Another school year has started and since the weather was just about perfect on Friday, I couldn’t resist a Carpool Challenge. Due to the forecast, I decided to go high and try a peak I hadn’t tried before in my Carpool Challenge rotation, Monroe via the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail. With parking at the Cog railway station, the trip was just under 6 miles to the summit and back.
Anticipating that I’d be cutting it close and possibly driving straight to Concord, NH from the trailhead after the hike, I left the house a little early to try to be on trail by 8:00a. I also factored in having to deal with getting the parking pass at the Cog, but I shouldn’t have worried about that. There was a nice old gentlemen directing traffic and collecting hiker parking fees when I arrived at the Cog. I happily paid my $5.00, and headed up the hill and into the woods. The morning was crisp and cool, more cool than I’d been in a while, with the temperatures in the low 40’s. I quickly warmed up, and the hike to Gem Pool went by quickly as I enjoyed the morning light in the ravine. I hadn’t hiked this trail since last summer, so it was nice to hike somewhere I hadn’t been recently.
After a break at Gem Pool, I shed the fleece, since I’d be starting the steep mile between Gem Pool and Lake of the Clouds Hut. It would be way too warm for the ascending I was about to do. Up the rock steps I went, pacing myself, knowing that if I went too fast, I wouldn’t enjoy the views as they opened up because I’d be huffing and puffing! I was warm enough from the ascending until I got to the edge of the scrub near the hut. At that point the fleece went back on, as the wind out of the west had picked up quite a bit – in the 25-30mph range – and the air temperature had dropped.
I skirted the hut and headed up for the summit of Monroe. Part way up, I had to stop to put on the hat and gloves I brought along for just such a weather occasion. Truly out in the open with no rocks, scrub or hut to protect me, it was pretty cold and windy! I wound my way along the path up the summit cone to the summit at which I took a few pictures and then hid out of the wind behind some rocks for a few minutes to prepare for a quick exit. On the way down, I noticed that the puddles were frozen. Must have been colder over night!
I quickly made my retreat back down to the hut, where I enjoyed a nice hot chocolate and a snack. I hadn’t been in such windy, cold conditions since last winter and I was glad to have packed the extra pieces of gear. Snack over, it was time to head down. I made my way down the slabs, and saw quite a few hikers heading up, including the familiar faces of BigEarl and Sue. We chatted for a few minutes and the went on our separate adventures. Down the slabs, down the rocks, and down some more rocks, I arrived back at Gem Pool and then hiked out easier trail back to the parking lot.
I was pleasantly surprised that this Carpool Challenge was a success. I even had enough time for a quick stop at home before heading down to Concord. That’s part of the challenge though, trying to be quick enough to meet the time requirements of the day. I thoroughly enjoyed the morning, thankful for a safe trip and beautiful weather which was cool enough for hiking, but also cool enough reminded me that the change of seasons is not too far in the future.