Monday, July 14, 2014

Camping at Monadnock State Park

After Andrew and I went for our hike at Mount Monadnock over the Memorial Day weekend, we thought we'd like to go back there to camp. It's not exactly our standard style of camping, mainly, you can drive up to your site, meaning we weren't limited to packing only what we could carry. Don't get me wrong, I love back country camping. I love roughing it, pitching tents, cooking with our little one burner stove, slogging to the top of a mountain to get a breath taking view (if the weather cooperates), I even love wearing a hat all day to hide my unwashed, uncombed hair, and smelling like bug spray, sunscreen, and sweat all at the same time. I really do.

But, doing a stationary, drive-to-your-site camping trip wasn't so bad either. Again, don't get my wrong, it's not like we took advantage of this and brought all kinds of extras we didn't need, heck, we didn't even take showers, but we did have a few perks, like chairs, and a cooler (which contained bacon and sausage). Ultimately, we're still driving our Smart car, so it's not like we can fit much more in it than what our full camping backpacks could carry anyway.
Our beloved Smart car, packed full.
We arrived at Mount Monadnock maybe a half hour before the sun went down on Friday so we had to pitch our tent and set up our beds quickly. Thankfully, our tent is super easy to set up and had everything set before we were out of daylight. We tried to get a fire going, but as we weren't properly supplied (the last 2 bundles of firewood were bought just as we arrived at the entry booth) we didn't have a lot of success. We still poked around our tiny fire until 10:00 before heading to the washrooms (there were flush toilets and running water) and calling it a night.

Personally, I didn't sleep well on Friday. The noise level (both bird and human) wasn't too bad, but I just couldn't fall asleep. Of course I couldn't sleep-in either. The sun came up around 5:00 am, at which point the avian population surrounding the campsite got rather chatty.

Originally, we'd hope to hike for the morning, then rent a canoe or kayak for the afternoon. Note: although the Mount Monadnock website says they have boat rentals--this is a lie! Gilson pond, where the campsite is locate, is rather small anyway, so I'm sure it wouldn't have been a very exciting (or long) paddle. Instead we decided to hike to Dublin Lake, which started out on the same route as the one to the peak of Mount Monadnock. You take the Birchtoft trail up until you hit the Cascade Link then continue on it, rather than turn off it to the summit. As opposed to our first hike, which felt like we were constantly hiking through mountain streams, the terrain was fairly dry. This made for nicer hiking, although it was much hotter and sunnier than our last visit, so it made for a more sweatier trip too.
Part of the Birchtoft trail, nice and dry.
For some reason we thought the Cascade Link, which eventually lead to the Pompelly trail, would be leisurely. I don't know why we thought this. Sure, we didn't go to the peak again, and didn't have to cover the same elevation gain, but it's not like it was an easy stroll on flat ground. We faced several ups and downs, and ultimately we ended up on a much longer hike than we'd intended to take. Good thing we hadn't set our sights on paddling.

I feel that the hiking in New Hampshire is in someways, more challenging than hiking in the Rockies. These mountains are much older, and the elevation is almost half, I think, of what we were at on the Skyline in Jasper, but the trails seem more rugged. We've encounter several instances where we've had to put aside our hiking poles so we can use our hands to climb up a short, but mostly vertical rock face. Similarly, while descending I came to spots where I had to sit on my butt, while extending one leg to reach the next foot hold. Despite all this, it wasn't a bad day hiking, and provided us with some great views of New Hampshire once we got to the top of our trail.
The distant peaks as we hiked across the Cascade Link. There's also a little carin in view, pointing us a long the path.
Looking out over New Hampshire.
One of the hikers we passed mentioned there were wild blueberries on the rail...we couldn't help but stop to pick some.
One of the ridges we walked along on our way to Dublin Lake.
As I mentioned earlier, the hike to Dublin Lake was longer than we'd expected. We weren't working from an extremely detailed map, only the one that was given out at the entry toll both. It's enough to work from, but you have to guesstimate your distances. It was approximately 3 miles (we're in the US, so everything is Imperial, but in Canadian speak, that's 4.8 km) to the Cascade Link/Pompelly connection, then another 3 miles from there to the Lake. We decided to push on down to the Lake for lunch, so it was almost 2:00 pm before we ate. It was worth it when we got there, though. The cool water soothed our tired feet, and the scenery was lovely.
Dublin Lake. We were able to find a small patch not labelled 'No Trespassing' and relax.
The sky on Saturday.
For the walk back to Gilson Pond we opted to go for the more straight forward route along the road. It was still fairly pretty, with interesting houses to look at along the way, but much easier than going back up into the mountains. Plus the route was way shorter, only another 3 miles to get back to where we started, and were we ever glad to get back to our campsite.

