On Sunday, I had it in my head to do a sunset hike. I waited throughout the whole crazy week at work to wake up to extremely cloudy skies and debated all day whether I was going up or not. Even driving home, there was indecision. At the last possible moment, I looked out my back door and saw the brightness in the direction of Monadnock. Suddenly, I was going and the hot chocolate was getting made and packed. I first drove around to the Dublin Side for the Pumpelley trail and it looked as though it was not broken out and pretty well post holed so, I drove all the way back around to the toll road trail head and decided to take the White Arrow trail up. 2.2 total miles to the summit and what I hoped was a beautiful sunset.
Heading up the Toll Road for 1.1 miles, I got my feet under me and did not have my hillsound trail crampons on yet. It was ice but there was enough bare earth to wait it out. The road walk was uneventful except for warming up my legs. Once I got to the trail sign for the White Arrow trail, I stopped to put on my traction. The snow was a mix of ice and frozen granular and seemed to be well packed out however, there was a lack of snow shoe use on the trail which made it uneven. The layers were coming off and the sun was beginning to move low in the sky. I continued to move up the trail with my usual pace for ascending. I felt as though I was trying to beat the clock for this one and soon stopped in my tracks. Looking up at a huge ice flow, I looked first up the trail and saw trees almost completely incased in 3 feet of ice. I looked to the right and found tracks for a bushwhack around it and continued to try and make it to tree line. I told myself that if I saw the sun set from tree line, I’d be just as satisfied. I am constantly underestimating my ability as a hiker.
Breaking tree line, spectacular sun play began to reveal itself as I continued to hike up the rocks and through the crusty snow and ice. I saw tree after tree incased in ice and once I stopped to catch my breath, I heard what sounded like wind chimes. It was the trees blowing in the winds. I continued on the trail and navigated the rocks and ice with little difficulty. I took it slow though on a few steep sections. Cresting the rock faces, and coming around a bend in the trail, I had the summit to myself. The wind was about 25 to 30 mph however, I was going to enjoy the sun for as long as I could. Watching it dip lower and lower in the sky, I stood up there in the ice and snow of early spring and simply smiled. There was no denying that on top of a mountain was where I was happiest.
Remaining true to winter, I slid down the trail on my ass to basically beat it to the punch of my falling on the steep sections of the trail. It was slower controlled slide as the ice was a little more sheer and the steepness might have me sliding into oblivion. The sun continued to play with my vision and provided a very soft glow to the walk out. All total, the walk back to the start of the White Arrow Trail took only a half an hour and the walk on the toll road was another half an hour. With decent conditions today, I made great time. After having worked all week and the stress of my job, I was thankful for the break and the refocusing that I so often do at the beginning of a season. It would seem that no matter what life brings me, I have the mountains to provide grounding and centering to my life.
For a day that was looking like I would be once again waiting to hike on Sunday, it certainly turned itself around and presented me with some great views of the setting sun. To think that once upon a time, I really disliked this peak. Now, I go back whenever I am called to hike it. Until next time…