03.01.13 “Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen." -Ernest Hemingway For me, the nature of my thoughts between the last day of February and the first day of March is the most drastically different than that of any other 24 hour period during the year. My focus seems to instantly change, uninfluenced by the weather, with the anticipation of seasonal shift that accompanies the turnover of the calendar. Even though March in New England can provide consistently strong winter weather, storms, and conditions, the sense of the changing river Hemingway refers to is well within reach. Spring is the season of hope, energy, warmth, and new life. Baseball's Opening Day is finally within sight and brings out the same feelings of energy, warmth, and hope, even to the most cynical of fans. There is a special aura on the hiking trails, in the woods, and the peaks of New Hampshire that even the hardiest and enthusiastic winter climbers can not ignore. But, the changes in our thoughts, feelings, and mindsets do not influence New England's weather patterns and even daydreamers staring out of the window in New Hampshire can no doubt see that winter is still here. Last weekend's winter storm dropped a mere 6" of snow on Mount Monadnock; far beneath the higher forecasted 10-12" that we were hoping to receive. On Wednesday, another round of precipitation came in with about 3" of snow, but was mixed in the afternoon with sleet and freezing rain. The conditions on the trails are a densely packed snow with a crusted surface early in the morning and a wet, softened consistency in the afternoon. Spiked traction is necessary for grip on the snow, not so much for ice. Snowshoes may be helpful on the lesser used "side trails". Insulated waterproof boots and gaiters, for those who use them, are going to be needed. While the snow is still generally deep enough in the woods for X-C skiing, the sluggish nature of the snow may make for tough going for Nordic skiers. Clouds seem like they will dominate the skies over Monadnock this weekend. There is a chance for light snow or sleet through Sunday night. Day time temperatures will reach into the mid to upper 30's at the base this weekend. Winds could be gusty at times above treeline and the summit will likely be in and out of the clouds. There will be more clouds than sun after the weekend, but we seem to be clear of precipitation midweek. Keep checking the forecasts, as usual. Trail Spotlight- The Pumpelly Trail This week, we will take a closer look at the trail that was awarded Yankee Magazine's 2012 "Beast Trail Less Traveled", Monadnock State Park's Pumpelly Trail. At just under 4.5 miles in length, it is the longest single trail on Mount Monadnock. The path was opened in 1884. Geologist, archeologist, professor, author, and world explorer Raphael Pumpelly, a Dublin summer resident, personally laid out and marked the trail which, at the time, left from his house near the northeast base of the mountain. The Pumpelly Trail now leaves from a discreetly signed opening in the woods, with no formal parking area, across from Dublin Lake (historcially known as "Monadnock Pond"). The lower 2 miles of the Pumpelly Trail are a fairly gentle, wooded, and serene hike. The first of the steep sections on the trail after Oak Hill is commonly referred to as "Jacob's Ladder". At the 3 mile mark, the Pumpelly Trail junctions with the Cascade Link and the ridgeline hiking characteristics (and my favorite parts of this trail) remain for the climb's duration to the summit. At "Town Line Peak", about 2,880' above sea level, hikers cross over the town line separating Dublin and Jaffrey. The Pumpelly Trail also junctions with the Spellman Trail about a mile below the summit and the Red Spot Trail about a half mile below the summit. The long ridgeline that the Pumpelly Trail follows has been referred to by a number of names, including the Dublin Ridge and the Pumpelly Ridge. Former Monadnock Manager Charlie Royce (1962-1972) explained to me recently that as he knew, the ridge was always called the North Ridge, which I now commonly refer to it as. The openness of the upper portions of the Pumpelly Trail are among some its most alluring qualities. Hikers can see many great views both to the North and South, along with the Summit which is always lurking ahead. The Pumpelly Trail has a very similar feel to many hikes of the White Mountains. But at a nearly 9 mile round trip distance, even with a more gradual grade, climbers need to allow for plenty of daylight and plan this hike out well. Under warmer weather and favorable ground conditions, this hike often takes an average hiker up to 7 hours, round trip. Roadside parking opportunities are limited, especially on nice weekends and in winter, when plows can fill in summer parking spots along the road. "Creative" parking is generally frowned upon by the neighborhood and could result in police enforcement. So, arrive at Pumpelly early, car pool when possible, and always have a back up plan for hiking from an alternate trailhead if necessary. My personal preference is to combine my favorite upper portions of the Pumpelly Trail by accessing them via the always enjoyable Cascade Link. It also leaves me a variety of options for descent to Monadnock State Park HQ. What is your favorite trail on Monadnock and why?