Monadnock Sunapee Greenway (Winter Edition)

My outings usually follow a predictable whittling down of scope from their inception. What started as finally getting out to do the Midstate became an out and back on the Monadnock Sunapee Greenway. The trip turned out to be a great proxy for some aspects of the impending Arrowhead Revenge tour. I ended up traveling ~22 miles out and returning the next out, so I can only speak for that portion of the Greenway.

The Greenway is a ~50 mile trail from the top of one summit to the other. I found it to be incredibly well marked/blazed, even under snow and ice. The hardest part was finding Dublin trail off of the Monadnock peak when there was poor visibility. After stumbling around a bit with a compass I spotted a cairn and had no troubles for the rest of the trip. White blazes mark the way and periodically a sign for the Greenway lets you know that you’re on the correct trail. 

Along the route are several shelters that I believe are available on a first come first serve basis. It would definitely be possible to hike the trail without a tent as the shelters are in great shape and spaced well. The portion of trail I was on felt somewhat remote, occasionally crossing paved roads and even traveling through the small town of Nelson. The way is a mix of single track, “jeep roads”, large dirt roads and a little pavement. 

I packed everything I’d need for a slightly more than marginally comfortable 2 winter days in the woods. At the trailhead that meant about a 25-pound backpack, the majority of which was food and water. I set out in a cloudy snow covered daze and climbed to the summit, a mix of ice and slush necessitated microspikes. After the summit route finding snafu I was heading onto what would be an almost entirely untrodden 22 miles of snow. 

The snow was broken in parts by animal tracks. A weird drama played out, as a set of deer tracks was soon mimicked by a set of canine tracks. Some ancient alarms went off in my head seeing canine tracks without the human set to go along with them. At one point the deer tracks diverged sharply and the coyote tracks followed immediately as the contest entered the underbrush. The on and off coyote tracks on the main path would continue over the course of the entire trip.

The trail passes through some cool sights like large dams and remote lake homes and beautiful forests. I kept the pace to a hike and did a little faster trodding when I could. The motion of my hiking poles and my legs a repetition committed to muscle memory, to keep moving when tired and obstructed. 

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch. 

I imagined the long white trail in Minnesota and the gradual chipping away of the distance. 

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

A stop to breathe. Turning my head to hear the crinkle of my hood, a light wind.

Crunch, Crunch, Crunch.

As night descended I entered the fantasy novel sounding Andorra forest. The vibe definitely fit a fantasy novel. A large protected chunk of land, tall pines where the undergrowth had been weighed down by snow. The eyes could find space between the trees for quite a-ways. Long and bare timbers holding up the sky.

Eventually I creeped myself out before going too much further and retreated back to a shelter I had passed. After a backpackers dehydrated meal I had some fitful sleep, complete with a dream where my Arrowhead number was written in marker on my arm but it only showed up when my skin was cold. As if it was permanently hidden on my arm, only to show under frozen duress. Even more odd, I saw my face in the dream. It was as if my brain suddenly realized it was a mistake and I awoke with a start, the image of me in a mental mirror still floating in the air. 

When I’m alone in the woods I am still freaked out by things I know are very unlikely to hurt me. As I retraced the steps to the shelter I couldn’t tell if the coyote tracks I saw following mine had been there before I passed through. The sound of icy precipitation at night was an army of them milling about in the woods just beyond my vision. What made me the jumpiest was just that moment if I were to see one. To catch the glowing eyes in my headlamp. In retrospect, it’s very silly. I can feel the apprehension fade the more time I spend in the woods. I awoke at 3AM and hit the trails again amidst the frozen rain, with no worries of hidden animals.

Heading back was equally as delightful with lonely trails and light returning. Due to some melting and refreezing the hike back up monadnock was again a mix of solid ice and deep puddles of slush. All the rocks at the summit had an alien ice glaze with long tendrils where wind grew the chunks. The scrub branches looked comical with shadows of ice trailing behind them, a facsimile of motion. 

Picturesquely the descent from Monadnock saw the sky opening up in the first blue I had seen on the outing.

The trip solidified the plans for a M/S and M/S/M fatass this spring or summer. Logistically it will be fairly easy, Monadnock state park was kind enough to have a policy that lets you park and only pay the day use fee if you are going to do an overnight. 

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