly’s Family always up for a good time
Owen and his Omi hamming it up
High on Mountain Top in New Hampshire (sing to the tune of the Davy Crockett theme song)

After 30 minutes, we descend on the Orange Trail, lined with blueberry bushes with most every blueberry still quite green.  Still Max finds the occasional blue blueberry.  Saving two for his neighborhood friend Maelys, whose sixth birthday is today, he informs every, and I mean everyone we pass, that he found blueberries.  Not shy in the least, he surprises and pleases hikers who smile broadly as they pass by. 

Max with his Omi scouring for blue blueberries among the many green blueberries.

Molly comes up with Hiking Game #3 and that is to learn the NATO phonetic alphabet that begins with Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta… (see all 26 below).  Molly teaches us all one by one and within a thirty minute descent I learn all 26.  Test me the next time you see me!

Descending the steeper Orange Trail
Descending on the Orange Trail

After three hours, we arrive back at the trailhead having had a “peak” experience Saturday morning that Hannah and I plan to replicate in four years when our grandson Brooks (Will and Laurel’s oldest) turns seven and then two years later when his identical twin sisters, Reese and Charlotte, turn seven themselves. Traditions! Sing to the Fiddler on the Roof song of the same name.

Brooks freewheeling and hiking Mount Major in 2025!
Reese and Charlotte or Charlotte and Reese, ready to hike in 2027!

NATO phonetic alphabet by memory – Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel, India, Juliette, Kilo, Lima, Mike, November, Oscar, Papa, Quebec, Romeo, Sierra, Tango, Uniform, Victor, Whiskey, X-Ray, Yankee, Zulu.  This alphabet ensures that letters are clearly understood. 

Papa, Oscar, Papa, Papa, Alpha signing off. 

Bonus pictures from hiking Mount Major

With their usual positive energy, Molly and Tip begin hiking on the Blue Trail
They weren’t able to move the monstrous boulder…yet!
Molly and Tip atop Mount Major with Lake Winnipesaukee in the background
Atop Mount Major

Dan and Hannah Hike Locally at the Little Harbor Trail in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

A week ago in mid-April, Hannah and I biked to the main beach in Ogunquit in tee-shirts and shorts on a 70F day.  This morning we woke to this scene out our front door.

Let me say, you have got to be committed to hike in Maine in April.  You may think April is springtime and tulips in New England. Often not. As T. S. Eliot wrote in The Waste Land, April is the cruelest month. Amen to that!

With the temperature near freezing, we are not going to be imprisoned in our home.  (Whoa sparky, that seems like a little self-pitying, tad inflammatory verb!) Dressed in winter coats, winter gloves, and a winter ski cap with umbrellas at the ready, we drive ten miles from home to Portsmouth, NH.

Parking at the far end of the historical South Street cemetery with gravestones from the 18th and 19th centuries, we walk a paved road for a half of mile to the trailhead of the 1.5 mile Little Harbor Loop Trail.  The Creek Farm Reservation of coastal woodlands and freshwater wetlands of 35 acres welcomes us down a rain-soaked driveway to where the trail begins at Sagamore Creek.

Parking by the South Street Cemetery in Portsmouth, NH
The trail begins on a paved driveway towards the Sagamore Creek

Pools of rain on the trail do not deter us as we soon head out to the sand bar at low tide.  We see parents with preschoolers who are damned sure that they are not spending one more day inside, no matter the weather.

Barely 32 degree Fahrenheit

The historical Wentworth Mansion in the distance with people on the sand bar mid-distance

Extending our hike/walk down to the shoreline at the Wentworth House, we look out to the tidal Piscataqua River thankful we never bought a boat of any kind.  Neither of us is a sailor or a mariner of any sort.  In early 17th century, we would have been ones who stayed in England and wished the Puritans bon voyage.

The Wentworth House
That must have been a helluva ship that needed that anchor.

And don’t get me started on fishing?  I have never found the love of the sea that my dad had; he would cast in the surf at Montauk on Long Island for stripers and blues or sit in a boat forever at my brother Richard’s Arnold Lake hoping to hook some small mouth bass.  You see, I like catching fish, I just don’t like sitting in a boat holding a fishing pole for hours on end.

The trail from the Wentworth House back to the trailhead begins here.

The trail continues through the woods of pines and hardwood oaks.  The trail to the view turns out to be muddier than we wish to negotiate.  We make a 180 and turn back towards the trailhead.

It was as messy as it looks this April morning.

