Somewhere in these musings there may be some snarky comments about the origins of some so-called old Native American names. The name in play today has no such pretensions. The Wapack Trail
, and the range it follows of the same name, is a contraction nearing its 90th birthday. The features run roughly north-south. It begins in the south, from Mount Wa
tatic in Ashburnham, MA, to Pack Mount Monadnock
*, in Peterborough, NH. One way, it's something over 21 miles, with a couple of thousand feet total climb (one goes down as well as up). From a distance (Monadnock) and a slightly higher altitude it looks like this:
So the name lacks ingenuity. It was coined in an inn in the 1920s. Ken Burns notwithstanding, we'll assume they had nothing but coffee to lubricate their creative faculties during Prohibition.
Although this is on my spouse's native sod, we've never done the Wapack. Its chief appeal has always been to hard core hiking and back country skiing groupies. However, last week we said "yes" to Em's proposal that we go back to Yosemite. Since we have a mere 11 months to get into shape, it seemed like time for an alpha test. We chose the Wapack section running south from NH 101 in the general direction of New Ipswich.
When one is on a one-way trail, the art of back-timing becomes very important. Recalling a Yosemite occasion when back-timing didn't go over so well, I got ironclad commitments to stop when we could still get back.
If one bones up on the route from something like Maptech Mapserve
r, one encounters a bright shining lie. Somewhere along the line, they moved the damn thing. The trail once went merrily up the slopes of the former Temple Mountain ski area, then followed valleys and contour lines along the ridgeline for several miles. Now the trail climbs each rise on the ridgeline, including two considerable peaks. Fortunately, everything is well marked, with blazes as well as the sweat of its hikers.
It's no wonder the groupies kind of keep this thing a secret. It's a lovely walk in the woods. The added climbs somewhat add to the delight. The tourist toys are totally absent; so are the privies. Despite the somewhat brutal peak climbs, hikers share the trail with mountain bikers. There seemed to be adequate mutual courtesy.
That was the weekend before last. Obviously we survived, ready for more, because yesterday it was back to Monadnock. Here we have another allegedly and perfectly apposite translation, which has morphed into a technical geological term: also the holy mountain of southwestern New Hampshire.
But this was not an occasion for my spouse, reared in view of the mountain, to worship it. We were there for a conditioning climb with an elevation gain of 1500 feet. (not much, you say? Go thou and do likewise.) We went up our standard route, the Cascade Link to the Pumpelly Trail
. We were warned at the base that the Link was "wet." Well yes: actually, it seemed as if the mountain was leaking.
Observe the scenic flowing brook to my spouse's left. That is the trail. The State Park encourages hikers to stay in the trail no matter what, to avoid environmental damage, but there were moments that called for exceptions.
All of the lower sections were sodden, and all but the highest of the trail's six scrambles more nearly resembled waterfalls. This confirmed us in our choice of return routes. We'd never been on the Red Dot and so fulfilled our curiosity. It's busy, ledgy, and this day was also wet.
This was also no day to linger on or near the summit (we stopped about a quarter mile away and 200 feet below the summit), even though it was one of those legendary days on which one could see from Boston to central Vermont. The price of admission for that was temperatures hovering around freezing and a Force 8
gale. As we ate lunch I saw the inevitable naive young person clambering up in jeggings and a royal blue tank top. I supposed her skin would match her top in a few minutes.
Satisfactory trip. Our total height gain was nearer 1600 than 1500 feet, and we covered 5.2 miles in just under 5 hours, breaks included. And we're (sort of) mobile. If the weather cooperates, we should either do a slightly longer trip of the Wapack variety or a 2000 foot climb before winter drives us to his and her Stairmasters. Then we have to pick it all up again in spring and get ready in earnest for the Big Yo.
* If "Monadnock" means "mountain that stands alone," how does one account for Pack Monadnock, since it stands not alone, but at one end of a range of hills over 20 miles long? Monadnock may actually be Abenaki for " that big hill over there." Pack Monadnock might be "that other big hill over there
Labels: hiking, Mount Monadnock, Wapack Trail