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Mt. Monadnock and The Pumpelly Cave

                Mt. Monadnock and I have history. I disliked this peak for a number of years as it mocked me for becoming afraid when I slipped on some rocks and did not summit. Prior to my earnest attempt at the NH multi season 48, I was in therapy for something completely unrelated to mountains and was told that in order to continue with my present list, I’d need to put that demon to rest. I summited Mt. Monadnock successfully in 2011 after not summiting since I was 6 years old and before I did my second 4K peak. Then in 2012 I began to hear about a cave… Promises made and promises unkept, the weekend finally came where I wanted to find this elusive cave. I believe this qualifies as another, ‘I’m going to do it anyway hike’. I didn’t want it to be that way though so, I made it a ‘for me hike’. I wanted to see if I could do this and do this on my own (again). Of course prior to getting to the trail head, my heart leapt into my throat and I felt butterflies long gone come alive again as my eyes locked on someone familiar. At the trail head, I pulled it together and got my boots on. Pack hoisted on my back and much lighter without all of Isis’ supplies. Although, I missed my little girl.

                The Pumpelly trail begins in Dublin, NH and has a pretty decent gain to it to start out. Leaves adorn the trail as they always do this time of year. I’m at a comfortable pace and begin rehashing my plan in my head. I have the information to find the cave and planned on nothing but success for today. The majority of the lower part of the trail is through the woods and is pretty much a dirt trail. The rocks begin to come into play at the real vertical gain (which is actually nothing compared to what I have experienced in the past). As I was passing a particular section, still in the woods, I hear a distinct English accent talking about putting the kettle on. I laugh because you run into all kinds on this mountain. I continue on and up the trail which is a mix of rocks and dirt.

                Pumpelly levels out briefly and I being ot play a game of follow the cairns as this mountain is just riddled with them. The trail is marked by them and I begin to hit bigger rocks and ledges. I am suddenly aware that I am grinning from ear to ear and there is a distinct spring to my footing. The views I pop out to are breathtaking.   I run into two Boston climbers and one is carrying a gallon jug of water, which is opened. He stops to put it in his pack and I giggled and commented that it has to be a drag to take that up to the summit. He agreed, completely and blissfully unaware that if the cap pops off, he’s going to be soaked (as is his gear). I move past them and keep on my way. Next destination, the junction of the Spellman trail. I had a lot of fun on the open ledges and kept the destination in my mind. I did not run into another soul after those two.

                Once on the Spellman trail, I knew I was getting close. I had done minimal research and only double checked a few facts with a friend of mine. I saw what I thought was the marker for the bushwhack and kept going just to make sure. I got to the start of the serious rocky section of the rail and had to turn around as I was now sure that what I saw was what I needed. I entered the bushwhack and tried to keep the trail in front of me. I lost it several times and kept picking it up again. Several times, I had thought to turn back, that maybe this was not the area. And I still kept going. I knew about how far it was off trail and kept my GPS out to measure. Just as I was seriously going to turn back, I moved out onto a ledge and looked down at a curious black tarp.

                “What the? No… No… NO WAY!” I moved down around the found structure and saw what I was looking for. “YES! Fuck. YES!” I grinned so wide and laughed.

                I opened the door to the cave and was impressed with the fireplace and the provisions that were in there. I actually stood in the middle of the structure and  let out several other F bombs and a few other colorful phrases for my victory (I often get a serious potty mouth when faced with success on a mountain). I took pictures and sat down for lunch. The cave was warm and I enjoyed the victory. I then closed up the cave and began heading back to the trail. I had my GPS out to follow the trail back and found that I really didn’t need it as I kept to the familiarity that I had experienced. I also ran into 3 others who were on their way and looking for this gem.

                “Where are you coming from?” One asked me.

                “Oh, you know that place off trail.” I smiled.

                “The spy cave?” I responded with only a smile.

                “Was this your first attempt?”

                “Yes, yes it was. I did a little research and asked a friend about it and well, there it was.” I told him.

                He was amazed that I was able to get there on my first try. I just soaked it all in as we talked. I made it back to the trail and headed back the way I came over the ledges and back down the dirt paths. The trails were in great shape and always seem to be that way here at Monadnock. As I made my descent, my head was trying to down play the success and my ego was struggling to contain its excitement. It was quite an interesting descend as I tried to understand how I came to be here when not too long ago, I was carting anything and everything I didn’t need up a mountain and was not very experienced. I was scared of my own shadow and would never dream of going off trail. Now, I was the expert and I was able to leave the comfort of the known trail and find the most amazing things. Excitement eventually won out over being more subdued. I was proud of myself. So proud that I actually danced in the trail and carried on in my victory in such a way that I was sure anyone would find me silly. I was happy and doing something that I loved. It didn’t matter anymore who said what or who promised anything or not. What mattered was that I found peace and a new confidence in the mountains.
                The adventure continues back in the Whites with a Presi… And this week, I watch the weather and prepare.    

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