With side trail and sand bar distractions, our hike takes just over an hour.  After a long winter, April hikes are joys no matter the weather or the conditions.  And there are no mosquitos or ticks.  Win/win/win.

Dan and Hannah Hike Mount Major (NH) with Nancy and Maryn

Hannah and I go way back with our dear friend Nancy Turley – it all began pre-Molly, Robyn, and Will in the 1970s while we planted, watered, and grew our marriage in Tempe, Arizona.  Being from the Northeast, Hannah and I had never met real-life Latter Day Saints; Nancy and her husband Wayne gave us safe passage into their hearts.  By the way, they taught us our family’s favorite card game, “Mormon Bridge” – a game we’ve spread from sea to shining sea.

During the summer of 1992 trip to the Rocky Mountain states, we five Rothermels towed our home-made trailer behind our four-cylinder Subaru Wagon.  Later we learned this pipsqueak Subaru was never meant to tow anything.  Time and again, we struggled up the northern Rockies at five miles per hour!  Once, we had to go north into Montana because we turned back since the Little Engine That Couldn’t was unable to climb to the 9000′ pass through the Bighorn Mountains coming out of Sheridan, Wyoming on our way to Yellowstone National Park.

Turley mesa to show low

While spending three days with our Turleys at their home in the Valley of the Sun, Wayne found a mechanic who fixed our radiator, which we learned was running at 25% capacity; hence the major reason why we couldn’t get up those towering mountains.  As we prepared to head for home in Maine, Wayne and Nancy offered to hitch our boxy 3’ x 4’ x 6’ trailer to their Chevy Suburban and haul it from their home in Mesa at 1100’ to Show Low at 8000’ as we followed behind.  Road weary, we thanked our lucky stars high above the Mogollon Rim that the Universe brought our families together.

Turley york to panguitch

We learned so much from their parenting – to value experiences over things, making family time a priority, and the importance of traveling to all parts of the USA to broaden our perspective and increase our gratitude and empathy.  Twice we drove from Maine and they from Arizona to pitch tents at the KOA (Kampground of America) in Panguitch, Utah to explore Bryce Canyon with their family of eight and ours of five.  By the way, despite the spelling, KOA has nothing to do with the Klan.

Turley 4 going up the mountain

Hannah, Maryn, Nancy, and dear ole Dan

And now 40 years later, we come together with Nancy and her equally delightful 24 year old daughter Maryn at our home on the coast of Maine.  Wayne died two years previous, which made our first time together a celebration of his influence on us all, our longtime friendships, and the time we did have with Wayne and Nancy.

Turley 3 start of trail

Nancy, Maryn, and Hannah Banana

Turley york to mt major

To continue our celebration with Nancy and Maryn, we drive 45 minutes into New Hampshire to breakfast out at the Farmer’s Kitchen in Farmington.  Fully fueled, twenty minutes later we pull into the trailhead of Mount Major along the banks of Lake Winnipesaukee.

Turley 5B M and N atop

High on a mountain top in central New Hampshire

Pairing off in conversation up the rocky 1.5 mile  trail to the top  for the next hour, we four catch up on each other’s lives (Maryn’s upcoming choice of law schools, Nancy’s desire to go on a mission to New Zealand, Hannah’s welcoming her sister Leni to Maine, and my upcoming spring trip with Hannah to visit Nancy in Utah).

Turley 5A all of us atop

Atop Mount Major with Lake Winnipesaukee in the background

Once atop this 2800’ mountain of granite in New Hampshire, we had the opportunity to honor our forty year friendship with the Family Turley.

Dan and Hannah Hike Mount Major with their Grandson Owen

MM Owen map

In less than an hour

In central New Hampshire, Mount Major is our go-to mountain for people who visit us from Away.  Why just last year my Arizona State buddies, Rich from Jersey and Gale, a Michigander, climbed this very mountain overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee to celebrate 49 years of friendship.

To celebrate Owen’s seventh birthday, Hannah and I with his parents, our daughter Molly and her husband Tip, will climb with Owen to the mountaintop.

MM Owen Rattlesnake

Tip, Molly, Owen, Max, and Hannah on the Rattlesnake Canyon Trail

Owen has a history of trail hiking.  Two and a half years ago (2017) when his Omi (Hannah) fell down the cliffside in San Ysidro Canyon in Montecito, California, it was he and his mom who hurriedly hiked back, ahead of a seriously injured Hannah, for one and a half miles to alert the paramedics and have the ambulance in the go position.  Just this past February (2019), Owen hiked for three plus hours with us, his brother Max and parents up and down Rattlesnake Canyon in Santa Barbara, California.

