This week an old friend and I visited New Hampshire’s oldest state park Miller State Park off of Route 101 in Peterborough. Ever since being established in 1891 the park has been a popular destination for hikers and all-day picnics made famous by its 360-degree vistas, awe-inspiring picnicking areas, and clear views of the surrounding hills. Views can stretch as far as the Manchester and Boston skylines on clear days.
Getting to Pack Monadnock’s 2,290-foot summit with enough food for an all-day picnic can be somewhat tricky for some of us, myself included. I like to bring as much food and equipment as I can possibly fit into my pack which assures that I’ll be prepared in case of an emergency. Consequentially, my pack is usually hefty – dragging me down on strenuous hikes like this one. Even though the trail equates to just less than 3 miles, the consistent and arduous incline combined with the rocky and steep decline can be fairly exhausting.
After some Google-ing, I’ve learned some tricks and techniques that helped to lighten our loads while also assuring that we have enough food and other “essentials” for the trail.
We started by packing all of the other stuff besides food that we would be needing; or as author and fellow hiker Rick Dreher calls them, “The ten essentials.” While contributing with other authors for a manual published by Beartooth Mountain Press entitled, “Lightweight Backpacking 101,” Dreher included the following list of hiking essentials:
- Bug repellent
- Fire-starting supplies (disposable lighter or matches will do)
- First aid kit
- Map and compass
Not only are all of these things crucial in case of an emergency, but they’re also very light which keeps us hikers happy. Although bug repellent may not be absolutely necessary for every time of the year such as the winter months, we especially made sure to bring it with us to Miller State Park so we wouldn’t have to deal with black flies, gnats, mosquitoes, or ticks.
Next we focused on food and water. Dave Shultz, another contributing author/hiker on the Lightweight Backpacking Manual, wrote that while you’re on the trail, the key things to think of are more calories, less weight, and eat while you hike. Knowing this, we loaded up on smaller snacks that contain a lot of calories including trail mix, peanut butter, chocolate, snack chips and crackers, dried fruit, and lots of granola bars.
Lastly, we focused on the non-essentials. Knowing that Miller is particularly famous for its stellar panoramas, I first (and most obviously) grabbed my camera. Another non-essential that I would consider perfect for this park is a set of binoculars. Sadly, neither of us had a pair handy.
Now that our backpacks were ready, we headed out on our expedition following the Marion Davis Trail which is blazed by blue triangles.
Thanks to our light backpacks, the hour-long hike was fairly painless. Don’t get me wrong, the 1.4-mile climb took some dedication but the views were well worth the effort.
After climbing the tower, catching a brief tour of the fire tower cabin, and taking lots of photos of the surrounding vista, we headed down to the picnic tables to find a place to relax and re-energize. We then witnessed the essence of what makes this park truly unique.
There, sitting at a picnic table on the top of a mountain, Andrew and I gazed upon the seemingly never-ending countryside grazing upon granola and chomping through apples.
We enjoyed our time at the top but before too long, it was time to descend. We decided to take the Wapack Trail back to the parking lot, which turned out to be one of the best decisions of the day—a perfect view of Mt. Monadnock was directly in front of us for most of the trip down.
The Wapack Trail, blazed by yellow triangles, is the same distance from the parking lot to the summit as the Marion Davis Trail. The main difference is that the Wapack is covered by thick canopy of evergreens which helped to shade us from the sun and keep us from overheating. Pretty soon, the leaves will be fully bloomed for summer so both trails will provide a canopy.
Have you ever seen the Boston skyscrapers from the summit of Pack Monadnock at Miller State Park?
Click on the images below to view: