I usually travel to Temple every New Year’s Day for the Peanut Butter Chip Chase 5k. The drive from my home to the Wapack Range is beautiful, and I enjoy walking (not running) on Temple’s quiet roads. Today, though, I decided to bring in 2014 by heading to Mt. Monadnock for a First Day Hike sponsored by the good folks at Monadnock State Park. I chose a guided nature hike along the low and flat Parker Trail; the other option was an uphill hike to a spot with a good view. Each hike drew about twenty people, accompanied by guides from the park and from the Forest Society.
I wore strap-on traction aids for my boots, and left my snowshoes in the car when I saw how icy the trails were. The temperature was about 15º, and I can tell you now what happens when you carry granola bars in your backpack on a 15º day: the bars freeze solid. (Three words for next time: inside coat pocket.) Lots of sunshine, though.
We were led by Meredith and Brenda of the park staff, along with a specialist in land conservation from the Forest Society. I didn’t take notes but soaked in what I could as they talked about forest management, wildlife habitat, and the history of the mountain. We walked at a very leisurely pace along the quiet Parker Trail. Half the fun was watching the kids in our group. A few of them appeared to be veterans of the trails. Others were wide-eyed and full of questions, walking a little unsteadily as they adjusted to having microspikes on their boots.
We were hardly the only visitors to the park, which surprised me. When I arrived at the headquarters entrance, the main parking lot was full and I had to proceed to the overflow lot. When I met Sue, the new park director, I asked her about that. “Oh, yes. We’re open year-round. Even on days like this, we get between 200 and 400 visitors.”
This is the third year that First Day Hikes have been held at New Hampshire state parks. I think I’ll be back next year.