MM Owen 1A at breakfast

Early Saturday morning breakfast at the Farmer’s Kitchen

Whenever possible, all good Dan and Hannah hikes begin with breakfast out.  Today our diner of choice is the fabulous Farmer’s Kitchen in Farmington, NH.  With huge portions of eggs, home fries, toast, kielbasa, and pancakes, we are fully satisfied and ready to rock and roll.

Did I say we woke at 5A to leave York, Maine by 6A so we could breakfast at this popular cafe at 645A to beat the crowds?  I didn’t think so.  When we leave the Farmer’s Kitchen at 730A this early Saturday in August, there is already a line of people waiting for a table.

MM Owen 2AAA trailhead with sign

Tip, Molly, Owen, Hannah B, and the Ithaca Bomber

And speaking of crowds, Mount Major is monstrously popular such that when we finished the hike, the trailhead parking lot for 50 vehicles is full and cars line route 11 for a quarter of a mile in each direction.

MM Owen 2CC O and O on rock

Being early birds, we secure a primo parking spot at 815A and select the 1.5 mile blue blaze trail to the top.  Immediately we are greeted by a wide trail of rocks and more rocks that rises steadily to the summit.  Rocks and seven-year-olds are like spaghetti and meatballs.  While the four adults follow the trail, Owen scoots up and over any large boulder on or near the trail as if he’s been given a personal invitation by each one.

The blue blaze trail then levels off for a Bill Bryson-like walk in the woods before turning left for our assault of the mountaintop.  Full of spunk and joyfulness, Owen weaves in and out of the adults as he climbs up and over the stony trail as well as scampering up on all fours when the rock faces pose a challenge.

MM Owen 2AA trail map

We take the Main Trail to the top and return by way of the Boulder Loop Trail

MM Owen 2BB holding hands with Owen

MM Owen 2D Owen on rocky trail

MM Owen 3 rocky trail with exuberance

MM Owen 2C rocky trail

MM Owen 3 M, T, and Omi

Within an hour we have summited, looking out to Lake Winnipesaukee to our east.

MM Owen 4A all five at top

MM Owen 4 at the top

Choosing the orange blaze trail for our descent, we have 1.6 miles that seems less steep, though there are stony-sides that require careful stepping.

MM Owen 5A rocky trail down

MM Owen 5 O and O on orange blaze trail

Owen is a joy on the trail and in our lives with his positive exuberance.  Grandparents around the world know how fortunate Hannah and I are to have Owen (and his five-year-old brother Max) in our lives on a regular basis.

MM Owen O with H and M

Dan and Hannah Hike Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire


To celebrate this Father’s Day (2019), I ask our daughter Molly and her hubby Tip to hike up Mount Monadnock in southwest New Hampshire with Hannah and me.

MM diner pancakes D

Many a good Dan and Hannah hike begins with breakfast out for some carbo loading.  Fifteen minutes from the trailhead, our diner of choice is the top-rated Hometown Diner in Rindge, NH. Hankering for blueberry pancakes, I overstep by ordering three, when the waitress tells me, They’re big!  The plate-covering behemoths do satisfy my craving, allow me to share one with Molly and Tip, and send home one for our grandsons, Owen and Max.

MM 1 at white dot trail sign

Knowing that Monadnock’s the most hiked trail in the United States and #2 in the world (See below for number one.), we arrive by 830A to insure ourselves a parking spot as well as a cooler morning hike.

Though populaire, the trail is typical New England – a mountain of rocks.  The wide path up the White Dot Trail is stone after stone, one higher than the next.  If you are hoping for a walk in the woods, this is not the hike for you.

MM 1 trail begins with H M T

What looks like a walk in the woods soon turns into…

MM 1B stone steps with M and h

…stairways of stones…

MM 1C H on stone face

…then walls of stone.

Rather quickly, we are breathing heavily as Molly sets a pace that I love; she has a relentless commitment to the top, with nary a rose smelled.  We stretch our legs to step up the mountainside boulder trail.  Leaning into the mountain, balancing with our hands, we are greeted by stone slabs which require handholds to ascend.  Though it’s a tough hike, eight and ten-year-olds are on this trail, too.

