“The waving of a pine tree on the top of a mountain-a magic wand in Nature’s hand-every devout mountaineer knows its power.”
– John Muir
I think I could read John Muir’s writings all day if they didn’t make me want to get outdoors so badly. It is typically why I only read his books after dark. And while he preferred using the word saunter rather than hike, most of our visitors truly “hike” whereas some of us, including me, more accurately, “saunter”.
We are wrapping up an outstanding week of hiking weather…ahem…sauntering weather… here today. Aside from Tuesday’s rain, the temperatures have been cool, the skies have been clear, and the views have been grand. It looks like we’ll have a continuation of these favorable conditions.
At this time, there is no precipitation in the Monadnock Region forecast for the weekend and into next week. Mostly sunny skies and high temperatures at the base of the mountain in the mid 70’s should set up for a solid weekend to enjoy the outdoors and some refreshing conditions to work in for my final weekend at Monadnock (more info below). An extra jacket or long sleeve shirt would be a good thing to add to your hiking pack. Don’t forget your 2 liters of water per person and food and snacks too. I also find it helpful to put a plastic grocery store bag in my pack to help collect trash, food scraps and peels, and any litter I come across on the trails. The bag ensures its contents are not mixing with my packed supplies.
Campers at Monadnock State Park this weekend can also expect pleasant and clear, but cool nights with tempertures in the 50’s.
Change At The Top
As noted in the August 9th edition, I am leaving my post as Park Manager of Monadnock State Park soon. My last day will be next Thursday, August 22nd with my last weekend working here this Saturday and Sunday. I plan to post my last edition of the Monadnock Weekly Report on the 22nd. I don’t know if the next Monadnock Park Manager will pick up on the blogging or not. I can only hope they will continue to use this as a platform for outreach and education about this amazing mountain.
I will remain with the Division, taking on the title of Supervisor of Volunteer Activities for the State of New Hampshire. I have a lot of work ahead of me in my new role and while I am anxious and excited to get started in the next chapter of my career, I will dearly miss looking after and caring for a Park and a Mountain that may have more meaning to me in my life at this point than any other place. Mount Monadnock will always be home no matter where I am.
I will also miss writing this piece and reaching out to you, our reader, as this blog has so often become my favorite part of the work week. Your kind words and feedback, enthusiasm and love of Monadnock, and support of our State Parks is a driving consistent reminder to me about our roles in managing and caring for our parklands and natural areas. As I have said before, you are the reflection of the best of our communities and I will carry your spirit forward into my new position, reaching out to and working with people and organizations state wide.
This Week In Monadnock History
The story of this week’s feature piece began in the mid 1800’s, but we will remember that it was this month that in 1974 that a celebration took place at the former site of the Half Way House hotel, marking a final substantial land donation of vital property on Mount Monadnock to the Society For The Protection Of New Hampshire Forests.
On August 24th, 1974, a celebration at the Half Way House site marked the formal donation of the last piece of a 240 acre property to the Society For The Protection Of New Hampshire Forests. Nearly 200 people attended a concert and picnic at the site.
In 1947, The Exel Family sold the Half Way House and surrounding acreage to the Association to Protect Mount Monadnock as to prevent any future development attempts. The Association had attempted to convince the Exels to continue running the hotel, but they declined siting their age. The Exel’s two sons also rejected the offer. Willem and Helen Pinard of Boston became the first leasers of the Half Way House. Willem Pinard made many improvements and repairs to the deteriorating hotel. Most of the land was then given from the Association To Protect Monadnock to the Forest Society. The Forest Society turned down multiple offers to buy “the Hermitage”, the private residence just south of the Half Way House site. Eventually, the property was sold to a private owner and the Forest Society was forced to keep the Toll Road open to civilian vehicle traffic.
But, by 1953, the Half Way House hotel was condemned due to “lack of maintenance” and closed, ending the site’s 93 year history of hotel accomodations. The hotel would burn down under “unknown circumstances” by April of 1954 and the remaining debris was cleared out later in the year.
In 1959, the Half Way House Aid Association (which formed in 1947 and disbanded in 1970) paid a stonecutter to carve a memorial to the Half Way House in the rock above Moses Spring, which can still be seen today tucked into the eastern side of the field.
After the hotel burned, with the auto road still intact and used, the former hotel site was used as a small parking area and a refreshment stand was set up and privately operated. Due to health reasons, the Pinards decided not to renew their lease at the site of the Half Way House in 1964. The site was then leased to Mr. and Mrs. David Shattuck.
The Shattucks time there was short lived as in 1967, David Shattuck canceled his lease to the Old Toll Road. The Association to Protect Mount Monadnock was unable to find a new leaser. Howard L. Berry, the State Parks Supervisor visited the Half Way House site that year and stated at a Jaffrey Public Hearing that the hotel site was in “deplorable” condition.
Finally, in 1969, The Public Utilities Commission approved the closure of the Old Toll Road to civilian auto traffic.
On June 7th, 1974 the land immediately around the Half Way House that was kept by the Association To Protect Monadnock was officially donated to the Society For The Protection Of New Hampshire Forests. The Association had been officially dissolved a few weeks earlier. The celebration took place, as mentioned, in August of that year at the hotel site, which included a picnic, live music, and the Governor in attendance along with a crowd of 200 people.
Starting in 1979, New Hampshire State Parks and the NH Forest Society entered into a lease agreement that extended all of the Forest Society’s land holdings on Mount Monadnock into the management and care of the State and is, to this day, combined with leased land from the Town of Jaffrey and land owned by the State of New Hampshire, operated as part of the 6,000+ acre Monadnock State Park.
You and I will get together one more time for a Monadnock Weekly Report next Thursday for an “early edition”. Thanks for reading and maybe I will see you this weekend at our treasured mountain.