My father is 64, a stroke victim, and recently lost over 100 pounds. He’s been rewarded with the new found ability to do the things he has always wanted to do, but felt too out of shape to accomplish. We’ve camped at the bottom of Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire for decades, but never made our way to the top. This year, last weekend actually, we changed all that.
“Climbing that mountain is on my bucket list, we need to find the time.” My father shared with me. Find the time. Those words struck me hard. We all are always struggling to find the time. I knew we needed to go now. So, I researched our route and the perfect time to climb.
The result was the white dot trail on Columbus Day Weekend. The holiday weekend would allow us peak fall foliage, mild temperatures, and an extra day to set camp and make an experience out of it all.
My friend Brant at InsureMyTrip is an experienced climber. (He’s been on Mount Kilimanjaro!) I knew he would have some travel tips for me. He gave me a pair of adjustable hiking poles and recommended my father use them as they would make him sturdier and take some of the pressure from his knees. I also invited my nephew, David, and his boyfriend, Paul. They both wanted to be a part of granddad’s big moment.
The four of us packed light and made our way to Monadnock for a 10am start time. The park charged each of us 5 dollars for the day, then we made our way to the trail and began our ascension. We were only a quarter mile in, when we realized this was not going to be a nature trail hike like the Sleeping Giant in Connecticut. This was going to be a much bigger challenge.
The trail conditions deteriorated rapidly, to open rock, casual water, and a 60% incline (at the easier parts). My father was glad he had the trek sticks and used them for the majority of the climb. We knew we had two and a half hours before we would reach the summit; seeing how tough this trek was going to be, we paused to be sure we were all on the same page. This was a full trek to the top, no turning back. That’s how bucket lists work.
Monadnock is the most climbed mountain in the United States. Some people would hate to climb with thousands, and I do mean literally thousands, of other hikers. For us, it was wonderful. My father made fast friendships. He was the oldest man we passed on the trails. He was a motivation to those closest in age, and quickly he bonded with the other hikers. We climbed ahead of him, trying to find the better parts of the trail, but he never needed our spotting. He was in his glory.
With a few water breaks and a stop or two for photos and site-seeing, we finally made our way to the 3,166 foot summit. The mountain top is complete rock, and our views were wholly unobstructed. The victory was sweet, but short lived. What goes up, must come down. It was time to descend.
The white cross trail is not as steep as the white dot. Although it is a longer route, we opted for the moderate decline at the cost of added distance. 95% of injuries occur on the way down a mountain, and we didn’t want to be a statistic. However, this was still no easy task. After 2 hours, we made our way back to the truck. Dad had done it, and David, Paul and I had paid witness.
I never saw dad physically scratch Monadnock from a list, but I could see the look of accomplishment on his face. We stopped in at the gift shop, and David bought us all a sticker for our cars. All of us have this badge of honor, and it is something we share together. Three generations of our family climbed the mountain that day, and it will be something we talk about for generations to come.