This weekend we decided to take the Sidefoot Trail from the Halfway House. It had been a couple of years since I last followed that route and there were a few things that were immediately apparent: The trail itself has been cleared somewhat. A few trees that had been along the trail were obviously cut, as we could see their stumps still in the trail. The blazes were relatively freshly painted, bright, clean white. And the trail seemed to have experienced extensive erosion in several places. I didn't think we had had rains much heavier than anything we'd seen in other years, but perhaps the rains hit at just the right time to do the most damage.
Despite the erosion, the trail was quite climbable and remains a good alternative to the White Arrow Trail. We could hear people along the White Arrow, although even with the decidious foliage barely starting to come out we never postively saw anyone. I thought I spotted a quick glimpse of movement at one point, but it was gone too quickly to be sure.
We had a rare encounter with a group of a dozen people traversing the Amphitheater Trail as we reached the top of the Sidefoot Trail. While they graciously offered to let us pass, we were actually planning a break just before joining the White Arrow Trail, so we declined.
Sunday was a mostly cloudy day by the time we got to the mountain. At the top of the Sidefoot Trail, we could see a shower developing under the clouds well south of us and west of Mt. Wachusett. Frances asked how I knew it was rain rather than just a shadow from the cloud and I explained that looking through rain means that objects behind the rain become much less distinct than would be the case with a shadow. I took a couple of photos while we caught our breath and then we were back on the trail.
We took an obscure, unmapped route from the White Arrow Trail across to the White Dot Trail. Surprisingly this route was also recently maintained, and I was happy to see that a tree I frequently bumped my head on had been cut down. At the White Dot Trail, we turned and finished the climb to the summit.
As we approached the summit, we saw that Dianne Eno's Fusion Danceworks group was rehearsing for their May 21 performance. Monadnock legend Larry Davis was watching the rehearsal as we reached them. Our time to get here: One hour and thirty-five minutes. The lack of conditioning was definitely showing--last time I did this route it took about 1:20. And a few years back it was 0:50. Ok, so maybe it's age as much as conditioning!
The hike down the mountain was uneventful. Again, maybe a sprinkle or two, but I probably shouldn't even mention them. For me, the most notable part was the burning of the souls of my feet. I had adjusted my new boots so that I wasn't slipping inside as we hiked down, but I may need to make them a bit tighter or add a second pair of socks to reduce the friction. We'll see what works, as I expect to be back to Monadnock next weekend, as well.
Happy hiking! And visit Hiking Trails on Mt. Monadnock.