MM 1D H on stony face

Hannah on all fours climbing to the top

MM 1E M H D on rocky assent

Dan, Hannah, and Molly making their way to the summit

And then we spot two women, one with terror on her face as she explains she can’t go up the stone face nor does she feel can she climb back down.  “Panic” is what she feels and articulates.

At this point, Tip jumps into action as he did two years ago when he escorted Hannah up a rock face ravine where she had fallen 25’ to a precarious perch off the  San Ysidro Trail in Montecito, California.  Today, Tip uses all his skill and confidence-producing words to support this athletic woman, who we learn is dealing with a recently separated shoulder.  While Molly and I lead, Hannah stays close to the hikers distracting them with encouragement and interest in their story.

MM 2 M with MM in distance

Molly ready to summit Mount Monadnock in the distance


MM 2A D with mountain in background

As I said, there are a few rocks.

All six of us make the summit and celebrate with pictures.

MM 4A we six on top

Dan, Tip, Molly, and Angie in the back.  Hannah and Amy upfront.

MM 3 D and M on top

It was indeed windy at the top.

MM 3A T and M on top

Tip and Molly atop Mount Monadnock two days before their eighth anniversary

MM 3B we four on top

As mountain hikers know, often the climb down is even more difficult.  Rising to the challenge, Tip in front and Hannah behind support Amy on the alternate White Cross Trail down the mountain.  The slower pace allows us all to bond as we learn about each other’s lives.

MM 5 descending

MM 5D rocky descent

MM 5E angie amy H descend

MM 5B tip on tree

Successfully, back at the trailhead we feel like old friends with Amy and Angie.  Our new hiking compadres are most appreciative that we altered our hike for them and to Tip for shepherding Amy all the way down.  Fact is, meeting these women made for a more memorable experience than we ever thought possible; and as Hannah reminds me We are not here to see through each other, but to see each other through.

MM 5F d and h in descent

Hikers from Maine in New Hampshire


Mt. Fujiyama in Japan is numero uno.

Dan Hikes Mount Major in New Hampshire with his Arizona State Bros 

ASU guys 2

Rich, Nobes, and Dan

Getting my boys (fellow 1969 Arizona State buddies, Rich and Nobes) up for a 6A departure to climb Mount Major proves to be easy peezy.  Willingly following my lead, we head north from the coast of Maine to the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  Click here for the background blog on my ties to Rich and Nobes.

MM at Farmer's Kitchen

Photo by Tiphanie one summer Sunday morning in New Hampshire

What’s a hike without a good breakfast out?  Looking online and finding the Farmer’s Kitchen in Farmington, NH on route 11, we hit gold.  Tantalizing blueberry pancakes this first Sunday in August set us up for our hike while owner/waitress Tiphanie brightens the morning with her engaging personality.

Driving a mere 20 minutes more to the trailhead of Mount Major, we find a spot in the parking lot, though 30 cars are already here at 8A.  It’s no surprise as Mount Major is indeed a family-friendly hike.  When Will was 6, Robyn 8 and Molly 10, our friend Steve Adler led us to this mountaintop on a late fall morning.

MM R and G on trail

Fearless hikers (Nobes and Rich) as the trail begins

As a member of the seventh grade team at Frisbee Middle School in Kittery, Maine, we teachers took 100 students here for this hike/climb.  My recollection is that every last kid made it to the top.

MM leisurely trail

Before the sharp left to the top, the trail is leisurely mellow

That said, this is no mere walk-in-the-park, but it gives the novice hiker the satisfaction of an Outward Bound, “damn-I-didn’t-know-I-could-do-it” challenge/experience.

MM rocky trail d n r

The trail turns rock-kay

The trail begins to climb immediately from the trailhead along a 12’ wide eroded path of stones and roots.  Stepping carefully, we have a warm-up for our climb to the summit.  Soon we are on a stroll-in-the-woods trail through the forest that is easy going and conversation inducing.

At the eight tenths of a mile mark of this 1.5 mile trail to the summit, we turn left, and the work begins.  Starting to bite into the 1100’ of elevation gain, we step carefully on a trail with boulders and roots.

MM Lake Winnepausakee

Lake Winnipesaukee from the summit

In time, the stone face of the trail emerges.  Watching the blue blazes (rectangular trail markers painted on trees and the stone itself), at times we use our hands to climb the steep stone faces leading to the top.  Other times, hikers step into the side woods to more easily make the climb.  It’s challenging, but that’s why it’s so rewarding.

