Since I recently turned 55, and since all twin-digit birthdays are special, I decided to celebrate this “mid life” (presuming a life span of 110) milestone by doing something I'd never done before. I had never climbed a mountain — never even driven to the top of one. I know that in New Hampshire this is sort of like admitting to never tasting real maple syrup, but I guess I’ve been busy.
My eldest daughter was my inspiration. She's been using this summer to get in shape before she starts college in the fall, and has been working out every day. She was looking for a challenge and I’m about as fit as I’ve ever been. Even so, we decided to select a mountain that would offer a sense of accomplishment but where the chances of dying in a crevasse were minimal. After much thought and some asking around, I picked Mt. Monadnock. OK, maybe we were playing it a bit safe. It’s the second most climbed mountain in the world — after Mt. Fuji, which doesn't count, since the Japanese are so OCD about everything — but it felt right to pick a mountain that stands alone yet has the common touch.
When my wife heard the plans she wanted to go. Even my 20-year-old son, who drops by the house about as often as the comet Kohoutek passes by the sun, decided he wanted to join us. My youngest daughter, off at camp, sent her regrets. We chose the Dublin Trail because it looked lonely on the map, and it had a new “trailhead” (whatever that is), so we assumed there might be a clean Port-o-let.
We got an early start and a breakfast in Peterborough. The kids led the way with all their youthful energy on display. Being sensible adults with sensibly fragile feet, the wife and I stopped to enjoy the scenery whenever a good sitting rock appeared.
The map said an hour and a half to the summit. It took us three. I was warned there might be 100 people on top but I guess I imagined them all in LL Bean and EMS outdoor wear. When we reached the peak, it looked like Six Flags on half-price ticket day. Big families wearing cut-offs and tank tops were sprawled on every flat surface drinking soda and munching out of bags of chips. There were a few rugged types with some technical gear, but it was a pretty pedestrian mob. Well, we didn’t set out to climb some elite peak. I wanted to summit the common man's mountain and I fit right in with my Life is Good T-shirt and jogging shoes. We descended in about half the time, but my old joints were now suffering with each descending step.
When we got back to the house and turned on the AC, we just lay around like beached porpoises. Beached porpoises with a sense of accomplishment.
We’re planning another climb before the summer ends, but first a shopping trip to EMS. This time we may pick a mountain with a dress code.
This article appears in the March 2010 issue of New Hampshire Magazine