Trip Report: Monadnock via White Cross/White Dot

I had Calvin (my son) duty for the day yesterday while my wife was working.  I was looking for something to do with him and late in the morning decided that maybe I could throw him on my back and go up a mountain.  My wife wisely talked me out of trying the Osceolas that late in the day and suggested Monadnock, since everyone except me has been up it before and it’s a much shorter trip.

So my son and I jumped into the car and headed over to Monadnock, along with half of New Hampshire and Massachusetts.  It was a sunny Saturday late in the summer, so needless to say it was somewhat of a zoo.  Several rangers were on permanent parking duty and the line of parked cars threaded all the way round the camping loop.

This is the first time in a while I’ve done a real hike with Calvin in his backpack.  It’s an intense experience, with way more weight than I’ve been training with lately.  He’s 31 pounds, the backpack itself is 7 pounds, I was carrying about 6 pounds of water, a several pound camera, and various food items.  So I was closing in on 50 pounds of weight, which is quite possibly the most I’ve ever hiked with.

Trip stats

Distance: 4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1600 ft
Total time: 2.5 hours
Weight: 45-50 pounds
Peaks: Monadnock
We started off at a good clip on the lower section, which is mild uphill rocky dirt with some log breaks thrown in.  The trail, even at this point, was littered with day hikers.  Families, young couples, and some large groups were the main population.  Up until the White Cross/White Dot split, the trail was pretty easy and no breaks were necessary.
We decided, on the recommendation of the ranger, to go up the White Dot and down the White Cross.  This is probably the best bet in general, just because there is more rocky steepness on the White Dot Trail and climbing up steep rocks is much easier than descending them.  But they were both pretty similar so it’s not an obvious choice.
The White Dot trail became very steep very quickly.  The trail, however, was pretty wide and there were multiple paths to pick out through the terrain so it was pretty easy to pass slow hikers at most points up to the summit.  I had to stop at several points going uphill to catch my breath, particularly before we crested the ridge.

At about three quarters of the way up, you break the ridge and treeline a bit and your momentary excitement at getting to the top gives way to disappointment as you see the actual summit in the distance (see picture).  But this terrain is a bit less grueling with some flats and downhills thrown in so we made better time.

Most of the way, Calvin and I made something of a spectacle because a lot of hikers had not seen child carriers before nor were many people carrying serious loads up the mountain.  Additionally, I’m also somewhat of a fast hiker after all my training, so we were rarely if ever passed and only on the uphill by solo hikers.  If you are a serious hiker and want a bit of an ego-boost, Monadnock is a great climb :).  And if you bring a child, it cuts a lot of the intimidation factor so you get to have a good time chatting with people who think your kid is cute (he is).  If you can have your child belt out songs on the way up, it’s also a nice audio track.

We hung out for about 15-20 minutes at the top, where a nice guy snapped a bunch of pictures of Calvin and myself.  There were probably 50-60 people up there and it was mid-afternoon.  I imagine it was even more crowded an hour or two before. It was a little bit chilly on the summit and I hadn’t brought a sweatshirt for my son, so he was eager to get off the summit.

I was particularly worried about the downhill.  On the summit, one guy in a group mentioned to his group that 95% of accidents happen on the descent.  I had never heard that statistic before, but it seems very plausible.  All of my worst falls have definitely been going downhill and all of them have involved wet rocks.  In fact, wet slanted rocks somewhat terrify me these days when I descend.

However, the terrain was really dry so the only tricky parts for me were when I attempted to pass very slow hikers by choosing a more treacherous route.  On these types of descents, poles are freaking amazing, in my opinion.  Particularly when you are carrying weight, the ability to vault down off rocks and brace yourself on slanted footings is just super-human.  I think I made several converts as I raced down the mountain passing people.  I had several conversations about my poles and how much I loved them.

The extra weight had made the uphill more strenuous, but it wasn’t a complete game changer.  I just felt more burning in my quads and got out of breath a bit quicker.  On the way down though, my pace combined with the weight was brutal on my knees.  I would really hate to do a long backpacking day with that much weight.  I’m not sure my knees could survive a day or two in a row.  But luckily, it was a short hour long trek downhill and we quickly made it back to the parking area where Calvin happily fell asleep in the car, sick of all the “bumping around” as he put it.

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