MM D and R on top

Rich and Dan above Lake Winepausakee

Taking breaks to enjoy the scenery and views out to Lake Winnipesaukee, we take to the final stone face to the summit.  At the top there must be fifty others, but it never feels Disney World-esque.

Click here for more detailed information on the trail to the top of Mount Major.









MM G and D on top

Nobes and Dan atop Mount Major

I’m proud of my boys!

Dan and Hannah Hike Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire

Number one is Mount Fuji in Japan.  But the second most popular hike in the world is Mount Monadnock.  Here in little ole New Hampshire.  The word “monadnock” comes from the Abenakis meaning “mountain that stands alone.”  I think, How tough can climbing this mountain be if it is that popular?

mt m map

With a mid-September Saturday in New England predicted to be sunny and in the low 70s, with our friend Bill we leave our home in coastal Maine for a 100+ mile, two hour drive to the southwestern corner of New Hampshire.  Up at 5A, we are off before 6A so we can get breakfast on the road before the Saturday rush and hit the trail by 9A.

Joey's Diner - 50s dining at its best

Joey’s Diner – 50s dining at its best

Checking out online all the diners/cafes along our route west of Manchester, NH, Joey’s Diner jumps out thanks to Yelp reviews.  We had no idea we are in the for breakfast experience of our lives.

Arriving just after 7A we enter New Jersey circa 1950s: shiny red booths, mirrors everywhere and memorabilia celebrating Elvis and mid-century Chevy’s.  The décor and feel is cool, but it’s not the best part of the experience.

50s diner

50s diner

My two eggs over easy, home fries, rye toast and two pancakes prime me for the trail.  A good meal is important, but that’s not the best part either.

Our waitress is.  Hannah and I began breakfasting out when we were first married early in the 1970s at Bill Johnson’s Big Apple Restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona.  We learned that refills for coffee were free and my eggs and hash browns could swim in a sea of barbecue sauce.  But in 40+ years of breakfasting out, we have never had a better waitress.  Upbeat and personable, she makes mere nourishment an experience.  I begin by asking her name and introducing us three.  Are you a local girl? is my follow up question and our conversation is off and running.  She willing engages with Mama Bear information.  Not too little, not too much.  She gets our decafs and tea, gives us time to order, and once we order comes back just before the meals are to be served to see if we want any more decaf or tea!  Attentive and cheery throughout the meal, she made the experience.  She alone is worth the trip to Joey’s Diner in Amherst, NH.

26 mt m sign

Fueled and so energized by the Joey’s experience, we drive 45 minutes more along routes 101, 202, and 124 to Mt. Monadnock State Park.

25 mt monad wood map

The ranger peers into the car, determines there are three of us, and charges $5 each.  This is a gold mine for the state of New Hampshire.  With 35 cars in the parking lot just before 9A we easily find shaded parking.

Bill and Hannah as the White Dot Trail begins

Bill and Hannah as the White Dot Trail begins

Told by the state park ranger that the White Dot Trail (2.2 miles to the top) is steeper, but the White Cross Trail has more obstacles and is longer, we learn he thinks them basically comparable.   Once done hiking  today we will feel very differently.

The gentle rise of the White Dot Trail

The opening gentle steady rise of the White Dot Trail

At Hannah’s suggestion we choose to go up the steep White Dot Trail and down the White Cross Trail as we join the legion of hikers.  Make no mistake about it, this is one popular hike.  But to me it doesn’t feel “busy.”   Right away we are climbing on an eight to ten foot wide trail filled with rocks.

The obsequious white dot along the trail

The obsequious white dot along the trail

The white dots guide us to the best way across the rocky terrain.  The white dots are everywhere and most helpful.  Our climb is steady and relentless; my shirt under my backpack is soon soaked and in short order sweat seeps into my eyes.

Rocks and more rocks on the trail

Rocks and more rocks on the trail

Bill and I use trekking sticks, and let me tell you they are a godsend on this rocky, steep terrain.  I can plant my sticks and push with my two arms as well as my legs to climb the rocky way, thus reducing the strain on my cranky knees.

Stone crawling on the White Dot Trail

Stone crawling on the White Dot Trail

As we hands-and-knee-it on the stone facades, we know that this is one demanding hike.  On these sharply angled stony faces, the trekking sticks can be a hindrance.  These are the times that my poles should be stored in my backpack.

With Mt. Monadnock in the distance, Hannah and Dan stand by one of the many cairns.

