Thursday, December 2, 2010

Metacomet-Monadnock Trail (Sections 19-22)

Me on Gap Mountain headed towards Monadnock
Having been out to the Royalston Falls area in Royalston, MA several times now, and having camped at the Falls Brook Shelter, I knew that the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail passed through the area. There is a sign on the other side of the foot bridge below the shelter that reads 18.7mi to Mt. Monadnock. From that sign to the summit consists of Sections 19-22 of the 114-mile long trail that runs from CT through the Berkshires to Mt. Monadnock in Jaffrey, NH. When hiking out there, that had became one of my goals, was that I was going to hike to Mt. Monadnock from there. 

Porcupine encounter!!
On October 30, 2010, I decided I was going to go for it. With less daylight for this hike, I arrived at the Trustees of Reservations trailhead on Route 32 around 5AM. Getting an early start would end up being essential in making it in time. Honestly, when I pulled into the lot and was making my final equipment check and adjustments, it was so dark, that I was pretty nervous about animals. The trail from the lot to the footbridge is a 1/2 mile descent into the woods. Within my first 2 minutes of walking down the path, I already heard something right in front of me. It was a huge porcupine that basically forced me to walk around it, because he wasn't moving. That certainly was a small adrenaline rush to start, and now, just 3 or 4 minutes in, I was feeling pretty nervous, what the heck could be next, a black bear? Coyote?

Reddish sun coming up
Once I passed the footbridge and began hiking on the trail, which parallells falls brook for quite a while, the brook turns into deeper gorges as you elevate, and the trail is not all that easy. I quickly realized that, although well marked in most areas, the trail markers take you through the woods without it feeling like you are on a trail. Almost all of the wooded sections of the trail have this feel. It's great. Once you leave the brook, you end up on a few logging roads in NH, where you have to follow signs very carefully. Some of the original trail is involved in land disputes, so you have to pay attention to where the trail has been updated, which I did, and it was still not easy. I was still using my headlamp and flashlight at that point. I could see the sun coming up through the trees, and it had incredible color. For almost an hour, just as the sun was coming up, there was uncertainty as to whether I was going in the right direction. The white markers can be seen on the telephone poles of Route 119. I did not really expect to be on main roads, other than crossing them, but in actuality, you have to walk a decent distance on gravel and asphalt roads. 

Ice on pond
Now that it was fully daylight, I was past the confusing section, and entered the most remote and wooded section in the town of Fitzwilliam, NH. In the middle sections of this hike, I was entertained with mile after mile of varying terrain and teaser views. The first view came when I reached Little Monadnock Mountain at 8:30am. At 1,883 ft, it offers the first full view of Mt. Monadnock in the distance. After seeing how much farther I had to go, I went on. I passed a small pond that had some ice leftover from the chilly night before. Continuing on, the trail empties out into a neighborhood, and at the end of the paved road, I came into the town of Troy, where I was met with another challenge. I did not have a trail map. Thats not always a smart move, but I was confident with the reading up I had done and having a print-out of the online-trail guide in hand. Once into town, there is a long bike path that I thought might be the trail, as it passes through town. I had stopped at this second-hand store in the square, and asked the gentleman if the path behind the store was the trail, and named the trail. He said, "oh yeah, yes, goes right behind the houses." Ok, great, so I continued for a little while, again with uncertainty, until I felt I had to ask some bikers on the trail. After hiking back to the square, it took a little bit of wandering to realize that I needed to walk through the square, take a right, and walk over a half mile along Route 12. I could have strangled the guy!

Somewhere in the middle of that confusion, I must have dropped the trail guide. Back on track though, the trail passes the Troy dump and back into the woods going up and then down NAME OF HILL. During this section, I summitted Gap Mountain, which is a small summit that provides a closer commanding view of Monadnock. I met a father and son on the summit and we swapped photo duties before I marched on. It seemed as if Monadnock was going to make me gain every single on of the 3,165 feet, as the trail seemed to keep descending. After this descending section, I came to Route 124, where I crossed the road, and entered Monadnock State Park. Having hiked almost 20 miles, I was now faced with the fairly tough climb to the summit of Monadnock. My ascent took my up the White Arrow Trail, which is steep in many places, especially at the top. The leaves being mostly all down, made it challenging to find the best places to step. Although Mt. Monadnock is possibly the 3rd most summitted mountain in the world, I was pleasantly surpised to see how steep and challenging the last push to the top of the mountain was. Once at the summit, there was a large amount of people there. The wind was blowing hard consistently. I asked someone to take a photo, and began to descend on which I thought was the same trail...

Me on summit of Mt. Monadnock
I made my destination, but I was not done. It is about 3 miles from Route 124 to the summit, so I had the same to return to Route 124, where I would be picked up. I realized that I had gone off the White Arrow Trail, and ended up on the Halfway House Trail. From the marking on the summit, I knew I would end up at 124, so I continued down the trail, as opposed to going back to find the White Arrow junction where I veered off. Just before 4:30pm, my father arrived at the parking lot on Route 124 to pick me up. Driving back to Royalston, MA, he was flabbergasted at how far I had hiked. It was far, but this is another aspect of hiking I want to experience more of. I have added the goal of completing the complete length of the M&M trail to my list.

For more information on the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail, visit the AMC Berkshires Website for more information. 4R4EXAY5K978 


  1. Enjoyed reading your account of ascending Mt. Monadnock, Dan. I hiked to the summit with two friends way back when......1965 or 1966, when I was in high school (Lexington, MA). I recall it being a beautiful fall day and an experience I will never forget. Planning on doing it again in the summer or fall of 2011.

  2. Thanks for the comment Rooster, best of luck in 2011.