Dinner that night took advantage of our being able to bring a cooler/heavier/larger food than normal, involving sausages, peppers, onions, corn on the cob and potatoes. Honestly, I was worried we'd have a dinner fail. First, that we wouldn't be able to get a decent fire going in time and we'd wind of ravenous before the food was ready. Or, that the food would either be under or over cooked. Tinfoil dinners were a common (I can't quite say popular) staple of girl guide camping, and typically you either wound up with raw food, or everything would be burnt. Maybe camping cooking karma caught up with me, as we had an excellent, fulfilling meal. By layering in the food according to how much time I predicted they needed to cook (potatoes: 1 hour; peppers, onions, corn: 30 min; sausages: 5-10 min) everything turned out just right.

Cooking over the fire is hard work--although Andrew did do a lot of poking and adjusting to keep the fire going.
We didn't stay long on Sunday. We felt we'd done quiet enough hiking on Saturday, plus we knew we still had all kinds of chores to take care of when we got home. Still, we enjoyed our time and would definitely consider returning if we were looking for another laid-back camping experience.



Sunday, July 6, 2014

Happy Fourth

I had no idea that Americans actually say 'Happy fourth' to each other. For reasons I can't explain, I find this expression weird. People at work kept saying it (although at that point it was the third, since the office wasn't officially open on the fourth), and when I phoned to book another test drive the sales representative said it too. I refrained from replying 'I'm not American' throughout the day, or pointing out that I celebrated Canada Day a couple of days ago--I'm sure it wouldn't have been useful.

This may be related to why I find the expression 'Happy fourth' strange--I don't think we go around wishing each other 'Happy Canada Day,' do we? I was in the US for Canada Day last year (attending NECCA's aerial skills week), and the year before that we were at a back country campground that was half empty, so maybe I just don't remember.

Anyway...Boston has a big fireworks spectacular every year on the fourth. A huge barge is brought in on the Charles River which serves as the launching platform for the fireworks, while music is played over speakers positioned all along the river. There's a bandstand on the Boston side of the river where the Boston Symphony Orchestra is stationed. They (and other performers) present a live show, which most importantly ends with the 1812 Overture. Apparently some 500,000 people line the river to watch the spectacular.

This year festivities were moved up to July 3rd (reportedly the first time this had to happen) due to the pending arrival of hurricane Arthur. Andrew and I biked down to MIT on Thursday evening, stowing our bikes in his office for safe keeping. I'd guess due to the change in dates and expected storm there were fewer people out to watch--at least the area we choose wasn't all that busy. We got a pretty go view sitting on a curb, only occasionally losing lower rising explosions behind a tree.

The display started early--10:15 rather than the scheduled 10:30, and it was announced before hand (two MCs were apart of the broadcast) that it would have to be sans-1812 as the weather was looking increasingly chancy (musical instruments and inclement weather don't mix). The audience in the bandstand, sounded rather miffed that there would be no Overture. The fireworks were indeed spectacular. Lots of cool, multi-coloured, multi-shaped explosions, and several where we could feel the impact of the cannons from however far away we were.

Then it was over (we're not quite sure if the fireworks reached their full conclusions, or if the on-hand Marshalls pulled the plug) and everyone got up and left.

Unfortunately we didn't get out of the MIT area and home fast enough. We were maybe five minutes into our journey, when we could hear the rain approaching from behind us. Then it hit us, cold and furious. The many pedestrians on the sidewalks were half screaming, half-laughing as they too hurried to their destinations. We were soaked in under a minute.

Biking home in the rain is never fun. It was also dark, which didn't make things easier. Of course, by the time we were five minutes from home the rain let up, and it wasn't much more than sprinkling. This wasn't the effects of the hurricane yet.

That wasn't until Friday afternoon--and even then it just rained, and rained, and rained.

Hope everyone had a good Canada Day, Independence Day weekend--which ever you prefer.