With Mt. Monadnock in the distance, Hannah and Dan stand by one of the many cairns marking the trail.

No lie.  This is a taxing climb, not a walk in the park.  It’s challenging.  It’s relentlessly up.   As my friend Mitch says, these are Adirondack switchbacks (i.e., the trail goes straight up).  But indeed it’s satisfying.  Having recently hiked Mt. St. Helens and at Crater Lake, I know nothing we hiked there that compares to how tough this climb is.

We are not alone at the top of Mt. Monadnock nor is it mobbed.

We are not alone at the top of Mt. Monadnock nor is it mobbed.

From the mountaintop

From the mountaintop

After one hour and a half of steady climbing with only one water break, we arrive to the celebratory mountain top which offers a 360 view.  Mount Monadnock is 3100 feet above sea level with the last 300 feet are above the tree line.  It’s windy up top and I can see how this could be a dangerous peak in cold weather on a trail that is open all year round.

Bill, Hannah, and Dan resting on top of Mt. Monadnock

“Three Musketeers”  Bill, Hannah, and Dan resting on top of Mt. Monadnock

Adding Bill to our hiking mix gives us quality extra interactions along the way.  We have hiked with him at the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick and he was our car courier when we biked across Prince Edward Island.  He’s good guy.  You’d like him.

Heading down the stony mountain

Heading down the stony mountain

After feasting on Hannah’s turkey sandwiches, snapping pictures with my iPhone, and providing a thankful hiker with band aids, we descend the bare steep rocky slopes below the mountain top.  I can’t imagine hiking in such rockiness in fog or light rain.  We’d be slip sliding away a la Paul Simon.  Below the mountain top, it feels ten degrees warmer.

Bill with the ever present white cross of the White Cross Trail

Bill with the ever present white cross of the White Cross Trail

We take to the White Cross trail which, though still steep in parts, is a gentler, kinder trail than the White Dot Trail.  It is no picnic, but again trekking sticks prove beneficial to a knee-compromised hiker such as myself.  I can place my sticks below me and use them to brace myself as I step down reducing the weight on my balky knees when I step down.  Multiple that by hundreds of steps and you can see how trekking sticks rock!

Rocks of the rocky White Cross Trail

Rocks of the rocky White Cross Trail

We learn 95% of all injuries happen on the way down.  Other than the scraped knee at the top, we see no twisted ankles nor bloody legs or hikers bemoaning beside the trail.

There are not too many people for me.  I love the interaction.  Sports is a great entre into conversation.  All the time I have wasted watching Sports Center is paying off.  To Red Sox fans (wearing the cap is how often tell) I say nice win last night to get the conversation going.  The Sox have comeback twice and beaten the Yankees this week.  To the one Yankee-capped fan, I sympathetically say tough game last night.  She laughs, but I know she is just hiding the pain and has daggers in her eyes for me.

Some of the many steps on the White Cross Trail

Some of the many steps on the White Cross Trail

Let me say that the trail creation and maintenance are phenomenal on both the White Dot and White Cross trails.   Regulary stone steps are placed conveniently as well as stones have been hewed out for safer foot placements.

Hannah’s solid choice to take the steep White Dot trail up and the less steep White Cross proves genius.  She is one good thinker.  We are glad to have had both trail experiences, but we disagree with the ranger if he thinks they are basically the same.

The climb down takes a good 15 minutes longer than going up.  Gabbing with people and the longer White Cross trail explains some of that.  Our weariness explains another part of it.  The three to four hour estimate to hike up and down is reasonable.

Shirts given to the first year students at Franklin Pierce University

Shirts given to the first year students at Franklin Pierce University after climbing the Grand Monadnock (another name for Mt. Monadnock)

The generous smorgasbord from FPU

The generous smorgasbord from FPU

At the bottom, I see adults folding shirts and wander up and ask them what’s going on.  It turns out they are from the nearby Franklin Pierce University and have brought the latest crop of first year students to the mountain to hike.  Having extra lunch food, they offer us sandwiches, salads, cookies, and bottled water.  Amazing what happens when we seek to initiate.

Lunch at Howard Memorial Park in Jaffrey, NH

Lunch at Howard Memorial Park in Jaffrey, NH

Fifteen minutes from the park on our way home, we lunch at Howard’s Memorial Park on route 12 in Jaffrey.  Leaving this morning at 6A gave us the time to make our day relaxed and unhurried.  We even had time for a little garage sailing.

Nobody does it better!

Nobody does it better!