Sunapee Monadnock Greenway - Fire and Brimstone edition

Building on the success of a winter trip aboard the Monadnock Sunapee Greenway I’ve been yammering about a 50 mile fatass for some time. It helps me immensely to set a date and repeat it over and over to bring it to reality. This unfortunately can sometimes mean a less than stellar weather day. But that’s the fun right? Dealing with the unknown, armed with the outdoorsman’s tools. Knowledge, experience, sugar, water, chlorine tablets and gore-text goddamnit! Heading into the weekend the forecast was calling for chance of thunderstorms and some muggy hot weather. The key to embracing it was some good recovery points along the way. 

I had gathered some brave souls experienced in self sufficiency to suffer with and we set about laying logistics. The M/S greenway travels over several roads, at one of which we planted a runner’s feast. On the morning of our departure we careful hid our goods from view behind a rock at the Pitcher Mountain trail head which is situated about halfway. We cached a collection of delights, replete with Moxy and Peanut M&Ms.

The other easy stop along the Greenway is the Washington General Store. Given our South to North bearing this meant we hit that point about 33 miles in. 

The direction of our traverse was dictated mostly by logistics. Some folks would meet us at the southerly point after driving up from Boston area in the AM, so it made the most sense to start there. In retrospect I think North to South would be a bit more fun as heading down the Sunapee ridge would be a long and fun section. Camping is available in several forms at both Sunapee and Monadnock for those interested. We ended up staying at an RV park which was its own little summer community as I imagine most of them are. 

With only the two “aid” stops most of us went heavy on the gear. I managed to tear through 3 liters of water (all while getting really dehydrated) within the first 20 miles or so. More would have been better, or more frequent stream refills. There are a few opportunities to refill on the trail if you have purification means.


With our hardy team assembled at the base we began the assault on Monadnock. Climbing up and over wasn’t feeling too strenuous and the mountain was surprisingly un-clusterfucked with people. Arriving around 8AM we were still able to park by the store which is no small feat. With clear visibility at the top of the mountain it was easy to find the 0.0 point of the Greenway (the summit) and follow the Dublin trail down. Nothing of the fumbling around in a cloud like my last time up there.

The real start line.


The running came less and less easy in these early miles as the trail winds through some sweet singleish track and hops over roads. Heat slowed our roll and we stopped a few times to douse ourselves and refill water. In the beginning sections there are some grunting road climbs that rivaled any of the so-called-mountains we went up. The Andorra forest remains one of the more magical feeling places I’ve been. The tree cover offered a respite from the sun and the trails were soft and winding.

Action shot!

We came upon lunch earlier than expected as we emerged at the base of the Pitcher Mountain climb. With a good 30 minutes of eating and relaxing the fun of the day ebbed back in. Pitcher Mountain’s climb was laughably short compared to the previously mentioned road climbs. At the top we were greeted by some thru-hikers and more blueberry bushes than I’ve ever seen. Or so I am told, I can’t tell fucking plants apart. I would have died on day 1 of Into the Wild.

The trail continued to bounce up and down slightly through a blueberry bushed ridge and through a section I can only imagine is the worlds largest brush maze? Trails cut erratically throughout.

Very green.

Blueberries everywhere!

As the lunch glow faded the fun and pace ran out. The trail seemed to drag on as we all dreamed of the ice cream at the Washington General Store. Oak Hill was a beautiful place but served as one of those 'I feel like we should be there already' points. At the top we stopped and picked a collective 12 ticks off our legs.

Other bugs, of the flying nature, momentarily intensified into a crescendo and chased us out of the woods into the town of Washington. Here the general store offered us all manner of goodness. 2 ice cream treats per person, fluid, and a few sodas for the road had us back on our way. It was in the early evening at this point and the sun was less fierce but the first thermometer we had seen all day still registered 91 degrees. Hot even if it had been the end of the summer.

It's fun again!... for a moment.

High on ice cream and dreams we frolicked on more dirt roads and started the long grinding climb to the amorphous Sunapee ridge. At times we had to perform an at motion application of bug spray to prevent the consumption of our vitae. When the sun went our bedraggled and sunbeaten crew entered into survival mode and churned out the last few miles in near silence. We stopped for a spell on an enchanted ridge thrust into the river of night time stars. I was convinced the bobbing of the light of the stars was a UFO until I noticed they all did it.

The last time I saw a porcupine was a startling experience at boy scout summer camp where I found one inside a latrine. On this trip we managed to run into 2 of the little buggers. Felt bad for disturbing their evening. Even more startling was a large crashing sound heading towards us in the dark that turned out to be a harmless toad making a god awful racket.

The summit of Mt. Sunapee is interesting in that you dump out onto a wide dirt road and hoof a little bit to a clearing with all the ski equipment around you. There is no easy way down (in the summer) so an extra two miles in a late and delirious state wasn’t appetizing. Less appetizing was getting lost trying to follow a ski trail down.

In summary - We had to put a little too much mustard on this run to get it done but I am sure we all learned something about ourselves out there. I am endlessly impressed by the people I know. Having a group of folks maintain the same pace all day when their energy levels fluctuate not in sync is a very hard thing. This is actually the longest I've spent stride for stride with other people and it certainly makes you appreciate everyone's suffering better.

This trip definitely highlighted the important of having several exit strategies over longer distances. Even if the strategy is just to get to the end or a nearby shelter if something happens it really helps to discuss those ahead of times. We didn't get into a hairy situation but it would have been a lot smarter for me to have given a bit more thought to the more remote sections.

Halfway through this adventure I wanted to call off the Cohos trail trip next weekend. It only took a day and some fluids and I am back to being excited about it.

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